Beehive inspection is a very critical practice to be carried out to all hives on a regular basis, especially the brood. This is an important management practice as it helps farmers to determine the presence or absence of many established pests and diseases within the hive. It is also an important precautionary measure for beekeepers to identify any exotic pests that may be in their hives, such as the exotic Varro a mite.
Hive inspection will enable the farmer to know:
- The productive colonies
- The colonies with less tendency of swarming
- Performance of the queen
- The presence of pests, predators and diseases
- Whether to make a division
- If the colony needs a new queen
- When to harvest honey
The farmer should:
- Examine the brood and colony at least several times a year during spring, summer and autumn.
- Make sure that the circumstances are suitable to inspect the colony. For instance, do not start the inspection if the weather is likely to be wet or cold, or if there are people or animals in the vicinity.
- Make an assessment of the level of activity at the entrance of the hive. Observe whether honey bees are flying, if there are any dead honey bees, or if honey bees are bringing in pollen.
- Keep records of your inspections and write down any occurrence, or suspicion, of diseases.
- Always be calm and methodical when working with hives, and try to avoid any sudden or sharp actions.
While inspecting the hive the farmer should;
- Remove a brood frame (without the queen bee) and shake most of the honey bees back into the hive or at the hive entrance, leaving the brood comb clear for inspection.
- Hold the frame by the top and inspect the brood thoroughly.
- Look for symptoms associated with established pests and diseases of honey bee colonies.
- Look for any queen bee cells on the comb surface and bottom side of the comb, and if present, remove to reduce swarming potential.
- Repeat this for all brood frames.
- Place combs back in the same sequence and orientation as they were at the start of the inspection, unless you have planned to manipulate the combs for a management reason.
- Make sure that the frames are tightly pushed together to provide the correct bee space.
- Record what you observe and note any pests and diseases that you have identified. Look at possible control or management options.