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Examining Frames full of Bees


I have just done my first hive examination and was fairly nervous about disturbing the bees too much so it was fairly quick.
The question of whether I had eggs or larva has come up so I got to think on this. I see lots of videos
with people pointing out the various stages of bee development so I know what to look for and would recognise what I am looking at.
The big difficulty on my first frame handling, was the bees literally covered just about anything/everything I was looking at.
Would it be OK to just take my brush and brush the bees back into the hive so I had clear access to the frame I wanted to examine? I do have a slight sight problem with only one eye.

Or should I just take more time? Would 45 min in the hive be too long? That would allow about 5 minutes per frame.


You are going to be a fantastic beekeeper! What great questions.

I would try to smoke first, even a light puff of smoke on the frame you want to examine - the bees will often run elsewhere. If that doesn’t give you a good enough view, then you have no choice but to brush the bees - as you say, back into the hive. Some new beekeepers don’t realize that bees around brood may be predominantly nurse bees, which have never left the hive. If you brush them onto the ground, they may have a very hard time finding their way home. So you are thinking the right thing.

As far as timing goes, I don’t think 45 mins is too long. As you get more experience, you may be down to 5 or 15 mins. Of course the longer you take, the more the bees get stressed, but it is all a balance. You need accurate information on how and what they are doing. Without that, you can’t help them. You can also develop some priorities to help you speed up. A few suggestions:

  1. Frames at the outer edge are less likely to contain eggs, so don’t spend a lot of time looking here.
  2. The queen is always hard to find, even if marked. Look for “proof of life” signs = eggs and uncapped larvae, rather than trying to sight the queen every time.
  3. If you must find the queen (to mark her, or whatever), look on frames with eggs and uncapped brood - she is more likely to be there, assuming the hive is not very alarmed, in which case she could be hiding anywhere…
  4. Don’t over smoke the hive, but don’t be afraid to smoke either, especially if there is plenty of honey on the frames. A couple of puffs in the entrance before you start, and a couple of puffs under the inner cover, then wait a few minutes. That should give you a good 10 mins of inspection time. After that, if you see bees lining up on the top of the frames looking at you, they ARE looking at you, so another single puff should calm them down and give you another 5 mins or so.

Hope that helps, and don’t worry, you are doing fine!



In my experience bee hate being brushed.
Try this. Lift the frame out and have a quick look to see what you need to see. Eggs, OK your queen is there, that’s it fine. You can then have a quick look through your frames to see if there are stores and if there is room still for the queen to lay.
If you don’t see eggs (or the queen) quickly try blowing on the bees. They get out of the way nicely when you do that; Always works for me.
There are times when you will want to examine the whole frame (it will come later but eventually you will need to check all the frames minutely for queen cells) Make sure you have plenty of room each side of the frame and lift it four or five inches. Sharply move your hands down (as if you were shaking something off them) The bees will fall into the box and your frame is empty…ish.


Thanks @Dawn_SD and @Dee that answers my question. Crickey it was like bathing a week old baby, concerned more about whether baby would break than getting the job done (mind you its over 40 years since I bathed a baby). Already though, I have a feel for the frame and the handling of it. Much heavier than they look :astonished: and I might find some thinner gloves to get a better feel.:slightly_smiling:


Hi Busso, I went through the exact same thing as you today. This was my second check for queen/ eggs since installing the nuc, I have a real hard time seeing eggs, I don’t really know if I did or not, or just shine off the cell wall or something, larger larvae I can see and even small larvae with reading glasses and magnifying glass. I think when the bees have had enough their buzz sort of deepens and gets more serious, well that’s how it sounds to me😉, They say that’s it times up buster! Might get a mentor to show me how to spot eggs. All the best Tim


Tim n Busso,

I am wondering how my first inspect will be after 55 years away. Guessing the bee buzzing around won’t bother me but will need to get my handling technic back. And my eyes aren’t sooooo sharp with surgery n glasses now.

I have been lucky having a friend lettting me watch one of his hives when he’s working them. That’s not the same as actually handling but a close second. I will get my 3 Nuc’s this coming mid April. I am so excited to return to this cool hobby. Just the sounds n smells of my buddies bees brings back good flash backs of dad n I working our bees. Now I am impatiently n excitedly waiting.

It’s good to have a part time buddy n mentor in beekeeping but can hardly wait for the real hands on stuff once again. Hoping it will be like riding a bike. Some of the problems (mites n diseases) are new n intense. Those I am taking classes to be forarmed n somewhat knowledgable.

Excited n ready in Coalfield,


checking out my buddies bees yesterday in this pix. Couldn’t open, it was rain, windy n only 43 dgs F ( about 6 to 7 dgs C ). But I can still do a eye example n listen n smell. Plus I chatted with my buddy about his experiences n what he thought about that hive.