How to Inspect
Inspections are one of the most important parts when it comes to beekeeping. It allows you to see the condition of the hive. You can see if the population is growing and they need more room. Maybe they are not collecting enough food and need feeding. Maybe there is a problem you need to address. Inspections allow for observing all of this. Here is the process I use while inspecting to make it go as easy as possible.
I recommend inspecting on warm sunny days. If it is a little too cold, windy, cloudy, or rainy, the bees seem to be grumpier. They will be much easier to handle on nice days. Also, the bees will be out gathering nectar so the hive won’t be as full. If you cant stand outside in a short sleeve shirt, it probably is too cold for the bees.
To start, light the smoker. Once it is going well, start puffing your smoke into the hive. Make a few puffs at the front entrance. Get the smoke up into the hive. Don’t completely smoke them out, but make sure you are putting a good amount of smoke in there. Then lift the outer cover and put a few puffs of smoke in there as well. Then wait one or two minutes. This lets the smoke flow through the hive and the bees will calm down. This little bit of waiting makes a huge difference in how calm the hive is.
Lift up the outer cover and set it aside. Put a few puffs of smoke down the hole in the inner cover. Then, using your hive tool, remove the inner cover and set it aside. Make note of how full the deep is. Then take your hive tool and slip it between the upper and lower deep hive bodies. Separate them and put some smoke in there as well. Then take off the upper deep and set it aside. Be careful. It may be heavy. As the bees come to the top of the frames, puff the smoker on them to keep them in the hive bodies.
Start in the lower deep. Use your hive tool. Pry the frames apart and separate one out. Use the hive tool as much as you can. You will make it hard on yourself if you try to use your fingers. Once the first frame is out the hard part is over. Be very careful when pulling the frame out. Try not to scrape the sides of the frame or smash the bees up against each other. Look as the first frame while holding it with two hands. Hold the top bar with the sun at your back. This will allow you to look into the cells. To look at the
backside of the frame rotate it and then turn it like the pages of a book. Set this first frame aside. This will leave you space to separate the other frames so removal is easier. For all additional frames, when you are done looking, place them back in the hive body. Keep the order of the frames the same. The bees need the food and larva in particular places and you don’t want to mix that up.
Once you have looked through all of the frames in the lower deep body, it is time to move on to the upper. Make sure that during all of this you are still puffing the smoker on them once in a while to keep them calm. Place the upper deep back on top of the lower deep. Then start on the first frame as described above. Work your way through this deep looking at the progress of the bees. Once all the frames are back in place, put the inner cover back on as well as the outer cover. Make sure you place the outer cover on so that the vent hole in the inner cover is not blocked.
If any time during this, the bees start to get aggressive just slowly and calmly put everything back together. It doesn’t mean you have an aggressive hive. It may just mean they were having a bad day. Come back later or another day and try again. It is better to put it back together than risk getting attacked.
Congratulations your inspection is done! In another post we will discuss the details about what to look for when inspecting. You will learn what a good hive and a bad hive looks like, as well as any warning signs to look out for.