When and How Often to Conduct a Beehive Inspection
Monitoring the health of honeybee colonies is required in beekeeping. It is done in a variable schedule depending on a long list of factors. This article details when and how often you should conduct a beehive inspection. It highlights the factors that you should consider so that you do not miss an important beehive inspection. The major aims of beehive inspections are so that you know the state of the beehive, the health of the honeybee colony, and buildup of beehive products. If you do not carry out inspections on time, you might miss threats to the beehive and the colony it houses. Losses suffered due to such an error on your part are not good for your beekeeping operation.
When to Inspect Beehives
There are many occasions when you have to inspect beehives. In some instances, you do it out of your own volition. Sometimes, however, the inspections are made necessary by unfavorable occurrences that happen in the beehive or apiary. The main instances when beekeepers conduct a beehive inspection are;
Scheduled Beehive Inspection
This is an inspection done in a planned manner. It comes as part of your apiary management routine. A scheduled beehive inspection gives you insights into the progress of your honeybee colony. On average, you should inspect a beehive every 2-3 weeks. The scheduled inspection allows you to identify challenges in time and apply solutions effectively.
Scheduled beehive inspections are well planned for. They can be brief or lengthy, but they must be done thoroughly. Do not take shortcuts or skip some aspects of a beehive inspection to save time. Additionally, it is not in every inspection that you open up the entire beehive. Peeking into each beehive box and examining just a few beehive frames should be enough so you do not expose the honeybee colony to adverse weather conditions.
How to Conduct a Scheduled Beehive Inspection?
Being brief and thorough enables you to conclusively inspect many beehives in a short period of time. In a scheduled beehive inspection, you check for production of beehive products and build up, queen bee presence and egg-laying activity, integrity of beehive components, pests, diseases, parasites and predators. If you had left any treatments behind or were feeding the colony, you check to see the state of applied treatments and feed. If needed, you may remove the treatments and feeders, or replenish them.
Why Do We Recommend Conducting Scheduled Beehive Inspections?
Conducting a beehive inspection in a scheduled manner is the best way for hive inspection. It comes with ample preparation and record keeping about the inspection is not hurried. Your safety and the safety of the honeybee colony are usually not on the line in a scheduled beehive inspection. You have enough time to apply solutions that ensure you do not get stung, and that bees will not be harmed during the inspection.
Both beginner and experienced beekeepers are able to conduct a scheduled beehive inspection successfully. For beginner beekeepers, guidance and being accompanied by an experienced beekeeper is recommended for the first few inspections. It boosts your confidence, ensures mistakes you make are corrected and gives you an opportunity to glean tips from the experienced beekeeper.
Special Beehive Inspection
Circumstances may push you to conduct a beehive inspection. This may be an unscheduled inspection or one which you do soon after a previous inspection. If you identify a problem in the beehive during an inspection, you need to take steps and apply a solution to the problem. Checking up on whether the solution is working makes special beehive inspections necessary.
In a special beehive inspection, you are free to pay attention to one aspect of the bee colony wellbeing. This will be the problem that you are addressing so that you see if your applied solution is working. A brief cursory investigation of other beehive integrity concerns is enough so that you get the most out of the special beehive inspection.
What Causes Need For Special Beehive Inspections?
Situations that could lead to a special beehive inspection being needed include noticing the spread of a disease in the beehive, infestation of pests or parasites, or attacks by predators. In other cases, a failing or missing queen bee will need you to act quickly to save the honeybee colony. Other reasons that could lead to special beehive inspections include poor forage availability that needs you to feed the honeybee colony, among others.
How Long Should A Special Beehive Inspection Last?
Conducting a beehive inspection under special circumstances is usually a fast and brief activity. You might need to come on several such special inspections. In the series of special beehive inspections you conduct, look for progress in solving the problem you had identified. Additionally, take a minute or two to check if there is any other problem coming up.
Try to limit the inspection to the minimum time possible so that there is minimal disturbance to the honeybee colony. It allows the colony to keep its strength as it recovers from whatever challenge it was facing. Once you are sure that the problem is past, and satisfied that the honeybee colony is safe, remove applied solutions such as feeders, moving screens, entrance reducers, chemical strips and small hive beetle traps among others from the beehive.
Avoiding Conducting Special Beehive Inspections
Pre-emptive and preventive measures are best applied so that you do not require carrying out special beehive inspections. Beekeepers doing even a few special inspections of beehives in a production year end up with reduced yields of beehive products from the affected beehives. Apiary management systems and integrated pest and disease control methods are your safest bet in avoiding the rise of circumstances and conditions that necessitate special beehive inspections. Additionally, implementing effective solutions to keep the apiary safe from predators and thieves saves you the troubles that arise from their intrusions.
Influence of Time on When to Conduct a Beehive Inspection
When you need to conduct an apiary inspection, you have to settle on a time within the day to do it. Early morning inspections when honeybees are sluggish allow you to use less smoke in the beehive. The beehive warms up later in the day so you do not risk chilling brood. However, the intrusion in the morning may cause the bees to be aggressive for the rest of the day if you have an aggressive hive.
In the mid hours of the day, you have to contend with active bees. At the same time, most forager bees of the colony will be out of the beehive, so you have a lower number of bees to deal with in total. Lighting is also great since it is clear daytime. You can use sugar water to calm the bees because they will have enough time to groom themselves. Temperatures will be warm, so humidity in the beehive will be returned to its normal state before evening.
