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First summer Inspection

Hi everyone,
Just did my first summer inspection. I’ve tried not to bother my busy friends but I was curious. I have some questions:

  1. I have a large super and 2 mediums. I only inspected the top because I didn’t want to disturb them too much. When I took the cover off they were bees on the outside of the inner cover. Is this normal?
  2. Also, when I took the inner cover off I took out an outer frame that had bees on it but no comb and an inner frame that was packed with comb. They seemed to be very busy but is it normal for some frames to be empty even in July?
  3. My husband has been concerned because there always seem to be a bunch of bees at the entrance even in the evening. Is this normal? I’m attaching a photo I took at 8:00 the other night.
    Thanks so much. I’m just trying to make sure I’m doing the right things for my little friends.
    Beth

Hi Beth, welcome to the forum. I want to clarify some things to make sure we are are on the same page. Your picture looks to me like you have a brood box on the bottom that is a ‘deep’ size, and two ‘medium’ sized honey supers above the brood box. Are you using a queen excluder above the brood box? How long have you had these bees? I ask these questions to make sure the question you asked about normal can be addressed. In general I get bees above the inside cover, but not a massive amount- they tend to chase out spiders/ants and other invading pests so its not a problem for them to get up there as long as it isn’t because there is a gap in the roof and they are using it as another entrance which can become a problem during the nectar dearth and robbing becomes a possibility. So verify there are no gaps up there to rule that out. Your title of this post threw me as if its your first summer inspection and you didn’t actually get to look at every frame in all the boxes would not really qualify as an inspection— more of a peak. You should be looking at every frame every 2 weeks to 3 at the most to understand what is happening on the inside. While you can tell a lot about what is going on inside by watching the traffic and the behavior of the bees outside the boxes, nothing replaces a full inspection. Disturbed bees are better than dead bees. It is very normal to have lots of bees on the landing board and on the hive box outside during hot weather periods like you (and I) have in July so I wouldn’t be concerned by what I see in that picture. I’m curious about how long you have had the bees and when you put the honey supers on— that may help understand if they should have built comb out on those frames that aren’t yet drawn out. If its only been a few weeks then nothing to worry about.

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Hi Tim,

Sorry, yes I’m a newbie. We got the bees in May. There were 1 deep, 1 medium, and then the feeder. I stopped feeding them about beginning to middle of June and added the frames to the top box. There are no gaps in the top. I am not using a queen excluder at the moment. Should I? Thank you for any help.
Beth

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We have all been newbies at some point, and I still am learning after 4 years so keep exploring and you will have lots of support here.

Your local environment drives so much of when to put a super on so you should see if there are other beekeepers in your area you can consult with too so that you get the local flavour of advice too. In my opinion you might have 1 too many boxes on for the timeline you describe-- but if the middle box is fully built out and has capped honey in it (say 8 of 10 frames worth fully) then the 2nd (top) super is needed and the bees are just filling out the comb as they need to. Building comb is resource intensive and the bees need access to water. When you were feeding them they had lots of that to build comb, now that you have taken it away they have to source it elsewhere and if you are having the heat wave we are having near Detroit then that may be why things have slowed down some. It is a tricky balance of feeding vs planning on harvesting honey-- if you feed then I wouldn’t harvest from the hive as you are essentially getting sugar water instead of honey. So if it were me, and again, this is just my opinion, I would verify the middle box is somewhat fully drawn out before I would add the top box and I wouldn’t be feeding at this time of year. I would feed after harvest in the fall-- like late August for at least the month to help them restore what you take off. I’m a fan of the excluder on my Flow Hives as I don’t want any brood in those expensive devices, but I don’t use them in my non flow hives and things are going very well for me. I have 21 hives, 6 are flow hives.