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Welcome to NewBee University!

Lesson 5: Hive Inspections


It is important to know that beekeeping doesn’t end with getting your bees in the hive, this is only the beginning. It is then your job to monitor your bees to ensure they are healthy and have the space and resources they need to grow and stay strong as a colony. This lesson will explore how to plan a hive inspection, light your all important smoker, what to look for when your in the hive and how to assess your queen.

1.) Planning Your Hive Inspections

It is important to plan your hive inspection before you head to your bee yard. A hive journal can help in your planning process and can be a great tool to remember from one inspection to the next what you have observed and what needs to be done on your next visit. In planning you inspection you should consider looking for the following items:

  • Signs of a healthy queen (eggs, laying pattern, visual assessment)
  • Presence of pollen and nectar stores
  • Amount of drawn wax
  • Amount of space for bees to expand into

2.) Lighting A Smoker

Smokes have long been used to calm bees for easier inspections. It is thought that the smoke triggers a response in the bees as if they were preparing for a forest fire. This response includes filling up on honey which makes them fat and happy and easier to work with. The smoke also interrupts the bees pheromone communication that is used to alert the bees to your presence. It is important to be able to light your smoker, get cool white smoke, and be able to keep it lit throughout your inspections.

  • Gather your fuel in advance including dry twigs and sticks from the thickness of a match stick to the thickness of your index finger
  • Loosely crumple a piece of news paper, light it and push it to the bottom of your smoker with your hive tool
  • When it is burning well add the smallest twigs, as these begin to burn add larger and larger twigs, pump bellows as needed
  • Fill the smoker over half way with twigs and let burn for 5-10 minutes until twigs burn into red hot embers
  • Add smoking fuel such as burlap, leaves, or pine needles, packing the smoker to the top using your hive tool
  • Pump the bellows until a thick cool white smoke is produced (make sure no flames, sparks, or hot smoke are coming out when bellows are pumped)
  • Keep an eye on your smoker and add twigs or smoking fuel as needed

Tip: When you get you beekeeping equipment you will likely have several weeks before you get everything set up and get your bees installed. During these weeks leading up to starting your beekeeping adventure is a great time to practice lighting and keeping your smoker smoking.

3.) What to Look For During your Hive Inspection

Presence of the queen

While it is fun to spot the queen, she is not always easy to spot, however you can still know whether she is alive and well or not. The key to assessing the queens presence is looking for the presence of eggs. This is because eggs hatch after just three days, therefore your queen has been present in the last couple of days.

Presence of pollen and nectar stores

  • Amount of drawn wax
  • Amount of space for bees to expand into

4.) Assessing Your Queens Health




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