Inspecting the New Beehive
A timely new hive inspection can be a great way to avoid disaster – but you have to know what to look for. Once the colony is growing regular hive inspections are crucial to healthy honey bee colonies. It is important for beginner beekeepers to understand that this is an ongoing commitment to having productive beehives.
Getting your first hive of honey bees is really exciting. After months of anticipation, the bees arrive and are installed in their new home.
You did it! All you have to do now is sit back and wait for the honey – right? No, not hardly!
That new colony will need some supervision if you want it to grow into a healthy, productive beehive.
It’s a fact that you can never really know what is happening in the hive without looking inside. Thankfully, the bees do rather well without our well most of the time.
However, if the colony is dealing with a queen problem or disease, the beekeeper may need to help out to save the colony.
When to Inspect the New Hive
Many new colonies begin with a package of bees. A common 3-pound package contains about 10,000 bees.
The queen arrives held in a special cage that allows her to be slowly released. This is important because the bees in the package are not from her hive.
In the few days that it takes the worker bees to release the queen, they should come to accept her as their queen.
It is common for the over anxious beekeeper to really want to look in there every day and see what is happening. Avoid this urge. The new colony needs to feel peaceful and secure.
While you are waiting, continue your research and find answers to any beekeeping questions you can think of – review pictures of the different types of bees and know what brood looks like.
First Bee Hive Inspection After Installation
Most of us are very excited about checking to see what is happening inside that beehive! But, it is also important to avoid causing additional stress to your new bees.
Your first new hive inspection can take place about a week after install. We want to be as calm and gentle as possible.
This is not a time to marvel over each bee in the hive. Be brief, there will be plenty of time to watch your bees later.
If your new hive is from a package of bees, you have 1 main purpose. Our goal is to make sure the queen is released from the queen cage.
And, we may be able to find signs of her laying. Eggs or young larva may be present. Young bee larva (baby bees) look like white grubs.
In time you will learn more about recognizing the different types of bee brood. Then you will be able to complete your hive inspections much faster.
Don’t be alarmed if you do not see brood yet. Bee eggs are hard to see and easily over-looked. And, sometimes it takes the queen a little while to get started.
If a brief inspection shows the queen released but you see no brood, repeat your inspection in 5 or 6 days. At that time, an absence of brood should be addressed with a replacement queen.
Bee Hive Inspection for Nuc Hive
When purchasing a nuc of bees for your new hive, you are starting off a step ahead of a package in terms of colony growth.
Some comb, brood and a queen should already be in place. Still, the first inspection has some things to check.
The most important thing to look for in that first nuc inspection is the presence of a laying queen.
You want to ensure that the queen is still alive. She could have been harmed during the move or installation.
And, you want to do a quick check for any pest problems or signs of disease. Do the cells of bee larva look white and healthy?
What about hive pests? A few pests here and there is not reason for worry. However, an infestation of Small Hive Beetles calls for quick action.
Likewise, spider web like webbing is an indication of problems with Wax Moths.
If all looks well in the hive, close things back up and give the bees another couple of weeks to get to work.
What to Look for During Hive Inspections
- queen present or evidence of a queen (eggs, larva)
- all stages of brood
- honey and pollen in the comb
- bees are busy working – not lethargic
- brood (larva) is white and healthy
- no obvious sign of disease
How Long Should You Keep the Hive Open During Inspection
Looking inside the hive can be very educational. It is one of the most useful types of training for new beekeepers.
No beekeeping book can prepare you for the wonder and mystery of seeing the bees working on the comb.
However, we must remember that it is not natural for a hive to be open to light. Or, to have a giant in a white bee suit removing parts of the bees home.
All hive inspections should have a goal and be as brief as possible. Unless you are dealing with a major problem. Try to spend no more than 15 minutes with the top off the new colony.
How Often Should I Check My Beehive?
For a new hive, brief weekly inspections are the general guideline. Please don’t open the hive every day. Your bees may leave – they need to be able to feel secure and safe.
After colony growth is well under way and the queen seems to be accepted and doing well, montly inspections are the general rule for most beekeepers.
Final Thoughts on New Hive Inspections
Moderation in a hive inspection schedule is the key. Try to limit the number of times you open the hive – just for fun. Though it is okay to do that occasionally too.
When a colony is new, be especially careful and know what you hope to accomplish with each peak inside the hive.
Don’t forget to enjoy your beekeeping experience. Yes, things will go wrong and Yes, sometimes it will be your fault.
But it is all a part of the learning experience. Our failures help us become better beekeepers in the years to come.