How to Inspect your Beehive

You have a beehive — congratulations! If you’re like most people, just getting to the point of setting up your hive and obtaining or ordering your Bee Nuc means you’ve already done an immense amount of research and preparation. But now that it’s all set up and it’s time for the first inspection? That can make a new beekeeper a wee bit anxious. But there’s no need as long as you remember one thing — be prepared and have a plan. A thoughtful inspection is much more than simply opening the hive and poking around, and luckily for you, we have the steps you need to follow.

Preparing Before the Inspection

man smoking out beehive to inspect
beekeeper inspecting the beehive

Your first inspection should be performed about one week after setting your hive and colony up. Subsequent inspection schedules are a thing of debate — some beekeepers inspect at the end of winter and again in the fall, while others inspect more regularly. Whichever schedule you choose, commit to only inspecting with a purpose in mind (not simply curiosity or because it’s interesting).

  • Remember to have slow, methodical movements. This will not only keep your bees calm, it will help you stay on track so you don’t make mistakes or harm yourself.
  • Gather your materials — typically that will be your bee suit, smoker, bee brush, and hive tool.
  • If this is your first time, read this article and make a checklist of what you need to do.
  • Plan to perform your inspection on a day when there is no wind or rain, and when your bees are usually out foraging.
  • Know your bees’ flightpath and commit to remaining away from it (stand in back of the hive, for example).
  • Stay organized., both with your thoughts, actions, and movements.

Steps to Inspecting Your Hive

bee closeup
checking on the beehive

Your goal here is to complete the inspection in a methodical and efficient manner, taking the least amount of time you need in order to do the job. Each time the hive is disturbed it sets them back a day or so in their work, so you don’t want to linger or have to go back because you forgot something.

  • 1. Open the hive. When you are more experienced and know your bees, you may not feel the need to use a smoker, but in the beginning, it’s a good idea. You can smoke at the entrance, then wait a couple minutes, and then gently lift the outer cover off and set it aside. Be careful not to trap any bees as you do this.
  • 2. Remove the inner cover. This will quite likely have more bees on it, so do be careful when setting this cover down.
  • 3. Remove and inspect the first frame on one end. You’re looking for colony activity, capped/uncapped larvae, heaviness of frame, appearance of honey and pollen, and any evidence of pest or disease issues. When you’re done inspecting it, place it gently on a stand, being careful to avoid crushing bees.
  • 4. Inspect remaining frames, one by one. You won’t need to set each frame down as you did the first one; simply scoot them to one end of the box as you go. Look for the same things you were looking for in the first frame. The center frames will likely feel heavier because that’s where eggs are usually laid, with the edge frames lighter with honey and pollen.
  • 5. Look for evidence of the queen bee. You may or may not actually see the queen herself, so just look for evidence of her (see list of what to look for in Step #3). Observing evidence of the queen is known as “queenright.”
  • 6. Make notes as you go.
  • 7. Replace frames and covers in original order. Be careful to not leave a tool inside the hive! It’s easy to do, and while it’s simple to retrieve it, you’d be disturbing your bees again.
  • 8. Repeat all steps with remaining boxes and hives.
  • 9. Be sure you have no lingering bees on you as you remove your bee suit.
  • 10.Complete your notes and records.
Fun Fact: It’s a myth that smoking the bees “lulls” them into a calm state. It’s more widely believed that the presence of smoke alerts the bees to a potential fire, and they go immediately into the hive to feed in case they need to leave in a hurry.
Beehive Inspection canva

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