Record Keeping Can Be Enjoyable

by Andrew Rauschheadshot Rausch

As I noted before, record keeping is really just a tool to help you be successful. Like any beekeeping tool there are many variations of it so I’ll start with the basic and move toward the more complicated in future articles. A basic form of record keeping would be to use a platform that someone else has already set up so we will look at a few of these.

We’ll start with the popular Hive Tracks. I really like hive tracks because it’s very versatile and the owners will actually listen to your complaints/suggestions and do their best to remedy them. Some of Hive Tracks strengths include the fact that you can keep multiple yards, you have access to a weather report for the different locations, there is a to do list, under the “harvest” tab you can get the average harvest for any particular yard or year, under the “my yards” tab you can see the average strength of a yard, how many hives are in that yard, and the weather for that location, and by clicking the “my map” tab you can see where your yards are in relation to each other and your beekeeping buddy’s yards and around each yard there is a one, two, and three miles radius highlighted in different colors so you know where and on what your bees are foraging in addition this gives you a pretty good visual of where your queen’s sweethearts will come from (two to five miles away). But lest I bore you with an endless list of features let me show you how I use some of them and then let you be the judge of whether they would be useful to you or not.

I log on to hive tracks, choose yard “Alpha” and look at hive #1. I see at a glance that this colony presently consists of one deep and three shallows and its strength is estimated to be 90%. Three shallows seems like a lot to me for this time of year (it’s February while I am writing) so I go to the right and click history. I see that the third super, taken from a dead out during a warm spell, only has 10 or 15 pounds of honey in it.

Distributing honey from dead outs is a questionable practice if you don’t know what killed the colony but in this case it was nothing contagious. With this first glance I can also see that 243 pounds of honey have been extracted from this colony and I wonder how much of that is from this past season so I go to harvests (I put individual colonies under harvests but you could, as the program probably intends, input harvests on a yard by yard basis and input individual colony’s harvests as an inspection to that colony) and see that 158 pounds of this came from the 2014 season in two separate harvests.

Since 158 pounds seems like a lot of honey to harvest from one colony I could go back and look at its’ history and see that I checker boarded this colony in the early spring and they were a very populace colony all year long and never even hinted toward swarming even though they went the whole year on the previous summer’s queen. So I now decide that I like this queen’s genetics but I can’t remember what line she’s out of so I click on the picture of a queen that accompanies this, and every colony on Hive Tracks, and all the details relating to the queen come up. I see that her “installation date” is given as 2013-06-15 so she is 1 year and 8 months plus__ days old and her “pedigree” is DD1G1H1 which to me means that she is classified as (don’t laugh) Dixie Doodle stock, line 1, generation1, and lives in hive1……that’s a lot of ones.

DD1G1H1 is a real queen and so was everything that I just walked through so, while it was just a small peek into the way that you could use this particular records system, I hope it got you thinking. As I said at the beginning working through someone else’s platform is basic but there is nothing wrong with basic….in the end the very best records system is the one you will actually use. And if you use Hive Tracks or something like it you can be creative. You don’t have to use everything in precisely the way that it was intended you use it. In the brief peek I gave you of the way I use it there were two examples of this first the way I record harvests and second the way I rate colony strength. Do you remember colony #1 was at 90%? That is ideal in my book because to my way of thinking a colony can be too populace but since Hive Tracks’ colony rating doesn’t go to 120% for over populated 90% is my ideal colony strength.

All of what I have described and a lot more is available on Hive Tracks for free but there are other useful things that you cannot do without purchasing the Pro version such as uploading pictures, which could wind up saving as many words as I have used here, and generating nifty reports. But like everything else, Hive Tracks has its weak points. For instance, if you delete a hive, all past inspections are deleted along with it which makes it much harder to identify developing trends that might give you clues as to what to change so that fewer colonies perish. If you don’t delete your dead-outs, they will throw off your average colony strength in that yard, in addition to being just one more thing to scroll through to get to the next hive. I have taken to copying the dead-outs to a word document along with all the history/information I deem pertinent . . . if I contacted Hive Tracks, they would probably do something about it . . . .

Click here for the printable document
Contact Information:
Andrew Rausch
Address: 1362 Gravley Rd
City & State: Pickens, SC 29671
Phone: 864-878-3706

Andrew is a SC State Member and SCBA Update & INFO contributor