I think there is something like a reverse ratio depending on how long you've kept bees. When first starting, you can't peek in enough. As time progresses (and with it experience) you learn how to "examine" a hive from outside, by watching the entrance or giving it a heft from behind to find out how heavy it is. I think the best balance is to examine the hive when you know there is something that has to be done and you want to know just what. The rule should be, open the hive when you know what you are looking for---not just for the sake of looking.
For a new beek, I would suggest approx. once a week. AT LEAST 3 out of 5 weeks. As Ef said, go in with a purpose. Read and study enough to have questions within a week and go in and get them answered.
Lift the back of the hive an inch each time you go to it, whether you open it that day or not.Things will begin to fall in place and you will see and notice many things without opening it. Then you will set your own schedule as to when to go into it.
After the first year, a lot of attention in spring, not so much, but still a good bit in summer, less in fall and little to none in winter. It will all fall in place with experience.
Well said Efmesch. :thumbsup:
At this time of year (up here) about every couple of weeks, just to make sure there is room and they are not getting honeybound and ready to swarm. Sometimes a heft is all, sometimes simply tipping back the top box to see if there are any queen cells on the go.
I was always into them too much during the first few years but I don't really see anything all that wrong with it, you're learning and what better way than to get in there?
I think many new keeps will love their bees to death the first year. For the most part if everything looks good from the outside........bees flying, guard bees, house bees, orientation flights, bearding when it is hot, etc.......then things are normal. For the most part they do better when left alone. I like to heft them from the rear or just remove the inner cover to see if they are needing to be supered up.
As was said above, the only way you will learn is to dig through them, but be sure it is for a reason and keep your eyes open, look slowly at everything.....brood in all stages, cappings on the comb, pollen colors, honey colors, what are the workers, drones and queen doing and why. Smell everything also...new comb, old comb, propolis, nectar, honey, bees pheromones, brood......you will be surprised at the differences. Watch the hive as a whole and how the bees interact with each other and you also. Watch...a bee hatch out, a pupa get capped over, honey getting capped, bees dancing, feeding the queen...............
Guess I could go on a little bit but you get the idea.
My 2 cents; Last year I stayed out of my hives for too long and didn't notice a hive go queenless with no eggs for the colony to make a new one and too late in the season to get another queen and ended up with laying workers. I combined that hive to my other and all was good. Its amazing how much work they can do in a short amount of time and the colony looks different every time but to me, going in every week is execessive, now I watch the door a lot more.
Perhaps new beeks should be encouraged to use an observation hive. It'll never give them honey, but it will enable them to see all those things that go on inside.
Like G3 said, "Watch the hive as a whole and how the bees interact with each other and you also. Watch...a bee hatch out, a pupa get capped over, honey getting capped, bees dancing, feeding the queen...." With an observation hive you can do it all, at all hours of the day, for as long as you want, even with bee-fearing friends and family, and the bees couldn't care less, they just carry on normally.
Writing this, brought back a distant recollection from my early days at an observation hive, when I saw a newly mated queen return to the hive with the remnants of the drone's genitals still attached. How the bees welcomed her, attended to her, cleaned her off....what an exceptional observation.
for myself the season really defines how much internal inspections I am doing. my 'purpose' at that point in the season often defines how long or the extent of each inspection should require.
As a rule of thumb, I check every 2 weeks, once a month a dig deeper other then that I lift a few frames to check on brood rearing, and honey/ nectar/ pollen storage and if I like what I see I button it back up, if not I look deeper to see why.