Section 4.14 – NatBIP 1 Record Card Instructions

Colony Record Card – NatBIP 1

How to use

This card is designed to be a multipurpose card that can be used for normal hive management as well as for bee improvement in one apiary, multiple apiaries, or in a bee improvement group.

The data collected on each card is for one colony. The summaries at the end of the season can be collated onto the Apiary Record Card (4.18) which will have one row per colony giving an overview of apiary performance and any outstanding colonies.

This card allows a consistent recording system to be set up using multiple apiaries involved in an improvement group.

The cards are designed around the desirable traits of: Native Appearance, Temperament, Swarming Propensity, Health/Brood Pattern/Over-wintering and Honey or Relative Honey Yield (RHY).

It is available in and editable format and can be adjusted or changed according to your own preference. Download here.


Top table Box

  1. Beekeeper/Group: Name of beeper and/or Group or Association
  2. Queen or Colony Origin: Source or origin of Queen and/or Colony
  3. Name or No. of Strain:
  4. Queen Name or No.: Name/no. if breeder
  5. Queen Mark/Age: Letter for year colour. Circled if marked
  6. Queen description: Colour, stripes, clipped?
  7. Apiary Name: Name or location of apiary
  8. Hive No.: Number or ID of hive
  9. Hive Type: Type of hive + Brood box system e.g. brood and half

Main Table Box:

General scales are 1 to 5 (5 being best).

The first two rows (above) are the scores brought forward from the previous year. This allows an at-a-glance reference to the colony’s history and past performance. These two rows are only relevant if the colony has the same queen as previous year or is a daughter queen from the previous year.

Over-Wintering Score 1-5 (Weak – Strong)

Relative strength in spring. 1 and 2 weaker than average; 3 is average; 4 and 5 stronger than average.

This is usually assessed on first inspection in April and is compared to either an apiary average or to your own choice of standard.

*To assess this score, the strength going into winter may need to be assessed. A nuc will probably be weaker in spring than full-size colony.

Main Table

Some columns can be assessed at each inspection, but others need only be used when appropriate.

  • 2021: Date of inspection
  • Insp. by: Inspected by – useful if working in a group or there are different beekeepers involved.
  • Col. Size: Colony Size – In terms of bees covering frames in brood box and super e.g 0.7 + 0.3 would be bees covering ≅ 2/3 of brood box + ≅ 1/3 super, or can be expressed as no. of frames
  • BIAS Amount: Brood in all stages. No. of frames with brood on both sides. One side only is 0.5. Enter the number of frames that have brood on both sides. Frames with brood on one side only mark as 0.5. (S,M or L can be used to indicate approximate amount of brood the frames).
  • Native Appearance* 1-5 (Non-native -> Native) Assess on each visit. Summary is an average of last 3 assessments. This measure is assessed by looking at a sample of bees on the face of a comb, for example.
    1 - virtually no bees of native appearance
    2 – about 25% native app
    3 - about 50% native app
    4 – about 75% native app
    5 – virtually all native app.
    *Native appearance is a dark abdomen, a thin Tomenta or a light coloured stripe, with yellow, ginger or brown hairs around the thorax.A non-native bee is indicated by yellow, orange or brown band/s on the abdomen; a wide tomenta or light stripe on the abdomen (as wide as the dark part), with white or creamy hairs around the thorax. An Italian (Ligurian) influence would be lighter coloured, orangey bands on the abdomen. Carniolan (carnica) influence would give the impression of white or grey hairs. They can be dark bodied but often have a brown and very stripy abdomen, wide stripes, not narrow.
    Summary is average of last 3 assessments.
  • Temperament 1-5 (Aggressive to docile) Assess at each visit. This trait can vary over the season according to conditions.
    1 – Unpleasant to work with in every way. Difficult to control with smoke. Defensive as you approach the hive/apiary. Followers as you leave.
    2 – Very excitable. Aggressive, pinging the veil a lot. Determined to sting. Needs considerable smoke control.
    3 – Lot of movement on the comb and may be a few stings without due reason.
    4 – Fairly calm but some running on the comb. A bit excitable but no direct aggression.
    5 – Very gentle and calm on comb. A pleasure to work with.Tip for assessment: Are bees pleasant or unpleasant to work with. Think 4 or 2. Then adjust up or down, as appropriate, to reach final assessment. Summary is arrived at by calculating average of the last 6 visits, which levels out variations.
  • Swarming Propensity 1-5 (Swarmy –> non Swarmy) Only mark if event relating to a swarming tendency occurs, or does not occur through season. Use last assessment at end of season.
    1 – Unproductive and produces swarm cells
    2 – Small to medium honey crop and produces swarm cells
    3 – Moderate to good honey production but produces swarm cells, or unproductive but no cells.
    4 – Goes through season without swarm cells with average crop of honey
    5 – Goes through full season with no attempt to swarm. No swarm cells produced. Good honey crop.Practice usual swarm control methods.
  • Health and Brood Pattern 1-5 (Poor brood pattern & health –> good brood & health) Assess brood pattern and/or observable diseases or pathogens (brood or adult bees). Identify disease if present, record action if any in notes.
    1 – Very poor brood pattern. Very slow brood build up. May be Identifiable diseases present.
    2 – Poor brood pattern. Pepper-pot brood and/or quantity &/or health
    3 – Average brood.
    4 – Above average brood
    5 – Very good brood pattern and amount + healthy
  • Honey Yield- The quantity of honey should be recorded whenever any is removed from colony. This can be estimated at time of removal or mark the supers and calculate upon extraction. To estimate on removal, a BS/National super frame fully capped is about 2.75 lb If 10 frames in a super. Full National super about 28lbs. Round up or down according to how well filled each frame is. If using different size frames, weigh them to be accurate or work out own estimating system.
  • Amount Fed. In this column, enter any feed given with quantity and date of feed in preferred units.
  • Mite drop – Record average daily mite drop at any stage through the season

Summaries (at foot of table)

Native Appearance – Average of last 3 recordings
Temperament - Average of last 6 recordings
Swarming Propensity - Last assessment of season
Brood pattern/health - Average of any recordings
Honey yield - Total for season
Amount fed - Total for season

  • RHY - Relative honey yield Allows more meaningful comparison between colonies in different apiaries. RHY = Colony Honey yield divided apiary average honey yield This is expressed as a decimal, so 1.0 = average, 2.0 is double the average yield, 0.5 is half of average yield.
  • Over-wintering – Assessment in spring compared to average. 1-5 scale.
  • Varroa treatment – Record treatment given, if any.

Assessment of breeding potential.

The beekeeper will have to decide what the priorities are regarding the desirable qualities. A general rule may be to only breed from queens which have exceptional temperament or some may feel strongly about working within a strain, to increase the chances of breeding true, so, for example, native appearance of the offspring may be high on the list. Or beekeepers may wish to experiment with giving priority to different characteristics.

The Apiary Summary Card (4.18)

The summaries for each colony can be forwarded to an ‘Apiary Summary’ card which has one row for each colony, so an apiary with 12 colonies in it would have 12 rows. This card is used to hold summaries of all colonies in the apiary. It makes comparison between the colonies simpler and therefore selection easier.