Updated on September 16th, 2021
Beekeeping records are essential learning and management tools for both newbie and experienced beekeepers. There are many ways to keep records, and when it comes to beekeeping, like almost everything else these days, there are apps available. One such beekeeping app is Hive Tracks.
Hive Tracks, available as a native mobile app and via a web browser, tracks your beekeeping data to help manage your apiary. The developer of Hive Tracks has a version designed for large commercial beekeepers. However, in this review, we will discuss the software aimed at backyard hobbyists and sideliners.
See our article Record Keeping For Beekeepers (A Guide To Why, What & How) for more information about keeping records, including a list of other apps.
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What Is Hive Tracks?
Hive Tracks software is a premium, cloud-based digital record keeping solution for beekeepers. According to the company’s website, Hive Tracks has more than 37,000 registered beekeepers in over 150 countries, tracking 159,000 hives.
Mobile apps can be used offline and later synced with the web application connected to the internet.
In my opinion, being able to access the application from both an app and a web browser is a significant plus.
Mobile devices may be challenging to use while beekeeping. I can use my phone wearing nitrile gloves. Leather gloves make touch features unworkable.
Working with honey, wax, propolis, sugar water, or various chemicals may not be conducive to handling your smartphone.
As of this writing, Hive Tracks offer three pricing plans, each with a 30-day free trial period:
|Plan Name||Monthly Price||# of Hives Tracked|
|Certified||$5.00||Up to 5|
|Journeyman||$10.00||Up to 20|
You can initiate the free trial without providing a credit card. I appreciate that. Name, email address, and a password are all you need to give it a try. (Too many companies seem to require a credit card in the hopes that you will forget to cancel before the free trial ends if you don’t like the product.)
Starting Hive Tracks
When you first log in to Hive Tracks, you need to create a yard. A yard name is required, but you can provide additional information, including a description and location. Location details can be convenient if you have multiple locations and need to share that information with others.
Within each yard, you add your hives. Like the bee yard, each hive needs to be assigned a name. If you have many hives, you’ll need to have a system for finding each named hive when you are in the field.
In our small apiary, we identify the hives by color (green, yellow, etc.). A larger beeyard may benefit from a numbering system.
Navigating Hive Tracks
On subsequent visits to the app, Hive Tracks opens its first menu option, the Dashboard. Other menu options are:
On your dashboard, you scroll through summary pages for each beeyard. Each summary has so little information (name, average hive strength, current yard weather, and the number of active hives) as to be somewhat meaningless.
I would find this feature annoying if I had a lot of yards to manage. Such little data requires only a simple table, as shown in the next menu option, Yards.
Yards presents a table of your beeyards (titled My Yards). A drop-down button lets you see the most recent status of the hives in each yard.
The best way to view this information on a mobile phone is in horizontal mode due to limited screen space.
From this section, you can view and edit information for any yard or hive.
In the Hives section, you can choose to show any of the following information in summary format:
- Exploded view (Hive Tracks lets you add individual hive components)
- Inactive hives
Limiting the information shown helps with visibility on mobile. Do you really need an exploded view of each hive regularly?
The Inspections section of Hive Tracks is your opportunity to go heavy on data. This section is also where you will find some of the biggest advantages and disadvantages of using Hive Tracks.
You can capture a lot of data by simply checking a box. However, without adding notes, the data may lack meaning.
Data tracking includes:
- Date and time
- Sightings of the queen, eggs, and brood
- Hive strength
- Frames of bees
- Hive split (yes or no)
- Hive Conditions
- Pollen stores
- Honey stores
- Queen cells
- Laying pattern
- Equipment condition
- Hive condition (brace comb, mold, etc.)
- Foundation type (this seems to be more of a hive component rather than a condition that will vary upon inspection)
- Diseases (notably Varroa mites, small hive beetle, and foulbrood)
- Treatments (27 listed)
- Feedings (multiple listings)
- Recommended To-Do Items (can be automatically created)
This list of data points covers most things you would look for during a hive inspection. You can choose which of these you want to track or make a note of during a thorough inspection. You are unlikely to weigh the hive on each inspection but may want to regularly check the laying pattern.
There are several shortcomings to the checkbox approach to data collection.
There is no place to record an follow up action if you note some unfavorable hive conditions. What will you do next if there is a “foul” or “fermented” odor in the hive? How will I address spotty egg laying?
