Cleaning out drone frames

It’s that time of the season where we are (or should be) thinking both about drones and varroa. For those that have drone frames as part of their varroa IPM system, don’t forget to clean them out before drones emerge. I check all of my drone frames each inspection to make sure they are being drawn and used. I also check how far along things are, and cycle new ones in where they are appropriate. The old one can be frozen and returned to the hive in the next rotation…but I like to keep the circle of life going on my farm.

20140705-145304-53584822.jpg

Software Review: HiveTracks

HiveTracks LogoAfter spending far too much time searching for a tablet-based solution (i.e., an app for my iPad) and trying apps that didn’t work the way I needed them to, I’ve finally settled on HiveTracks, a Web-based beekeeping tool.

HiveTracks’ free account offers the ability to create bee yards that you can specify locations and other information for. You can then add hives to each yard. For each hive, you can include quite a bit of information, as shown in the following screenshot:

HiveTracks Screenshot

The hive building feature is especially interesting because it enables you to include just about any component you might have on your hive. I should note, however, that additional hive components — for example, nuc boxes — are reserved for “pro” users. More on that in a moment.

HiveTracks gives you the ability to edit each of your hives so the information is always accurate and up to date. You can include photos, although only “pro” users can upload directly; others must host the photo elsewhere on the web — for example, in Flickr or Picassa — and link to it. You can print hive labels that include basic data and a scannable QR code — although I don’t see how HiveTracks actually uses that code internally.

The real power of HiveTracks — at least for me — is in its ability to record information about hive inspections. You can print out a Hive Inspection form and take that out to the bee yard with you to fill in. Later, you can sit down at your computer and transfer the data to HiveTracks. Or, if you have a tablet (and don’t mind getting a little propolis on the screen), you can simply log into the Website with that and enter the data online while doing the inspection.

I’ve just begun using HiveTracks and I think it will be a valuable tool for me. I currently have 7 hives, which is a bit too many for me to track without some kind of tool. While it’s certainly possible to simply use the hive inspection forms offline and keep them in a binder, I think HiveTools’ reporting features will be helpful for me to track trends, etc.

HiveTools is free, but additional features are available for “Pro” members. This includes the ability to include some additional hive component such as top bar hives and nuc boxes, the ability to directly upload images to the site, and access to a calendar feature. These features cost $60/year, which I personally find too costly for my needs. I’ve suggested a “hobbyist” level that limits the number of hives but gives access to all features — not sure if the site operators would be interested in that.

In the meantime, I’ll continue as a free user and see if it helps me track my bees.