A Master Beekeeper’s Guide to Bee Hive Record Keeping

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Good Bee Hive Records Matter

Why would anyone need to keep a notebook about their beehives?  Does it really matter? Is bee hive record keeping important?  Yes, I think so. While even experienced beekeepers can learn from hive notes, it is an even more important part of beekeeping for beginners. Good hive notes promote a better understanding of the dynamics of the hive.

image of beehives in a row and inset of beekeeping journal for hive records

I have booklets with records of hive inspections dating back over 13 years. Occasionally, I take them out and thumb through the pages.

They have become a type of beekeeping scrapbook for me. A written account of hive inspections and beekeeping techniques that worked! As well as, plans that failed miserably.

image of bees in a hive - bee hive records

While you may think you will be able to keep track of the date when you last inspected your hive- LOL, I can say that you probably will not!

It is important to have an inspection plan before opening the hive. This is difficult to do if you are not 100% certain of colony conditions from the last visit.

Anytime you see something that concerns you, make a note to recheck soon. A quick glance at your notes will prepare you for today’s inspection.

pictures of queen cells seen and recorded during hive inspection

Good Beekeeping Records Reduces Stress Colonies

Every good beekeeper, knows that there will be times you need to open the hive. While we can learn from observing the colony entrance, we still need to look inside the hive periodically.

How often should you inspect your hives? That depends on several factors. For the most part, hive inspection schedules depend on your location and beekeeping goals.   

Does the colony have a good queen?  Do you see honey and pollen?  Any signs of disease? We must look inside to access these conditions.

However, any time that we open a bee hive, it causes stress to the colony. Honey bees are not very fond of having the roof of their home removed.

Resisting the urge to look inside the hive every day is difficult for new beekeepers. But resist you should! 

As your experience grows, keeping good beehive records will help you determine when to open the hive. Your chart is a definite notation of when you last inspected the hive and the conditions inside.

Your Beekeeping Journal - Keeping Hive RecordsYour Beekeeping Journal – Keeping Hive RecordsYour Beekeeping Journal - Keeping Hive Records

Hive Records Facilitate Quick Inspections

Sometimes, we just need to take a quick look inside.  A strong healthy colony does not need a deep inspection often.

These colonies can have a minimal “quick peek” to verify queen status and food stores. I use notes from my Beekeeping Journal every time before going to the bee yard.

Access to former hive inspection notes gives us an idea of what to expect.  Did this bee colony have a possible problem during the last inspection?

Did you notice a problem with equipment? Do I need to have an extra frame on hand?

If you only have a couple of hives, remembering their history and status might be easy.

Those of us with many hives often find it difficult to remember which hive needs what. “ i.e. Was the yellow hive queenless or was it the green one – Who knows.”

Using Hive Inspection Sheet Records to Monitor New Hives

Taking the time to fill out inspection notes are especially helpful for new beekeepers during their first few years. 

In my early years of beekeeping, it really helped me learn and retain beekeeping knowledge.  As I grow older it seems that they are helping me even more.. LOL

By looking back at your records from previous new colonies, you will better understand hive development. 

How long did it take your last colonies to fill out a hive box?  What time of year did you first notice capped brood , etc. 

My hive inspection notes from the early years were more detailed than current ones. I’ve gotten lazy as I get older.

Creating Your Own Hive Inspection Sheets

Your hive inspections sheets can be as simple or as complicated as you wish. Over time, a beekeeper learns which factors of hive management are most important.

However, there are some basic hive conditions that every beekeeper needs to know.

5 Keys of Effective Beehive Record Keeping

  1. Does the colony have a visible Queen Bee?
  2. Brood Pattern – Is the queen laying a good pattern of worker brood?
  3. Is the colony bringing in pollen and nectar?
  4. Any signs of pests or disease?
  5. Has the colony been tested and/or treated for mites? When? With What?

Each of the above conditions requires monitoring. Some require beekeeper intervention for the good colony health.

Different Methods of Beekeeper Notes

Beekeeping With Bricks

Bricks. Yes, bricks. Have you ever been to someone’s beeyard and seen bricks on top of the hive? Yea ?

Maybe they are there to hold on the hive top during windy weather. But for most of us, they serve another function. Some beekeepers have elaborate methods of using bricks to indicate hive status.

One brick laying down flat all is good. One brick laying on its side, this colony has a problem that needs monitoring.

A brick standing on end, this colony is queen-less and requires immediate attention.

Every beekeeper has a different brick system. If you really want to make a beekeeper angry, move around the rocks (or bricks).

This is the limitation of the brick system. If someone or something moves your bricks, your data is lost.

image of colorful beehives with brick on top for identification

Beekeeping Record Software and Apps

Technology has arrived in the world of beekeeping. Many beekeepers enjoy using online hive management software or apps on their phones.

This method allows them to have concise records handy no matter where they are. One of the most well know ones is Hive Tracks.

This is a great method of keeping records if you can keep up with it.  I tried this method but its just not for me.

I have great fun putting in the information during the Winter when I am not working bees. However once bee season starts, I never seemed to have time to input the inspection information.

Pencil (or Pen) and Paper Hive Records

After trying every beekeeping system out there, I have come back to a notebook or journal. I have notebooks dating back over many years.

And each one tells a story of my beekeeping journey for that year. I like to take a digital voice recorder with me to the bee yard. This allows me to record digital notes that I will then transcribe into my journal.

Your Beekeeping Journal

Using my notebooks as a guide, I have created a beekeeping journal . Includes: *a beekeeper’s calendar *hive inspection sheets *monthly notes and more .

My notebook or beekeeping journal notes will contain the 5 Key Factors of Good Beekeeping mentioned above.

I also include other information. I make notation of weather conditions, forage and anything that could affect my colonies.

image of beekeeping journal guide for beekeepers

Hive Inspection Records Made Easy

Of course, you can use any notebook for your bee hive record keeping but it sure is nice to have it in a concise format. The most important thing is to write down those notes.

No matter which method you choose to use, having a good bee hive record keeping system is important.

Bricks to Apps to Journals – all can provide a tracking system to help you be a better beekeeper.

Beekeeper Charlotte

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