Scientific Beekeeping Is Metric

Science Measures The Same Around The World

One of the interesting things about beeing a scientific beekeeper is using the metric system.  Even though the U.S. still largely uses the Imperial measurement system (cue Darth Vader music) science has pretty much settled on using the Metric system.

When we read the articles by Clarence Collison and Randy Oliver, Tom Seeley and countless other researchers in the magazines, books and websites out  there, they will use metric measurements in their research and discussion.  We being largely still being not used to it, there are times American beekeepers might get a bit beefuddled.

Yet and still we want to promote scientific beekeeping and advocating for beekeepers to be involved in more scientific pursuits or at least more educated on the scientific research.  Research that is rapidly being released almost daily it seems at times.  So then it beehooves us to help people wrap our minds around metric measurements.

Personally, I get a kick from the idea of a bunch of beekeeper citizen scientists, or as I like to call them, “Mad Beekists”.

It doesn’t have to be a total memorization issue either.  There are compromises to be had.  For example, in many measuring products available to us now, they come with both imperial and metric units of measurement on the same item.  Measuring cups, shot-glasses used for measuring, spoon sets, tools like wrenches and bits come in metric sizes.  There are tape measures that are very reasonably priced that have both systems printed on them as well.

A Synopsis On Units

Weight/Mass is measured in grams

Length/Distance is measured in meters

Volume/Space/Liquid is measured in liters

Temperature is measured in degrees of Celcius

Breaking down The Numbers

In Metric system, everything is done in tens.

10 millimeters (1 thousandth of a meter) equal 1 centimeter

10 centimeters (1 hundredth of a meter) equal 1 decimeter

10 decimeters (1 tenth of a meter) equal 1 meter.

10 meters equal 1 decameter

10 decameters (100 meters) equals 1 hectometer

10 hectometers (1000 meters) equals 1 kilometer.

This can be applied pretty much across the board to other areas of measurement such as liters and grams.


Temperature is a bit different.  It is measured using Celsius instead of Fahrenheit.

To start with, in Fahrenheit measurements fresh water freezes at 32°F.  That same fresh water freezes at 0°C in Celsius measurement. (I specify “fresh” water because researchers have noted that depending on the type of water and aspects of it’s makeup, it can freeze at different temperatures.)

Converting from one to the other is also a bit tricky. To convert from Celsius to Fahrenheit you could use the following method…

 Multiply by 9, divide that result by 5, then add 32. For example; 

To convert 10 degrees Celsius to Fahrenheit

  • 10×9=90
  • 90/5=18
  • 18+32=50

Thus 10 degrees Celsius = 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Going the other way, converting from Fahrenheit to Celsius is actually using the reverse order.  so

Subtract 32, then multiply by 5 and then divide that result by 9

To convert 90 degrees Fahrenheit to Celsius

  • 90-32=58
  • 58×5=290
  • 290/9=32.2

So 90 Degrees Fahrenheit is 32.2 degrees Celsius.

Sum It Up

So, at home, it really doesn’t matter what system of measurement we use for ourselves.  When it comes to scientific documentation and experimentation though, it really, really helps for everyone to bee on the same page.

By all of us “Citizen Scientists” (I still prefer “Mad Beekists”) sticking to the same system of measurement, it makes it that much easier to have peer reviewed work available and reproducible experimentation to help others either support our findings or come up with different results using the same numbers.  It happens.


Author: Big Bear

Owner of BBE-Tech Apiary Services and professional apiarist. Beekeeping instructor at Metro Community College. Exec. Producer, Director and Host of Bee Smart beekeeping project podcast and videos.

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