Hive Inspection

May 19, 2013

BEE WHISPERER’S LEARNING POST

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Dear Beekeepers,

Many times there are quite a few questions that are unanswered, among beekeepers, especially those who have just begun this new venture. My comments are initially directed to them in the formation of this post, but it need not prevent review for the more experienced beekeeper. Thus we will begin the post with “Hive Inspection”;

HIVE INSPECTION

You have obtained your first bee hive, whether it is a NUC, 8 Frame, or 10 Frame Hive. Also, a three pound package of bees with a mated queen has been introduced. You have been feeding your bees sugar water at the rate of 5 lbs of sugar to 1 gallon of water to assist the bees in drawing out the foundation in the brood box. Sometimes, when the nectar is flowing, the bees will cease taking the sugar water, do not be disturbed, depending on when you introduced your bees, the foundation in the lower brood box may be drawn, so it is time to put on the 2nd brood box, which can be a deep or a shallow box.

Now, let’s gather our netting, hat, hive tool, smoker, and gloves and head to the bee yard (Apiary). Never go into the bee yard without these things and be sure your smoker is well fueled and smoking. The bees will be pretty calm for now, but as the summer wears on, they may be more agitated. Let’s position ourselves in the rear of the hive or on one side. Smoke the entrance, and then lift the telescoping cover and inner cover and smoke this area as well. Lower these items and wait about 2 minutes then remove the covers. If you have a 2nd brood box in place and/or honey super, smoke and let it sit and then remove these and set them aside.  The bees will begin to take honey into their crop or honey stomach and not pay you much attention. Use your hive tool to take out the first frame on either side of the hive. We want to get to the lower brood box. The first frame, in all likelihood, will not have much done to it, at this point. The bees will begin drawing out the comb in the center of the hive first. As you look at the frames, pay attention to whether it is drawn and if there is honey, pollen, and brood stored. Is the brood capped? How much brood is there? Is the brood spotty, with no larva in uncapped cells? Use a little smoke if the bees get restless.

Now, if you have a second or upper brood hive in place, ask the question, where is the queen? You do not have to see the queen. Presence of larva is sufficient to tell you what you need to know. If the upper brood box contains larva and capped brood, the queen has moved up and the lower box will have either capped larva or empty cells. Remember that the queen will only move UP –  Not Down.  If this is the case, it is best to consider reversing the hives to give the queen room to lay more eggs, or you might find yourself in a swarm condition due to a congested hive. If so, put the top brood box on the bottom and bring the bottom brood box to the top.

Revisit your hive every two weeks to check on the conditions. Do not forget, the queen will be laying about 1,500 eggs a day and the brood box will fill up rather rapidly.

Note: You should have a copy of the book “First Lessons in Beekeeping” by Keith s. Delaplane, ISBN number 978-0-915698-12-7. It will be an excellent book for reference as you journey into the world of beekeeping.

As you investigate your hive, make a note on a pad of what you saw, describing as best you can what you actually witnessed in the hive. Date it and refer to it often, making notations each time you re-enter the hive.

Next, we will visit some of the scenes that we find in our hive and discuss what the causes and remedies are to correct them. But first, we must be able to distinguish what we have seen. Review the text to help identify some of the scenes. The main thing, for you at this moment, is to become comfortable with going into the hive to gain the experience of entry, observation and exit.

Until then,

Have a great experience!