A lot of people don't know what to look for or what checklist they should be going through to make sure their hive is strong and healthy.
This article will go over the best and easiest ways to check your hive. Now a good hive is a hive that has constant and consistent checking. A lazy beekeeper will find their hive will suffer and or swarm. So the first thing you need to do is maintain a consistent checking schedule. Most beekeepers work on a 10-day schedule for checking a hive. Why 10 days you ask? Well, the main reason is to prevent swarming. It only takes a Queen bee 15-16 days of gestation in a Queen cell before hatching, so a 10 day schedule will allow you to prevent swarming, why not 14 days you say, well once a Queen senses a lot of Queen cells within the hive she prepares herself for swarming and generally a Queen can leave a couple days before a cell actually emerges, this means a Queen can leave on day 11 or 12 in the cells gestation period. So if you don't go into your hive every 10 days you can lose a lot of your bees to swarming especially at the beginning of the season. So the first step to being a good beekeeper is consistently checking your hive once every 10 days.
Ok, so what do you need to do when you are checking your hive. There are 4 basic elements in which you need to make sure to check during your hive inspection. The first three elements are pollen, nectar and new eggs. When checking your hive these three elements are crucial in your hives health. If you are missing one of these elements you need to take action with either supplemental feeding of either pollen substitute or sugar syrup and or re Queening. A lot of new beekeepers believe is crucial in finding the Queen when they check the hive if they don't find her the hive may be in peril. That is not true. You only need to see one-day old eggs that the Queen has laid. Once you establish you have one-day old eggs you know you have a laying Queen. Now just because you have a laying Queen doesn't mean you have a very good Queen, you need to establish whether the Queen is of good quality at bare minimum. In general terms, a first-year Queen has a much higher egg laying capacity compared to a second, third year Queen. Most commercial beekeepers re Queen every year to maintain a high egg laying capacity with 1st year Queens. A ten-frame hive with 10 frames of bees should have 6 - 8 frames of brood. If you find your Queen isn't producing about 6 - 8 solid frames of brood for the population of bees within the hive you should think about re Queening your hive. It is best to look up a good brood pattern image on google to understand what a good pattern looks like. The last and most probably important element is disease recognition and prevention. A great book to read is Elimination of American Foul Brood and Control of Varroa. These books go into depth on the main diseases and pests that can occur in your hive. Varroa is a major threat to your hive that needs consistent monitoring. If you don’t take preventative steps to kill Varroa in your hive, your hive will die. Varroa can kill and cause many different bee diseases within your hive. So Varroa control is a must for your hives health. Reading the book Control of Varroa will give you a better insight of Varroa and how best to combat them. American Foul Brood is a bacterial disease, this disease emulsifies larvae as they are pupating creating a brown sludge. The only treatment for this is to burn your hive to prevent the bacteria from being transferred from your infected bees to your other hives. To get a better understanding of this disease you should read the Elimination of American Foul Brood book which can be found on our website
Once you have checked off each of these four elements within your hive you can happily say that your hive will be nice and strong. Now you need to continue to do these checks, making sure these elements are constantly checked and maintained in order to have a strong hive for the ultimate goal of bringing in as much nectar as possible to reap the hard work and effort you have put into your bees.