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The Do Not's of Hive Inspections

The Do Not's of Hive Inspections

In our last two blog posts, we looked at some tips and tricks — the DO’s — that will help your hive inspections go a little smoother. Today we’re going to look at some of the DO NOT’s associated with hive inspections. These “actions to avoid” will also help your hive inspection flow more smoothly and make the process much more enjoyable for you and your bees.

DO NOT’s of Hive Inspections

The biggest DO NOT:

Do not neglect your hive inspections! If you don’t inspect your hives regularly, small problems can easily become big problems fairly quickly, which may then result in the loss of your bees and all their honey stores.

How often should you inspect your hives? Moderation is key. You should inspect your hives as often as necessary, but as infrequently as possible. Therefore, our next DO NOT: Do not inspect too frequently. This follows immediately with: Do not wait too long between hive inspections. Sound a bit confusing? You need to perform hive inspections frequently enough to stay on top of the problems, but not so frequently you make the bees feel like their home is unsafe. Bees who feel unsafe look for a more hospitable place to call home. In other words, they abscond.

Here is a list of some other DO NOT’s you should consider as you perform hive inspections:

  • Don’t rush the inspection. Take your time and move slowly. Be gentle when handling the frames to reduce damage. Use smoke to keep the bees calm.
  • Don’t change the order of the frames inside the hive body. Take them out and return them to the same location within the hive box. (A frame perch helps with this. You can remove a couple of frames and hang them on the frame perch, out of harm's way. This gives you space to shift the frames inside the hive body and keep them in order.)
  • Don’t remove frames from more than one hive body at a time. Return all frames to the brood box or honey super before moving to inspect frames in the next hive body.
  • Don’t inspect the hive when the bees are not flying around.
  • Don’t inspect the hive when it’s windy, cold or rainy unless absolutely necessary. Warm sunny days, above 60 degrees, are always best.
  • Don’t put off addressing issues you discover during a hive inspection. If you do, the bees may abscond; disease may overcome the hive; or, the bees may starve. Any of these scenarios lead to having no hive to maintain.
  • Don’t release the queen too early in new hives or hives that are being requeened. Give the bees time to adjust to their new queen.
  • Don’t begin your hive inspection until you have adequately prepared. Make sure you have everything you need before opening up the hive. If you’re new to beekeeping, make sure to watch videos of hive inspections, so you know what to expect and look for.
  • Don’t face the sun while performing a hive inspection. When looking at a frame, stand with your back to the sun causing the light to shine over your shoulder. This will illuminate the frame, giving you a better view and make it easier to see the details that are deep in the comb’s cells such as small larvae and eggs.
  • Don’t ignore agitated bees. Use smoke when you notice their agitation or when you see that they’re giving you more attention than they should, i.e., they’re lining up on the top of the frame and watching you.
  • Don’t neglect your tools. Keep them clean, maintained and stored out of the elements.

Once you have a few inspections under your belt, you’ll get into a routine of what a hive inspection entails. You’ll know what to do and what to look for, and you’ll begin to relax and enjoy the experience.

General Question About Hive Inspections 

What specific problems should beekeepers be on the lookout for during hive inspections?

Beekeepers should look for signs of pest infestations (Varroa mites, hive beetles), diseases (American Foulbrood, Nosema), queen failure (lack of new eggs or brood), and general indicators of stress or declining bee health.

How exactly does one use smoke to calm bees, and are there any alternatives if smoke is not available?

To use smoke, lightly puff it at the hive entrance and under the hive cover to mask alarm pheromones. Alternatives include using a sugar water spray, though it is less effective than smoke.

What are the consequences of changing the order of frames within a hive body?

Changing the frame order can disrupt the colony's organization, stressing the bees and making it difficult for them to care for their young and manage resources efficiently.

Join us next time as we continue to look at hive inspections. In our next post, we’ll look at keeping records of your hive inspections, getting educated about hive inspections and the steps you should take to prepare for an inspection. See you then!

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