Beekeeping is not just about periodically checking on your bees and collecting honey. For some, beekeeping is an all-engrossing hobby—one that preoccupies many of their waking thoughts. Some people are constantly analyzing their hives, trying to account for strange changes in behavior. In that regard, some beekeepers are like detectives.
But, in order to be a detective, you need to pick up the tricks of the trade, namely record-keeping. Some beekeepers are expert record-keepers, so they can maintain their massive body of notes and thoughts. If you want to join their ranks, read along for a guide to record-keeping for beekeepers.
Why You Should Keep Records
Of course, you do not need to keep beekeeping records if you do not want to. For many, the inclusion of dates and notes in beekeeping only ruins an otherwise pleasant hobby. But, if you want to pay careful attention to the behavior of your bees or want a systematic method for looking after potential dangers to your hives, records could be very helpful.
Beekeeping, at its core, is a hobby about learning. As a beekeeper, you are educating yourself about the honey bees in your hive. Why are the honey bees behaving so aggressively? Or why are they so docile? As a beekeeper, it’s your job to answer these questions so you can know how best to treat and support the hives.
When you take records of what you see, you are more likely to remember your observations. With that information readily available, you will be more likely to act on your observations. By keeping records, you are training your memory and your skills as a beekeeper.
You will notice that some of your hives can make more honey than others. Why is that? What flowers did those honey bees pollinate? By keeping records of your hives, you can follow their honey production.
Your honey production observations will be extremely helpful as you get closer to winter. You can see if they are building up enough stores, and if not, you can give them a supplement. In that regard, record-keeping can help keep your bees alive.
Uphold Legal Requirements
Some places make record-keeping a legal requirement. In New York City, for example, beekeepers are required by law to notify the city within 30 days after starting a hive. If they do not register their hive, they may be struck with fines. If you live in New York City or some other place with similar laws, it is in your best interest to document when you created your hives and where they are, in addition to including a reminder of any possible renewals.
What Records To Keep
As a beekeeper, you will need to decide for yourself what kinds of observation warrants a recording. It is probably not necessary to denote every little detail, like what temperature it is from one day to the next. But it is usually helpful to note any substantial changes, like if the honey bees are acting differently in some way, or if the air suddenly becomes very cold.
Apiary records are relevant more to people that live in localities that require them to register their apiaries with the government. Essentially, these records encompass the number of apiaries, their locations, and the total number of hives in each one.
A helpful tip in a guide to record-keeping for beekeepers, if you keep track of all your tools, you will know if and when you need to order more. If you keep thorough records, you will also know which suppliers to call and what costs to expect from them.
With hive records, your goal is to distinguish each hive from the others. You want to understand the factors that differentiate the hives so you can postulate on what causes differences in their behavior and honey output. You will want to include identifying information, such as:
- The name you give the hive
- What type of bees
- The colony’s source
- Source (homegrown, supplier, swarm?)
Inspection records have everything to do with the factors outside the colony that might be causing disruption. Some topics you might want to record would include:
- The weather
- Behavior of the bees
- Queen status
- Can you see her?
- Is she laying eggs?
- Any population changes
- Infestations of any type
- Stores of capped honey
Ways To Keep Records
Determining which method of record-keeping to employ is entirely up to the beekeeper. Depending on your preferences, tech-savviness, and organizational skills, you could be interested in one of the following three options. You also might find your own method entirely.
Pen and Paper
Plenty of beekeepers make use out of pen and paper for a simple, classic approach to beekeeping. So long as you have a brain for organization and a simple composition book, a loose-leaf binder, or a journal, you can complete all the beekeeping observations you could want.
Audio and Photo Records
Sometimes it is helpful to use a variety of record-keeping tools to make sure you have all the necessary information. Use an audio device to record your verbal observations. Use a camera to take photos of your hive, paying special attention to the queen and swarms. By combining your multi-media observations, you can put together a more comprehensive picture of what your hives are like day-to-day.
Once you have all your notes down on pen and paper, you can take it a step further by transferring them to a computerized version. Beekeepers use Word, Excel, Google Sheets, Google Docs, and many other programs to organize their observations and thoughts.
Hopefully, this article has given you some idea of why a beekeeper might want to take notes on their honey bees. Some of you may be inspired to take up the pen and get a little more serious about the way you look at your bees. Regardless, what is important is that you maintain this great pastime.
Beekeeping is an excellent hobby for people that love nature. If you are interested in taking it up, look at honey bee nucs for sale in Long Island, New York.