First Hive Inspection: Dos and Don’ts for Beginners

Performing the first hive inspection can be an exciting yet daunting task for beginner beekeepers. It is a crucial step in ensuring the health and productivity of the hive. A successful inspection involves checking for various factors such as the queen’s presence, brood pattern, honey and pollen storage, and pest and disease management.

However, it is important to note that a hive inspection should not be done too frequently, as it can disturb the bees and affect their behavior. The first inspection should be done about a week after installing the bees, and subsequent inspections can be done every two to three weeks. When performing an inspection, it is important to wear protective clothing and have the necessary tools ready, such as a hive tool and smoker.

There are certain dos and don’ts that beekeepers should keep in mind during a hive inspection. For example, it is important to avoid squishing bees and to handle the frames gently. Additionally, beekeepers should avoid using strong perfumes or lotions that can agitate the bees. On the other hand, it is important to be thorough and check all frames for any signs of issues. By following these guidelines and being attentive, beekeepers can ensure a successful first hive inspection and set their hive up for a productive season.

Preparing for the Hive Inspection

Before conducting a hive inspection, it is essential to prepare thoroughly. The following sub-sections outline the necessary steps to take to ensure a successful inspection.

Gathering Equipment

One of the first steps in preparing for a hive inspection is to gather all the necessary equipment. The following table lists the essential equipment required for a hive inspection:

Equipment Purpose
Bee Suit To protect the beekeeper from bee stings
Gloves To protect the beekeeper’s hands from bee stings
Hive tool To pry open the hive and separate the frames
Smoker To calm the bees and make them less aggressive
Brush To gently brush the bees off the frames

Choosing the Right Time

Choosing the right time to conduct a hive inspection is crucial. It is best to conduct an inspection during the day when the temperature is above 60 degrees Fahrenheit and there is little to no wind. Bees are more active during the day, making it easier to observe their behavior and movements.

The time of day you choose to conduct your hive inspection can greatly impact the behavior of your bees. It’s best to choose a warm, sunny day when the bees are most active and out of the hive. Avoid inspecting the hive during early morning or late evening when the bees are less active and more likely to become agitated. It’s also important to avoid inspecting the hive during rainy or windy weather, as this can also cause the bees to become agitated.

Preparing the Hive

Preparing the hive before conducting an inspection is crucial to ensure that the bees are not harmed during the process. The following steps should be taken to prepare the hive:

  1. Smoke the hive: Use the smoker to produce cool smoke and puff it into the hive entrance to calm the bees.
  2. Remove the outer cover: Carefully remove the outer cover and set it aside.
  3. Remove the inner cover: Gently remove the inner cover and set it aside.
  4. Smoke the bees: Puff smoke over the frames to calm the bees.
  5. Remove the frames: Use the hive tool to gently pry the frames apart and remove them one at a time.
  6. Inspect the frames: Inspect each frame for signs of disease, pests, and honey production.
  7. Replace the frames: Once the inspection is complete, gently replace the frames one at a time and reassemble the hive.


Before opening the hive, it’s important to smoke the bees. This helps to calm them down and prevent them from becoming agitated during the inspection. Use a smoker filled with cool smoke and direct it towards the entrance of the hive. Wait a few minutes for the smoke to take effect before opening the hive. Be sure to use caution when handling the smoker and never leave it unattended.

Remove Covers

Once the bees have been smoked and calmed, it’s time to remove the cover and examine the frames. Gently pry the cover off with a hive tool, being careful not to disturb the bees too much. Set the cover aside and carefully lift out the first frame. Examine the frame for signs of brood, honey, and pollen. Look for any signs of disease or pests, such as mites or wax moths. Repeat this process for each frame, being sure to handle them gently and avoid crushing any bees.

When inspecting each frame in a beehive, it’s essential to look for signs of disease, pests, and honey production. A thorough inspection can help maintain the health of the colony and ensure a successful honey harvest. Here’s a detailed explanation of what to look for:

Examine Frame for Pests and Disease

Image 1 – American Foulbrood © Crown copyright, Image 2 – European Foulbrood, Image 3 – Chalkbrood, Image 4 – Nosema © Crown copyright, Image 5 – Deformed Wing Virus
  1. American Foulbrood (AFB): Look for dark brown, sunken, and punctured brood cappings. The larvae will appear dark brown and may have a ropey, mucus-like consistency when pulled with a small stick or twig.
  2. European Foulbrood (EFB): Inspect for uneven brood patterns and yellowish, twisted, or melted-looking larvae. The dead larvae may also give off a foul smell.
  3. Chalkbrood: Look for hard, chalky-white mummies among the brood. These are larvae that have succumbed to the chalkbrood fungal infection.
  4. Nosema: This disease is challenging to detect through visual inspection alone. However, if you notice an unusually high number of dead bees near the hive entrance or inside the hive, it could be a sign of Nosema infection
  5. Deformed Wing Virus: Inspect adult bees for misshapen or stunted wings, which can be a sign of this viral infection.
Image 1 – Varroa Mite, Image 2 – Small Hive Beetle, Image 3 – Wax Moth, Image 4 – Ants
  1. Varroa Mites: Look for small, reddish-brown mites on adult bees, larvae, and pupae. You can also check for mites by using a sticky board or sugar roll test.
  2. Small Hive Beetles: Inspect the hive for small, dark beetles scurrying across the frames or hiding in crevices. They can cause damage to the comb, honey, and pollen.
  3. Wax Moths: Check for webbing, cocoons, and tunnels in the comb created by wax moth larvae. You may also see adult moths flying around the hive.
  4. Ants: Look for ants on the hive or around the hive stand. Ants can cause stress to the bees and steal honey and pollen.

A Beginner’s Guide to Inspecting Beehive Frames for Honey Production

Beekeeping is a rewarding and fascinating endeavor that not only contributes to the health and wellbeing of our environment but also provides the sweet reward of honey. One essential aspect of successful beekeeping is regularly inspecting the frames for honey production. This process allows beekeepers to monitor the progress of their colonies, ensuring a thriving hive and an abundant harvest. This guide will walk you through the basics, helping you understand what to look for and when it’s time to harvest your liquid gold.

Step 1: Prepare for the inspection

Before beginning the inspection, ensure you have all the necessary equipment, such as a bee suit, gloves, smoker, hive tool, and a container or bucket to hold any harvested frames. Start by lighting your smoker and gently puffing smoke at the entrance of the hive and under the top cover. This helps calm the bees and makes the inspection process easier.

Step 2: Open the hive

Carefully remove the hive cover and inner cover, using the hive tool if needed to loosen any propolis. Remember to move slowly and deliberately to avoid agitating the bees.

Step 3: Inspect the outer frames first

Using the hive tool, gently pry the outermost frame from the box and lift it up, being careful not to crush any bees. Outer frames typically contain honey stores and are an excellent starting point for your inspection.

Step 4: Look for signs of honey production

Examine the frame for the following indicators of honey production:

  1. Capped honey: Check for hexagonal cells sealed with a thin layer of wax, indicating that the honey is ready for harvest.
  2. Uncapped honey: Look for glistening, exposed honey in the comb cells. This honey is not yet ready for harvest due to its high moisture content.
  3. Pollen stores: Brightly colored pollen packed into cells shows that bees have been foraging and storing food.
  4. Brood Pattern: Inspect the frames for a solid brood pattern, with eggs, larvae, and capped pupae in a compact area. A healthy brood pattern is a good indication of a productive queen and a thriving colony.

Take note of the amount of capped and uncapped honey on each frame.

Step 5: Harvest capped honey

If a frame has a significant amount of capped honey (at least 80% of the cells), it’s ready for harvest. Carefully brush off any bees from the frame using a bee brush or gentle puffs of smoke and place the frame in your container or bucket.

Step 6: Continue inspecting frames

Repeat steps 3-5 for each frame in the hive, working your way from the outer frames to the center. The center frames often contain brood and less honey, so it’s essential to leave those for the bees to maintain colony health.

Step 7: Reassemble the hive

Once you’ve inspected all the frames, carefully replace them in their original order, ensuring there is no excess space between them. Replace the inner cover and top cover, gently pressing down to secure them in place.

Step 8: Process the harvested honey

After collecting the honey-filled frames, you’ll need to uncap the cells and extract the honey using a honey extractor or crush and strain method. Once extracted, filter the honey to remove any debris and allow it to settle before bottling.

Remember always to be gentle when handling the frames and to smoke the bees before starting the inspection to keep them calm. Regular inspections can help you identify potential issues early on, allowing you to take the necessary steps to maintain the health and productivity of your bee colony.

By following this guide, you’ll be well-equipped to inspect your beehive frames for honey production and know when it’s time to harvest that delicious liquid gold. Regular inspections will not only help you maximize your honey yield but also ensure the health and wellbeing of your bee colony.

