Checking the Hive

Every day I make several trips around our property to check on our animals.  You may be wondering how often we check on the bees.  I do a visual check of the outside of our hives at least 3 times a day.  A lot of our bee friends just commented to themselves that 3 times a day is not necessary.  They would be right.  When I’m out checking on the other animals, I check on the bees too.  It’s just something I enjoy doing.

By 9:00 every morning I check on all the animals.  My first stop is the chickens, ducks, and guineas.  I let everyone out of their pens, feed them, change their water, and clean out their pens and cages.  Then I go to the pond and feed the fish.  The last thing I do is make a round by the bee hives.  I do a quick check of the outside.  Around 2:00 I go through and check on everyone.  Since it’s been so hot I make sure all the birds have enough shade and water.  I pass by the pond and then head to the bees.  Around 6:00 I do my last check of the day.  Usually by that time we have some veggie scraps to feed to the birds.  At that time I make my last pass by the pond and the bees.  We go back out at night and lock up all the birds.

So how often do you need to do a hive check or inspection?  That depends on the season.  When I make my daily checks I look at the entrance to the hive.  I make sure that I see bees going in and out.  I check around the outside of the hive for any pests.  Sometimes I take a closer look to see if I can see bees bringing in pollen.  During this time of year we check the inside of the hive every 2 to 4 weeks.

The first thing we do is talk about what we are going to look for when we are in the hive.  We want to get in and out of the hive as fast as we can.  The bees maintain a certain temperature (usually in the lower 90s) in the hive.  We want to disrupt them a little as possible.  Before entering the hive, we use the smoker to smoke the entrance and under the lid.  We wait 30 sec. – 1 minute before we enter the hive.  The tone of the bees immediately changes when you smoke the hive.  The bees know that something is definitely going on.

There are several hive inspection sheets available online.  We haven’t used any yet.  What are we looking for when we inspect the hive?  That answer will also change depending on the time of year.  Here are some examples of things we currently check:

  • Are there any pests?
  • What is the overall health of the hive?
  • Is there honey?  Is it capped?
  • How is the queen doing?  We don’t necessarily have to see her, but we try to determine how she is doing based on what is going on in the hive.  When we do see the queen we try to put the frame back as quickly as possible.  We don’t want to disturb or injure our queen.
  • Do we need to move some of the foundations around?
  • Do we need to add a box?
  • Do we need to clean the bottom board?

There are a lot of things to consider while you are in the hive.  You have to be very careful while you are moving the foundations around.  You don’t want anyone to get squashed.  Sometimes decisions have to be made very quickly.  It’s important to have all your materials close by.  You don’t want to waste time gathering what you need while the hive is open.

We enjoy our time in the hive.  We learn something new every time we do a hive inspection.  And every inspection is different.  We are very excited to continue learning about how the hive changes throughout the year.  And we are always amazed by those busy bees.


Smoking the hive



We use CD cases for hive beetle traps.  This is a hive beetle caught in the trap.



Busy girls!



Capped honey



Can you find the drone?  Drones are males.  This one is really big!



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