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"Marking Colony Records"

There are many methods, but which suits you?

I believe that colony records are important, but still many beekeepers don't make them. There are three reasons for keeping records, but we are only interesting in breeding records here.

Those who are keen on improving their bees will need some way of measuring the characteristic they have identified as being important to them. These criteria may change over the years, with some being added and others deleted. Don't worry about it - if you see an improvement, then go for it.

I have found some marking systems to be very complicated - well difficult for me to instantly understand, so I have set out some simple options below. Some have been cribbed from other people, but I see nothing wrong in that, providing they don't! There is little new in beekeeping.

Below I have given some suggestions based on different levels:-

Level 1.   For those who are measuring a small number of criteria.

Some beekeepers use a very simple tick or cross system, so if they are measuring someting such as temper or calmness on the comb they will give a tick if they are O.K. or a cross if they aren't. This will probably suit the beekeeper with a few colonies quite well, without getting into too great a detail. It is difficult to measure over an extended period, but you can add the number of ticks and crosses. A simple system that is far better than nothing and may suit the beginner who has little experience.

Level 2.   Also for those who are measuring a small number of criteria.

A points system based on the "feel" of the beekeeper. This could be out of 5 or 10 marks. Te problem with this is that it might suit the beekeeper, but it may not be understood by other beekeepers. I have come across one beekeeper who started with 10 marks and knocked one mark off for every sting they got, even if it was accidental! Not how I would do it, but if it works, then don't knock it.

Level 3.   For those who are more serious bee breeders.

There will be more criteria, some of which may be measured over a lengthy period. Very often colony assessments will be made by several people, e.g. in a bee breeding group. For that reason consistency is important and there will need to be some sort of guidelines. I set out some options below that have been used by others:-

Option 1.   A scale of 0-5

This is very similar to the rating devised by Micheál Mac Giolla Coda of the Galtee Bee Breeding Group, whose version I set out below.

Option 2.   A scale of 0-5

Option 3.   A scale of 1-4

This was used by John Dews and comes from Honey Bee Improvement in a Nutshell

In each case above you would have to define the terminology. You would have to decide what you want and stick to it. The purpose of a scale like this is to make an assessment of a queen over a lengthy period. If you are making an overall comparison you may wish to weight some criteria depending on the importance you put on them, e.g. you may feel that temper is more important than colour of cappings.

Roger Patterson.