Most experienced beekeepers find keeping records essential, it helps them plan management of their colonies more effectively for the benefit of both themselves and the bees - good planning is the basis of all good beekeeping in any case.
For the beginner hive records are also an invaluable learning tool as the discipline of record keeping forces observation and writing it down commits it to memory.
Every locality is unique in its weather and flora so these records will also teach the beginner the relationship between the local micro-climate and nectar flows and their effects on the bees.
There is also a lot that can be learned by looking back on records. The current condition of a colony can be compared with previous inspections to indicate how a colony is progressing (or not) so unless you have a good memory, record keeping would be essential. Comparisons can also be made to records in previous seasons which can help to predict when colonies may need more space or feeding for example.
An annual review of records in winter is part of the beekeeping year. It is the time to look back to see what went well, what went wrong and where improvements or changes can be made in the following season.
The notes and records of activities and observations made during apiary visits or hive inspections can be as simple or as detailed as required. Develop your own shorthand, abbreviations and scoring systems to suit yourself as long as they are consistent and make sense on subsequent reading.
Many useful notes can be made in between inspections e.g. weather records, observations of foraging, flower bloom.
On apiary visits observations can also be made at the hive entrance without opening or disturbing the hive e.g. general behaviour, rate of activity, indications of disease, pollen loads.
Our record card is designed as a result of our own experiences - we are full time professional bee breeders. The records can be transferred to a computer database but a pencil and card is the best option when working in an apiary. The cards are laser printed so the ink is waterproof on stiff card stock so it is durable. Some beekeepers keep the cards in a file which is taken to the apiary whilst others keep them inside the bee hive in which case the cards must be protected from the bees otherwise they will chew through them. We supply our cards in a punched polythene pocket so they can be kept inside the beehive as well as filed.
You can enter whatever you like in each box, the system of abbreviations and scoring on the example is only a suggestion with more suggested below. You will develop your own system.