Beehive inspections hold some of the most exciting parts of beekeeping.
The first step to a successful inspection is to have a goal before you open the hive. I usually review my notes from the last inspections to better frame my current inspection. For example, if I was having a problem with a queenless hive, I would keep an eye out for progress in the situation. Is there a charged queen cell? (more on that if you scroll down below) Are the bees doing the queenless roar? Are there no eggs and no charged queen cells? What actions can I take now to help the super-organism?
When you actually get outside to perform the inspections, wear at least a meshed hood. Also, you must get a nice smoke in your smoker. More on the smoker and why it is important to use down below!
During an inspection, some things to look for include:
small hive beetle pests; diseases (chalkbrood, American Foul Brood, European Foul brood, Sacbrood, etc.); eggs to indicate a queen-right colony; brood patterns; hive behavior; number of frames covered in bees; number of frames with honey; number of brood frames.
Also, remember that it can take a while to become fully comfortable doing inspections, it is perfectly normal!
Queen Cup vs Queen Cell
Queen cup: an empty cup (no egg, larvae or pupa) that is built by the bees in case of an emergency. It is usually kept for security reasons. Not of concern.
Queen cell: A cell where a queen is actively being raised. Could be of note or concern. Some beekeepers call these charged queen cells. The picture to the right contains a capped queen cell.
The Importance of the Smoker
Beekeepers utilize smokers to calm down bees during hive inspections. When bees sense danger, they produce a danger pheromone called isopentyl acetate. The smoke from the smoker masks this pheromone and allows beekeepers to perform inspections safely. It is an essential component of hive inspections. Pro tip: pine needles make for incredible smoke fuel!
A work of art; and yet no art of man,
Can work, this work, these little creatures can