Beekeeping software is a very niche category which has been in limited availability since the dawn of the computer age. Of course, there have been a number of installable programs available over the years to beekeepers. The quality and availability ranging from terrible to acceptable. I have yet to see beekeeping or hive management software that is near the “great” or “outstanding” categories.
The primary reason for that has typically been that most software developers are not beekeepers. There have been what amounts to isolated incidences of software created by beekeepers but those tend toward the “acceptable” range. They are mostly projects of passion but with little in the way of financial resources to really make them stand out.
Jorn Johanesson created an very useful and adaptable piece of beekeeping software called “Bi Data” (pronounced “Bee Data”) back in 1987 as a DOS based program. It has been updated to work with MS Windows since Windows 3.11 came out. It is still available for download and use with claims that it can be used on Windows 7 and on Linux distros running Wine. This app is a great example of quality but lacking in functionality. I give credit to the man for trying to make the most with what he has available to him. You can learn more about this dandy little program at his website here.) There have been other PC installable apps since BiData, some more flashy but less useful, others less flashy and less useful.
However, the days of the installable program for desktops/laptops is pretty much over. With the advent of web based apps, beekeeping software took a great leap in technology. That leap gave it a much needed shot in the arm in terms of presentation and usability. Two particular web sites to note are Hive Tracker and BeeTight. Both of these websites have free access with limitations and paid accounts for full access. Both of these websites also make use of smartphone technology by making QR codes generation for hive identification available. The ability to access and record data to one’s account using those codes is great use of that technology.
The primary concern expresses by beekeepers using the devices is that very often, beekeepers have their hives in areas in which cell phone service is weak or non existent. Using their smartphones, if they have one, is hit or miss a lot of the time. For most of them, if they have to wait to get out of the area to get access to service, they will just wait till they get home to their desktop or laptop and enter the data via keyboard.
I’ll be doing more in depth reviews about each of these websites in the future, but I think it is worth mentioning them in this discussion of what is available to beekeepers at this point in time. Here are a couple screenshots to give you an idea of what beekeepers are looking at when we use web based apps.
Now, to give you some perspective, I want folks to understand there for as many new beekeepers who are using modern technology like computer programs, web apps and smartphones, I would suggest there are probably almost as many who are using low tech solutions such as writing the important information from a hive’s inspection on a strip of duct tape and sticking it to the top of the hive. I kid you not, this is not only still used, but still taught and encouraged in many beekeeping circles. Not that I am making less of it because I know from personal, practical experience, this methods works whether there is a connection available, if the power is on or off and if it’s raining or sunny.
So, if the low or no-tech solution is so functional, why use the modern tech? I would venture to say because the new tech allows for more widespread communication. It allows for verification and support for new beekeepers by their mentors and peers. A web page, a screen shot or a printout is very easy to share with a mentor or a members of a bee club. They are also great ways to show off to your friends on social media.
This is a new age in beekeeping in that new beekeepers are making beekeeping more of a shared experience instead of a more personal and private one. The new beekeeping software options are helping to make beekeeping more social and more visible.