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As a new beekeeper, how often should I inspect?

Hello, as the title suggests, how often should I inspect? I know experienced beekeepers can go awhile without inspecting theirs!

A little info: I just got my hive 4 days ago and they arrived at night. I inspected them the next morning just to check on them/ say hello for the first time. Then the day after that I noticed some ants sniffing about the hive, so I have put jars with a sugar/borax mixture to help fend them off. I ordered the feeder and some anti-ant legs to help them.

I have been told I probably won’t get around to putting on the Super until Spring. As they are still building up!

It is early autumn here in Australia (Victoria) where it can get cold sometimes. I am expected to have light rain for the next 4 days.

Just starting out I am worried about them surviving, so how often should I check up on them? Especially through this ant issue. Not too many ants, but around 10 or so on the outside.

Answering this is a bit like trying to answer “How long is a piece of string?” :blush:

The answer is, it depends. Of course that doesn’t help you much, so let me tell you what it depends on:

  1. The weather. If it is a warm day (temp 18°C or higher), with sunshine and little to no wind, I would be happy inspecting. If it was 15°C or above, I might do a very quick and limited inspection, if I really needed to answer a question or address a problem. Others have much higher temperature requirements, but I kept bees in the UK, where you wouldn’t be able to inspect for about 8 months of the year, which obviously isn’t practical… :wink: My methods for cooler weather are all aimed at trying to keep the frames warm and only do the minimum necessary
  2. If you are mainly worried about the ants, you can assess that from the outside. If they are building a nest inside the hive, or robbing it, you will see a constant trail of ants on the outside. No need to open the hive if there is no trail
  3. If you are worried about food stores, you can learn to “heft” the hive to get an idea of how much food they have. Just gently lift one side of the hive under the bottom board. You will soon get an idea. You don’t say how populated your hive was when you got it. If it was a nucleus of about 5 frames of bees and stores, they will need feeding. If it was a full brood box, an occasional heft to see if it is getting noticeably lighter may be enough to tell you whether to feed or not. once every week or two should give you an idea
  4. In many cooler climates with established hives, most beekeepers don’t inspect from late autumn until early spring. Once the bees cluster, there is nothing that you need to do, other than feed them. Lifting the lid is a big disruption that they really don’t need at that time of year

Hopefully that gives you a bit of an idea. Please ask more if it isn’t clear. :thinking:

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Ahhhh thank you! Lots of helpful information. I love cold weather personally so I envy you. Yes so the hive his new, they have around 5ish of the 8 frames full.

I have been checking the ants regularly, and they haven’t made a strong trail yet, but I have noticed the number of ants slowly increasing. My anti-ant legs should arrive next week.

As well as my feeder. So since it’s a new hive I should feed them ASAP to help them get ready for winter? And what mixture should I use for food?

And is it regular practice to not inspect during the winter, just top up the feeder now and then and only check if there is a known problem?

Thank you @Dawn_SD

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I would get your anti-ant legs on first, if you see ant trails and then feed them.

If your average overnight temperature doesn’t drop below 13°C, I would use white sugar syrup. Personally I dissolve 5 parts of sugar (by weight) in 3 parts of water (also by weight). I heat the water to boiling, turn off the heat, stir in the sugar and wait about 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes with no further heat. Do not boil the syrup - it can make toxic byproducts (caramel) for bees if you do.

Once it is colder than that overnight, you are going to need fondant/candy or solid sugar

Correct :blush:

Wow thank you! So kind. It gets below 13 degrees in the winter, and rarely in autumn here it seems. Looks like I’ll use that mixture through autumn then the harder stuff in winter. FYI I got one of those feeders that goes through the hole in the top baseboard. So should be able to use it for both

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Thank you for the useful information!

Really a useful inffo

In autumn, I am in there every week/two weeks to ensure they have the food and are treated for varroa. My weaker hives are either merged into other hives or pounded with autumn ratio feed to get them into winter.