How To Inspect a Beehive (or How I Happened to Inspect This Particular Hive on This Particular Day)

The following is probably the most detailed video of a hive inspection that I’ve posted since the dawn of Mud Songs. For everyone who couldn’t attend the informal beekeeping workshop I had planned to put on today, this video shows what you missed (or would have missed if I’d gone ahead with the workshop). It’s a 24-minute video, which is longer than my usual videos because I left in the all the parts with me yammering on about what I’m doing — exactly the kind of yammering I’d do if I was giving a workshop.

I’m still aiming for next weekend or the weekend after that to put on the workshop, but even then, it probably won’t be as good as what I found in this hive today. It was a thorough examination and I made sure to record all the best bits for the video. In the video I show and talk about:

• the queen
• the pattern of the brood nest
• the pattern of honey and pollen around the brood nest
• capped brood
• the temperament of the bees
• using an Italian style hive tool (or a J-hook hive tool)
• using a queen excluder
• spraying the bees with mist instead of using a smoker
• reversing the brood chamber
• installing a honey super
• shaking bees off frames
• honey bees scenting
• expanding the brood nest

and more that I can’t recall at the moment.

One thing I don’t mention in the video is feeding. I have more than enough frames of honey to feed my bees, so they got that instead of syrup. That’s not always the case.

July 11th, 2016: Although the queen was laying in a solid brood pattern in the middle of the frames, she wasn’t quite strong enough to maintain the population of the colony. I eventually decided to use her colony as a resource colony, which means I kept stealing frames of brood from it to boost weaker colonies in my beeyard. As natural looking as the frames of brood were — with the brood in the middle surrounded by pollen and then a ring of honey — “natural” doesn’t always mean survival, not in a cold climate such as Newfoundland. If I was to be even more natural in my beekeeping, I’d leave everything alone and let the bees make their own new queen through supercedure. But supercedure queens late in the season, in my experience, don’t always mate well or lay well and the colony goes into winter weak and usually comes out of spring weak too. I plan to requeen the colony as soon as possible with a mated queen.

7 thoughts on “How To Inspect a Beehive (or How I Happened to Inspect This Particular Hive on This Particular Day)

  1. I liked the Battlestar Galactica reference, and got a good laugh out of that :D. On more than one occasion I’ve imagined my girls being Vipers leaving the Galactica to explore and search for earth LOL I feel a little less silly about that now!

    • Yup, when the bees are defensive, they don’t mess around. They launch themselves exactly like the Vipers on Battlestar Galactica.

      The chilled out bees in this video are from the same colony shown in my Slighty Defensive Honey Bees video. It’s that video that made me think of the Vipers in Battlestar Galactica.

  2. This is probably the single most useful video I’ve ever posted. I don’t know why people aren’t raving about it.

  3. How is this hive fairing now with our terrible weather these past four weeks? All that brood hatch out? Any fears of starvation or is feeding usually sufficient? Love seeing a near full hive inspection, looking forward to performing my own.

    • As far as I can tell, this colony is doing well. The colony has plenty of honey and room to grow, so even if the bees are stuck inside because of the cold weather, the queen can still lay, the nurses bees can still nurse the brood, etc. The cold weather has been harder on my single-deep colonies, but this one seems alright.

      The queen, despite being at least three years old, has expanded the brood nest to span at least 4 or 5 frames for each deep. Her pattern of laying is restricted to the middle of all the frames (a young queen will often lay to the edge of the frames), but what she does lay is solid brood and very natural looking, all the brood ringed by pollen with honey on the outside, exactly what you’d find in a natural colony of honey bees. (Not that I equate “natural” with being better for the bees. 100% natural beekeeping in a place like Newfoundland is a great way to kill the bees.)

      No fear of starvation. I haven’t fed these bees syrup once this year. They had enough honey in the frames to keep them going. I could have simulated a nectar flow with syrup, which may have encouraged the queen to lay more, but I’m more interested in seeing how the bees react to their natural environment (so far they’re doing fine). As long as it doesn’t kill them, I’m happy.

      Much of the brood has already hatched out and many of the bees are clustering in the honey super, cleaning it up and building comb for honey storage, which is exactly what I wanted to see. They probably won’t store nectar in there any time soon because there isn’t much nectar around at the moment (still mostly dandelions), but with any luck they’ll kick into high gear by the end of June if the sun ever comes out again.

      If my informal workshop goes ahead this Sunday (and it looks like it will), I might dig into the top of this hive. The honey super and some frames in the top deep. The bees in this hive have become more defensive in the past week, so I may not go near them with at all.

  4. I’m curious about how to maintain colonies…..the whole swarming-in-the-spring thing… queens mating with the right drones…..that’s what confuses me most as a newbie. What do we do in the Spring?
    Love your site, blogs, videos. Thank you.

    Also, not sure how this social media works…. I need to make sure I get your reply on this topic. Hopefully an email will come to my inbox so I know? 🐝🐝

  5. To Lindsay (who may never read this response):

    What to do in the spring? That’s pretty general. I’m not sure what to tell you. But you might get a better idea of what happens in the spring by clicking on the category for whatever month you’re curious about. For instance, here’s the category for the month of May, which will display all kinds of videos and things that happened with my beekeeping in May.

    All the other months are listed in the side bar of this blog under “Month of April,” “Month of August,” etc.

Comments are closed.