Beekeeping information

All over the nation, new beekeepers – recent from attending a Methods to get started beekeeping wintry weather direction – might be purchasing their first nuc, eagerly observing a bait hive for scout bees, or precariously teetering up a stepladder looking to lure a misplaced swarm (any person else’s) right into a skep.

Your first bees … a notable match.


At about the similar time, 2d 12 months beekeepers might be checking their hive (or in all probability hives by means of now?) for proof of swarm arrangements. In the event that they began with a nuc ultimate 12 months, they may have were given during the season – no longer least since the climate used to be incessantly deficient in 2023 – with out experiencing the elegance of swarming.

Magnificent and – in equivalent measure if they are your bees – irritating, as that is this 12 months’s summer time honey harvest disappearing over the fence.

And after all, the remainder of us – the outdated lags extra skilled beekeepers – who’ve post with the disappointments of deficient summers, swarms going AWOL and laying employees, who’ve skilled the highs of bonanza honey harvests, successes in queen rearing and few, if any, overwinter losses – will know what to anticipate and when to be expecting it because the 2024 season unfolds.

The similar yet other

There is a story a few climate forecasting pageant wherein the entrants needed to are expecting the elements upfront, someday at a time, over a 12 months.

Supercomputers went head-to-head with schoolkids.

Geeky meteorologists vs gawky youngsters.

The schoolkids gained … or, extra particularly, the youngsters from the college gained wherein the crew’s prediction used to be:

The elements the following day would be the similar because it used to be lately

And, with the substitution of ‘days’ for ‘years’, pretty-much the similar might be stated of the beekeeping season.

This 12 months might be similar to ultimate 12 months, and ultimate 12 months used to be very similar to the 12 months sooner than, and many others.

Neatly, “D’uh” as a type of gawky youngsters would say (with exaggerated eye-rolling), in fact it’s going to be … beekeeping is a seasonal process and there might be a wintry weather, spring, summer time and autumn season.

They’re going to be in that order, and the summer time might be hotter than the wintry weather, with spring and autumn someplace in between. Simples.

That climate forecast pageant may be apocryphal … I commit it to memory distinctly, yet I will’t discover a connection with it on the web {{1}}. Is that this a false reminiscence or an instance of Google’s fallibility?


Have in mind, in case you are studying this from the emailed publication, then you might be lacking the worst of the jokes and asides. You want to view the publish the usage of a information superhighway browser for the absolutely immersive enjoy. You can thank me … in all probability.

However what used to be the beekeeping season like ultimate 12 months?

A couple of paragraphs in the past I mentioned “since the climate used to be incessantly deficient in 2023”.

Did it cling again spring growth, swarming, the summer time honey, or curtail the heather crop?

I will’t exactly take into accout … I have simply were given this imprecise recollection that it most often wasn’t a super season, and there used to be no summer time honey.

Flowering sycamore
Sycamore, early Would possibly 2024

Then again, my beekeeping information comprise the ideas and those display what took place when. Extra importantly, after I evaluate them to the season sooner than, or the only sooner than that, I will begin to see patterns. Sluggish spring increase delaying swarm arrangements, pre-emptive swarm keep an eye on and its have an effect on on honey manufacturing, when the sycamore began to flower and many others.

Technique and ways

However we are getting dangerously shut right here to the predictive price of such things as rising level days or phenology, each subjects I mentioned in short ultimate week {{2}}.

Beekeeping information – a minimum of when associated with environmental phenomena – do have some predictive price. I believe this in large part strategic … how is the season progressing, what may I be expecting subsequent, when will the lime begin to yield? {{3}}

However, until your reminiscence is a rattling sight higher than mine {{4}}, beekeeping information will have to additionally supply vital fine-grained data at the standing and week-to-week efficiency of the colony; how outdated is the queen, are they defensive in iffy stipulations, what number of supers are at the hive, when did I ultimate change some outdated brood frames out for replacements, will have to I rear queens from the larvae?

You might want to call to mind this as tactical data. The nitty-gritty, cumulative, inspection-by-inspection growth of a colony during the beekeeping season(s).

And this knowledge is not only retrospective, it can be potential … an aide-mémoire for what is wanted subsequent time you discuss with the apiary; alternate the ground, mark the queen, upload a body of drone basis – nice genetics, ‘unfold the affection’ – and one thousand and one different issues, many too trivial to checklist yet however irritating when forgotten or lost sight of.

