Like most beekeepers, I keep a journal to document my hive inspections. I also have a white board where I outline follow-up actions for each of my hives. Those methods of documentation are great, but neither allows me to look out over my bee yard and quickly know each hive’s status. To fill this gap, I bought a couple dozen construction bricks and six different colors of spray paint. I painted each brick’s six sides with a different color, and came up with a simple system to show the basic status of my hives.
There are two overall categories to my system—queenless and queenright. Different colors distinguish between a queenless hive that is actively raising a new queen (yellow), and one that shows no signs of building queen cells (red). For queenright hives, I’ve got colors to indicate whether they’re doing well and need minimal attention (green), threatening to swarm and need to be split (orange), or need to be treated based on the time of year or recent mite tests (blue). The last color is black, and would sadly be displayed on a deadout.
This system is very cheap—the bricks were around 60 cents each and you can often find inexpensive paint on the return rack at home improvement stores. I’m not advocating to replace beekeeping journals with painted bricks, because it’s still a good idea to detail your actions and observations in writing. But for a reasonable price and little effort, you can use painted bricks to quickly scan your hives and get a pretty good idea of how your bees are fairing.