Disclaimer: No bees were hacked in the making of this event.
The Bee Corp recently teamed up with Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) and their Data Science course to host our first-ever Bee Data Hackathon. If you've never heard the term before, a hackathon is an event where the sponsor provides participants with a problem and the resources to solve it.
The challenge: How can beekeepers maximize honey revenue?
The resources: A giant, messy file of bee data including historical honey prices, average honey yields in different regions, costs associated with transporting bees, and much more information (some useful, some intentionally misleading).
Students were given just a few days to clean and analyze data to recommend the best locations to maximize honey revenue throughout the year. Students were scored based on how well they followed instructions, the logic behind their math, how well they cleaned the data, and how the data was displayed in a data visualization. Undergraduate and graduate students were split up to compete for jars of our honey and a feature on this blog.
The students were given raw, uncleaned data with additional errors added by The Bee Corp Data Science team. The first step was to clean the data.
Hive weight was used as a way to track honey flows, working off the assumption that a hive that weighs more is going to be filled with more honey. When moving bees to a new location, students were given labor costs of loading bees and the transportation cost per mile to determine if the move was worth it for the revenue gained from honey collection. Different premiums for different types of honey were not considered for this hack.
Surprisingly, each team had different recommendations on where to move bees based on what they found in the data! Some teams recommended certain months that were best to move bees, while others split the data into quarters. Both a graduate student and undergraduate student team were awarded with honey for having the best hacks, and our company selected the undergraduate team as the overall winner for the blog.
The team, consisting of Yin Zhan, Wanyu Wang, and Hongda Wang recommended starting the hives in Washington for the first quarter of the year, moving to Alabama for the second quarter, Texas for the third, and then moving back to Washington for the fourth quarter of the year.
Their math was highly detailed, which won them a lot of points from the judging. They calculated the difference in honey collected in different areas and subtracted the cost of moving the hives to get the net benefit of moving the hives for honey flows. Check out their visualizations above.
The USDA Honey Report for 2017 just came out this past month, and it offers up some really interesting insights about the industry.
Check out this interactive map I made:
The lead honey producer for over a decade, North Dakota continues to outperform the rest of the country in honey production. Producing over 33 million lbs annually, North Dakota bees yield almost 20 million lbs more than the next highest producing state, South Dakota.
As a newbie to the beekeeping industry, this was quite a surprise to me. Bees and extremely cold winters... I didn’t think that was a good mix! But the Dakotas’ summer climate is optimal for nectar secretions for many of the flowers visited by the honeybees. Plus, the area is one of the last habitats that is not being extensively farmed, leaving room for the forage the bees need.
Another surprise was the high price of honey in New Jersey. With an average of $7.86/lb, New Jersey honey is more than 3x more valuable than the national average of $2.15/lb, and more than 1.3x more valuable than the next highest-priced state (Virginia, $5.73/lb).
What’s going on in New Jersey? Could this be due to the strict regulations on beekeeping taking place in the state recently?
Now, if any of us have ever had the opportunity to go to Hawaii, it’s usually to bake in the sun for a relaxing holiday. But our dear friends, the Hawaiian honeybees, aren’t taking much of a break. Hawaiian bees generate the highest yield per hive in the country, more than 2x the U.S. average, in large part because of the year-round available forage for the bees.
What other insights can be derived from this and past years' reports? Stay tuned, as I go for a deeper dive in posts to come!