An important part of beekeeping is the hive inspection. While healthy, established colonies may thrive without much intervention, newer colonies might need some help. You cannot just put bees in a hive and expect everything to go well without checking on them. The only way to know what is going on in the beehive is through regular hive inspections.
When doing a hive inspection it is good to document your observations. It would be difficult to remember everything without keeping records, especially if you have multiple hives. This post contains free printable hive inspection sheets that you can download and print for free.
What is a Hive Inspection?
During a hive inspection, the beekeeper will observe both the outside and inside of the hive, including each frame. The purpose of the hive inspection is to check that there is a queen, see that she is laying eggs, and check for signs of pests and disease.
Other things to look for during a hive inspection are whether or not bees are carrying pollen, the bees temperament, brood pattern, and honey stores. Use your free printable hive inspection sheets included in this post to record your findings.
How Often Should You Inspect a Beehive?
As a general rule of thumb, beehives should be inspected once a week. Any more than that can be disruptive to hive activity and will make your bees unhappy. Considering that a queen takes only 14-16 days to emerge, a lot can change in a hive very quickly. Weekly inspections ensure that you will catch any signs of swarming, pests, or disease.
Some beekeepers prefer to interfere with their hives as little as possible. If their hive is well established they will do full inspections every 4-6 months. Sometimes they’ll do partial inspections, just to check for a specific thing, instead of looking at every frame.
Beehives should be inspected once a week. Any more than that can be disruptive to hive activity.
How to Do a Hive Inspection
Hive inspections should be done on a warm, sunny day. You will need the following equipment:
Outside the Hive
First, you should make some observations about the outside of the hive.
- Is the area clear of foliage and debris?
- Are bees actively entering and exiting the hive?
- Are the bees carrying pollen?
- Is there a large amount of dead bees on the ground?
- Is there any damage to the hive?
Inside the Hive
To inspect the inside of the hive, you will need to use your hive smoker. Give the entrance and inside the cover 2-3 puffs of smoke. Remove the cover and apply smoke to the top of the frames. Using a hive tool, remove 1 frame. Gripping the frame firmly, inspect for the following:
- What is the bees temperament when the hive is opened?
- Do you see the queen?
- Do you see eggs?
- Is there 1 egg per cell?
- Is the brood pattern good?
- Does the larvae look healthy?
- Number of frames covered in bees
- Number of frames used for brood.
Additionally, you must check for any signs of disease and pests. Healthy larvae should be white, glistening, and curled in a c shape.
Brood diseases, such as American Foulbrood is caused by spore forming bacterium. Signs of American Foulbrood are spotted brood pattern, odor, moisture on sunken sealed brood, and brown larvae. American Foulbrood is spread by drifting or robbing bees from nearby hives, so you want to catch it quick so it doesn’t spread to your other hives.
The most common beehive pests to look out for are varroa mites, small hive beetles, wax moths, and ants. These pests can be devastating to a colony if not caught in time. If you notice such pests in your hive, action must be taken, such as administering medication, in order to avoid infestation.
Using Hive Inspection Sheets
Hive inspection sheets are used to record the colony’s health. Keeping good records of your hives allows you to see patterns and trends in your colonies. Each time you inspect your beehives, be sure to fill out your hive inspection sheets.
Many beekeepers like to use printable hive inspection sheets. These sheets provide a good template for everything you must inspect. I like using free printable hive inspection sheets because you can print as many as you want.
To get your free printable hive inspection sheets, click below.
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The purpose of a hive inspection is to check on the health of the bee colony. Hive inspections should be done once a week. Using free printable hive inspection sheets are helpful to have a record of your colony’s health and patterns.