How to open and examine your hive

You should always wear protective equipment when you work your hive. You should light your
smoker before getting started. I have often been asked how I keep my smoker going out. Seems some people have smokers go out just about the time they need them. The key is to take time to get the smoker going before rushing off to the bees. There are many types of smoker fuel. I can remember learning how to build a fire as a boy scout. Start small and then add new material slowly to the fire. Don’t dump a lot of smoker fuel onto a newly started fire. You will smoother the fire and it will go out. The goal is to have a good cool flow of smoke when you press the bellows on the smoker. Remember to add fuel periodically. Keep a lighter on hand in the event the fire goes out. Wet fuel will not burn as well. One other thing, inspect the hive during the mid part of the day. Select a day when the bees are flying and seem very busy. Avoid cloudy overcast days or days with threatening weather. Follow a flexible schedule, checking the bees no more than two or three times per month. First, make sure all is ready. Do you have your hive tool? Is the smoker going? What about neighbors? Children?

Approach the hive from the side if possible. Do not stand in front of the entrance. If you do, you will notice a crowd of bees in a holding pattern behind you. Use your hive tool to remove the top cover. I like to lay the top cover on the ground next to the hive with the bottom side up. Blow a little smoke toward the entrance. Notice that I said a little smoke. You don’t need a lot. Avoid excessive smoke blowing into the frames. Next remove the inner cover. Bees have a tendency to glue this down to the inner side of the hive with propolis, so you may have to pry the inner cover off. Keep your smoker handy. Once the inner cover is off the top bars of the frames in the top box (super) are exposed. Bees will start to migrate toward the disturbance and you will notice them coming up between the
top bars. You can apply a little smoke to calm them down.

A few may
become air borne and fly about you. Ignore them.

Keep in mind: How to open and examine your hive:   You should always wear protective equipment when you work your hive. You should light your smoker before getting started. I have often been asked how I keep my smoker going out. Seems some people have smokers go out just about the time they need them. The key is to
take time to get the smoker going before rushing off to the bees. There are many types of smoker fuel. I can remember learning how to build a fire as a boy scout. Start small and then add new material slowly to the fire. Don’t dump a lot of smoker fuel onto a newly started fire. You will smoother the fire and it will go out. The goal is to have a good cool flow of smoke when you press the bellows on the smoker. Remember to add fuel periodically. Keep a lighter on hand in the event the fire goes out. Wet fuel will not burn as well. One other thing, inspect the hive during the mid part of the day. Select a day when the bees are flying and seem very busy. Avoid cloudy overcast days or days with threatening weather. Follow a flexible schedule, checking the bees no more than two or three times per month.

First, make sure all is ready. Do you have your hive tool? Is the smoker going? What about neighbors? Children? Approach the hive from the side if possible. Do not stand in front of the entrance. If you do,
you will notice a crowd of bees in a holding pattern behind you.
Use your hive tool to remove the top cover. I like to lay the top cover on the ground next to
the hive with the bottom side up. Blow a little smoke toward the entrance. Notice that I said a
little smoke. You don’t need a lot. Avoid excessive smoke blowing into the frames.
Next remove the inner cover. Bees have a tendency to glue this down to the inner side of the
hive with propolis, so you may have to pry the inner cover off. Keep your smoker handy.
Once the inner cover is off the top bars of the frames in the top box (super) are exposed. Bees
will start to migrate toward the disturbance and you will notice them coming up between the
top bars. You can apply a little smoke to calm them down. A few may
become air borne and fly about you. Ignore them.
Keep in mind: 

1. Move slowly — avoid quick sudden movement.

2. Don’t spend a lot of time with the hive open.

3. Close the hive if you need to leave the bee yard.

Since this is a new hive, you could or should be looking for:

1. Are the bees building new comb on the foundation you put into the hive? New comb is
nice and white or slightly yellow. Check the number of blank frames.

2. Are all frames drawn out? This depends on how long the bees have been in the hive. If
the comb is drawn out (the bees have made new comb over the foundation), do you
have a new super to add to the colony? I like to add a new super when 1-2 frames of
the comb are still to be drawn out. The last frames to be drawn out are the ones on the
outside of the hive body. The bees will instinctively store honey in these outside frames.
Don’t take it away from them.

3. Can you recognize brood? It will be located in the center of the frame of comb. It is tan
to dark brown in color. It may be hard to see eggs especially in new comb that is
demonstrated above, but you should learn how to spot them. They look like little spots
of sugar at the bottom of cells. Larva is easier to spot — they look like pearly white worms
coiled within a cell. The capped brook is brownish in color. Older comb turns dark in
color. This is because of travel stain and also brood raised in comb turns the comb dark- -sometimes almost brown/ black. If you can see eggs you do
not need to find the queen to know that you have one.

4. Can you recognize capped honey? Capped honey will be
found in an arch across the top of the comb. If it is unsealed, it
will be a liquid. When sealed, the cappings are a distinct whitish
color. You will also see cells that have a yellow or brownish
substance in them. These cells contain pollen. A normal hive will
have most of the frame filled with brood, a small arch of honey
at the top of the frame and some pollen stored between the
two. It is not unusual to find a frame which is almost all brood in a strong hive.

5. Get ready to close the hive if you are satisfied that all is well. If you have a feeling that
all is not right with the hive, you can email me with some photos and I will try to give you
information based upon what I am able to see.
New hives benefit greatly from supplemental feeding. Pollen patties and sugar syrup speed up
the building of comb. It is essential to feed new hives. Feeding will be discussed shortly.

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