local-honey-bee-suppliesRJ Honey Farm

Inspector Clouseau Says...


If you are to be a successful beekeeper you need to be a savvy inspector.

There are a lot of inspection lists out there. Many are quite detailed. I'm going to try to use the KISS principle. Keep It Simple Singletary. Rather than a list, think in terms of a process. What is the end goal? What do you want to accomplish?

0-Before you go out what is the weather like? Mid-afternoon and sunny is best. Bees' mood seem to be sensitive to changes in weather. Keep this in mind.
1-Look at the outside of the hive, particularly the entrance. Is it active? Bees coming and going? Do you see any pollen on their legs?
2-Smell. Dead bees have a terrible stench. If there's been a bee kill you'll probably see a big pile in front of the hive.
3-Working from the sides is best for me. Work gently and relatively slowly. Don't work from the front of the hive.
4-Gentle puff of smoke in the entrance and under the top cover. Take the top cover off. Lots of bees on the inner cover? Mental notes: maybe need a super or another deep.
5-Gently pry the inner cover off starting at a corner. Listen. If there's a gentle hum, they are probably queen right and happy. Do they come boiling out and get all over the veil and gloves with an angry buzz? Unhappy bees. Might want to wait for another day. Put hive back together.
7-I look to see if there is whitish wax showing either on the top/sids of the frames or on the underside of the inner cover. Indication of young bees. They are the wax makers.
8-Remove an outside frame which is usually a honey frame. Queen shouldn't be there. But she could. Remove it slowly and gently to avoid rolling the bees. As an aside, we tried using frame rests and found them lacking, personal preference. Place it on the side on the ground. I try put it on the opposite side from where I am working so bees are tempted to crawl up my legs.
9-Now I start moving in towards the center frame by frame. Inspect frames over the hive. Any frame may have the queen. If she drops off she drops into the hive not the on the grounds.
Here's where goals come into play.
-New hive, how many frames have they built out? Rule of thumb: when it gets to 8 out 10 add another deep or a super. Check brood. See next point.
-Established hive. Are there eggs, open brood, and capped brood? Queen has been there within the last couple of days. Are there good, fully laid out capped brood frames? Thumbs up. Are there queen cells. Thumbs down.
10-Put it back together and make notes.

Now I know a lot seems to be missing. 'What do I do if…?' Good! That's what should happen within the framework of how you do an KISS inspection. Talk to other experienced beekeepers. And learn. Learning is something that never ends for a beekeeper.