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BIBBA's Honey Bee Colony Assessment
Record Card

Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders Association

BIBBA has been at the forefront of bee breeding and the records that they keep are detailed and meticulous. The card that they use is A5 size and printable files can be downloaded from this page, Considering that the sale of record cards normally contribute to BIBBA income I think that this is a magnanimous gesture on their part to allow free downloading. I respectfully suggest that if you make use of the download facility, then a donation to BIBBA or similar bee breeding organisation would be a suitable reciprocal gesture.

I apologise to those using 800 x 600 display resolution for the need to use the horizontal scroll bars, but to enable as many browsers as possible to use this facility it is inevitable as fudged image coordinates make a bad rendering on screen. The red colour acts as a reminder if they are present (apart from some browsers that will not render them).

To download and print this card yourself... right click on the blue image below and select "save picture as" then save it as a .gif or a .bmp in a suitable directory in your file structure. Although the image on this page is blue, the saved file will be black and white and thus can be printed on any coloured card. When you print... You may need to do so in landscape format to cope with printer margin limitations. If your results do not come out 210 mm x 149 mm you will need to set the pixel printing density to 72 pixels per inch (the precise details for that will depend on your printer).

Front of BIBBA record card

This pink image of the reverse side, works in the same way. You may need to adjust the margin settings to ensure that your printer prints the reverse side properly in register with the front side (the outlines help you to sort this out).

Some printers may suffer from astigmatism, in which case you will need to rotate the second side by 90°, using a graphics application, and print it also in landscape fashion.

Reverse of BIBBA record card

You can code the year by using coloured card (160 gm/sq metre) of the appropriate queen marking colour for the year.

That is:- years ending 1 or 6... white, 2 or 7... yellow, 3 or 8... red, 4 or 9... green, 5 or 0... blue.

The reverse side has facilities to record the morphometric data, which is a handy way of coupling the colony's historic record with its biometric data.

I have a notebook that has details of various shorthand techniques for filling in the data on the front of the card, it was "misplaced" and I gave extracts (with permission) from a BIBBA leaflet entitled HIVE RECORD CARD INSTRUCTIONS. However, although that information is still at the bottom of this page there is now another page which deals with Beo's Standard Abbreviation Code in more detail as my original notes have since come to light.

Record cards are a memory aid and data recording media. Once you are used to them they are not an imposition to fill in and provide the reference data for when things go wrong (or according to plan). Such data helps in assessment of the suitability, or not (as the case may be), of breeding from a particular queen.

A card system enables you to see at a glance what the conditions of a colony was last time it was looked at. It shows what was done to it and what needs doing to it.

By studying the records of a colony's performance it will help you to decide whether the Queen should be kept for breeding, for honey production, or culled.

Using the record card:-
When you have examined a colony and closed it up, it should only take you a minute to jot down your observations on the record card, but do it immediately... Before you move on to the next colony. Do not feel you have to fill in every space on the record card... Just fill in as much as you can, or whatever is relevant. You might start by recording just one behaviour factor e.g. non-running or calmness on the comb.

Practise holding in your memory as much as possible while examining a colony... do not keep stopping in the middle to write things down. If you are making a full and accurate assessment, it may be prudent to call out the details for recording by a helper.

What to record under each heading.

Ref. No.

Every queen should be given an individual reference number. The record card relates to that particular queen wherever she goes. It is her "identity number". A tag marked clearly with the number should be pinned on the outside of the brood box. If a queen is transferred to another hive, the tag should be transferred as well.

Ref. No.
Indicates where the queen is "on the map" e.g. Home apiary... Heather site... Fred's orchard. This may have to be changed several times throughout a queen's life history. A push-on eraser on the back end of the pencil helps here.
Here can be recorded any other relevant or interesting observations or remarks e.g. Needs 2nd brood box in a week. Prepared for heather. Thunder storm started during examination etc. etc. (Extra space on reverse side of card).
Colour/shape/behaviour etc. Leg colour, underbelly colour, shininess of carapace and other distinguishing racial  features.
Which year the queen hatched out, and month if desired. This allows you to work out how old the queen is. I have often used coloured queen lacquer as an adhesive for the numbered discs to indicate batch number.
How raised e.g. from a swarm cell/supersedure cell/emergency cell/induced (grafting or punch cell method, Cell plug box, fertilized by II... etc.)
Mark Colour(s) of paint/numbered disc etc. - numbered discs can help identify a queen and also shows up movement of a queen by accident or occurring naturally.
Clip If used, record whether left or right wing clipped. This can help identify a queen, but should not be done solely for that purpose.
Ref. No.
The Queen Ref. No. of the mother and any daughters of this queen. Allows you to trace the queen's ancestors and daughters descendants.
Strain Queens with a common ancestry can be given a common "strain" number or name. e.g. all queens descended from a queen given to you by Joe Bloggs can be classed as "Blogg" strain queens.
Main Virtues
Main Faults
If the records show that the queen's colony has a virtue or a fault that you consider important it should be written down. e.g. Main Virtues early spring build up/thrifty.
e.g. Main Faults robbers/excessive propolisers/stingers.