While small hive beetle infestations can be spotted by a visual inspection, tracking varroa mite counts to determine the need for treatment is more involved.
However, you can go to a hive summary and record mite counts and planned treatments. Unfortunately, that mite count is not connected to your hive inspection.
For more information on managing varroa mites, see our articles Varroa Mites: A Complete Treatment Guide and Comparing Varroa Mite Treatments (What Beekeepers Use).
The data gathered is for the overall hive. However, some information is a lot more helpful if the location is more precise (for example, which box and what frame had queen cells).
The recommended to-do list is good; however, these are fixed options, and you do not have the flexibility to add your own tasks in this section. You can, however, open the To-Do area to create your personalized tasks.
This section is simple. You record the quantity of any harvested hive products (honey, pollen, propolis, wax) thereby monitoring a hive’s production.
Like all other to-do apps, Hive Tracks lets you track tasks such as the next inspection or removing mite treatments, including adding them to a calendar.
Hive Tracks provides a nice list of hive components for both Langstroth and Top Bar hives. If you list components as you add new hives, those parts show as Actively In Use. Stored material shows as “Shed (Not In Use).”
If you use any other hive type (such as a different horizontal hive or a Warrè hive), you may need to use the default items as substitutes.
Some of the information may be overkill (do I really need to track cinder blocks? Maybe). Other equipment you may wish to monitor is not included (frames and foundation).
Beekeepers using Langstroth hives (most beekeepers in North America) may benefit most utilizing this section. Langstroth equipment goes in and out of use depending on the season. It’s helpful to know if you are low on honey supers if it’s an incredibly productive year.
You can create a beekeeping community or join an existing one. This feature does not seem useful. I found an existing “community” of one beekeeper when I searched my area.
We highly recommend that new beekeepers join local beekeeping associations. Google will help you find them better than Hive Tracks will.
See our article How & When To Start Beekeeping (8 Action Steps) for other tips on how to begin beekeeping.
Hive Tracks will generate reports from all the data collected. Most of these reports seem to accumulate information that is already available in sections like the inspection reports.
If you are managing a large apiary, these reports may help analyze your overall state of affairs. I think the source data on individual hive inspections, treatments, etc., are more valuable than most of these global reports.
You can download printable blank reports. These reports let you gather data on paper for inputting later with the computer or mobile device. Pre-printed reports are an excellent feature for anyone who wants to use the software but prefers not to handle a mobile device while at the hives.
A Google map denotes yard locations. Maps is another section of Hive Tracks that I think has limited usefulness for backyard beekeepers.
Maps may be useful for large commercial beekeepers where multiple workers need to locate a lot of hives. For the average hobbyist, this feature is probably unnecessary.
In my opinion, there are pros and cons to using the Hive Tracks software for your beekeeping records.
- Hive Tracks’ cloud-based system provides multiple ways to collect and sync data: mobile app (on or offline), web browser, and pre-printed forms for input.
- Data collection is well organized by yard and hive.
- Check boxes simplify data collection for a lot of data points.
- Hive Tracks supports Langstroth and Top Bar hives.
- A 30-day free trial with no credit card provides ample opportunity to check out the app.
- You can track tasks specific to beekeeping.
- Hive Tracks is a premium product requiring a monthly fee. Weigh the cost and benefits against alternative record keeping options.
- Warrè hives and other horizontal hives are not supported.
- Hive Tracks will require double entry if you do not use mobile devices for initial data collection at the hives.
- Some data collected by simply checking a box is of limited use without additional information or clarification.
Keeping accurate records is a good habit for backyard beekeepers and imperative for any commercial beekeeper. Many beekeepers are happy to keep manual records personalized to their needs and desires—however, some of us like tech solutions and the ability to manipulate data easily.
Although the monthly cost of Hive Tracks seems reasonable, I think it’s an unnecessary expense if you have a small beeyard. Our article on beekeeping records links to free beekeeping record templates that are perfectly adequate for starting.
I am not against paying for useful apps in general. In fact, I typically avoid becoming dependent on free apps. I assume free apps not be supported long term if there is no profit incentive for the developer.
More experienced beekeepers with larger yards can benefit from the Hive Tracks technology to justify the cost, especially if you share work and information.
Hive Tracks’ 30-day free trial is risk-free with no credit card required, so I recommend beekeepers at all experience levels check it out.