Record Keeping -
Hive Management Software can make it easy!
By Micky Cross - Past 1st Vice President
Montgomery County Beekeepers Association
If you’re a beekeeper like me, you know that tracking your hive inspections, the age and origin of your queens, your Varroa treatment types and dates you treated; the status of resources in each hive, and on and on and on… is important!
And, if you’re a beekeeper like me, you probably don’t keep very detailed records near as much as you know you should!
When it comes to record keeping the most important point is Do It… although most of us don’t.
What if I told you hive management/record keeping software could make record keeping easier and more fun? In today’s world where almost everyone has a smart phone, using an app for record keeping may be just the motivation/convenience factor you need to get started or improve your apiary record keeping.
A little over three years ago, when I was the First Vice President in charge of educational programs for the Montgomery County Beekeepers Association, I did a presentation on record keeping. The presentation included a section about Hive Management software. At the time, my research found only four main versions of tools, making it relatively easy for me to try each one using a “Free trial” account (which most of them support) allowing me to provide a summary of features and costs for each one in my presentation
When I started research for this article, I found 14 versions! Too many for me to open trial accounts and spend enough time with each to provide details about features and costs. I can however, give you information on what to look for in the tools and provide you the names and links to each.
You can expect most, if not all, to provide the ability to record these types of data:
- Apiary locations (via address and/or latitude and longitude) – many also include a feature to plot this in Google maps and provide information about where you can expect these bees to forage. They may also include local weather data for the location.
- Another feature allows you to record when each hive was established, how it was established (Nuc, package, split, cut out, swarm capture, etc.), and the history of the queen (date emerged/introduced, how you obtained/created her, her breed, marked or not, clipped…etc)
- Most importantly, they will have templates for hive inspection data.Information like date, weather conditions, colony strength, brood pattern, honey/nectar/pollen stores, temperament, pests and diseases noted, treatments/medications applied, feeding, frame manipulations, etc.
Being they all provide most of the same basic data tracking capability; two factors to consider when choosing a software package are the nature of your beekeeping operation and the size of your operation.
Some of the tools only have record keeping for apiaries and hives – which is all you really need if you are a hobbyist not worried about tracking business data. These are generally less complicated and still have all the basic data fields you would want to track.
Other tools provide everything you need to track a “full-scale” commercial business down to a “hobbyist level” business selling honey, wax, bees, queens, etc. This includes full inventory tracking, expense tracking, sales data, taxes, and so on. Understandably, these additional features add to the complexity of the software and usually the cost.
The other main cost driving factor is the size of your beekeeping operation. Most of these tools come with free versions that work with one apiary and a few hives (between five and ten). If you have more hives or more than one apiary location, you will likely have to upgrade to a pay version. Pretty much all of them are subscription based and charge a monthly or annual fee.
Finally, make sure the version you choose can run on your hardware. Most support the four main platforms for Windows and Mac computers as well as iOS and Android devices, but not all.
Listed below are the 14 versions I found. The first being the most expensive and geared towards full scale commercial operations -Probably not the version most of you will be interested in but worthy of listing.
Also noteworthy, the last four are UK based companies - Terminology might be slightly different, but they should work fine for US based beekeepers.
Hopefully this information proves useful.
If you already keep great records – keep doing what you do! If you need a little kick-start for your record keeping, one of these will no doubt be a good fit!
By: Micky Cross