Record Keeping

Why? What? How?

Inspection SheetIt is often recommended to new beekeepers that they should keep inspection records. Upon learning this, some would-be-beekeepers set a goal to keep meticulous notes and journal entries. But once they start working with the hive and juggling everything that goes on during an inspection, plus dealing with the thousands of bees and the euphoria or panic that can bring, record keeping is often forgotten. Or, many beekeepers just don’t know what kind of records to keep. How detailed do these notes have to be and how do they get it recorded with a busy schedule? After a few months of not keeping records at all, they may even fall into the mindset that it just isn’t needed.

Let’s first tackle the why of record keeping.

When you have just one hive and you’re fairly new to beekeeping, it isn’t a very difficult task to remember everything that’s been going on with it. Unfortunately our memories can only recall that information for a finite period of time and then it is soon forgotten. Once you start accumulating more beehives, it becomes an even more difficult task to remember all the details. Or worse, you might get mixed up or confused about the various hives. Just ask my 3 children how good I am at keeping their names straight. So the reason we make notes is mainly to help us remember what we did and saw at each inspection.

These notes are important to helping us diagnose any problems we might see. They can be helpful when planning what to do next. Or when evaluating different methods or treatments, records become critical to understanding the effectiveness.

That brings us to wondering what we should be recording.

At the very minimum, the hive records should indicate the date of the inspection, the health and behavior of the bees, and any changes the beekeeper made to the hive. I recommend also going one step further and recording what needs to be done at the next inspection with a “to-do” date as necessary.

What kinds of “health and behavior” items should be recorded?

  • Signs of disease? Symptoms or diagnosis?
  • Brood health or laying pattern?
    • Any queen cells?
    • Eggs, larvae, capped brood?
  • Temperament? Calm, nervous, angry? (Usually the bees, but maybe the beekeeper, if appropriate.)

Optional, but recommended data to record:

  • Food stores – pollen/bee bread, nectar/honey
  • The weather – temperature, pressure, etc (software can automate this)
  • Hive equipment conditions

There are many actions a beekeeper would take during an inspection. Some of the most common would be:

  • Adding/removing boxes
  • Applying treatments or feedings
  • Switching out boxes or combs
  • Replacing the queen
  • Splitting hives
  • etc

But that’s a lot to record. How on earth do I do it?

This is really a personal preference and no one right way to do it. There are a few tools out there to help you, or you can create your own method. It can be as detailed or as simple as you want. Any effort is better than no effort. Here are some ideas.

Online tools or mobile apps

HT_exampleThese can simplify record keeping by prompting you with the things to record and organizing it in an easy to read way. It’s also nice to have the records available to you anywhere you are, whether at work or home. There are a couple popular tools.

Hive TracksBee Tight

Each of these have a simplified, limited free version, but otherwise require you to pay. This year PUB is getting a special offer to use the full version of Hive Tracks for a year for free as we help them test and improve the Groups feature of the software. If you would like to get a free year of Hive Tracks and help us test these new features, please email the PUB officers for details.

Notebook or Binder

If software is too complicated, or you don’t like the idea of getting propolis on your phone, you can just use a simple pen & paper. You can either create your own inspection check sheet or use one of the many that are available in books or online. This is even a good option with software if you can’t enter the inspection right away. (Hive Tracks inspection sheet)

Audio, Video, or Photos

Either a hand-held audio recorder or even a dictation app on your smartphone. Recording a quick sound-bite to send to someone else (a beekeeping partner perhaps) or to yourself for later recording is a great way to make some on-the-spot notes.

Taking photos or even video of the inspection can help in many ways. Digital photos would be time-stamped and can show things that are hard to put down on paper. Video can help us to see mistakes we might make as beekeepers and improve our technique.

From Gleanings in Bee Culture, Vol 46, Pg 408
From Gleanings in Bee Culture, Vol 46, Pg 408

Mark The Hive

Some people have even come up with clever codes or short-hand. You can attach cards or even dials on the hive for marking status. If you use a brick on the lid this can also be used to indicate the state the hive was in during the last inspection. The limitation of these methods is that they don’t indicate the date, but there are clever solutions to that. More importantly, it’s not a lasting record that can be referenced in the future. Part of beekeeping is learning year over year. Having records to review what happened the previous year (or years) can prepare us for the up-coming season. But this method can be good for quick notation or communication to other beekeepers who work the same apiary.