Best use
of this
By carefully studying a queen's records, the main faults and virtues and the performance of her ancestors and descendants (especially her mother and other daughters) you should be able to decide on the best use of the queen. This may not be obvious for two or three years or longer. Breed from your best queens and cull your worst. Best should be judged by a number of factors - not just honey gathering as they may be robbers. Remember you do not have to cull the colony you can remove a poor quality queen and re queen the colony with a better queen.

Abbreviations may be used to fit the details in the space in the colony examination records and/or to save time. Using terms abbreviated in the fashion indicated below will enable others to understand your records.

  Date   Including day, month and year.
Examine a colony with proper use of the smoker (link) and after the examination count the number of stings received and subtract that from 10 e.g. 8 = 2 stings received, 10 = No stings received If you are using gloves, count the stings on the gloves. Do not include stings from bees you accidentally crush. Do not include stings received by helpers or bystanders.
A subjective assessment out of 10 of the degree of "running" of the workers over the combs e.g. 10 = No running observed, 3 = severe degree of running.
A subjective assessment out of 10 of the degree of "jumping". of the workers off the combs or frame tops e.g. 9 = very slight jumpiness, 1 = extremely jumpy.
Count the number of bees that "follow" and subtract from 10. The count is made as you walk away from the hive after completing an examination and closing the hive e.g. 0 = 10 followers or more, 7 = 3 followers It is often difficult to tell from which colony the "following" workers have come. Try to leave the examination of a known "follower" colony till last and always start inspecting a different colony each time until followers are found and recorded.
Number of
frames of bees
This can be judged by glancing down between the combs of each box. One frame of bees is a brood frame's worth of bees - giving a close covering of both sides of the comb from corner to corner. Class a shallow comb covered with bees as 1/2 a comb of bees.
Number of
frames of brood
Count the number of frames which contain brood at any stage including eggs. Also record the number of frames of brood added or removed for any reason e.g. if 2 our of 12 frames of brood are removed to make a nucleus record: 12-2=10
Number of
frames of stores
One frame of stores is a full deep frame of sugar syrup stores or honey stores. A full shallow frame is approximately equal to half of a deep frame.
One deep British Standard frame full of stores weighs approx. 5 lbs.
One deep Langstroth frame full of stores weighs approx. 7 lbs.
A colony should never have less than the equivalent of two deep frames of stores. Also record the number of frames of stores added or removed.
Queen M = marked queen seen
U = unmarked queen seen
NF = Queen looked for but not found
NS = Queen not seen
NStick = Queen not seen, but normal brood stages, including eggs, present... indicating that the queen is probably present
K = Queen killed
Queen Cells Record the number of queen cells and the type
e.g. 25S = 25 swarm cells
5E = 5 emergency cells
IC = introduced cell
Pollen Stores Can be recorded either as number of frames of pollen stores, or as an estimation
e.g. X = nil
crossed tick = little
tick = moderate
+ = plenty
++ = More than expected (can be associated with smaller cell sizes. (future link))

Record the number of boxes at the end of the examination, and the number added or taken away.

brood supers (shallows) (1/2 a brood box added is a shallow box used to extend the brood chamber)
1 + 1/2 = 1 1/2
1 1/2
3 + 1 = 4

Indicate somewhere whether the supers are shallows (S) or deeps (D)

Honey Taken Record weight of honey stores removed from hive (indicating whether lbs. or kgs.)
Sugar Fed

Record the weight of sugar fed to the colony (indicating whether lbs or kgs.)

e.g. 2 gallons of thick sugar syrup fed = 16 lbs. sugar... Record: 16 lbs.


Allows you to record other colony characteristics or observations that you might consider important or extra columns can be ruled for extra items

e.g. weather conditions, non-propolising, comb capping, colour of workers, drones, brood nest shape, Chalk brood, Sac brood, Swarming, etc. etc.

Several versions of the BIBBA card have existed over the many years of their use, and some of the columns and boxes my not correlate exactly to the ones mentioned above. I have seen ones with "Main Faults" instead of "Main Points". I have some extra abbreviations that I use that may be useful... AVM = Apiary Vicinity Mating, CWC = Cool Weather Clustering, 49 = 4.9 mm Cellsize.

Many beekeepers (among the few that keep records) store a colony's record under the roof in a polythene bag, in the space between the crown board and the underside of the roof. I do not have such a space available in my hives owing to an unusual roof construction and so I keep my records in my van (in an upturned nuc box roof).