An important part of bee improvement for all beekeepers
In order to improve our bees, we need to know what we have got. We then need to make comparisons with our own colonies and those of other beekeepers, otherwise how do we know what can be achieved? Not only do we need to assess colonies, but we also need to assess other people's handling techniques. Very often a colony will behave differently in different hands. They may be very easy to handle if they are treated kindly and with respect by one person, yet can get fired up in the hands of someone who uses "crash bang" methods without care, or less smoke.
The assessment of colonies is a personal thing and unless the beekeeper is part of a group where there are standard procedures, they will probably develop their own way of doing things. That's fine by me and shouldn't be discouraged. What I have found useful is for one person to make an assessment of all colonies being assessed. This gives consistency and a fairer assessment, certainly for temper.
It is argued by some that the ordinary beekeeper with a small number of colonies can't assess their bees, but that is not true. I suggest attending apiary meetings at your local BKA as often as you can, or work with other beekeepers. What is wrong with visiting others? You will all learn a lot. I am in no doubt that all beekeepers should have at least two colonies, so if there is a problem with one, they can be helped by the other without seeking outside help. One of those colonies will be better than the other, so you have made a start. Comparison with other bees will take you a step further and all of a sudden you will have knowledge of perhaps 10-20 colonies.
To assess something you need a set of criteria to assess against. If you are assessing something, you are measuring it. If you are measuring it you need measurements and a method of recording. These are not difficult to achieve. See the buttons on the top left for futher help.