Most of the things I've read say that its ok to open it up once a week when you're learning the ropes. You don't want to do it more than that because every time you open them up, it throws them off course and it slows production down. This is our first year, but we rarely will do a weekly inspection. As long as traffic is moving well, and theres a sweet smell coming from the hive, I'm pretty satisfied. I do go out to see the hives daily though when we feed with an entrance feeder to make sure that there isn't a robbing situation going on. Eventually you get more confident and don't need to inspect as often. Good Luck!
I started last year with 2 hives...after week 1 check for queen release, I contented myself with "casual" inspections. Mostly I compared the hives to each other: if there was a lot of activity, or similar activity, figured the ladies were doing fine without my interference. :thumbsup:
This year I'm a bit more "hands on", checking for mites, beetles, splitting, and rerqueening one hive. Did a complete frame by frame in the spring and do an inside the hive "casual check" every 2-3 weeks now. I'll do a complete frame by frame check in the fall.
If I had it to do over, I'd probably be a little more invasive the first year, just for my experience in dealing with the bees. In the spring I watched an experienced beekeeper from this forum examine a hive...it was very impressive and confidence building.
Maybe during the early years of a beekeepers vocation opening their hive(s) once a week or every other week, and really getting down into the brood chamber is educational. And if it doesn't do harm to the hive, or too much harm, it may make a better beekeeper sooner. I don't know.
I don't get into the brood chamber of my bees, unless I suspect a proiblem when I open them, but maybe 4 or 5 times a year. But I have, at this time, 600 or so, give or take. So, unless I really need to look below, I don't have the time. Plus, I don't think it is necassary.
I don't think that I went into the brood chamber to inspect for diseases and pests anymore than 5 times a year, even when I had a handful or 200.
All that said, beginners have a different agenda and a need for educational experience and a curiosity to satisfy, so go into them as often as you like until you feel comfortable w/ leaving them alone.
Remember, no one goes into feral colonies to check for disease and pests and the do okay. Bees have survived on their own for millions of years.
I try to keep out of the brood boxes as much as possible. The only time I do is if Im doing splits or there is a problem within the hive. I figure no one knows bees better than bees. So why make more work for them. I compare getting into a hive to an undesireable house guest comming to visit in my home. Sometimes you got no choice to have such guest. but you try to keep them at a minimum
with experience you will get to where you can look at the front landing board watch the bees That will tell you a lot of whats going on inside. I sometimes will raise the top deep up enough to look to see if there are swarm cells. At which time if there I will doa split. If you got a good stong hive pest will usually be kept in check unless it is mites. And even mites If you dont treat will get to be where they are not a problem for your hives. If you have good hygenic bees. I try to pick up swarms of feral bees and cutouts. Those bees have survived with out the aid of man.
with experience you will get to where you can look at the front landing board watch the bees
absolutely learn what the clues here mean or suggest first.
a new beekeeper does need to get into a hive often enough to learn something. always have a LIMITED list (purpose) of stuff you want to know when you do the inspection. inspections beyond once a month are likely a bit too frequent.
often times an inspection for me means looking at the bottom bars of the second story of a story and a half hive.... this is the most likely area to find swarm cells. I simple break the two boxes apart take a peak and close the hive back up... no frames are touched or removed.
ps... the last paragraph was suppose to suggest that all inspection are not absolutely equal. that is all INSPECTIONS do not create the same confusion or stress for the bees. the less time and the less you fool around the brood area the less problems this creates for the bees.
Like the doctors motto is " do no Harm ". I open the hives and do a thourgh inspection once in early spring when population levels are low, and can actually see whats going on at that time, also for spring house cleaning, and to determine how much feeding I need to do. I open again but only to reverse the brood chambers, about 2 weeks later, and again about 2 weeks after that and one last time about 2 weeks after that by that time the max number of bees are there, and the nectar flow should be peaking on close to it. After that if your obseravtions of the hive entrance you can see if colony strength is what it should be visually, nothing quite so nice as to have the smell of ventilating hives spreading the wonderful smell of whatever nectar source they are working. For those who use scaled for thier hives, are you not amazed to see a 20- 30 pound a week, gain in weight. Back to openning--miniumize the trauma of total disruption as take the bees days to recover for few minutes disruption.
lets have some fun and maybe learn something new. Heres a scenerio. You have 3 hives in a out yard. Your in the midst of a heavy nectar flow. 2 weeks earlier you checked the hives and done a thorough inspection all hives appeared to be ok. You arrive at the yard at noon its 75 degrees sun is shining no wind. You approach the first hive. Take a look at the landing board and it looks like jfk international airport with bees landing on the board and running into the hive and just as many running out and leaving. You heft the back of the hive and it is a lot heavier than 2 weeks ago. so you carefully crack the top look in and you have bees all around the opening of the inner cover you have 3 supers of drawn comb on this one. 2nd hive has a pile of dead bees in front of the hive. Not much comming or going on the landing board but hive is just as heavy as it was 2 weeks ago and the bees are a lot more agressive than 2 weeks ago. You also have 3 supers on this hive. You crack the top and dont see any bees around the inner cover hole. You move to the third hive bees are lounging around the front porch a few bees orientating in front of the hive. but not a lot of comming and going like the first hive but considerable amount more comming and going than the second. You have one super on this hive. You crack the top and see the super is full and capped. Now keep in mind you are in the midst of a strong flow. And when you disrupt the bees it takes a few days for them to settle down and get back to work collecting honey. What would you do when you find your 3 hives like this.
1st hive......check to see if they need an extra super by looking in on top of the top super.
2nd hive......pile of dead bees (I will take them them to be foragers), sounds like they found some pesticide and are in trouble. aggressiveness could also mean they could be queenless. I would go through this hive and look for queen or eggs. With 3 supers on it would check to see which ones do not have stores and remove them, trying to prevent SHB from getting a foot hold. Reduce the entrance to prevent robbing from the other two hives and maybe wax moths. A little investigative work will need to be done to see exactly what is ailing this hive.
3rd hive.......sounds like orientation flights of some soon to be foragers which says there is brood that has been hatching. With the bees just being lazy sounds like they have a newer queen that has been laying for a couple of weeks and and are starting to build their population back up. Top super is capped they need another super. I would probably at least look for the queen or eggs just to make sure they are still up and going.
Thanks g3. You done just almost exactly what I would have done, Only different is I would have removed the empty supers from hive 2 and added them to hive 3 and probably not go into the 3rd hive. I wanted to demonstrate how easy it is to look at the front of the hive and make a judgment on the health of the hive. Lets set back and see what others would do :thumbsup:
I like to construct the information at the front door as a form of triage... that is the determination of three types of hives which all demand a different level of attention. 1) first and foremost the boomers... these are an excellent bank of resources for group 3. knowing where in the stack resources reside is the real essential information here. 2) hive that are doing quite well without any additional attention. usually for me these require the least time and inspection here means to take a quick peak and close the hive back up. 3) problem hives... these require the most attention and quite typically some resources from group 1.
much like what you might see inside the hive, information collected at the front door is somewhat seasonally defined. that is.... some clue in one season may not totally transfer to a different time of year.
tech you are correct. Thats why I set the scenerio to a 75 deg sunny day around noon with a strong flow on. There is a lot of variable that you have come into play when dealing with bees. To go to the extreme here. To make a point if I may. In may and june bees are busy with a flow coming and going like crazy. On a cool october day there is hardly any bees comming and going and its. You would take the weather into consideration and not tear thru the hive in october looking to find the problem when there isnt any problem.