Conducting a beehive inspection in the evening is also an option some beekeepers go for. If the inspection is brief enough, they can avoid chilling brood. The advantage of evening inspections is that they take place as the bees are settling in for the night. They are sluggish and not very aggressive. Once you are done with the inspection, they will settle and be calm enough by morning. Unfortunately, lighting will be poor in the evening beehive inspection, and you cannot use sugar water to calm bees in substitution for a bee smoker.
Weather Conditions Influencing When to Conduct a Beehive Inspection
Seasons of the year vary. On the equator and in the tropics, this may not be a big concern. Where there are distinct seasons, beehive inspections in the cold seasons must be very quick while being thorough. You cannot have too many of them or risk destroying the honeybee colony by chilling brood and causing too much resources used to warm the beehive. Rain and snow are another factor you must take into consideration when conducting a beehive inspection.
You should analyze all these weather conditions and variables against the temperature at the apiary, wind and humidity in the immediate area before deciding whether to conduct the beehive inspection or not.
Lucky for beekeepers across the world, BeeKeepPal has a tool to help you analyze these factors and decide when they are best suited for a beehive inspection. Use this free tool so you do not run the risk of misreading weather conditions and hurting the honeybee colonies you love. The free CheckInspect tool is online software that only requires you to input your location. It will then give you forecasts and recommendations on whether to go inspecting your beehives.
How Often Should You Conduct a Beehive Inspection
The frequency of conducting beehive inspections is important. Scheduling beehive inspections too far apart causes you to miss early signs of trouble in the beehive. Having too many inspections within a period of time causes unwanted disturbance and disruption of beehive activities carried out by the honeybee colony. BeeKeepPal apiary management software is a powerful scheduling tool for beekeepers. It is suitable for planning and reminding you when a beehive inspection is due. It can also recommend inspections following up on identified problems that you are addressing in a beehive. In deciding when to schedule your next beehive inspection, take into consideration the following factors;
Age of Honeybee Colony
Young recently installed honeybee colonies need to be checked on until they settle into the beehive. Visit the beehive and observe it from a distance for signs of activity. If needed, you can go in for a closer look. Keep the visit and inspection brief to cause minimal disruption. Too much interference in the hive causes the bees to feel unsafe and may abscond (leaving the beehive to set up their colony elsewhere).
Established beehives with a strong honeybee colony do not need frequent monitoring. You only need to do your scheduled inspections just in case any problems arise.
Time of Year
In the various seasons, different activities happen in beehives. Additionally, varying challenges face the honeybee colony by season. Depending on each season, adjust the frequency of your beehive inspections for maximum vigilance against threats. One season you are dealing with reduced resources in the environment and foraging fields, in the other you have to look out for increased risk of small hive beetles infesting the beehive. Preventive measures ensure you do not have to deal with these challenges. The warm seasons allow a higher number of beehive inspections that can be detailed. In the cold seasons, avoid opening up the beehive unnecessarily.
Treating the beehives for any parasites or diseases requires you to check up on the beehive. You monitor the effectiveness of the treatment closely so you are sure if it is working. If you do not see improvement within reasonable time, change the treatment to the available alternative. Once treatment is over, remove residual treatment equipment and components so that you do not over-expose your honeybee colony to chemical elements. Timely removal of treatments also contributes to the chemical elements dissipating from beehive products to acceptable levels.
If you are applying feeding to add strength to your honeybee colony, check on it frequently. Good beekeeping expects you to only have fresh feed for your honeybees. Fermented sugar syrups cause you problems in the beehive by making bees sick. Additionally, feed such as pollen patties that have been depleted need to be restocked. Inspections triggered by feeding can be brief. You do not need to open up the beehive. Feeders used at the entrance of the beehive do not even need you to open up the beehive at all. Other types of feeders placed at the top of beehives require minimal opening of the beehive at the top. In-frame feeders need the most opening up of the beehive for you to reach them and replenish them or remove for cleaning.
Recent Events in and Around the Beehive
Beekeepers have a lot to contend with. Apiary safety and security are factors that ultimately influence beehive inspections. In the unfortunate event that you have had an intrusion into the apiary and beehives damaged or disturbed, you should increase your vigilance for the wellbeing of the honeybees. Check to see whether they have settled back into the beehive or are preparing to swarm away. In some cases, the intruder – be it a human or animal – may cause an infection to take root in the beehives they come into contact with. You cannot, therefore, drop your vigilance for these bad effects of breached apiary security until you are sure no adverse results will be realized. In the aftermath of the intrusion, make sure to put in place measures that will prevent subsequent intrusions of similar or different kind.
Alerts by Agricultural Authorities
Every jurisdiction has agricultural authorities and regulations that may affect or be applied to beekeeping. Agricultural authorities ultimately have a say over beekeeping. Some have put in place surveillance systems that help them identify threats to beekeeping in their area. If you receive advance warning about a problem for beekeeping in your area, it is good to check on your beehives and see if they are affected. Keep this up until the threat has passed. Most commonly, such threats include outbreaks of bee diseases, and predators such as bears being sighted.
Conducting a beehive inspection is an experience every beekeeper goes through repeatedly. It is a simple and fun activity checking on your honeybees and making their habitat suitable for them. Proper beehive inspections take minimum time and only cause as much disruption as is absolutely necessary. Beginner beekeepers should not be afraid of conducting a beehive inspection. You will learn and gain experience with each inspection you conduct. Use the tips and pointers in this article for best decisions on when and how often to conduct a beehive inspection.