beekeeping monitoring

In the words of W. Edwards Deming “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion”. Measuring and recording data throughout the year helps you make the right decisions on your beekeeping farm. The variables to be noted will depend on what is important to the beekeeper but, in general, they will respond to characteristics of the queen, behavior and production. A separate mention is the varroosis data, without which we can be overconfident and late correcting the infestation. These more than convenient records are necessary for the good health of the apiary.

Data collection should begin by identifying or numbering the bee-boxes and locating each one in its apiary so that one sheet can be kept per apiary with all the hives in it. In many countries, the geolocation of apiaries is mandatory since there are minimum distances between beekeepers that must be respected. It is a very important biosecurity measure since if a contagious disease outbreak occurs, all the hives in the surrounding area can be immobilized and quarantined, preventing the spread of the disease.

Regarding the zootechnical data that can be recorded:

Age of the queen:

Very important, young queens have a high laying capacity and colonies are more resilient to bee-deprivation because it is compensated by that reproductive capacity. The queen of a year rarely swarm, and populated hives tend to be cleaner, although this is a feature that is expressed above all before blooming.

Laying quality, that it is compact, that the breeding oval is well appreciated with a crown of honey and pollen around it.

Good temper:

Being able to work the hive with bare hands and with a light suit and attenuate the defensive response of the hive has always been a quality that the beekeeper has favored. On the contrary, there is nothing worse than a hive that ends up throwing you out of the place when it has already stung you a dozen times and you can’t handle it, because the mask is practically full of bees trying to pass its sting. These hives are certainly a danger to anyone who approaches them: walkers, neighbors, etc. But we must keep in mind that very tame hives are also attacked more aggressively by predators (bee-eaters, hornets, bears…) and in our opinion we will have to find a balance avoiding the extremes of total tameness and impossible aggressiveness.

Maximum and minimum temperature data are easily obtainable through thermometers placed in the beekeeping settlement. Extreme temperatures should make us evaluate thermal insulation as well as the need to monitor food reserves or supply water. Other data on placement of the super, honey production and whether they have been reinforced, reunited or donors of breeding frames. On the apiary we must note the number of colonies located and the average production, on some occasions we must increase or reduce the number of hives to adjust the livestock load that it can support.


All these zootechnical data help us select and improve the production of the hives; they are convenient but perhaps not essential for the survival of the swarm. Health data in beekeeping is important since if we do not maintain a continuous level of surveillance we can fall into inaction or arrive too late. We are referring especially to the varroa parasitization rate, which is expressed as a % of the bee population. To simplify the data we will refer to % of phoretic varroa on nurse bees. Varroa monitoring is necessary in all seasons of the year, there are several options for its calculation: immersing bees in a 50% mixture of water and alcohol, with CO2 or the powdered sugar technique. Without going into the description of the technique, which is relatively simple, the quantity of nurse bees is counted and the amount of varroa that falls from them is expressed in the number of varroa per hundred bees. The powdered sugar technique is somewhat less exact because we can lose some varroa, but it is simple and relatively quick. We must insist on taking data regularly during the productive season, on at least 10% of the hives in each apiary and if the average is around 3%, measures should be taken. After the treatment, monitor the drop of mites on the mesh bottom board or repeat the calculation of the infestation rate to verify that the sanitary steps are working.