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Education, Preparation, and Record-keeping for Hive Inspections
There are good reasons to keep records for each of your hives. Your records, notations and musings will help you to keep track of each hive’s health and vitality from season to season and from year to year. They also help you to know what to look for during your next hive inspection and the results of things you have already tried to fix persistent problems the hive may be facing.
Your hive notes and records help you document such things as:
- Age of the queen and when/if it’s time to replace her
- What problems or pests have occurred in the hive
- What worked or did not work in dealing with problems or pests
- Typical behavior of the hive
- The approximate number of bees (counting seams)
- Amount of honey harvested from the hive (weight in pounds)
These and many other items can be documented in your hive records. Taking notes and keeping complete records will give you something to look back to when issues arise in the future and will make you a better beekeeper.
There are many different ways to keep records. After a while, you’ll be able to determine which way works best for you. You can take pictures and videos. You can take written notes. You can printout checklists that you find online to help you with your hive inspections. You may determine that other things are important to you and eventually make your own.
Until then, you can click here, here and here for checklists that you may find useful. To make note-taking easy and accessible, you can keep a notebook inside a large Ziploc bag that is attached to your hive. There are note-taking apps such as Evernote or specialized apps such as HiveTracks.
There is no right or wrong way of record keeping. Find what works for you and keep the records that will ensure you maintain your hives properly.
Educating Yourself for a Hive Inspection
If you’re new to hive inspections, the first few times are very exciting and daunting at the same time.
Here are some videos you might want to watch to prepare for your next hive inspection:
- Bee Hive Frame Inspection
- Hive Inspection by UoG Honey Bee Research Centre — This video has some excellent shots of larvae and the various types of cells within the hive. However, don’t catch and capture the queen, as they show in the video, when doing your inspections.
- Jason Chrisman Hive Inspection — talks a bit about splitting hives while doing a thorough hive inspection.
- Hive Inspection when Queenlessness is Suspected — a slightly different type of inspection because the beekeeper suspects the hive is queenless.
You’ll notice, when watching these videos, that these beekeepers break some rules, such as putting the frames in different orders. It’s best to follow the rules previously outlined for continued success.
After watching these videos, you should have a better idea of what to expect and what to look for during your next hive inspection, but nothing beats hands-on experience. Spending time in the hive will help you become a better beekeeper. It’ll make you feel like one too!
Preparing for a Hive Inspection
When doing hive inspections, it’s wise to wear protective gear, especially if you live in an area where the bees may become Africanized. It’s also prudent to have something on hand for sting relief, just in case.
Gather all the supplies you will need: hive tool, smoker (set up and producing a cool gray smoke), test kits, treatments you plan to do, new feeders, sugar water, etc. Think ahead so that the hive is open as short a time as possible.
In your first few inspections, you may find it difficult to perform your inspections quickly, feeling that you may miss something unless you thoroughly inspect everything. As you gain experience, it will get easier. Good note-taking will help. Review your notes of the last few hive inspections to prepare for your next hive inspection. Check your local beekeeping calendar to know what to expect with hives in your area.
When opening the hive, remember, hive temperament can change quickly. Have your smoker prepared and use it whenever needed to keep the bees calm.
That wraps things up for today. Until next time, enjoy spring and enjoy your bees!