One very clever and simple hive marking technique used by Michael Palmer is using duct tape on the lid and writing on it, in his own short-hand, with a permanent marker.

Whatever method you use to keep track of your hives’ health and your interactions with them doesn’t really matter, as long as it works for you and is something you can keep up with. I recommend that beginners start with a check sheet of some kind. As you become familiar with filling it out, you’ll start getting into the habit of looking for the things on it. Once you become more comfortable with inspections and the check sheet, you can start scaling back and only record the things you find helpful and useful to get down on record. Eventually you’ll strike a balance that works well for you.

Other helpful tools:
Hive Tracks inspection sheet
“Honey Bee Calculator” Lifecycle Wheel

June 2015 Beeline

Our May 6th meeting was the first to be held at our new home, Alberta Abbey. It is a lovely venue which is big enough to accommodate our rapidly growing membership!

Our swarm hotline by Honey Bee Allies is up and running, and very active! To report a swarm call (503) 444-8446. Members can register to receive swarms, or to be a swarm mentor or mentee. If you’re interested, register at Bit.ly/pubswarmlist.

PUB will be hosting a photo and art contest. If you’re interested, start taking pictures or creating your art projects, and stay tuned for further submission details. Judging will take place at our annual winter honey tasting event.

Our Education Committee is requesting donations of fun educational materials. There’s a request for bee or flower hats, games (such as a beanbag toss), an a photo cutout stand. Additionally, we’d like to start collecting samples for an entomology display.

Tour de Hives will be taking place on June 20th. PUB is still looking for hosts and assistants. If you’re interested in participating, please volunteer at bit.ly/TourVolunteer2015.

At the meeting, Glen Andresen gave his monthly pollen and nectar report. Speaking of Glen, Dewey Caron wrote a lovely article on Glen in Bee Culture this month called, “Beekeeper, Gardner, Teacher: Glen Andresen.” Tim Wessels, our former PUB president, gave a presentation on “What to do in the Hive This Month”, where he spoke mostly of swarm control and supering.

We proceeded to gather for breakout sessions, divided by beekeeping experience. We had large groups of new beekeepers, which is very exciting!

May 2015 Beeline

Our monthly meeting on April 1st came with some exciting announcements!

First, our new swarm hotline is now live! We’ve partnered with Honey Bee Allies. They have created a swarm list tool for us that will be available to our membership. We will be retiring our old swarm list. To be a part of the PUB swarm list and take advantage of our new hotline (503 444-8446) for swarm notifications, register at bit.ly/pubswarmlist.

PUB will be hosting a photo and art contest. If you’re interested, start taking pictures or creating your art projects, and stay tuned for further submission details. Judging will take place at our annual winter honey tasting event.

Tour de Hives will be taking place on June 20th. PUB is still looking for hosts and assistants. If you’re interested in participating, please volunteer at bit.ly/TourVolunteer2015.

Glen Andreson gave his monthly pollen and nectar report. With this early spring, most of the fruit trees have finished blooming, and the great bee plants haven’t started blooming just yet. To see a full report, visit BridgetownBees.com/whats-in-bloom/.

Carolyn Breece gave an enthusiastic presentation on the Oregon Master Beekeeper Program, a collaboration between Oregon State University and Oregon State Beekeepers Association. It’s an exciting intensive beekeeping program, designed to support beekeepers at all levels. It starts with the Apprentice level, where beekeepers are matched with master mentors to support their learning in the field. Students can continue their training and education at the Journey level, and finally if a student completes the whole program, they will become a Master Beekeeper. Certification is available, but not required to participate. Many of the mentors in the Portland area are PUB members! For more information on the program and how to get on the waiting list, see OregonMasterBeekeeper.org.

Dewey Caron presented findings on last winter’s survey results. To participate in this winter’s survey, visit pnwhoneybeesurvey.com. This survey helps us share information and continue to develop best practices for overwintering bees in our unique Pacific Northwestern climate. Additionally, he gave his monthly “What Is Your Plan” presentation, where he reminded us that April is “the cruelest month.” As overwintered adults die off, and brood ramps up, the hive can be left in a vulnerable moment. He predicts that the early spring this year will mean a big beekeeping season, and some special practices might be interesting to try, such as opening the brood area to the supers to alleviate crowding. He reminds us to set out bait hives and be sure to have extra boxes and frames ready for the big swarm season upon us!

