Monday, March 28, 2011

Inspector Gadget

Despite being told that I have a freakishly good memory, I still have trouble remembering things. You know, like failing to get that 5th item I was supposed to pick up at the grocery store, or forgetting to get up early enough to gas up my car on the way to work. Tinkering with a bee hive is no different for me. I can make make mental notes about all sorts of observations and to-do items only to realize the next time I pop the lid that I forgot something. It's especially frustrating when the forgotten tidbit would have required me to bring something extra to the bee yard since my bees have to be kept away from my home on account of I live in suburbia hell and meddling little crumb snatchers and whiny pantie waist HOA clowns don't mix well with the honey bees and me. Rant over. One might say I should take notes. Great idea, but a notebook is usually the one thing I can count on forgetting when going out to check on the bees. Plus, my chicken scratch isn't very legible at a comfortable desk, let alone standing in the hot sun with bees buzzing around.

One day while browsing some message boards, I stumbled across a free web based tool called Hive Tracks that beekeepers could use to keep records on what's going on amongst their bees. It was developed by a couple of computer gurus in Western North Carolina who also happen to keep bees.

The software allows you to set up multiple bee yards and even uses the address of the yard to fill in the GPS coordinates and the weather conditions. I don't use the weather feature because I use Hive Tracks' handy paper form to record my inspections to input on the website later. So, I usually just hit The Weather Channel's website on my Blackberry when I get to the bee yard to lock in the time and weather information so I don't have to estimate when I do my updates.

One of the neatest features I've found is the hive builder tool, which allows the user to construct a graphical representation of all of the components that make up a particular hive. It also allows you to change the construction of individual hives as you add or take away components during the year.

You can also keep records about the queen that is inside each hive including her race, the marking color (if any), date she was installed and any comments about her.

It's a pretty cool gadget, no doubt. I'm still struggling to remember to carry along my clipboard full of blank inspection forms, but I'm trying. If I can stay disciplined in using it, I'm hoping that it will provide me with data on what factors made things within particular hives go right or go wrong so that I can duplicate successes and hopefully avoid failures. If you keep bees, I'd encourage you to visit the Hive Tracks site and see what you think.

If you'd like to be notified of updates to this blog, please email me at I promise your email address will not be shared with anyone.

If you're interested in learning more about beekeeping, join a local beekeepers association as well as your state's beekeepers association. Explore your state's master beekeeper program if they have one. The following links can get you started:

U.S. State Beekeeping Clubs

South Carolina
South Carolina Beekeepers Association
Local Beekeepers Associations in South Carolina
South Carolina Master Beekeeper Program

Georgia Beekeepers Association
Local Beekeepers Associations in Georgia
Georgia Master Beekeeper Program

North Carolina
North Carolina State Beekeepers Association
Local Beekeepers Associations in North Carolina
North Carolina Master Beekeeper Program

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