Beehive Record-Keeping Tips​

Whether beekeeping is a hobby or a business for you, regular beehive inspections are necessary. Without them, you can't guarantee the most important thing — a healthy bee colony. However, beehive visits are useless if you don't keep track of your observations.

Why Keep Beehive Records?

Keeping beehive records helps you monitor the conditions in the hive. It’s the only way for you to understand the dynamics in your bee colony to keep it healthy. Keeping a record enables you to check the condition of the hive for a particular visit. That’s how you know when to visit the hive next time and what to focus on.

Keeping notes isn’t just useful for the beekeeper, but also for the beehive itself. Observing the colony may be exciting for a fresh or enthusiastic beekeeper. A beekeeper’s visit is an unusual and, therefore, stressful event for the bee colony, though, causing anxiety among the bees.

If the colony is healthy, just a quick check on the queen bee and food supplies is necessary. In other cases, your record will help you determine which hive you need to check, why, and how often.

What to Record in the Beehive?

There are a few factors to focus on when observing your beehive condition and keeping records of it.

A beekeeper should monitor:

  • Basic measurements — temperature and humidity in the hive
  • Bee queen status
  • Brood condition
  • Food supply
  • Signs of disease

Monitoring the Basic Conditions in the Beehive

Monitoring the temperature of the hive can tell you a lot about your beehive dynamics. Research has shown that bees are more active in the hive just before swarming. A sudden increase in temperature in the hive may actually announce the pre-swarming phase. As the bee queen also leaves the colony, swarming monitoring is very important.

The bees tend to work harder a day before rain is predicted. For this reason, it’s smart to keep track of general weather conditions concerning the beehive conditions and dynamics.

Bee Queen Record Keeping

No bee queen present means no bee colony. That’s why it’s so important to keep track of the bee queen status. She must be present, healthy and laying eggs for the colony to survive. Young bees must be present constantly to replace the older ones.

How Long Do Queen Bees Live

The worker bees need at least 20 days to emerge from their cells. Afterward, they live up to 40 days and need to be replaced by younger workers within this period. If this doesn’t happen, the future of the colony is in danger.

If there aren’t any eggs or larvae in the hive, the queen bee might be dead or have gone elsewhere. If the colony doesn’t raise a new queen bee, the beekeeper has to introduce her. This is a very efficient method, although it takes some time.

The Brood and Food Supply Record Keeping

Keeping records on the brood pattern can be done by the beekeeper manually or by an app. The point is to keep track of uncapped and capped cells, which can be brood or honey-capped cells. Capped brood cells tell you the number of baby bees, while capped honey cells indicate the food supply in the hive.

Some systems keep track of the beehive weight to monitor the food stores of the colony. They tend to also measure the temperature and humidity in the hive.

Disease and Other Threats in the Beehive

Every colony will experience mites or other threats at some point. Sometimes, the problem resolves itself naturally, while at other times, special treatment is necessary. That makes keeping a detailed record of detecting and treating a disease a must.

The biggest danger of a bee colony is varroa mites — external parasites that can be seen with a naked eye. The ones that are seen on adult bees aren’t the most dangerous, though. Mites do the most damage to young bees and can wipe out the whole generation.

Varroa Mites on a bee

To prevent this, you should test your beehive for varroa levels regularly — monthly. There are quite a few methods available — the sugar roll method is just one of them. 

How to Keep Beehive Records

Depending on the size and quantity of your beehives, there are several record-keeping methods available:

  • Simple pen and paper method — a beekeeping journal
  • Beehive monitoring systems and apps
  • A combination of both

Beekeeping Journal

The simplest way to record your beehive dynamics is to keep a beekeeping journal. 

Each beehive examination should include information on the key factors:

  • Date
  • Weather
  • Basic beehive measurements
  • Queen bee and brood status
  • Food supply
  • Signs of disease

You can also use a digital voice recorder on location and transcribe the content afterward.

Beehive Monitoring Apps and Systems

There are different beehive monitoring apps available on the market. You can test them and use them for simpler and time-saving data collection and processing.

Monitoring multiple big artificial beehives calls for other solutions. There are several remote monitoring systems available, recording different parameters in the beehive: 

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Weight
  • Sounds and gases produced

We’ve learned enough about the bees’ buzzing to develop audio beehive monitoring systems. Bee buzzing holds information on colony behavior and movement. Bees produce specific sounds in case of a queen bee issue in the hive or even mites’ invasion. The audio monitoring system can record and process this data in detail.

Electronic beekeeping record systems can provide accurate measurements and process data easily. They also present a minimum stressful factor within the hive. Only an experienced beekeeper can use them and interpret parameters with confidence, though. Sometimes, it’s also good to combine the new-age electronic way with old-school pen and paper after visiting the hive.

Determine Your Record-Keeping Needs

Whether beekeeping is your hobby or business, you need to find a way to monitor the bee colony dynamics that suits you best. It all depends on your beekeeping experience, the size and number of your hives, and the parameters you want to track regularly.

You can start with simple methods and upgrade them with more sophisticated beehive monitoring options. In time, you’ll have enough experience to find a unique, optimal record-keeping system for your bee colonies.

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