I am in e-discussion with Peter Borst of Cornell University who, via the US based Bee-L email bee discussion group sought information on colony records to enable him to examine the subject of longevity of honeybee colonies.
Being currently on the sick list, having been struck down with plague on a visit to Turkey, and thus having time on my hands spending much time in this armchair wrapped in a blanket with a book, darning or the computer on my lap, I spent a few hours summarising about a score of my earlier records, about 30 years old, and sending them to him with the objective of discovering a) whether I had mastered the technology to send the records and b) whether they showed the sort of information he was seeking.
He responded with compliments, mine being the most thorough records he had received so far. However, I get the impression (with some relief!) that he doesn’t want summaries of about 250 record cards. He has a problem in that people tend to send him the records that are most flattering to their bees, ie they aren’t random and so won’t give a true sample and will skew the results. I have suggested that HE tells me the numbers of the queens the records of whom I should send him. That should be a truly ‘blind’ test.
Another problem is that of definition: is a ‘colony’ lifespan that of an individual queen or is it that of a succession of mother/daughter queens via swarming or supersedure? Does it matter whether the succession is natural or induced/managed by the beekeeper. I always record the mother and the regal daughters of my queens so my records should be able to cover several queen generations.
My original records were the BIBBA type, but about 20 years ago I got a filofax and so redesigned the cards to fit. If you go onto Dave Cushman’s website Beekeeping and Bee Breeding and search for Chris Slade’s Record Cards you’ll be able to see what they look like and copy them if you wish.
I am surprised that Peter has had so few records offered him and have suggested that he contacts the leading lights of BIBBA via their website to seek further records; also with different latitude and elevation to my apiaries as a combination of Darwin and topography might, in my opinion, have an effect on colony longevity.
If YOU have hive records covering a reasonable period of time and would like to take part, do let me know and I will put you in touch with him.