Inspecting your beehive is an important part of making sure your apiary is healthy, productive, and well-maintained. But if you’re just starting out as a beekeeper, it can be hard to know what to do or what to look for. Blain’s Farm & Fleet will help you inspect your hive and get the most out of your bees. Pick a nice, calm summer day to check your beehive. Always wear protective clothing when you go near your beehive. This will make your life a lot easier and less painful. Once you’re suited up, it’s time to get started.
Inspecting Your Beehive
Before you start opening the hive itself, light up your smoker and shoot a little smoke on the bees that are on the outside of your beehive. They should head inside. Now you can pop the lid off the hive. Use your hive tool to pry the lid up and take it off.
Be organized. Pick one side of the beehive to start from, and work your way to the other side, inspecting each frame. You may need to use your hive tool again to free up the frames and start to lift them out. Always hold frames with two hands, and only pick up one at a time. You can also use a frame grip to avoid getting your gloves sticky. You don’t want to risk dropping one, which could damage the frame and upset and injure your bees. You may want to place the first frame on the ground after you remove it, leaning it up against the side of the beehive. This will give you an empty slot to help you keep your place as you work your way through the hive. Just put each inspected frame in the empty slot after you finish checking it. This will also make it easier to get the frames out as you pull them, and keep you from hurting any of the bees.
When to Use Smoke
Use your bee smoker to shower the bees with smoke and drive them into the hive. Use smoke sparingly. The more smoke you use, the more honey you’ll lose. When you smoke your bees, they will gorge on honey because they think the hive is in danger and that they’ll have to make an escape. So, the more smoke you use, the more honey they’ll eat. Only use more smoke if the bees are about to take flight and swarm towards you. When they all line up at the top of the frames with their heads poking out, they’re getting ready to attack.
Check Each Beehive Frame
To check each frame, remove it and look at both sides. Take your time and check it carefully. There are a few things you’ll be looking for.
What to Look For
You want to make sure your beehive is healthy and productive. And you also want to see how fast the hive is growing so you can expand it by adding another beehive super if you need to. Look for these things in your hive:
Your Queen and/or Her Eggs
The queen is vital to the health, productivity, and growth of the hive. Bees don’t have a very long lifespan, so they need to keep reproducing, or the hive will die out pretty quickly. Your queen should be marked with a sticker or tag. If you see her and she looks healthy (she should be moving or laying eggs), you can move on.
To see her eggs, you may have to look closely. They will look like little whitish or yellow worms in the middle of some of the honeycomb cells. They may be very, very small, so look carefully. If you find eggs, your queen is doing her job, and your hive is doing well.
The pattern of the egg cells can also help you tell if your queen is healthy or not. If the egg cells are close together, your queen is healthy. But if the egg cells are spotty and inconsistent, your queen may be in poor health. If your queen is ailing, you’ll need to replace her.
Nectar and Pollen Being Stored
A healthy hive will have food for the colony stored up. This food looks like clear liquid and whitish gel in some of the honeycomb cells. Sometimes, the pollen packed in the cells comes in a lot of different colors. If you see plenty of food stored up, things are good in your beehive.
Check to see how much honey is in the cells, so you’ll know when to harvest your honey. When you see a lot of capped cells on a frame, it’s time to extract the honey. To learn how to extract your honey, check out our blog on extracting honey from your beehive.