Each time I open the hive, I risk injuring or killing the queen. Each time I open the hive I set the hive back. The bees have to repair what I messed up!
When I first started as a backyard beekeeper I loved to look in the hives. I wanted to get in there every few days to check things out. I mean, isn’t it great FUN to look in the beehives? I love looking at all those bees, trying to find the queen and even taking pictures of things.
I did not realize there should be a PURPOSE for each inspection. So, what are some reasons for hive inspections? What am I looking for?
Here I share some reasons for hive inspections.
First, I check to see if the hive has a queen. When I take the top off and the hive is quiet then I assume I have a queen so I look for evidence of the queen. Eggs, larva, capped brood. If the hive is loud or agitated there may not be a queen. Then I look for queen cells. I also check for eggs, larva and capped brood or baby bees which can (hopefully) help me figure out how long the hive has been without a queen.
If the hive has a queen, is she laying where she should? (NOT in the honey super!) I look at the laying pattern. Is the brood stretched out or are there irregularities in the laying pattern? The end frames are usually used for storing pollen and honey. The next frames usually have drone brood and some worker brood. The rest of the frames should have worker brood. I look for at least a six to eight-inch compact laying pattern in the center of the frame.
I look at the comb in the brood box and supers. I want to see if there are any irregularities such as burr comb or wavy comb or other things which could interfere with inspections, brood rearing or the bees storing honey. I also look for dark brood comb that has stretched and needs replacing. Sometimes I make a split or manipulate a hive but I don’t have an extra frame available when I need it. Then I get sidetracked and forget to take care of it and the bees will start making comb from the feeder bottom or even the lid.
I look for pollen and nectar and honey stores in the brood box and honey supers. The bees may be putting too much honey in the brood box and taking space the queen could be laying eggs in.
I look for signs of disease or pests such as varroa mites or small hive beetle.
The way the weather is working out here in NE Ga. I am inspecting my hives about every two weeks. When the honey flow is going, I won’t go into the hives at all.
Remember, while it is fun to check out the activity in your hives, you really should only do so when you have a reason to inspect.