Hive Inspection: Other Things to Look Out for

As a beginner beekeeper, inspecting the hive is an important task to ensure the health and productivity of your colony. Apart from honey production, there are several other factors to look out for during the inspection process:

  1. Queen health: The queen is crucial to the colony’s success, so it’s essential to check for her presence and overall health. Look for the larger, elongated queen bee or signs of her activity, such as eggs or larvae in the comb cells.
  2. Brood pattern: A healthy brood pattern consists of eggs, larvae, and capped pupae in a compact area. Inspect the frames for a solid brood pattern, which indicates a productive queen and a thriving colony.
  3. Colony population: Observe the number of bees in the hive and their activity levels. A healthy colony should have a robust population, and the bees should be actively working. If the population appears low or inactive, there may be an issue that needs further investigation.
  4. Hive cleanliness: Bees are generally clean and organized, so a cluttered or dirty hive could indicate a problem. Check for excess debris, dead bees, or signs of mold or fungus, which may require action to maintain hive health.
  5. Ventilation: Proper ventilation is crucial for maintaining a healthy hive environment. Ensure that the hive has adequate airflow, and check for any signs of excessive moisture or condensation.
  6. Swarming: Inspect the hive for signs of swarming, such as the presence of queen cells (elongated, peanut-shaped cells) or a sudden decrease in the colony’s population. Swarming can lead to a reduced honey harvest and may require intervention to prevent the colony from splitting.

Regular hive inspections are essential to address potential issues early on and ensure a healthy, productive bee colony. As a beginner beekeeper, familiarize yourself with these factors and remain vigilant during inspections to maximize your success in beekeeping.

Record Your Observations and Take Action if Necessary

Accurately recording the health of your beehive colonies is essential for successful beekeeping. To ensure you track all important information, use the hive inspection sheets. These sheets have boxes to check off and lines to fill in with information such as number of frames, queen seen or not seen, and if there is evidence of pests. You can also make notes about the overall health of the colony.

After you have inspected your hive, take the time to fill out your hive inspection sheet. This will give you valuable data that can be used for future reference. This will help you keep track of the health and productivity of your hive over time. If you notice any signs of disease or pests, take action immediately to prevent the problem from spreading. This may involve treating the hive with medication or removing and replacing infected frames. Remember, proactive management is key to maintaining a healthy and thriving bee colony.

By following these steps, beekeepers can ensure a successful hive inspection without harming the bees or damaging the hive.

Hive Inspection FAQ

1. How often should I inspect my beehive?

It’s generally recommended to inspect your beehive every 7-10 days during the active season (spring and summer). However, inspections can be less frequent during the fall and winter months, as the bees are less active and opening the hive too often can disrupt their temperature regulation.

2. What is the best time of day to inspect a beehive?

The ideal time for a hive inspection is on a warm, sunny day between late morning and early afternoon. This is when a majority of the forager bees are out of the hive, making it easier to work with the remaining bees and reducing the risk of disturbing the colony.

3. Can I inspect the hive without protective gear?

While some experienced beekeepers may feel comfortable inspecting their hives without protective gear, it’s highly recommended that beginners always wear a bee suit, gloves, and a veil to protect themselves from potential stings.

4. How can I keep the bees calm during an inspection?

Using a smoker is the most effective way to keep bees calm during an inspection. Gently puff smoke at the entrance of the hive and under the top cover before starting the inspection. The smoke masks alarm pheromones released by the bees and encourages them to focus on consuming honey in preparation for a potential relocation, making them less likely to become defensive.

5. What should I do if I can’t find the queen during an inspection?

If you can’t locate the queen, don’t panic. Instead, look for signs of her presence, such as eggs or young larvae in the comb cells. If these signs are present, it’s likely that the queen is still in the hive and simply difficult to spot. If there are no signs of the queen or brood, monitor the hive closely over the next week or two for any changes, as the colony may be in the process of replacing the queen.

6. How do I know if my hive is overcrowded?

An overcrowded hive will have limited space for the queen to lay eggs, and the frames will be densely packed with bees. You may also see bees “bearding” on the outside of the hive, which can indicate a lack of space. Overcrowding can lead to swarming, so it’s essential to take action by adding additional boxes or frames to provide more room for the colony.

7. What should I do if I find pests or signs of disease during an inspection?

If you discover pests or signs of disease, take action immediately to address the issue. Depending on the specific problem, this may involve treating the hive with approved medications, implementing integrated pest management strategies, or consulting with a local beekeeping expert or extension office for guidance. Early intervention is crucial for maintaining the health of your colony. Let us know in the comments if you have any tips for carrying out a hive inspection, we would love to hear from you!


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