Methods to …

I’m going to be writing some posts prefixed ‘Methods to …’ over the following few months. Those are supposed to be ‘reference’ posts of best possible apply somewhat than only a crafty ploy to attain bigly {{5}} at the search engine marketing ratings or lure the Google web-bots to discuss with extra incessantly. Those might be top rate posts, and you can want to be a sponsor to get right of entry to them … until hive-haven.con reveals a strategy to circumvent the paywall.

Then again, a publish on beekeeping information does no longer warrant a tutorial ‘Methods to …’ prefix as a result of there are lots of various techniques to stay them, some higher than others, yet none absolute best.

If you have got one hive and a just right reminiscence, that could be enough.

Conversely, when you have one hive and a reminiscence like mine … cling on, the place used to be I?

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As soon as you have got 3, or 5 or 15 hives then that is much more data to retailer.

I inspected part a dozen hives the day past night time. By means of the 6th I could not take into accout whether or not the primary or 2d hive had the white-marked queen, or which of the six had the most productive laying trend.

As soon as you might be elbow-deep in an inspection, focusing on no longer squashing bees, on seeing eggs, on checking the degrees of shops, on on the lookout for indicators of illness, on detecting the ones infuriatingly well-hidden queen cells, then one hive seems to be a lot the similar as the following.

Laying worker frames
Vintage dispersed drone-in-worker cells from laying employees … dangerous success

Except it is terminally queenless and has evolved laying employees 🙁.

However, as soon as you have got 300 – or 3,000 – hives then it turns into a numbers recreation; a queen overlooked right here or there is not a topic, and you can have taken a truck to the apiary with spares a’masses. With that selection of hives, you can use a record-keeping machine that information the naked necessities, and most likely little else. This publish isn’t for you.

Retrospective and concurrent information

There is a courting between the selection of hives and the will for conserving just right information, a minimum of for the kinds of colony numbers that the majority newbie beekeepers run.

If you happen to’ve handiest were given a few hives you may be able to jot down a couple of notes when you are having a cuppa after coming back from the apiary.

Then again, if you have got ten instances that quantity you can both want Rajveer Meena’s reminiscence (he recited π to 70,000 decimal puts) or will have to make notes quickly after every hive is inspected.

Once I re-read a few of my notes, I believe I might had been recording them similtaneously – like Jack Klugman doing an post-mortem in Quincy or Alexx Woods in CSI – did I in reality see the queen, or simply the eggs that she laid within the ultimate 3 days? Used to be it 5-6 frames of brood – they have got were given area to develop – or 8-9?

It is a reminiscence factor.

I will let you know π is between 2 and 5.

I believe.

The rest is healthier than not anything

Neatly, kind of 😉.

So, what are the selections in the case of beekeeping information?

I assume they might be divided into quite a lot of other teams …

  • cryptic vs. readable
  • in/on/beneath the hive vs. in other places
  • analogue vs. virtual

… and there is also different groupings I have both no longer attempted, forgotten or stay blissfully ignorant of.

Rocks and pins

I do know some beekeepers point out the state of the colony the usage of a strategically positioned brick or stone at the hive roof.

Cryptic clue

Queenright, requeening, wishes a brand new queen, open queen mobile at the backside of the 3rd body in from the hive front, tendency to observe, some chalkbrood?

What does the brick placement imply?

Dunno, your bet is as just right as mine.

That is what I might name a cryptic listing conserving machine. I am certain the beekeeper is aware of what it way, yet it is opaque to everybody else. Now not that that is an issue … it is only the beekeeper that wishes to understand what the ‘information’ imply.

However the informational content material achievable with a strategically located brick is restricted. Now not fairly binary, yet no longer a ways off. The positioning of that queen mobile at the 3rd body used to be sarcasm …

The brick could be accompanied by means of a colored pin indicating the age and/or standing of the queen. Colourless for unmarked, purple for 2023 or blue for 2020.

In point of fact, her fourth 12 months? Used to be {that a} blue pin left there from a prior 12 months, or a mirrored image that you just ran out of yellow pins?

I am certain those kinds of ‘flags’ paintings, yet I might need them as well as to fairly extra complete notes.

At the roof

If you happen to watch Mike Palmer’s movies {{6}}, you can see he incessantly has hive notes written on gaffer tape caught to the hive roof.

