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“Regular hive inspections are an important way to proactively manage the health of your hive. In the following video, join Eliese Watson to learn about the five inspection questions you should ask every time you inspect your hive.  In every inspection,  you should be looking for answers to ABC Bees’s five inspection questions.

Question 1 you should be asking: Are you queenright? I’m looking for eggs and larvae. Do you see eggs at the bottom of the cells? These are most easily spotted if you place the sun over your shoulder and allow the bottom of the cell to be illuminated. There should only be one egg per cell.  Do you see the queen? Is she followed by a retinue of bees? Is she strong-looking? Are her wings and body fully intact? A soft marker for the queenright colony is that you’re able to see festooning or daisy chaining. This is when bees cling together to transfer pheromones, and food and draw wax. A colony without a queen including a mated or virgin queen is unlikely to festoon. Because festooning is a soft marker, you must see eggs or queens. If you see none of these three indicators you should consider yourself at risk of being queenless.

The second inspection question you should be asking is: How is the brood pattern? Poking at your capped brood and being inquisitive is key to ensuring that you are proactive and not reactive to the health and well-being of your colony. Learning and memorizing the brood cycle, what healthy brood looks like, and knowing the difference between capped honey, capped worker brood, and drone brood. 

Question three you should ask: Are there signs of queen replacement? Looking through your hive and keeping an eye out for queen cells and cups is a good habit. Having a watchful eye is key, as in many cases, if a colony is raising a new queen there will be many bees covering the cell and keeping it fed and warm. Queen cells are the most obvious once they are fully drawn and the queen has already entered the pupation stage. It is best if you can notice a queen cell in larval development first as it will give you more time to decide on what best course of action in your management choice a pool of royal jelly which is rich white color and easy to distinguish.

Question four you should be asking in every hive inspection: Is your colony increasing or decreasing in size? This is a value that you gather from reviewing the number of brood frames that you have on the day of your inspection. You will compare that number with your previous week’s inspection and see, if the colony increasing or decreasing in size. In managing honey bees on the high plains, your brood population will grow and decline in reflection of the increase and decrease of daylight hours. So if you’re headed from the spring equinox to the summer solstice, you should anticipate a consistent increase in brood rearing. The opposite is the same, as the seasons head toward the fall equinox and winter solstice.

Therefore keeping track of the number of frames that have brood on them will help you map out your brood population over time and aid in knowing if your colony is following the expected trend. 

Your final question in your hive inspections is not the least important. Number five is: Are there any signs of brood disease? Checking for disease always is a beekeeper’s priority. A population growing at an incredible rate and with such a large number of bees, disease transmission is always a concern. Keeping an eye out for unusual brood patterning and sunken and punctured cell cappings will help you catch disease earlier.”

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