Hive inspection is not only fun, but necessary! Once you reach a certain number of hives, it is almost impossible to remember what hive was in what shape. I have seen people use colored tags on hives to indicate the need to add supers or to feed. I have seen people scribble in notepads. I have even seen people use a brick and turn it different directions to indicate what state the hive is in. Whatever system you use is fine as long as you have a good consistent one. I have tried these “Little Giant Beehive Logs”, and they are reasonable. They are easy to carry around, waterproof, and simple. However, they do not provide all of the information I need to keep up with my hives from season to season.
Here is a list and explanation of my Hive Inspection Sheet. I will attach an Excel File of my sheet you can feel free to modify to suit your needs.
This is merely what the hive consists of. How many supers? Is there a queen excluder? Is there a pollen trap I need to check? Just knowing how many boxes full of bees you have is a good indicator of the state of the hive.
Did you find the Queen? Was she marked? Was there a new Queen. This is important in the South. You can very easily have you hive taken over by Africanized bees. I always try to mark my queen so I know here age, and whether there is a new queen in the hive.
3.) Brood Pattern
A good brood pattern is a sign of a healthy hive and a good queen. If there are chewed cappings and a spotty brood pattern, it may be a sign of Varroa Mites. If there are drone cells all over the frame, your queen may be old and laying drones.
4.) Eggs and Larvae Present
Just having a brood pattern only tells you so much. Eggs take +/-3.5 Days to hatch, and then it is in a larvae stage for +/- 9 days prior to capping. If all you see in your hive is capped brood, you may not have had a queen for 12 days. However, if you do not see any eggs, but do have larvae, you can deduce from the size of the larvae how long the queen has been gone.
Were there copious amounts of bees? If not, were there on the last inspection. Is the hive dwindling down. If it’s close to winter, maybe this is a time to take a super off.
This is extremely important to me. I breed bees, and I do not want to sell bees or queens that are aggressive. I will be out of business very quickly. Plus, I do not like messing with a “hot” hive. It is no fun. When they get this way, it is time to requeen the hive.
7.) Drones Present
This is a good indicator for me when I should begin raising queens in the early Spring. The hive will not start cranking out Drones until it’s time, and there is enough pollen and nectar coming in to support them.
8.) Queen Cells
If there are queen cells, what type are they? Is the hive getting ready to swarm, or are they replacing a bad queen? Worse yet, did they loose a queen?
See my blog on types of queen cells for more.
Are there sign of disease in the hive I need to start treating for? Is there Varroa? How may hives do I have exhibiting a problem?
Is this hive bringing in nectar? Has it brought in nectar in the past? Are the hives around it doing better? Some hives just do not produce. That is poor genetics. This may be a reason to requeen that hive. If they do not build up good stores, then they may not be prepared to survive the winter.
Is there pollen coming in and being stored. Pollen contains 10 essential amino acids essential for good brood rearing. If they are not bringing in an adequate supply and adequate variety of pollen, it may be another reason to requeen.
12.) Hive Recommendations
Under this section are options of actions to take on each hive. Should I add Supers, or Split the hive. Does it need to be requeened? Do I need to remove a pollen trap or reverse my boxes? This is a plan for my next apiary visit so I bring the proper equipment with me.
As you can see, there is a lot to remember about each hive, and taking good notes is essential in saving your time, and it may make the difference in saving a hive.
Click the link below for my hive inspection sheet. you can also buy them from your beekeeping distributor. Mann-Lake has a good one for instance.
Good luck and good record keeping!