bees/ Farm Animals/ gardening/ Homesteading

Honey Bees – Checking the Hive

July 30, 2016 (Last Updated: June 17, 2019)

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Honey Bee Maintenance: Checking the Hive
Honey Bees - Checking the Hives

 I am a novice beekeeper. Currently I have two bee hives and they are both thriving. Two years ago I had one hive and they survived through the first winter but then I lost all of the bees by the end of spring. I think the hive lost its queen and just wasn’t able to recover. They were eventually overtaken by every other flying insect; yellow jackets, hornets, and other honey bees. They came in and stole all their honey. My bees were either killed, left to find a better home, or joined another hive.

This spring I started again. This time with two hives. And this time, I’ve learned a thing or two.

Checking the honey bee hive.

Things I’ve learned when raising bees:

  • Bees need you. They can be totally self sufficient, but since you’ve provided them a hive you need to make certain it’s an adequate size or they will find another place to live.
  • Check the hive at least every two weeks. You are looking to see how full the frames are. If 3/4 of the frames have comb you want to add another box with empty frames.  You are also checking for brood. Is there new larva? Is there capped larva? Is there honey? Are there any queen cells?
  • When checking the hive and pulling out the frames, wear a bee suit. Yeah….I thought I didn’t need to wear one one time…
  • Never wear black fleece when checking your bee hive and pulling out frames….see above. Black fleece resembles, perhaps ….a bear. They really don’t like big black fuzzy things getting into their hive.
  • Check for the queen. I don’t see the queen very often, but there are signs of a queen. If the queen is present and active, you will see lots of larva at different stages.  The picture below shows worker bees tending to the larva. The open cells contain larva at different stages and the ones with the caps are in the pupa stage. The total development time is 21 days for worker bees. Notice the bee towards the top center with yellow on either side? That is pollen stuck to its legs. Pollen is fed to the larva or turned into honey.

Honey Bees and Larva

The queen bee can be seen in the picture below. She is the HUGE bee in the center. I don’t know how she can be so elusive most of the time. Once you find her, you know it right away. The cells she is walking on with the white coating contain honey.

The queen bee!

I love watching my bees. They are truly fascinating. If you’ve ever wondered where the term, “Busy as Bees” came from, all you need to do is watch a bee hive. I don’t suit up when I am near my bee hives. Only if I am going to open up the boxes and pull out all the frames. That is when they think I am a predator. At other times, they don’t pay me any notice at all.

Honey bee covered with pollen.

The orange on the bee above is pollen. This bee just landed and is working his way into the box.  The picture below shows how busy the opening is. The bees are constantly moving and flying in and out of the boxes.

Honey Bees Checking the Hive

I still have a lot to learn about bee keeping. I’m hoping for healthy hives and lots of honey!

Check out Harvesting Honey!

You might also enjoy reading these posts:

 Honey Bees Starting a New Hive

honey bees

and Honey Bees

Bee hive in the winter.


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  • Reply
    August 2, 2016 at 7:49 am

    I think these posts are fascinating! I never knew the thing about wearing black. Very cool.

    • Reply
      August 3, 2016 at 5:52 am

      There are probably some bee keepers that don’t worry about the colors they wear…for me…no black fleece!

  • Reply
    August 1, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Informative post.Loved reading it. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    August 1, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    Great explanations here. Thanks Kathy. Enjoying your blog.

  • Reply
    Cheyanne @ No Spoon Necessary
    August 1, 2016 at 10:17 am

    Oh geez, you are MUCH braver than I am, Kathy! While I would love to have bee hives, I’d be too scared of them!! Glad your hives are thriving this year! Thanks for sharing all your tips.. you never know, one day I may muster the nerve! Cheers, friend!

    • Reply
      August 3, 2016 at 6:09 am

      I just hope my bees keep on keeping on. 🙂

  • Reply
    Anu - My Ginger Garlic Kitchen
    August 1, 2016 at 10:13 am

    Wow! I didn’t know you are a beekeeper. Your bees and hive are just so beautiful. Love such posts, Kathy. Thanks for all the info.

    • Reply
      August 3, 2016 at 6:10 am

      I’m still learning the ropes of beekeeping.

  • Reply
    Dawn @ Girl Heart Food
    August 1, 2016 at 10:12 am

    That is seriously super cool, Kathy! I loved this post! Good to know about not wearing fleece around the hive, not that I’m gonna get that close 😉 I love seeing bees in the garden…it’s wasps I don’t like. I’m sure they purposely chase me. Bees are much nicer 🙂

    • Reply
      August 1, 2016 at 6:02 pm

      Those little bees just stuck all over the fleece…and yes, I did get stung. I don’t like wasps either.

  • Reply
    August 1, 2016 at 10:01 am

    wow this was very interesting, loved reading it! Thanks for sharing all this information Kathy!

    • Reply
      August 1, 2016 at 5:47 pm

      Thanks! I find the bees very interesting. I’m glad you do too!

  • Reply
    Mary Ann | The Beach House Kitchen
    August 1, 2016 at 9:43 am

    So interesting Kathy!! You’re braver than me for sure!!

    • Reply
      August 1, 2016 at 5:43 pm

      Honey bees are pretty gentle….until you start disturbing their hive. They don’t like that very much!

  • Reply
    Geraldine | Green Valley Kitchen
    August 1, 2016 at 8:28 am

    Love these posts, Kathy – and I’d love to have a bee hive or two. How much honey do you harvest from them? I’d love to see a post on how you gather the honey. Thanks for an educational post!

    • Reply
      August 1, 2016 at 5:42 pm

      Hopefully I can harvest honey this fall. Will keep you posted as to how much!

  • Reply
    David @ Spiced
    August 1, 2016 at 4:50 am

    Love this post, Kathy! I’ve always toyed with the idea of how fun it would be to have bee hives…but I thought they might not do well this far north. Clearly they do ok though since that photo of yours shows the hive covered in snow. Do they come back each spring? (You might have to wait until next year to answer that one I know…) Either way, I love it! You’re gonna inspire me to try my hand at beekeeping one of these days!!

    • Reply
      August 1, 2016 at 5:40 am

      The bees stay in the hive all winter (if you are lucky :)) Sometimes they won’t survive a winter, but often they do just fine.

  • Reply
    Miriam -
    August 1, 2016 at 1:58 am

    How exciting to have your own bee hive! Bees are such fantastic creatures – I always try to have bee friendly plants in my garden. They especially love my lavender ♡

    • Reply
      August 1, 2016 at 5:33 am

      Lavender is a great plant for bees! Good for you for making certain they have plenty of great plants.

  • Reply
    July 31, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    My friend also has bees and it was pretty interesting reading this post! Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      August 1, 2016 at 5:36 am

      Thanks, Mira!

  • Reply
    allie @ Through Her Looking Glass
    July 30, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    Hey Kathy — love your bees and hive. Learned a lot, even though my close friend Susan has bees and she tells me all about the process. I know it takes a lot of educating to learn to be a bee keeper. Love all these great pictures and I can just imagine how rewarding it is to taste that sweet golden honey. So delicious!

    • Reply
      August 1, 2016 at 5:36 am

      I still have so much to learn. I’m hoping I get a lot of honey 🙂

  • Reply
    Fran @ G'day Souffle'
    July 30, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    How fascinating! I was stung once by a bee on my finger tip and it was so painful. A very interesting post with lots of information!

    • Reply
      August 1, 2016 at 5:37 am

      Ouch! I’ve been stung by my bees many times….wearing the black fleece didn’t help. They do hurt, but yellow jackets, hornets, and wasps are much worse than bee stings.

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