One of the single most helpful habits a new beekeeper can form is record taking. Every time you do a hive inspection, you should take notes on what you see. Not only does this practice help reinforce what you already know, but it will help you to learn new things down the road. Read on to find out what you should keep track of in your hives plus, some tips for how to make the process easy and accurate!
The Importance of History
Inspection notes are like taking good notes in class. You might wonder why you’re doing it at the time, but you’ll be happy you have them later! These notes are valuable because they are a record of the health of your hive. When something goes awry with your bees, your notes may help you identify what’s going on. Let’s say your colony is staring to go downhill, lack of brood, lots of drones… you check your inspection log and find that this pattern started after you requeened 6 weeks ago. Looks like you got a poorly mated queen! If you are a beginner, you might not be able to diagnose this kind of thing in your hive just yet, but if you write down what you are seeing, you can show it to a mentor who can. Even more experienced beekeepers will benefit from keeping a log because notes can also help you identify positive patterns as well. Let’s say you are reviewing your notes from the previous three years of beekeeping and you notice that the hive that had a top entrance in spring produced more honey than the hives that didn’t. It could just be that the hive with the top entrance was a stronger hive, but you might want to add extra entrances to your other hives and find out if your honey production on those hives will increase, too. So whether you want history to repeat itself or not, a record of said history will come in handy!
An Organized Beek is a Happy Beek
For beginners, hive inspections can be overwhelming. You open up your hives and start going through it, but you don’t really know what you are looking for or maybe you do, but you get distracted and forget to check everything you wanted to check. Well, if you create a template for field notes, it can bring structure and purpose to your hive inspections. Many templates function as a checklist, prompting the beekeeper to answer critical questions for evaluating hive health. Did you see the queen? Did you see eggs? Any signs of disease? And so forth. Note taking creates a ritual that initially guides you, but eventually trains you to be observant and diligent when working your bees.
What to Track
So, what exactly should you track when making inspection notes? I’ve created a nifty template for you below! Did I forget anything? What do you like to keep track of?
Of course, juggling bees, equipment and a notepad all while in a bee suit is not always practical. So, what are your options for efficient, easy note-taking? My personal preference is to make an audio recording. I use my cell phone voice record feature. Later, I log a digital version of the information in Hive Tracks. Hive Tracks is a free online record keeping software for beekeepers. Some beeks prefer to carry around a physical note pad or binder and you can even purchase some pocket sized ones that have a template printed on each page, like this one. Other beekeeper use short-hand codes to log their hive’s progress by actually marking on the hive. The method isn’t too important as long as it works for you and you are consistent! Do you take notes during inspections? Share your method. I’d love to hear.