Basti inspection

The first hives inspection: in what does it consist of?

Are you ready? Today I will tell you more about the first hives inspection of the year. Yep, it’s not enough to by the hive and place it in the most proper location. Beehives needs inspections, because you have to check – according to the season more or less often – how is the situation in general and how bees are. The very first inspection of the year is particularly important. Would you like to find out more about when, how and especially why? Keep on reading 🙂

When to carry out the first hives inspection of the year?

Let’s start from the very first detail: ok the first inspection, but when exactly? How can I know when it is the right moment? When to proceed without making any mess?

Of course, there is not a fixed date or a specific moment. Moreover, it may depend from region to region, from year to year. In general we can state that the first inspection should be carried out when nice weather starts and higher temperatures become less and less uncommon.

For us here in Saxony, for example, it’s generally beginning/half March. Hence, first of all, take care of the temperature. Bear in mind that when you open the hives, you’d better to avoid to spoil what the hard-working bees had done till that moment to keep the internal temperature and manage to survive. Another detail that makes Basti understanding when it is the right moment for the first check is when he sees the bees at our pond (we introduced it to you in our last post here https://www.gaeblini.com/en/2021/04/04/where-to-place-the-beehives/ ). If bees start to search for water, this means that they are breeding and they consider the winter officially over. Here again another thing so much simple as special, try to notice this from now on: if you see some bees busy with collecting water, well…this means that they are running like a fool in their hives!

Ok! Once clarified when to proceed, let’s focus on a more practical part: how!

How can we carry out the first hives inspection?

As far as our hives are concerned, for instance, we can check by observing them from above, by taking off softly the beehive cover. It’s important to don’t touch the honeycombs because bees are still grouped all together in a kind a ball. They start to group in this ball-shape before winter starting.

In winter our hives have two boxes (two brood boxes). So, starting from the upper one, if the first brood box is empty (me ‘Empty???’ Basti ‘Yes yes, no worries it can happen!’), you check the one below. What is most important in this moment is what you are checking, this is an essential question! You are checking, but exactly what? Which are the details you should mainly consider? What should you expect from this inspection?

Yes, actually…what are we exactly checking??

It’s about a check to see if…?

…if the bees have enough food!

It’s essential that they have enough food when they start to breed! An interesting fact: it may happen that there is still honey in the beehive, but this is not ‘reacheable’ from the bees.

Me: Sorry but are you telling me that if, for example, the bees have honey at the honeycomb above, they don’t touch it??

Basti: Genaut (=correct!)

What do you know about the first hives inspection of the year?
Basti during an inspection

At my question-mark face, he tried to make it simpler to me this way: it’s like if it is a house full of fridges all around, in a only-closed-supermarket world. Bees can eat only what is at the closest available fridge. Once this fridge is empty, they proceed to the following one, always keeping each other as closest as possible. Bear in mind that bees in winter don’t have any winter sleep, but they stay close to each other (in this ball-shape) to keep the warm tempreature. Hence, they really need to eat, and much! They spend the whole winter super close one to the other and they move from honeycomb to honeycomb only together. When they start to breed, right from this moment on they stop to move. They are not so many, it’s not so warm yet (especially over the night or it could be also a false spring starting) and their priority is taking care of the brood and keep the warm temperature. Paradoxically, there is the possibility that there are honeycombs still with honey but in that moment they only care of taking care of the brood and keep the right temperature for them.

After this clarification, now have you better understood what you’re checking?

It’s essential to understand where the brood exactly is and observing it near it, there is enough food. You can lift up the honeycombs near the bees, if you see that they are empty you will replace them with some food, so as to make it accessible.

Me: Wait, I’ve a question: so if the beequeen has started to lay eggs, maybe is it better also to add empty honeycombs so as to let her have more space?

Basti: No no no, they are still too less at the moment! They need to stay close to each other and keep the right temperature. It’s too early to add more honeycombs!

And if the honeycombs are all empty? Is it possible that there is no more honeycomb with food? At least as far as our beehives are concerned, we have 22 honeycombs in each beehive. At the beginning of the winter we take care that they are all full of food, both of their honey and the additioanl sugar&water solution we prepare.

Bees haven’t used all the 22 for sure, so at the end of winter we can always find some still full of food to put closer to them. In any case, we have always some spare ones with honey.

What about a recap?

So, at the very first inspection, make sure that:

  • Bees are all together, close to each other. Not here and there, they should be found between three and five honeycombs. Needless to say, each hive has only one bee-group, because there is only one beequeen and they all take care to stay next to her.
  • they are fine
  • they’re breeding
  • there is enough food near them

Sad story: unfortunately it can happen that you open the hive and it’s completely empty. What can you do in these cases? It’s very important to close well the hive, before bees start to rob to each other. What does this robbing mean? It means that bees from other hives will try to steal the food left in the empty one. In the end they may kill each other.

The essential point of the first year hives inspection is to understand if they have survived the winter, make certain that bees are ok and that they can keep on without issues.

And this was only the first inspection 🙂 have you realised how much it’s important? Let us know the most interesting thing you found out by reading this article!

We’ll update you about further beehives checks!

A hug,

The Gäblini

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