Friday, June 29, 2012

My Feedback to Beeline Services: how has the webcam been helpful?

Basically, despite the drawbacks with the system, I find it very useful.  When I’m at home and working on the computer, which is most days except Saturdays, I bring up the webcam when I first log on, check the weather and the bee activity in Corbett, and sometimes check the flowers.  I record in an excel file the time, temperature, and whether or not the bees are active.  I try to do this several times a day.  This is giving me a pretty good idea of how much foraging time the bees have had this season, which should correlate with their productivity, both in terms of flowers pollinated and bee cells produced. 

It’s easy to see whether or not it’s sunny by the shadows on the bee shelter in the default view of the bee nests.  If it’s not sunny, I usually go to the “blueberries” preset to see if it’s wet or dry.  On rainy days I can not only see the mud puddles, I also can usually see drops of water hanging off of the box that houses the camera.  

With access to this information, I felt this spring that I didn’t need to take the time and money to drive out to Corbett to see the bees.  There are plenty of things that I could have done or seen by being there instead of watching on the webcam, but they were less important now that I can see what’s going on in the field most days.

I’ve been a bit surprised at how long the season is in Corbett.  With cooler spring temperatures and more rain, the orchard bees started activity later than bees here, and have been active much longer.  There were still some active orchard bees in the shelter on June 21, whereas here in Parma they had been finished for about three weeks.  I would not have known this any other way, short of moving to Corbett.  But if I did that, I wouldn’t have the comparative information about Parma, so that’s one big advantage of a webcam. 

The webcam has also given me a much better sense of when the O. aglaia become active relative to O. lignaria, and relative to blueberry and black raspberry bloom.   The O. aglaia became active too late relative for blueberry bloom this year, and they were probably not very helpful for black raspberry bloom except for two or three sunny days.  The O. lignaria become active when the temperature reaches about 60oF.  In contrast, the O. aglaia did not emerge until temperatures were up to the 70s and I don’t see them leave the nests to forage in the morning until it’s over 65oF and generally only on sunny days.  This also is the kind of information that I could not get any other way except to camp out at the shelter.  What’s great about the webcam is that I can get this information while doing other things.  I don’t have to spend hours sitting in front of the shelter waiting for something to happen!

Vicia (Vetch) under the webcam (from preset view)
I like the ability to save images – that has worked very well, allowing for me to get images for my blog (a journal of what’s happening with the bees) and to keep track of changes in bloom status of the black raspberries, blueberries, and even the flowers that are planted in the road between the fields.   I was not even aware that those flowers had been planted, but I was excited to see them start to bloom just as black raspberry was finishing. 

The photos have also been useful for assessing how fast the Binderboard nests have been filling, which species are nesting, and when the nest blocks are full.  I was able to contact Rosie and let her know that new Binderboards were needed in the shelter for the O. lignaria.  When I stop seeing active bees, I’ll able to contact her to take the nests out of the shelter, which should result in fewer unwanted species in the nests at the end of the season. 

I like being able to add pre-set views.  Over the season as different flowers came into bloom, and as nests filled and the thermometer moved around, it’s been very useful to add and change the presets.  Except for a few early tries that didn’t work, it’s been relatively easy to do.

One drawback to the system is that I can’t really see much bee activity on the flowers.  When blueberry was in bloom, I was able to make out bumblebee visits on two occasions – that was the only bee visitation that the blueberries had during the times when I tried to watch for flower visits.  I think that O. lignaria would also have been visible on the blueberry flowers if they had visited while I was looking.  On a number of occasions I tried to make 5 minute timings of bee visitors to blueberry, to get a sense of how often the flowers were visited.  Visits were rare when I watched, and the same was true when we tried to watch bees on blueberry on the farm last year.  So that information was useful and consistent, if disappointing. 

The black raspberries were much more difficult to watch for visitors than the blueberry, mostly because they are farther from the camera.  That could be remedied by moving the shelter and the camera closer to the raspberries.  I doubt that Don would be willing to do that at this point because so much would have to be moved, but if we could set up the shelter again, I would ask to have it closer to the raspberries.  I was able to detect visitors to the black raspberry flowers on a couple of occasions (dots that appeared and disappeared on the flowers) but couldn’t tell what they were.  Still, by comparing images from overcast days, I have had a good sense of when the flowers started blooming, when they were in peak bloom, when they were past peak bloom, and when bloom was basically over.   That’s been very helpful.  I’m impressed that the bees are still active now that the raspberries are finished, and I think that’s because of the plantings in the road.  Again, these are things that I wouldn’t have known any other way. 

As for the slow response of the camera, that is the main drawback with the system, and I can live with it because there is so much information that I can get anyway.  If there were lots of guests using the camera, I might have difficulty making the observations that I need to make, but so far that’s not a problem.  The images are not so exciting that lots of people would want to visit the webcam.  Also, although the camera is less responsive on overcast days, that’s not a big problem for me because the bees are less active.  So far there has always been enough power for me to check the temperature, weather conditions and bee activity even on overcast days.

One minor problem that I’ve noticed is that the camera sometimes moves suddenly to focus on the ground below its shelter, at the base of a post.  It seems to happen if I inadvertently click on the web image, or perhaps sometimes if I’m only running the mouse over the image.  I haven’t quite figured out what causes it to do this, or what determines where it focuses when it makes these unwanted moves.  But I can always go back to a preset after it happens.

I’m impressed that the webcam has not needed much maintenance once you had Don fix the problem of condensation.  (KNOCK WOOD!)  So far the webcam has been there most of the time when I’ve tried to get to it.  Although it sometimes disconnects when I’m not actively watching, I’ve always been able to reconnect when I’m actively watching again. 

So, overall the webcam has more than met my expectation.  I hope that the Sturms will agree to continue using it in the future. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.