Bees are solitary creatures who keep to themselves. So, you can’t tell if they’re creating honey, the queen is laying eggs, invasive pests are wreaking havoc, or your bees are running out of space. If you don’t understand what’s going on, you won’t be able to help if something goes wrong. Therefore, hive inspections are critical in beekeeping.
It would help if you didn’t examine your hives too regularly since it might be highly disturbing to the bees. During the spring, summer, and fall, most beekeepers inspect every two to four weeks and more frequently if they are worried about a problem. You may leave them alone for a month or two during the winter when bees are less busy and only open to check on food supplies.
If you’re starting a new hive, check to see if the queen is in place and laying after a week. Your first inspection might be intimidating if you’re new to beekeeping, but it makes it easy as long as you follow your instructions.
Best time of day to inspect a hive
The most enjoyable, thrilling, and educational aspect of beekeeping is inspecting your hives. For beginners, inspecting your hives every 7 to 10 days is suggested. It’s best to examine your hives between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on calm and low wind days that are warm and sunny.
This is because the forager bees will be outworking and not protecting the hive; there will be fewer bees in the hive. As such, instead of protecting the hive from you, the colony is concentrated on its task.
Some beekeepers adhere to two simple guidelines:
- It’s too early to examine your colonies if the grass is still damp from the night before. Likewise, it’s too late to explore your hives if the sun has just dropped below the horizon.
- Examining your hives on a sunny day makes detecting the eggs, brood, and queen easier. Try to restrict your inspection time to a bare minimum; 30 minutes to an hour is ideal, but you’ll become faster with practice.
Beekeepers love to recount war stories of 10-15 stings when checking hives full of unhappy bees. However, if you work with bees and are stung often, keep going; you are a beekeeper.
Other conditions for inspecting a hive
Below is a list of other conditions suitable for inspecting your bee hive. While this does not have to be the case, having them eases the whole process.
Honey bees are cold-blooded insects. However, they do an excellent job of controlling the temperature inside the hive. The survival of newborn bees or brood is dependent on this.
On a chilly day, opening the hive interferes with the workers’ capacity to keep the brood warm. Some brood may perish as a result of this. If possible, wait until the temperature is at least 60° F before opening the hive. Choose a bright, sunny, and less windy day with temperatures in the suitable range for your inspections.
Now that the foraging bees have left the hive, frames are easy to remove. Furthermore, with fewer honey bees, your entrance will be less disruptive, less likely to elicit solid defensive responses, and less likely to harm many bees.
2. Time of day
Never investigate in the middle of the night. If you open the hive in the dark, bees might be more protective. If there is a robbery going on, never inspect. You’ll make the colony vulnerable to an invasion army. If it’s not absolutely necessary, don’t open the hive in the rain, high heat, or extreme cold.
What to look for when inspecting a hive
Below are some of the things you should be looking out for when inspecting your hive.
Inspect the Frames
Carefully pull each frame off with your hive tool one at a time, then lift the frame and inspect it:
- Try to figure out who the queen is. If she’s marked, it’ll be simpler, but it’s still feasible if she isn’t. Look for a circle of workers surrounding her and a long, thin, unstriped abdomen. If you can’t see the queen, look for eggs, which suggest she was there within the last one to three days.
- Check for parasites or pests, such as termites, wax moth larvae, foulbrood, and so on.
- Determine how many frames have been taken out and are ready to be filled with honeycomb.
Once you’ve drawn seven of the ten frames in the deep bottom box, it’s time to add the second deep box. Add a honey super when seven of ten are drawn in the second deep. If the honey super is about empty, add another one.
Check for larvae
- Brood—capped and uncapped larvae and eggs—is one of the things to check for while evaluating the frames. So this is what you’re searching for in your beehive inspection: a gorgeous pattern of growing, uncapped larvae.
Look for Eggs
- Identifying eggs is the most crucial element of the beehive inspection for a rookie beekeeper. Eggs resemble rice grains. If they have more than one egg per cell, your hive contains laying worker bees; get advice from an experienced beekeeper.
The easiest approach to observing eggs is to hold the frame at a 30-degree angle toward the sky, with the bright sun beaming over your shoulder. Then, hold it to the side of your face so that the mesh shadow pattern from your veil doesn’t hide the eggs.
It may also be beneficial to use reading glasses or magnifying glasses. You may adjust the angle of the sun and the frame by tilting the frame back and forth till you see them. The best area to positively identify eggs is generally towards the bottom center of the frame.
- Inspect the frames in the order they were collected, and do not rearrange them throughout the examination.
With these steps, you can easily identify issues with the hive and put in place steps to follow to remedy any issues you may identify.
Inspections are a vital part of keeping track of your colony, and they may also help you learn more about bees if you’re a beginning beekeeper. But, don’t worry: after a few inspections, challenging tasks like controlling the smoker, removing frames, detecting the queen, and identifying eggs will become second nature.