Hive Inspection

Here is a pragmatic method for hive inspections from one of our senior members.

Here is a pragmatic hive inspection method from one of our senior club members.

General rules of thumb:

  • Know in advance why you are opening the hive. What questions you want answered? Or, what management operation you want to perform (eg, Demare swarm prevention; or add honey super)?
  • Be quick. You are disrupting their organization and causing brood to get cold and even die.
  • Keep notes. It can be harder than you think to remember back to what a hive was like and when exactly you did something.

There are five things I am generally looking for. Each has two options: (a) less invasive or (b) more invasive.

1. Are they queen right?

1(a) look for eggs or young larvae (stop looking once you see some)

1(b) pull every frame until you see the Queen

2. Are they healthy?

2(a) look at the bees outside the hive

    • not too many bees on the ground in front of the hive
    • no K wing
    • calm sound from hive
    • no foul smells

2(b) pull fames:

    • good brood pattern
    • no inspection holes in capped brood

2(c) more detailed tests:

3. What in their population size? Bees and brood.

3(a) quick inspection: count bee spaces full of bees

3(b) pull frames: count of frames that have brood

4. How much stores do they have?

4(a) quick inspection: weight of boxes

4(b) pull frames: count of frames that have food

5. Are they preparing to swarm? (More a concern during swarm season.)

5(a) quick inspection: tilt up brood boxes and check along bottom of frames

5(b) pull frames: check everywhere for swarm cells with larvae