Hive roof with notes
9 years later, the roof nonetheless carries those ‘notes’

I have added temporary notes to the hive roof, yet it is not a super means. If you happen to upturn the roof to stack the supers on it could be rainy when you wish to have to jot down your notes on it. The gaffer tape I have attempted both comes unstuck on a vaguely damp day or survives submersion and will by no means be got rid of.

And the ones notes are – by means of definition – in the apiary, which brings me smartly to …

Beneath the hive roof … or obtainable?

I believe that heading provides a clue to my perspectives on the place hive information are best possible saved.

The advantage of conserving your hive information beneath the hive roof is that there will have to be no mistaking which colony they observe to. There may be additionally the benefit and immediacy of with the ability to raise the roof, learn the information and know precisely what to anticipate while you raise the crownboard.

And that pause when you decipher them provides the drift of smoke beneath the crownboard time to paintings its magic.

Even with my attention-span-of-a-goldfish I will have to have the ability to needless to say the queen is from 2022 and – in spite of that – marked blue, that I might famous some restricted indicators of DWV, shops had been low and that they had been on 7-8 frames of brood in all levels (BIAS) the former week.

I might subsequently know to test whether or not they had expanded, if there have been sufficient shops within the field and – specifically – if extra employees had been presenting with DWV pathogenesis.

No less than, I might have the ability to take a look at all the ones issues if slugs hadn’t chewed up the listing card, in the event that they had been written legibly within the first position and if they’d no longer blown around the box once I lifted the roof on a windy day.

OK, I am exaggerating for impact there.

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You can get slugs beneath the roof, yet typically in wintry weather no longer summer time. You’ll be able to additionally give protection to your jottings by means of hanging them right into a plastic sleeve of a few type, which may additionally save them disappearing around the box.

However you continue to need to listing the related data and write them legibly … assuming you take into accout your pen.

Or will have to that be chinagraph pencil if the afternoon is damp?

Out of sight, is out of thoughts

However there is a topic with those kinds of in/on/beneath the hive information, a minimum of there’s for the ones people who’ve far off apiaries.

I am the usage of the time period ‘far off’ to imply the rest from the opposite aspect of the rustic to up the hill in the back of the home {{7}}, or the nook of the meadow over the street.

Remote apiary
It is a lengthy as far back as the automobile from this apiary

In those instances, you wish to have the information to assist take into accout what you want to take subsequent week while you discuss with the apiary. Every other tremendous, extra frames, a break up board? Some distance higher that you’re taking it with you than you must make a 2d shuttle or, worse, can’t do one thing time-sensitive that the colony wishes.

Because of this, I have at all times – a minimum of, since discovering I forgot issues after I left the notes beneath the hive roof – favoured information that stick with me, no longer with the hive.

The virtual revolution

By means of virtual, I imply both an audio recording (no longer very handy to study previous to the inspection the next week) or – extra typically – a smartphone-based app.

There are a number of of those … BeeKing, Beetight, BeePlus… and indubitably a lot more, all imaginatively prefixed with ‘Bee’ {{8}}. A few of these are extra customisable than others, some glance nice yet are disappointingly rigid.

Then again, maximum apps be afflicted by the usage of a proprietary information structure, or one that doesn’t simply permit previous information to be in comparison with the present season, or has no means permitting information export.

I have dabbled with a couple of of those apps yet, in all honesty, can not say I have given any of them a correct trial. In case you have, please go away a remark/advice … no longer an ad 😉.

My problems with phone-based apps are two-fold.

The knowledge structure; if it is proprietary, will the corporate even exist in a 12 months or 3 when you wish to have to match when the sycamore began flowering? If no longer, is there an export technique to one thing generic and open – like comma separated variables, or YAML, or TOML or – cue a not-so-silent silent scream – XML?

You do not know what those acronyms imply {{9}} or there is not any export serve as?

Transfer on … it will not be a limitation now, or subsequent 12 months, but it surely might be a limitation.

The knowledge is yours, no longer theirs.

You can thank me at some point.

Oh sure, the second one factor.

Beekeeper's gauntlets

Whether or not you put on a collection of welder’s gauntlets like those, or the thinnest latex or nitrile gloves, you can nonetheless fight to make use of a capacitive touchscreen on a smartphone. Tapping menu pieces, or pull-down lists, or – worse nonetheless – looking to sort, is a irritating and time-consuming process.

And that is the reason sooner than the pretty Gorilla glass of your £1,200 iPhone 15 Professional is smeared with propolis and honey 🙁.