April 2015 Beeline

Portland Urban Beekeepers held our second general membership meeting of the year on March 4, 2015. With an increase in memberships, we’ve once again had a packed house and have officially outgrown Calaroga Terrace. Our next meeting, April 1st, will be held at the Matt Dishman Community Center. This is a temporary location as we continue to scout out a more permanent home.

Dewey Caron and Janai Fitzpatrick are putting the finishing touches on this year’s PUB Winter Loss survey. We’ll be releasing it regionally by the end of the March. Additionally, PUB members have a marvelous opportunity to enlist on Hive Tracks Pro for free. Hive Tracks helps you with your beekeeping records, and this program allows PUB to see trends across our group and share it with our members. A coupon code will be issued to all PUB members.

Tour de Hives will be on June 20. PUB is looking for Portland apiaries that would like to be a part of the tour. We’re also looking for volunteers to be host assistants at each of the tour stops. If you are interested, please sign up here http://bit.ly/TourVolunteer2015.

Dewey Caron has returned to PUB with his What to Do in the Hive This Month. He advised on hive maintenance in this early spring we are having in Portland. He encouraged everyone to test honey stores through hive hefting, as well as a very brief inspection. He reminded us to not disrupt any of the frame arrangements at this time.

Jacqueline Freeman, a biodynamic farmer and pioneer in the emerging field of natural beekeeping, gave a passionate presentation on swarms. She went into depth about why and how swarming happens and shared wonderful photos and videos of capturing swarms on her farm. She encourages beekeepers to let their hives swarm because it is natural and supports healthy breeding. Jacqueline enjoys listening to her bees, and her new book, “THE SONG OF INCREASE: Returning to our Sacred Partnership with Honeybees” is named after her favorite bee process, swarming. You can follow Jacqueline on her website, SpiritBee.com.

Our meetings are digitally recorded into blocks of video that usually correspond to our meeting agendas and posted to YouTube soon after.


Video Link


Video Link

March 2015 Beeline

Portland Urban Beekeepers held its first general membership meeting of the year the first Wednesday of January. We held new officer elections alongside the 2nd annual PUB showcase, where local business-owners and hobbyists shared their goods and projects. Among the displays were hives and the book “Winged” from Bee Thinking, the book “The Song of Increase” by Jacqueline Freeman, a candle-making demonstration from Brandi Rodgers of Ruhl Bee Supply, lip balms from Rachel Glaeser, a bee vacuum and homemade preserves from Brian Lacy of Live Honeybees, beehive woodenware and portland-raised survivor bee program from Tim Wessels and Glen Andreson of Bridgetown Bees, and hive scale, quiltbox, homemade deodorant, and candles from Bill Catherall of The Bee Vlog.

February kicked off our regular general membership meetings for 2015.

Lois Leveen was ecstatic to share the results of her efforts working with The City of Portland and Multnomah County to address the signature approval requirement to keep bees. Thanks to her hard work, the signature requirement has officially been reduced to a notification requirement. This has allowed Portland beekeepers an easier path to compliance with Portland City law, and many PUB  members have already taken advantage of the change.

Robert Leger spoke about The Yellow Jacket Free Home. He gave us an introduction to the yellow jacket biology and life cycle, as well as helpful tips on trapping and controlling them.

Our feature speaker, Dan Carr, gave a dynamic presentation about his experiences working with beekeepers and farmers in Malawi and Uganda. He learned to keep bees from a Malawian school teacher, and together they started the Mwazisi beekeepers association.  After returning to the United States and managing Stone Barns’ bees for three years, he was invited by the USAid Farmer to Farmer program to go back to Africa to work on a special project with a beekeepers cooperative in Kasese, Uganda called the Liberty Development Foundation LIDEFO. He spoke of the unique challenges of keeping bees in Africa, such as honey badgers, elephants, and poachers. He showed off the resourcefulness in hive design with top-bar hives made of bamboo and threads stripped from recycled tires. He had rich photographs and stories of his time, and reminded us that it’s not about the bees, it’s about the people.

Calaroga Terrace has been generous in accommodating our monthly membership meetings, but as membership continues to increase, we seem to be outgrowing the space. We are looking for suggestions of alternate venues that can accommodate up to 200 people.

Our meetings are digitally recorded into blocks of video that usually correspond to our meeting agendas and posted to YouTube soon after.


Video Link


Video Link