What does the inside of a beehive look like ? 

Have you ever wondered “What does the inside of a beehive look like?”  If you’re curious, like I am, you’d probably want to know what your bees are up to – after all, you are a beekeeper.

We all know bees work hard. Spring and Summer are hard. Autumn and Winter are especially hard. The temptation to look inside your hives to check the health of the colony is sometimes too hard to ignore. It is because you care, you want to know if they have enough food.

Opening your hives during the colder months is hugely detrimental to your bee population. Letting out that precious heat causes stress on the bees and ultimately their food supply.  

Enter the game changer...infrared imaging gives you the ability to ‘see’ inside your hives without opening it. After the initial frivolity wears off, the ability to track and record hive temperatures and to see the size and location of the colony is priceless.  

Thermal Imaging : A Game Changer For Beekeepers

There have been precious few products in the beekeeper’s world that can be described as game changers. I can still remember using a heated capping knife for the first time – game changer. Going electric for extraction – game changer. Building a dedicated ‘Honey House’ for all my beekeeping gear and extraction – game changer. Now, this – using thermal imaging to answer the question – what does the inside of a beehive look like – this is a game changer!! 

Sure, the first time I used my imager I felt like a second-rate actor in a crime series. I even had my own soundtrack playing in my head. The fascination and wonder as the imaging came through was simply amazing. You really feel like you can see inside your hives. Initially, I used mine in the summer months as a bit of a novelty but during winter my thermal imager really came into its own.  

What does the inside of a beehive look like

How do thermal images work for beekeepers? 

Thermal imagers transfer heat into digital signals that can be viewed on a screen. The majority of infrared cameras use two lenses to capture the heat source. One lens to gather a ‘regular’ digital image and the second to overlay the heat gradients from the scene. The end result is that you can see both the radiant heat emitted by the colony and also the convective heat from the walls of the hive.  

You have to take images from all sides of your beehive to accurately pinpoint the colony’s size and location in the hive. In late Fall and early Winter, this is an excellent resource. A colony that has migrated upwards and is centered around your food source too early into the Winter needs more food. This process is not only non-invasive but takes less than fifteen minutes. Colony saved! 

Note that your thermal imager, as amazing as it is, cannot make accurate readings through a hive that has been wrapped with insulating material. You may need to quickly remove this to get your images. Thermal images can be obtained with reasonable accuracy through black plastic alone.  

In addition to the outlined benefits, the internet is scattered with thermal images of beehives that have been infested with mice and other rodents. Using your thermal imager regularly and keeping dated records is essential to picking up any abnormalities in your hives before disaster strikes. This proactive approach to hive management is saving time, saving money and, importantly, saving bees 

A few other essential tips for using your infrared camera on your hive are to take your images in the early morning to get accurate results. Taking images with the sun beating down will not give you an accurate reading of your hive, or anything for that matter.  Remember that thermal imagers don’t require any light to work at all. Take all your images at roughly the same time of the day to improve the accuracy of your records.

Just about all the infrared cameras on the market are equipped with a choice of color palettes. Experiment and find the one that gives you the finest thermal gradients to give you the most accurate readings.  

Which is the best thermal imager for beekeepers? 

Fair question.   

We’ll get straight to the FLIR products.  These two cameras have dominated the market in previous years.  You’ll benefit from exceptional aftersales support with the FLIR cameras.  In addition to this, social media is blanketed with ideas and tips for using these two popular devices.  

1. FLIR ONE Gen 3 – iOS – Thermal Camera

The FLIR One is a great starting point and will do pretty much everything you want in the beekeeping world.  This connects to your iPhone or Android phone and captures both images and videos.  You will need to download the FLIR app to use this camera.  Image quality is fair, as expected at this price point.  App features are simple and easy to use.  Battery life is, well, let’s say there’s room for improvement.  You can expect about 45mins use out of this unit.  This is something to consider if you’re running more than five hives.  

2. FLIR One PRO Thermal Camera

The FLIR One Pro adds a few key features and doubles the financial outlay.  The biggest improvement is image quality.  The detail is quite good, you have a greater definition around the edges of your colony.  Beyond the images, the features available over the One are that you can set a temperature range, pinpoint multiple measurement points and the maximum readable temperature is 752F.  These extra features have no real benefit in the beekeepers’ world except the image quality, which is excellent.  

3. Seek Shot All Purpose Thermal Camera

For an entry level standalone thermal imager, the Seek Shot and the Seek Shot Pro are excellent choices.  The Seek Shot will do everything you want in the beekeeping domain without the use of a phone or tablet.  Battery life is a cut above what is available with phone connected units.  Imaging is subjectively better than the MSX units.  Battery life on both models is brilliant.  The Seek Shot Pro does provide the option to livestream your images, which could be a deal breaker for some.   

That’s a wrap!

So, to answer the question, what does the inside of a beehive look like – and once you’ve purchased your thermal imaging camera so you can actually see inside a beehive – you will find it illuminating!!!  What are you waiting for?  See your bees and beehive in a whole new light.  The advantages you will gain in taking care of your bees will far outweigh the cost.


Happy filming!