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Measuring CO2 levels for HoneyBees

Measuring CO2 Levels for Bees

For over a decade, CO2Meter has continued to provide best-in-class gas sensing solutions and analysis devices to customers worldwide, in hundreds of industries and applications alike.

One highly intriguing customer application that we could not pass up further investigating and promoting is customer Ronald Dal-Key, Owner/Operator of Dal-Key's Honey Farm LLC in Sodus, Michigan.

Ronald currently utilizes our Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Handheld Gas Detector (CM-501) to measure and maintain CO2 levels for the livelihood of his bees. 

Ronald stated, "I started beekeeping back in 1977, after working for a plating company for quite some time and then beekeeping prospered into a full-time career in 1985. Today, we are excited to celebrate our 35th anniversary at the Dal-Key's Honey Farm LLC". 

CO2Meter could not be more fascinated with Ronald's overall application in beekeeping and his use of the CM-501  to assist in further maintaining his hive environment and healthy bee population. 

In addition, our team was able to speak with Ronald Dal-Key to further gain insight into his honey bee farm and see just how carbon dioxide continues to serve as an integral role in the beekeeping field.

CO2Meter: Ronald, Could you tell us a little bit about your industry. 

How did you get started, and what is the main mission?

Ronald: "It really started as a hobby for me and out of curiosity in 1977. My beekeeping career started with just one hive in my backyard and quickly transpired to 300 hives. My full-time career was for a plating company and when that ended I decided to pursue my dream in fulltime beekeeping."

    CO2Meter: At Dal-Key's Honey Farm LLC, what is your main mission of beekeeping in terms of pollination, maintenance, or product?

    Ronald: "Our services have ranged from crop pollination and almond pollination. The process involves wintering (hibernating) our bees to rebuild any losses and to make orange blossom honey."

    CO2Meter: For those that are not well informed on the production of honey and the beekeeping process, could you provide further detail?

    Ronald: "Honeybees gather nectar for honey production and pollen from the flowers. Typically the female worker bees are the main component in sucking nectar from the flowers and storing in their special stomach. This stomach is completely separate from the bees digestive stomach, (although there is a valve connecting the two) which allows the bees to pass through honey which can be converted to energy."

    "Typically after visiting between 150-1500 flowers, the special stomach of the bee is full and almost equal to the exact weight of the bee itself, thus requiring the bee to return to the hive with the nectar load. A bee returning back to the hive with a bundle of nectar is almost immediately greeted by other bee workers ready to relieve her of the load. Next, a mouth to mouth transfer is then normally created between a field bee and one of the hive bees."

    "The recipient bee processes the honey in its mouth and its special stomach by the addition of enzymes that break the complex sugars in the nectar into simple sugars that are both more digestible by the bees and ultimately give the honey its characteristic long "shelf life".

    "Nectar returned to the hive at this point is barely recognizable as honey. The nectar initially is nearly 80% water with the remaining which is primarily consisted of complex sugars. After processing the honey with enzymes, small droplets are typically deposited on the upper side of a cell wall awaiting its final conversion into viscous honey with which we humans are acquainted. This conversion is largely an evaporation process which, in turn, is hastened by the warm temperature of 95°F which is maintained in the hive and the movement of air across the honeycombs is controlled by the bees fanning their wings."

    The end result is thick, delectable, honey with a 17%-18% moisture content.

    CO2Meter: Tell us about your experience with beekeeping, have you experienced any obstacles over the 35 years?

    Ronald: "We have experienced obstacles in regards to keeping the bees alive in the winter, yet knew that it could be done. In the earlier stages, back in 1977, the environment was different and it seemed you could do no wrong until the mites arrived."

    For most beekeepers the worst enemy is the varroa mite, which if not controlled will initiate a virus epidemic, causing the collapse of a colony.

    "We tried wintering indoors then, but had no luck - we had around 300-400 hive losses."

    "We further understood during this time, that you have to understand the parameters of the hives and that Carbon Dioxide at too high of concentrations, actually played a role in suffocating the bees when indoors, as it settles at the floor. Alongside monitoring carbon dioxide, it was important to further identify incoming air and exhaust air."

    CO2Meter: Could you give us additional insight into using the CM-501 Carbon Dioxide Handheld Detector and its importance within measuring the gas for the hives?

    Ronald: "Carbon Dioxide is a large influence in that it results in profits, as we quickly found that by maintaining 2500-3000 parts-per-million (ppm) we could maintain the longer livelihood of the bees, and even at 6000 ppm it would still be acceptable."

    "Aside from the livelihood of the bees, CO2 also directly effects the minimization of tracheal mites by suffocation - which if not properly eliminated, can lead to a variety of viruses for the bees. By calculating the direct amount of air entering and exiting per cubic foot of bee space, combined with the heat of 80 BTUs of bees, multiplied by the number of bees, equaled the refrigeration to extract the heat temperature."

    CO2Meter: Is there any added observations that have come from the overall project?

    Ronald: "Yes, we currently are accumulating around 100 barrels a year of honey which is as high as 1500 hives. As honey pollination has typically been the main mission we realize as the years continue there will be even further uses of pollen and nectar in future advancements and technologies".

    In addition to the fascinating research and insight that CO2Meter comes across, a huge factor when it comes to many use cases is the need to measure carbon dioxide gas concentrations and its importance across the field.

    CO2Meter will only continue to ensure that we provide best-in-class gas detection solutions to our partners and further expand our knowledge on the importance of inert gases across applications worldwide.

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