The written phrase … slightly unfashionable in all probability, yet maximum people know the way to supply it, put it aside and re-read it.

As a method of conserving information it has stood the check of time; those Mesopotamian information of a Pagden’s synthetic swarm from 4,600 years in the past are nonetheless readable if you recognize cuneiform script {{10}}.

Cuneiform script, bill of sale
… wait 7 days then transfer the hive to the opposite aspect … Louvre Museum

Now not as cool as a snazzy app in fact, yet an eminently pragmatic selection for a sausage-fingered beekeeper in the course of a hive inspection.

Even supposing I would not suggest it, you’ll be able to most likely wield a pen dressed in welder’s gauntlets.

As a substitute, I might suggest the usage of a thinner pair of gloves; no longer handiest will this make writing more straightforward, yet in large part as it makes doing the hive inspection more straightforward.

With nitriles, the usage of a pen is straightforward.

Or a pencil.

nu: difficult paper … advisable

If it is damp (and it infrequently is in Scotland) a pencil could be a more sensible choice, and there are notebooks with ‘water-proof’ paper to be had – incessantly designed for folks doing fieldwork – that imply even deficient climate may not forestall you updating the hive information. I have used nu: stone notebooks or, significantly better, their ‘difficult paper’ notebooks – water, oil and tear-resistant – which might be extra utilitarian (and less expensive). I purchased a job-lot years in the past, yet they’re nonetheless infrequently indexed on eBay.

Loose textual content or structured?

The following primary query is what to listing.

In truth, nearly each and every hive inspection comes to checking the similar issues week after week; colony dimension, area, shops, illness, mood and many others.

Many of these items lend themselves to tick bins, or a easy numerical scoring scheme. It is a ways more straightforward to attain – and retrospectively evaluate – the qualitative characteristics you have an interest in numerically than it’s to offer a descriptive sentence or two.

Mood 1/5 …

… such a lot more straightforward than writing “psychotic monsters hell-bent on inducing anaphylaxis, chased me again to the truck, stung the farmer (and his canine), terrible, even worse than ultimate week. Monsters.”.

OK, that is any other exaggeration, yet you get the overall thought.

It is more straightforward to attain the presence of the queen like this ✅, than needlessly writing “noticed the queen”.

In my notes I listing whether or not I see the queen and whether or not she is clipped and marked with simply two letters – e.g. YC (which means she’s there, marked yellow and clipped) – which might be disregarded if I do not see her … which isn’t the similar factor in any respect because the colony being queenless.

And its Y- if she’s no longer clipped, -C if the mark is dressed in off, and -/- if she used to be outdated overdue ultimate season … all are hints that I want to do one thing.

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If you are lowering probably the most information to easy take a look at marks and numerical ratings, it is smart to create a standardised shape to listing all of it. Come with versatile area free of charge textual content feedback, in conjunction with a ‘To do’ column, and do not fail to remember to incorporate a few of these once-per-season-but-nevertheless-important occasions, like miticide remedy (you want to listing the batch quantity), feeding and many others. Print those paperwork out, one according to hive, and stay them someplace handy and protected.

Reviewing hive information (a decade in the past)

I saved my hive information like this for over a decade and it labored properly. I may just simply get a complete season on a double-sided sheet of paper, they had been simple to learn after I had to – the whole lot used to be (reasonably) legible, and the ideas used to be in a constant structure and order.

Virtual and analogue

In reality, I nonetheless stay the information like this, yet I now stay them on a spreadsheet transcribed from a virtual audio recording made within the apiary.

Sony digital recorder
Sony ICD-UX570 virtual recorder

I raise a propolis-resistant virtual recorder in my beesuit pocket. It has a easy on-off slider, and is switched between listing and pause with a large, fats, simple to make use of, thumb-sized button at the entrance.

I check out the colony, dictate a couple of sentences and transfer onto the following hive. It takes seconds. I do know the columns within the spreadsheet – queen, brood, shops, supers, remedy, feeding, mood, following, operating (steadiness at the comb) and many others. so can merely say “hive #48, yellow clipped/marked queen, #22, 4’s for mood and following, 3 for operating, 7-8 frames of brood, shops OK, added an ideal, wishes a alternative body (broken lug)”.

The order is inappropriate, however the content material is not.

With appropriate lubrication – espresso within the morning, tea within the afternoon, purple wine in any respect different instances – I then transcribe the notes into the spreadsheet.

