Once you know how to inspect, you need to know what you look for. Here are the things I look out for when inspecting.
Keep an eye out for the queen. Without an active queen in your hive, it will not be growing. Once you see her, you know that the hive has a much better chance of functioning properly. She can be hard to spot though, so looking for eggs is the next best sign.
This is the most important part. You need to be able to see that there are eggs in the individual cells. They look like incredibly tiny grains of rice. They should be stuck into the bottom of the cell and upright. This tells you that you have an active queen in your hive and she is laying. It is a good sign. The eggs only last for 2-3 days before they hatch into larva. So when you see eggs it means that your queen was in your hive at least 2-3 days ago.
Looking in the cells you should see the bee larva. They will be in the bottom curled up tightly and pearly white. This is what you are hoping for. If they have a corkscrew shape or are slightly discolored, then your hive may have an issue that needs addressing. Mites also like to attach to larva. If you see tiny spots on the larva, then you may have a mite infestation.
The queen should be laying in a dense pattern on the frames. How does the overall frame look? It is a good sign when you see the middle of the frame filled with larva and capped cells. If the laying pattern is spotty and some cells have larva and others don’t in the middle of the frame, your queen may not be laying well or the larva could be getting sick and dying before they can grow. Further inspection would be required.
The bees will be placing nectar and pollen inside the cells. The nectar will look like a shiny liquid. It may even have a wax cap on it. This is flatter than the brood caps and the same color of the wax. It is a great sign and means they have successfully filled that cell with honey. The pollen will be a powder substance and will be all sorts of different colors depending on the plants in your area and the time of year. The hive should be filling the frames with food on the outer edges in an arch shape. Look for a “rainbow” of food on the frames. You will also find more food on the outer frames than the frames in the middle of
the hive. A hive that is filling with food is productive and healthy. A great sign.
In a later post I will share the warning signs to look out for when the hive is not in optimal health. But the above signs are the ones you are looking for to start.