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  • Writer's pictureCJ Turner

What to Expect when you are Inspecting

Regular hive inspections are essential in maintaining the health and happiness of your beehives. While inspecting too often can be harmful to a hive, as it disrupts hive activity, regular inspections are absolutely necessary. The recommended time frame between hive inspections during peak nectar glow is approximately 7-10 days, but up to 2 weeks can be sufficient if your hive is not new.(www.honestbeekeeper.com). Here are 5 things to look for when you pop the lid to your hive.


Pests

One of the most painful parts of beekeeping is to open your hive and see some nasty pests, such as the small hive beetle and wax moths. The key to avoiding these creepy critters is prevention. Wax moths generally move into a weak hive that has difficulty defending themselves. So during your inspections, make sure there are enough bees and that the queen is laying. To prevent hive beetles from moving into

Signs of Wax Moth Activity

your hive, keeping your hive out of shady areas, using dryer sheets in the corners of your hive, and using contraptions called beetle blasters are all positive steps you can take to preventing these pests from moving in.

Hive Beetles Present in a Beehive
A Varroa Destructor Mite on Honey Bee Larvae

Parasites

One of the number one hive killers of honey bees is the Varroa Destructor mite. These parasites will attach to honey bees and they feed on their fat, slowly killing the bees. When inspecting your hive, you can conduct mite counts to see how infested your hive is, and you can also treat the hive with oxalic acid to kill them off. It is of utmost importance that you stay on top of this, as a high mite count will surely kill a hive if you do not treat it.

Viruses

Yes, honey bees can get viruses as well. Common ones include Deformed Wing Virus, Sacbrood Virus, and Paralysis Virus (www.extension.psu.edu). Getting a good look at your bees and looking for deformed wings, shaking bees, or chewed-up brood are all clear signs something is amiss in your hive. So make sure when you are inspecting to look closely at your bees and monitor their health.

A Bee with Deformed Wing Virus

Queen Health

Assessing the health of your queen is also paramount if you want your hive to survive. The first thing you should try to do is see if you can spot your queen. Most times she will be marked. But if she is not, you will look for a bee with an elongated abdomen. If you cannot find her, looking for eggs is the next best thing. You must also see if there is worker brood, as if there is only drone brood, that may mean your hive is not queenright and you have laying workers. If you are not seeing signs of a queen, it may be time to re-queen your hive, if it is not too late. A non-queenright hive is a dead hive if not addressed promptly.

Bee Eggs and Larvae are Helpful Signs that Your Hive is Queenright

Brood Pattern

Finally, looking at your hive's brood pattern is a good way to assess your hive's health. A healthy brood pattern will not be spotty and will have worker and drone brood. If your brood looks spotty, or if it has lots of broken cells, this may be indicative of a disease or virus and interventions should be taken.


A Healthy Brood Pattern with Honey, and Pollen are all Signs of a Healthy Hive

So there you have it. While hive inspections may be stressful if you find something unsavory, this should generally be one of the happiest parts of beekeeping. It is such a privilege to have a close relationship with such an incredible species, and maintaining their health and happiness is of the utmost importance to a beekeeper. Reach out to your local beekeeping association if you have any questions, and make sure to stay on top of your hive health, as that can be the difference between the survival and death of your hive.


Good luck and happy beekeeping!





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