Keeping Records

This is a guest post by David Pearson.

So Ron asked me if I would be interested in writing an occasional “guest blog” and I have agreed. It’s often hard to come up with subjects to write about, especially ones that have not already been covered a hundred times already, however beekeeping is an ever evolving practice and there is always something to talk about.

In this entry I would like to talk about record keeping and just how important it really is. I will admit up front that I am a terrible record keeper, I know I need to do better I just never get around to it.

Record keeping can be as simple as a scratch pad with notes about the hive, or something a little more detailed including inventory of equipment both in use and in storage. If I had kept better records I could maybe have figured out how come I have more lids and bases for my Nucs than I have boxes, especially annoying as I always purchase as a set.

Things that you want to record are the basics like, when the package was installed, how much feed they take over a period of time or when a new queen was installed. You also want to record how the brood pattern looks, this is going to be your first warning sign if you have a poor or failing queen. When you harvest you want to record how much and what type each hive gives you.

You can go into more detail, how calm or aggressive they are on a given day, what race of bee they are, if they swarmed, including the swarm date if you know it. You should also include how strong the hive is, as the year progresses, seeing how they build up is going to be critical in you decisions to add boxes make splits or put on your honey supers and at the end of the summer these records will help you decide which hives to combine for the winter.

If you use any treatments you want to record when it was applied and how much. I would also record any negative affects the treatments have on your bees (more on this next time)

Now to be honest none of this is critical if you only have one hive, but if you grow to multiple hives, good records are a must. As an example of my own failing in this area, I had ten hives at one of my out yards, four of them were new packages in April and by July I could not remember which hives they were. Keeping track of how old the queen is can really be beneficial in knowing in advance when you may want to replace her.

Now if like me you are pretty poor in this area, a good idea could be to start a blog, I did this my first year and I write about many of the things I do in my yards, it’s not as detailed as a dedicated record but it is better than nothing and feedback I have received tells me that my blog entries have been helpful to at least a few beekeepers, my blog can be found HERE.

If you are into writing more detailed records you may want to try out Hive Tracks. This site allows you to record all kinds of helpful info and you can track multiple locations as well.

So how do you keep records?  Post your hints below!

David Pearson is a fourth year journeyman-level certified beekeeper in Snohomish, WA, where he also runs Colonial Honey Farm. He is a member of the Master Beekeeper Program of the Washington State Beekeeper’s Association and also the WSBA’s Online Certification Coordinator for their Apprentice program.

2 Responses to “Keeping Records”

  1. Page Heig

    Thanks for the information. Didn’t really think about what should be tracked. I am still doing research to determine whether bee keeping is for me and love all the information I’m gleaning from this site. I joined the local association and am excited about this adventure.

  2. James Wilkes

    Thanks for the mention of Hive Tracks! I am one of the developers of the site and have used Hive Tracks religiously since we began development. I doubled my operation this past year to more than 100 colonies and Hive Tracks made it clear that a large chunk of my losses were from poor packages last spring. Just one example of the things we can learn from the data! Expect to hear more from Hive Tracks very soon :)


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