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First Beehive Inspections
Getting a family of bees into a hive is only the first step of having a hive. Colonies must be inspected to be sure that everything is progressing like it should. A timely first hive inspection can be a great way to avoid disaster – but you have to know what to look for. Once the colony is growing continuing routine hive inspections are crucial to having healthy honey bee colonies.
Getting your first hive of honey bees is really exciting. After months of anticipation, the bees arrive and are installed in their new hive.
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 help 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
It is common for the over anxious beekeeper to really want to look in the hive every day or two to see what is happening. Avoid this urge. The new colony needs to feel peaceful and secure.
Many new colonies begin with a package of 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.
While you are waiting for inspection time to roll around, 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! Your first new hive inspection can take place about a week after install.
This is a minimal inspection and 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. Do what you must and close the hive back up so the bees can get back to work.
Is the Queen Released?
If your new hive is from a package of bees, you have 1 main purpose. The 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. Eggs are hard to see. Young bee larva (baby bees) look like small white grubs.
Brood May Be Present
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.
With experience you will learn more about recognizing the different types of bee brood. Then, you will be able to complete your hive inspections much faster.
First Beehive 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.
Perform a Queen 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. Care should always be taken when transporting frames with bees – you never know where the queen might be.
A nuc colony should have some brood of all stages. If you do not have brood, you may have not received what you paid for.
Check for Pests or Disease
You want to do a quick check for any pest problems or signs of disease. Do the bee larva look white and healthy? Brown twisted larvae signal death and possible disease.
What about hive pests? A few pests here and there is no 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. Don’t worry over a bit of webbing or a moth larva here and there – a healthy hive can deal with them.
If all looks well in the hive, close things back up and give the bees another couple of weeks to get to work.
Hive Inspection Checklist
- 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
Try to spend no more than 15 minutes with the top off the new colony. This is a tenuous time for the bees in their new location.
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.
How Often Should I Check My New Hive?
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.
For extra insurance, there are some beekeeper techniques to consider that may help prevent your bees from leaving – especially when dealing with package bees.
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.