Maintaining Strong Bee Colonies: A Step-by-Step Beehive Inspection Checklist

Beehive inspections are an important part of beekeeping.  It is the only way to determine the colony’s health and wellbeing.  Beehive inspections can be intimidating to new beekeepers because it is so hands on, but they quickly get the hang of it and find it enjoyable.  

This post will talk about the importance of hive inspections, as well as discuss how and when to do hive inspections.  Beehive inspection lists are very useful to keep track of your hives.  For your convenience, there is a beehive inspection list pdf included at the end of this post. 

Why Do Beehive Inspections?

Beehive inspections tell the beekeeper what is going on inside the hive.  You can learn a lot from the outside of the hive, such as the colony’s temperament, the number and type of bees departing and arriving, sound, and smell.  But for other things, you must open the hive and look at the frames.

During hive inspections you are checking for a queen, eggs, brood, queen cells, swarm cells, and brood pattern.  Furthermore, you are also looking for possible problems, such as disease, mites, and pests. 

Another reason to do a hive inspection is to make sure that the bees are producing enough honey.  The colony needs a certain amount of honey stored to survive winter.  If your bees are struggling with this, you may need to feed them. 

How Often Should You Inspect Your Hives?

In general, beehives should be inspected once a week.  That may seem like a lot, but a lot can change for a bee colony in a week.  From an egg, a queen takes only 14 – 16 days to emerge.  If you neglect inspecting your hives, your colony could swarm without you even knowing.  

Weekly beehive inspections are also important because pests can damage a colony rather quickly.  Varroa mites, hive beetles, and wax moths are best dealt with if caught early.  

Established hives can go longer between inspections.  Some beekeepers prefer to interfere with their hives as little as possible and will go 4-6 weeks between hive inspections.  

What You Need for Your Inspection

  • Smoker
  • Bee Suit
  • Hive Tool
  • Beehive Inspection List

How to Do a Hive Inspection 

  1. Smoke the entrance and inside the cover a few times.
  2. Remove cover.
  3. Apply smoke to top of frames.
  4. Using a hive tool, pull out the frame that is closest to you.  Hold the frame firmly and search for the queen.  
  5. Other things to look for on a frame:
    1. Brood – eggs, pupae, larvae
    2. Food – pollen, nectar, honey
    3. Queen cells
    4. Signs of pests or disease
  6. Once you are done inspecting the frame, set it on a frame rest, or upright on the ground.  
  7. Continue to inspect each frame this way.
  8. When you have inspected all frames, place each frame back in the box, being careful not to smash any bees.
  9. Continue with remaining boxes.
  10. Make note of your findings on your beehive inspection list.

Sometimes beehive inspections are done for a specific reason and do not require each frame to be looked at.  You may want to inspect your hive for the following reasons:

  • See if the queen is laying eggs
  • Check honey stores
  • Look for signs of swarming

In that case, a full hive inspection is not necessary.  For example, if you are checking to see if the queen is laying eggs, and you see eggs on the first frame you inspect, you can stop there.  

Some beekeepers prefer to interfere with their hives as little as possible.  Too many inspections can agitate the bees, as the process can be disruptive to them.  While new hives should be checked weekly, established hives can go 4-6 weeks between inspections.  

In the meantime, be sure to visually inspect the outside of the hive regularly to see how your bees are doing. Check that worker bees are leaving to forage and also returning carrying pollen. 

Why Use a Beehive Inspection List

It’s important to use a beehive inspection list because it will help you remember what exactly to look for.  It also serves as a record of your honey bee colony’s health.  These observations will be helpful in identifying patterns and trends within your colony.  

Your beehive inspection list can be as simple or detailed as you want.  While some beekeepers like to make their own lists, I find it helpful to use a template, or beehive inspection list pdf to work from. I find that a pdf is really useful because it keeps everything nicely organized.  

Another thing I like about using a beehive inspection list pdf is that I can reprint it as many times as I want.  So, no matter how many hives I inspect, and how many inspections I do, I just reprint the same list.  Get your beehive inspection list pdf by clicking below.

Hive Inspection List


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