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Time-Lapse of a Brood Frame from a Colony of Sick Bees

Any experienced beekeeper can tell there is something wrong with the colony from which this frame was taken. The colony's queen is failing, as evidenced by the shot gun brood pattern of capped cells. Instead of normally laying eggs in adjoining cells, the queen lays them sporadically. This is a pattern that gets worse over time.

Hygienic Bees

Of the eggs that are laid by the queen, many hatch into larvae, but some of these larvae die before they become an adult. The worker bees in this colony do exhibit at least some disease fighting behaviors. We see evidence of “hygienic” bees locating capped cells that contain pupal bees that died of the fungal disease Chalkbood. These hygienic bees uncap cells containing diseased brood so that the pupae can be removed. In some cases we see evidence that other bees removed these fungal mummies; however, the hygienic bees can’t keep up and many diseased brood remain in their cells for several days.

Watch a time warp of hygienic bees.

About the Process

This time-lapse sequence was created by photographing the diseased colony using a GIGAmacro Professional Imaging System designed for capturing gigapixel images of macro sized subjects. The bee frames are removed from the hive box for a short period (15min to 1 hour) to be photographed, and are then returned. The gigapixel data captured during that time can then be studied for hours, and can be compared to subsequent imagery taken over the course of days, weeks, or months. Image sets may be examined using a variety of methods including the GIGAmacro Comparative Viewer, the website, and the GigaPan Time Machine time-lapse viewer shown here. For more information about the system used, visit the GIGAmacro Website.

About the Research

The research is directed by Dennis VanEnglesdorp of Assistant Research Scientist, Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, and Jeff Pettis of the USDA-ARS Bee Research Laboratory. The imagery below was captured by researcher Jennie Stitzinger at the USDA Bee Research Laboratory.

Comparisons Between Healthy & Diseased Colonies

In addition to the time-lapse studies, gigapixel resolution comparisons are providing additional information about the differences between healthy and diseased colonies. For more information and to view example comparisons, visit