Honey bees have been in the news grabbing head-lines (e.g, ”EU Plan Bee for bee recovery”, BBC news; "Are honeybees losing their way ?" (National geographic)) in the last few years since the sudden collapse in honey bee colony sizes (also called as Colony Collapse Disorder(CCD)) observed over the winters of 2006-2008. In parallel with world wide efforts to find the source of this collapse and improve honeybee pest management to prevent its recurrence, we initiated a study aimed at understanding micro environment inside a beehive using modeling. Honeybees as a colony work hard to maintain temperature and humidity levels inside their beehive within narrow limits to ensure optimal growth conditions for their off-springs as well as to optimize their finite energy resources. Understanding and ensuring good comfortable environment inside a beehive has been long recognized by beekeepers as a way to help honeybees maintain a thriving colony.
Despite the long history of beekeeping and its extensive use in honey bee farming practice, little information is available about the conditions inside a honey beehive. In our study, using field data and observations, we constructed for the first time a realistic physical model of a beehive and its contents, and modeled the relevant heat and mass transfer processes describing the interaction of the honeybees with the air and simulated the 3-D flow inside the beehive. In my talk, I will discuss the challenges involved in modeling this problem, our findings regarding the changing conditions inside the beehive as we varied the ambient air temperatures and will showcase our recent efforts to use the developed model to suggest structural improvements to the basic beehive design.