Record keeping for beekeepers: Review of applications and technology available for beekeepers and bee breeders

  • 38 pages

  • Published: 21 Dec 2023

  • Author(s): Erica Mo, Erica Noordyke, Nadine Chapman

  • ISBN: 978-1-76053-456-1

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Record keeping is an integral part of beekeeping and is required by the Australian Honey Bee Industry Biosecurity Code of Practice (the Code) (Plant Health Australia 2016). Inspections must be carried out at least twice a year, at least four months apart.

According to the Code, beekeepers must keep a minimum record of the following, which significantly assists with biosecurity: date of the inspection; strength assessment of colonies; pests and diseases found; actions and treatments used for pests and diseases; details of tests for American foulbrood; date, number and locations of hive movements; date and supplier of bee introduction and used hive and hive components; and details of biosecurity training undertaken by the beekeeper and employees.

These records can be kept either electronically or on paper, and must be kept for at least three years.

Keeping detailed records is crucial for complying with biosecurity regulations and gaining insight into bee biology over time (Bolshakova and Niño 2018), as well as for monitoring the performance of colonies, which assists with making informed decisions regarding building profitable businesses.

Depending on beekeepers’ goals and interests, a variety of records can be maintained, including apiary information such as weather, location and flora; details about the colony, such as temperament, frames, brood, equipment, and queen presence; harvest records for pollen and honey; actions taken, such as treatments, feeding and hive movement; and finances, including honey sales and equipment costs. All beekeepers should prioritise keeping accurate and comprehensive records to improve their practices.

One group of beekeepers who could particularly benefit from record keeping is bee breeders and queen producers. Bee breeders have frequently cited a lack of time for not performing colony evaluations and keeping records. Recording queen introductions, pedigree and trait evaluations would enable better bee breeding.

Record keeping for bee breeders

Plan Bee is the national honey bee genetic improvement program. It provides a platform with tools and technology to introduce modern animal breeding techniques into the Australian beekeeping industry. These techniques will enable the production of estimated breeding values (EBVs) in the future. EBVs give the genetic merit of the queen – i.e. how much of the difference in observed performance between colonies is due to the genes of the queen. EBVs can increase the efficiency of the selection process.

To calculate an EBV, the following data is needed: unique queen ID; queen age; date introduced; queen mother ID and any other pedigree data available; the load the colony is kept in; the apiary the colony is in; the date of the colony trait evaluation; and trait evaluation records.

Other tools for trait recording

Other technologies are available to reduce the time taken to perform colony inspections. These include hive scales; sensors to measure humidity and temperature within colonies, carbon dioxide concentration, and the number of foragers entering and exiting colonies and whether they are carrying pollen; sound recorders; local weather data recorders; and infrared technology to estimate colony population.

Scope of this report

There is a plethora of apps that allow beekeepers to record their data via technology, assisting them with record keeping. This report summarises many of the apps available below for their utility in general record keeping and record keeping for Plan Bee. Data from apps that can export to .csv format may be able to be integrated with the Plan Bee database.