It takes longer to explain it than it takes to do.

The date and time at first of the primary hive inspection are recorded robotically by means of the system. I upload an excessively temporary remark – “12°C, calm and funky” – in regards to the climate (because it affects colony behaviour).

Low ratings (the place low ratings are dangerous) get automagically highlighted with conditional mobile formatting – actually ‘purple flags’ – as do any entries within the ‘To do’ column. This makes having a look out for – or keeping off – these items the next week that bit more straightforward.

Spreadsheet of beekeeping records
Spreadsheet information

Colonies with constantly deficient ratings are requeened, and the ones with just right ratings are used to give you the larvae for queen rearing.

A spreadsheet is at all times legible, so it is simple to scan again weeks or months. Or seek.

What does not paintings?

This mixed virtual and analogue way works for me, yet it isn’t absolute best.

Hives and queens get numbers, no longer names and/or descriptions. It is not the ‘paddock hive headed by means of Florence’. As a substitute, it is #17 headed by means of Q23. When queens are moved – as an example, right through swarm keep an eye on, her quantity strikes. The nuc will get a brand new hive quantity.

Hive and queen numbers
Black (hive) and purple (as soon as upon a time; queen) numbers

It is all slightly much less non-public, yet it is a lot more straightforward to transcribe into the spreadsheet.

In fact, I will’t view the hive information when within the apiary.

Neatly, that isn’t completely true … I may just view them on my cellphone display screen if it wasn’t for the welder’s gloves 😉.

All that suggests is that I’ve to study the notes sooner than venturing out to the apiary. This isn’t essentially a nasty factor; it way I take into accout to take an additional body with me to switch the only with the broken lug. It rings a bell in my memory that hive #43 used to be ‘sizzling’ and that there used to be a sealed queen mobile at the 5th body of #11.

Check out conveying that with a brick at the roof.

In the end, my virtual audio recorder has a voice-activated recording serve as.

I attempted it.

Do not trouble.

Now not handiest did I pass over probably the most issues I did say, I additionally recorded a large number of issues I did not.

The recorder is black and the bees are infrequently interested in it. I attempted striking it spherical my neck, or status it at the adjoining hive roof. They get inside of inches and turn on the listing serve as. Transcription takes for much longer as you must web page thru mins of offended humming.

Stay it on your pocket, burble a couple of phrases into it after finishing the inspection and kind up the temporary notes in convenience while you get house.

It really works for me 👍


Is any individual nonetheless studying? That took about 3,800 phrases greater than I might anticipated.

In final, I simply sought after to spotlight 3 adjustments at the web site, or within the publication:

  • I have incorporated a ‘extra like this/much less like this’ comments choice within the footer. I know the way many obtain and skim (or a minimum of open) the publication, yet I have little thought whether or not you experience it or no longer. The comments choices are not massively nuanced, and I will’t promise to move with the preferred vote, yet they are higher than not anything.
  • Newsletters now checklist the ultimate 3 posts (additionally within the footer) that experience seemed at the The Apiarist, simply when you overlooked them. Fill yer boots!
  • Some posts – as an example, the only to be printed subsequent week – are actually just for sponsors of The Apiarist. For the ones of you who don’t seem to be, see you in a fortnight or so …

{{1}}: If it is not on the web, did it ever occur? … that is a philosophical query for yet again. Then again, this forecasting means – termed patience – has supporters, see this newsletter for a dialogue.

{{2}}: And can once more … GDD specifically are very fascinating and the spreadsheet-fu is bettering.

{{3}}: Resolution … this 12 months, subsequent 12 months, someday, by no means (delete as suitable, yet it is most often the ultimate of those).

{{4}}: It’s.

{{5}}: From the Heart English byggly (stately, absolute best) somewhat than a poorly enunciated giant league.

{{6}}: And also you will have to. Lots of them are a minimize above the standard garbage on YouTube.

{{7}}: Either one of which observe to my beekeeping.

{{8}}: BeeHonest … for the beekeeper who is excited to confess their colony swarmed, that it is in reality handiest 5 frames of brood (no longer 9), and that they simply averaged 6 kg of honey according to hive. I are expecting this app would no longer be a industrial good fortune.

{{9}}: Welcome to my global …

{{10}}: OK, that used to be slightly of inventive licence … it is in reality a freelance to buy a area and box. James Pagden died in 1878.

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