Editor’s Note: This article was published in February 2011. It is my understanding that the Hive Tracks software has been substantially improved since that time, so you might want to try it for yourself.
I’ve read so much about the revolutionary free software called “Hive Tracks” that I decided to open an account and give it a try. I got an instant case of claustrophobia. While this system might work for a lot of beekeepers, it would never work for me. Here’s why:
- When I’m beekeeping I’m not at my computer and vice versa. I like to take a small notebook into the field with me, jot down notes, diagrams, and to-do lists, then go on to the next hive. No way do I want to transcribe this into a computer later. Life’s too short.
- The hive diagrams don’t have a lot of the equipment I use—so when I’m clicking on the components trying to “build” my hive, I have to do without internal frame feeders, double screen boards, Cloake boards, moisture quilts, and triangle escape boards. They have “entrance reducer”—but only one size. They have “honey super”—but no way to distinguish a section super from a Ross Round from a plain framed honey super. There’s no way for the diagram to show whether your Varroa tray is in or out.
- There are no hive components specifically for top-bar hives or Warré hives.
- There is nothing in the diagram to indicate whether the frames are plastic, wax, or foundationless, although, you can indicate some of this under “Hive Condition”—which I don’t really understand. Once of the choices under foundation type (which is under hive condition) is “drone cell.” You can check this off, but you can’t say 2 frames, or 1 frame—you can only check it off, which doesn’t really tell you much.
- Also the check boxes indicating hive condition apparently pertain to the whole hive. It’s just not that way in real life. Some boxes are going to be in better condition than others, but you can’t indicate that unless you write it in the description of the hive which is in a different section.
- There is a place to add links to photos and videos, but there was no way to add sketches or hand-drawn diagrams to your notes. You could scan them and add links, but how handy is that? I like to stand behind each hive with my diagram and to-do list in hand—and then do it. Why make it so complex?
- Worse, there is no place for a to-do list. When I’m doing a hive inspection, for example, I’m making a to-do list, right? You can add notes under “description” in a few places, but I don’t think of a description as a to-do list.
- You can check off various boxes indicating diseases, treatments, feeds—but all you can do is check them off. So if you check off MegaBee, does that mean it has it or needs it?
- Oddly, the program has my correct latitude and longitude, but couldn’t figure out what time zone I am in, and I couldn’t find a way to change it.
- “Frame count” apparently means “frame count per box.” I tried to put in 30, but it wouldn’t take it.
I apologize if I sound cranky, but this program wound me up tight. Within 30 minutes I was ready to give up beekeeping and become a cattleman–but then, they probably have equally irritating software . . . and I’m not particularly fond of cattle. I like to think “outside the box” as they say, but I felt this program tried its best to stuff me into the tiniest crate it could find.
The best thing for you to do would be to go ahead and try it. Decide for yourself. Like I said, it’s free (a clue) and readily available. Here, I’ll even give you the link.