I find that keeping records helps me to manage my stocks more effectively. There are many different methods used by beekeepers to record the condition of their stocks. These vary from placing stones/bricks in various positions on the roof, using drawing pins in different locations on the front of the hive, to written records.
Hive records show the state of a colony each time it is inspected. It also allows recording of what needs to be done next time. With my colonies on three different sites, it is very useful to be able to check from the records what equipment is required prior to setting out from home.
There are various designs of record card available, and with the aid of a computer, it is easy to design your own. When I first began keeping bees, I used to keep records which were written like a diary. Whilst these records made interesting reading during the winter months, they were very time consuming to complete, and not very practical once I had expanded beyond two colonies. If record keeping is to be successful, it is important that the records hold the required information and they are quick and easy to complete.
When considering what to record, a good starting point are the 5 questions asked by Ted Hooper in his classic book “A Guide to Bees and Honey". These are:
1) Room - has the colony enough?
2) Queen - is the queen present ? are there any signs of swarm preparation?
3) Development - how many frames of brood are there?
4) Disease - are there any signs?
5) Stores - has the colony enough stores to survive to the next inspection?
By completing answers to these questions at each inspection it is possible to keep track of the condition of each colony, and to compare the development between colonies to identify those colonies which are either better or worse than others.
With additional columns it is possible to record other aspects of the colony, for example temper, honey crop, quality of comb/cappings. With this data it is then possible to start selective breeding from colonies which demonstrate desirable characteristics. Obvious characteristics to select for are docility, good temper, disease resistance and honey gathering. However, there are other, less obvious characteristics which can be measured and selected for. For example a keen showman may want to select bees which produce top quality wax comb and cappings for the showbench.
The example shown is the card I use. This is based on a design developed by Michael Mac Giolla Coda of the Galtee bee breeders group in Ireland. A separate sheet is used for each queen, and remains with the queen throughout her life. At the top of the sheet is a record of the age of the current queen, and the location of the colony.
The first column records the date, the next 5 are Hooper's basic questions. These are used to record the basic condition of the colony and to record its development through the season. The next five columns record the quality of the colony in terms of:
Docility - are the bees aggressive~ any stings during the inspections?
Steadiness - do the bees rush around the comb when being inspected, or are they calm on the combs?
Brood pattern - is there a good pattern ? Are there many missed cells (a sign of inbreeding)?
Pollen storage - is the colony good at collecting and storing pollen (essential for strong colonies)?
Comb building - speed of drawing comb, quality of cappings?
Each characteristic is scored from 0 (unacceptable) to 5 (exceptional). By comparing the results from all colonies at the end of the season it is possible to decide which colonies have the best scores and should be used for selective breeding the following year.
It is also possible to see which colonies get the worst scores and need to be re-queened.
The final column is to record any general comments, or items which need attention on the next visit.
Stock improvement is a slow process. It will be interesting in years to come to look back at these records to see how the average scores for my colonies have changed - and hopefully improved.
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- Bee Candy
- A Volumetric Approach to Swarm Control
- Do drones need more energy than workers ?
- What is the Catenary HIve ?
- An Intrusion Into The Private Life of the Queen
- A Cheshire System of Beekeeping
- Artificial Swarming to make Increase
- Re-queening An Aggressive Colony
- Frames and Frame-spacing
- An Early Spring Tonic Part 1
- An Early Spring Tonic Part 2
- Something To Consider - Treating Hives
- Make up Of Honey
- Brainbox Bees
- An Inspector Calls
- The Laws Of Beekeeping
- TBS versus BBS
- Colony Records
- My First Season With Bees
- Integrated Pest Management Workshop
- BBKA Examination System
- Will Your Bees Survive this Winter?
- Anaphylactic Shock - What to do!
- Anaphylactic Shock - A Personal Experience
- Beekeeping Records
- L. L. Langstroth's - BEE-KEEPER'S AXIOMS
- Osmia Rufa
- Beginner's Corner - Out-apiary sites
- Beginner's Corner - Syrup feeders