Last night at our bee meeting, one of our more successful beekeepers spoke up and said, "Well I had _______, and when I went back and looked at my notes, I recognized I did __________ and it made a big difference in my bees because I later saw them doing ________."
Someone later also said, "I know last year at this time I was experiencing ___________, and that caused me to do _____________________. So this year, as I review my notes from last year, I'm going to try __________________."
I interrupted the discussion to point out to the rest of the group how important it was to keep a notebook of observations. I cannot begin to tell you how the newer beekeepers explain a present situation, and when I ask about circumstances that led up to this situation or what they might have done or not done, they have no idea what preceded it, they cannot remember what they did, and if they tried something different on a different hive, they can't remember when they did it or how the bees responded or why it might have made a difference.
I'm a strong advocate of keeping a notebook, so when asking questions, you can say with confidence, "On this date, I saw _________, and thinking there was something wrong, so I did ___________. Then three weeks later on ______ the bees did ___________, and I later saw them doing __________. So what do you think I should do next?"
Most times we don't know what we're looking for, let alone looking at, but just keeping a notebook of simple observations, recording actions and the bees' response can help understand what makes the difference between success and failure.
Notebooks have been a standard practice in my beekeeping. I take rough, crude notes in one notebook that gets sticky and coated with propolis. This is my field notebook. Then when I get home, I re=write and transcribe these notes adding interpretation into a different notebook that I can review before going back out to that yard the following week. Then the sticky notes get thrown away after I record them.
There are also a host of hive inspection sheets that do the same thing. But if I don't write something down, I won't remember it.
More and more, it seems the most successful beekeepers keep a notebook and review it to learn more about their bees.