Friday, October 5, 2007

Lesson Nine In Beekeeping: Inspecting The Hive: Part 1

Having your own beehive is a blast. You'll find yourself being entertained as the bees fly in and out for nectar. But what's even more amazing is to look inside and observe the bees in their own home. Your hive should be inspected approximately every two weeks. This allows proper timing to monitor the ongoing health of your queen. If she should die or become unproductive, then a two week interval inspection will give you enough time to order or raise a new queen. (The hives in the photo are in pollination field, and I had to place them in the shade to keep them out of the fields)

Let's talk about making an inspection and what to look for once inside the hive.
First, let's pick the right day to do the inspection. We are looking for a nice, sunny day between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. We choose this time so that during our inspection, a large amount of the foragers will be out gathering water, pollen and nector, thus reducing the amount of bees in the hive. Level to rising barometric pressure seems to help the bees have a less aggressive temperament. NEVER work bees on cloudy days, and especially if there is an approaching storm. And never work bees when it is cold outside. Wait for temperatures well into the 60s before working your hives.

Bees cannot hear, but they can sense vibrations extremely well. And they can smell extremely well too, so be sure you don't stink, but don't over perfume yourelf either. Always wear bright colored clothing, preferably white. Bees become more aggressive toward dark clothing, but will rarely land on white. Never eat bananas prior to working your hives. Some suggest the odor of a banana can mimic the smell of another queen and cause the hive to become alarmed.

You'll want to approach the hive with your appropriate gear which includes your hive tool, your lit smoker, your hat and veil and any other protective clothing which you feel necessary. As you approach your hive, remember never to stand directly in front of the hive. This is their flight zone. I've watched beekeepers work their hive from the front, never being taught otherwise and I am amazed that they do not see the thousands of bees that want to land, but are blocked and are gathered behind the beekeeper's back wondering what to do. Always work your hives from behind the hive.

Consideration must be given when placing you hive so that you can have enough room to stand and work behind your hives. STAY OUT OF THEIR FLIGHT PATH! Here's a video of the entrance during a heavy nectar flow...


Blow two or three gentle puffs of smoke into the front of the hive. This smoke will cover the guards at the door and allow the smoke to drift up into the hive thus calming the bees as they begin to eat honey. Wait 2-3 minutes so that the smoke can become effective within the hive.

Next, begin to remove the top cover. As soon as you pry it up just a little, smoke inside the top cover and set it back down and wait a minute or so. Then, remove the top cover and blow a couple of gentle puffs of smoke across the inner cover. Sometimes bees like to hang out between the inner cover and outer cover in crowded hives.

Next, gently pry up your inner cover using your hive tool and blow a few puffs of smoke inside the hive.

Set it back down for a minute then lift it off, gently puffing smoke once or twice as you remove the inner cover. Now, you are in the hive! And in our next lesson, we'll begin to get familiar with identifying the inside of the hive.
*Special Hint* Be sure and secure all your beekeeping equipment during the winter, so that you'll have all you need in the Spring!!

We are swamped from Jan.-Jul. trying to send hives out to desperate beekeepers that need it yesterday. ORDER EARLY!!!
See you next time! Please encourage others to join these lessons!


Heather and Dan said...

I would have thought that the reason people don't eat bananas before working the bees is that the alarm pheromone smells like banana oil and might upset the bees. A couple of times when I've cracked open a hive suddenly I've gotten a noseful of banana smell and a faceful of testy bees. But this is only my third season, so I might be out to lunch!

This is a GREAT blog, by the way.


Unknown said...

That is what he just said about the bananas. Don't eat bananas and then try to tend the bees, duh.

Renee said...

I've got a friend (Hi Paulette) who does not use smoke...she uses a sugar spray all over everything.

Opinions? Anyone else do it this way?

Heather and Dan said...

I find the sugar spray works well, but my bees are pretty gentle to begin with. When I have a nasty hive, I revert to smoke.

I start by spraying sugar syrup into the entrance and leave it for a little while, then I give a light spray over the top of each super. If they are testy, I spray more heavily. Keeps them from flying.

I also spray plain water to move them around -- to clear them from the top bars before replacing a super for example.

jsully said...

I like it. I am a novice but I try to be easy on my colony. Sugar water seems like a more zen way to tend them. Thanks

Unknown said...

I try to get a lot of smoke in the air so when workers returning to the hive have to fly through it.

haiku_fish said...

I was not taught to use smoke or anything else. I am new at this, but so far, the girls have not minded my visits at all. I move slowly and easily. Very small hive at this point though!

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