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Bee-Ginner's Guide
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Bee-Ginner's Guide

You are approaching your second or third week after installing your bees. A rookie mistake that some new beekeepers might make is over working their hive. Opening your hive to “see how they are doing” is the wrong approach. Every time you go into your hive you set them back in production. With that being said, you do not want to neglect them either. Their entrance or hive top feeder must be monitored, you need to know if your queen is present and laying properly, and they have the space they need to grow.

The process to inspect a hive will remain relatively the same from one visit to the next. There will be certain things to look for and specific procedures to follow. You must have a clear understanding and set goals before opening the hive. Your goal is to check for the presence of a queen and add on the next super if needed. With this in mind, have your complete super with frames and foundation ready to add if needed.

Always begin your hive inspections by removing one of the outer frames using your hive tool and frame grip(it does not matter the side you begin with). Frames located on the outer walls are typically filled with honey or undeveloped. These are less vital than the central frames that contain brood. Thoroughly inspect the first frame for your queen. This is the frame you will be propping up against your hive body, unless you have a frame perch, so you may inspect the other frames easily. If you have located the queen on this frame you have completed your first goal: Presence of a Queen. Carefully place the frame back into the hive and add the next super if they have begun working that frame. Count yourself lucky because this normally does not happen. For those who do not find the queen on the first frame, set the frame to the side and begin inspecting the next.

Here is what you want to be looking for as you inspect your frame:

Eggs. These appear as small grains of rice located at the bottom of the cells. Do not interpret young larva as being eggs. You can rest assured that your queen is alive and well if you find eggs. Larva means that your queen WAS alive and well but may not be anymore.

Brood Pattern. Bees work from the center out. This goes for the hive body as well as the frame. You have an excellent brood pattern if you find a central circle of capped brood with eggs and larva along the outer edges. If your brood pattern is blotchy (empty cells breaking up brood) your queen is not laying properly and may need to be replaced.

Honey Stores and Pollen. Your hive is doing well if it currently contains at least one solid frame of honey. Frames of brood should have the outer edges with capped honey. You need to be feeding your colony if you are not finding any honey, nectar, or pollen. It is recommended that you keep a feeder on your hive until you add on your first honey super.

After a few routine hive inspections, your comfort level will increase and all the things you struggled to see will become apparent. You will easily be able to recognize eggs, identify a good brood pattern, and find the enjoyment of beekeeping.