Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Mid Year Bee Hive Inspection

Bees on Hive

I’ve had my new batch of bees since the beginning of May. Time to check on how they are doing inside the hive. I watch them from the outside regularly, so I know they are busy bees (ugh bad pun).

Bee Hive

I have a top bar hive I built last year in my backyard. It sits in a sunny spot since the bees like the sun. It is surrounded by milkweeds on one side, a garden bed on the other, and a fence on the remaining sides.

Bee Suit Hive Inspection

The first step was to remove some of the weeds from the back side, and then take off the cover. I like working on the hive from the side opposite the entrance. This way, I am not in the way of the bees coming and going which I hope places less stress on them. Inside the cover, I found a small wasp’s nest starting. I removed it. The bees don’t need any competition so close to home.

Honeybee Hive Inspection

Next, I carefully remove each bar one at a time and look at it. I use a sharp bread knife as my only tool. It comes in handy to unstick stuck bars and to cut the bridge comb. Bridge comb is some extra support bees sometimes add to the honeycomb by attaching it to the walls of the hive rather than to just the top bars.

Bee Suit Hive Inspection

I don’t usually use a smoker. I have one, but only used it once last year, and not at all this year. I have so far found, the top bar setup keeps the bees less stressed since I am only removing a small part of the hive, one bar at a time. The whole hive isn’t completely open, so they can keep working, hopefully feel safer, and less stressed.

Honeybee Hive Inspection

An example of a fully loaded bar. The bees drew the honeycomb as they wished and then filled it as they needed. Looks like mostly capped honey: the white stuff near the top is capped honey for long term storage.

Bee Suit Hive Inspection

Since the honeycomb is supported only on the top, it is important to keep the bar horizontal and the comb vertical to avoid any unnecessary breakage. It was warm out, so the comb was extra soft!

Honeybee Hive Inspection

Another fully loaded comb.

Bee Suit Hive Inspection

I worked slowly and carefully looking at each bar for obvious signs of trouble like mites or disease. Basically stuff that doesn’t look right or a bar that doesn’t match the rest.

Honeybee Hive Inspection

These bees started with the old honeycomb from last year’s failed hive which gave them a jump start on the season. They had ten empty bars of honeycomb to start, and have filled those and made another 10+ which were also filled.

Bee Suit Hive Inspection

They have definitely been very busy. They seem much healthier and more productive than last years bees. I don’t plan on taking any of their honey; especially since my last hive starved to death over the winter. The honey is the bee’s food to get through tough times like winter or drought. I will check on them again soon. I am excited they seem to be doing well.


Thanks to Laura for taking the distant action shots.


  1. Looking good. I didn't remember that your previous hive failed, that's too bad. I wouldn't mind doing something like this but with 2 small kids it'll be a few years until I know they won't pester it. With 2 acres I'll be able to find a spot. I plan to plant some good plants and flowers for wildlife on at least part of my plot.

    1. I can help you build a hive and get setup. Top bar hive is easy to make for less than $50. A tablesaw makes it super easy. Put it away from the house and let it face south. shouldn't be a problem.

      check with your new county and city to make sure they don't have any ordinances against hives or requirements like training/permits. ramsey county doesn't have any restrictions, but cities commonly do.


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