New Hive Inspection Tips for Beekeepers
Periodic hive inspections are crucial to healthy honey bee colonies. This is even more true in regard to new hives. A timely new hive inspection can be a great way to avoid disaster – but you have to know what to look for. Knowing then to inspect, this is an important first lesson in beekeeping for beginners.
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.
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.
First 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.
This first check has one true 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.