What to Look For During a Hive Inspection

Beehives being inspected
Beehives being inspected

We had a question a couple of weeks ago, We were asked “What do you look for when doing a hive inspection”. Over the weekend we did some inspections for customers, We are both DECA certificated which helps us look for diseases in the hive unfortunately one of the customers hive did have America Foul Brood (AFB) and needed to be destroyed.

These are the kind of things we were looking for.

Sign of Diseases

The Ropiness testThe first thing we look signs of diseases in a colony that includes American foul brood (AFB), Deformed Wing Virus on Bees (sign of a high varroa count), can you see varroa mites in the drone comb.

Check the colour of the cappings of the brood, is it discoloured, is in sunken at all. Do the capping’s have a hole in them?
We encourage you to learn about the different diseases in your area and how to spot them, In New Zealand we recommend you do DECA course. Once you have been keeping bees for around six months.

Enough Stores

Loads of HoneyDo the bees have enough stores; this depends on the time of year you are looking at them. If it’s the middle of summer and there is a honey flow on, this won’t be as critical. Generally you need four or five full frames of honey in the hives; this can be spread across the whole hive.

Queen has enough space.

The Queen from Honey 1 - Can you the eggs?Does the Queen have enough space to lay her eggs; you don’t want to have a situation that she runs out space. What you generally get then is a bees swarm. You need at least six or seven frames for brood. We generally have two full sized broods, we have seen up to twelve frames of brood in our stronger hives. When it gets to that stage it’s probably time to think about splitting the hive.

Is the Queen laying well?

Is the queen laying well? Can you see the different stages of brood, Eggs, Larva, capped brood? Sometimes it’s almost impossible to find the Queen in the full hive. Next Best thing is to find Eggs in the hive.
*** KM Tip – The Queen will generally be on the frame with the newest eggs in a hive ***


    There are things we look for during a hive inspection

  • Diseases
  • Enough Stores
  • Enough Space for the Queen to Lay Eggs
  • Sign of the Queen or the Queen.

What do you look for when inspecting your hives?

Did we miss anything, what do you look for when you inspect your colonies? Please comment below:-

2 thoughts on “What to Look For During a Hive Inspection

  1. Avatar photo
    Debi says:

    I just love your simple easy to understand instructions. When opening a hive I find there are just so many things to look for, I tend to forget, and maybe get fixated with one of two tasks and forget the others. I start looking for the queen, and keep looking, and think, no look at the brood pattern , and relight the smoker, O and remember to look for drones and drone cells, and how many frames have brood,and then I forget to look for the queen, O and look for queen cells, and when I close up the hive I think, gosh, how much honey did they have!!!! I suppose it takes experience to look at a frame and see everything there is to see on it and not all over the place like me.Sometimes I feel I shld make a list and tick it off but when trying to do all these things on a colder day I want to make sure I close i t up as soon as possible so as not to chill them.

    • Avatar photo
      Gary Fawcett says:

      Hi Debi,

      Thanks for the comment, always fantastic to hear from you.

      Yep indeed we are pretty simple folks :), you are most welcome. We hope to have more articles like this, so watch this space. We love to answer our reader’s questions and this articles stems from such a question.

      Yep finding the Queen isn’t as important as finding evidence that she is working well in the hive. In a big hive finding the queen at the height of summer is almost as impossible as winning lotto.

      One idea you could try is record your inspection on your cell phone, my Samsung has a recording feature. As you do the inspection, say what you are finding. The neighbors will think you are mad, but ours already know that anyway :D.

      When you are finished you can play back the recording and take some detailed notes.

      Oh and we will have a post coming soon about how to light a smoker, so look out for that one. See ya…Gary

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *