Total newbie. Hive inspection. UK, North Yorkshire

Hello all! SO I am a total newbie. I have two hives and I can get in touch with the chap who gave me the bees but he is currently away. So both hives doing well in National beehives. One is a smaller colony? with just the brood box and the super on the top. They havent really left the frames they came on but are starting to fill up the additional brood frames and make some honey in the super. (Forgive me if my terminology is wrong!) Ive inspected today with smoker and they seemed peaceful enough and fairly easy to inspect. Think I have put everything back the way I should - supers,QX, top board etc. A picture would be good if anyone has one…or a good description of the way up things go or the way the frames sit on top of each other.

Second hive - different story. It has two super on it and they are making shed loads of honey. I got the QX off and hung a frame thingy on the side and took the first brood frame out so I had some room. Man its full in there! So many bees. My gloves caused me some difficulty trying to lift them out as slowly and gently as possible. I had seen a YouTube clip that said take them out really slowly and gently but its so busy in there with so many bees its difficult to get a grip of the frame. I saw larvae, eggs, hatching bees so I presume all is good but I could only get to the maybe third frame and they were very angry. Dive bombing me and I just figured that if i kept going it wouldnt be much good. Last time I did an inspection they were the same. This time i thought if I handled them better they would be easier for me but no luck. There seems to be sooo many bees but not enough space! Feel very out of my depth and so half way through inspection I put the hive back together and decided to leave it and seek advice. Thanks.

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Sometimes bees can be happy for you to be in the hiney supers but get really defensive about the brood. It can be a bit confronting if you arent used to it. One solution may be to requeen it. If they have always been like this it might be the best way. If they have only recently changed then maybe give them a bit of a chance. Sometimes if the honey flow goes off suddenly they will be a little more defensive and some types of plants in flow can cause this also. See if you can find a beekeeping club in your area and see if they have had similar experiences and a solution that will work well for your local area.

I’m wondering if your second hive is strong enough to swarm, going by your description. It might be worthwhile thinking about a preemptive swarm control split.

If you can take half the brood frames out, your colony isn’t over defensive. It’s when you can’t remove a single brood frame, that a colony is over defensive.

Just work from the rear of the hive & keep your smoker going & don’t be frightened to use it.


Well thanks for replies! So this is what happened. Rang the man who gave me the bees and he had returned! He came over and said a) they aren’t particularly aggressive… Im just a novice and b)they had totally filled the brood box and had indeed made a queen cell. He said we have to decide what to do now as they want to swarm and so its pretty inevitable they will. I said that it would be a shame for me to have them swarm so quickly after they had arrived so we split them in two and because I didnt have another hive - only a polystrene nucleus box we put the queen in there with her on a frame of brood (he said he hadnt done this before putting them in a nucleus as there were so many flying bees they may struggle to get in when they all get back from the field) but anyway we did it and left the other brood in the hive queenless. He said in a few weeks they will have re queened and in the meantime I purchased another hive which arrived 3 days later, quickly made it and popped the other queen in there. So now, within around 4 weeks my bee hobby has upped to 3 hives. The bee man said “Ohh you will have a dozen hives before you know it. They are addictive!” Its a bit costly as hives arent the cheapest but I hope things will level off now for a little while. I have ordered a spare polystyrene hive just in case. :roll_eyes: How do you know when the hive has enough honey so you can take a frame? And is that what happens…you just remove a frame? Thanks again.

When the brood box is full, you put a super on top of the queen excluder. When the super is almost full, you put another super on top. Some people keep adding supers onto the same hive until the season is over for the year. (We had some hives with 5 or more supers on them some years - around 6 feet tall). Then they take them all off together, leaving whatever is needed to keep the bees gong over winter. That is what we used to do in the UK, partly because it was such a faff to get the extractor into the kitchen, find the uncapping knife, and deal with the sticky mess each time. It was easier to extract all of the honey in one big messy session. :wink:

If you have a Flow hive, you can harvest a frame when it is 90% capped or more. If you have a traditional hive, the same rule applies - harvest when 90% of the honey on a frame is capped. Do make sure you leave enough for the bees to survive the winter though. :blush:


Okie dokie I shall have some honey soon i think. Very exciting. Ok todays question…got to the new hive this morning. The one with the old queen that went into the polystrene nucleus box and i moved…so it has like lots of bees all on top of each other at the entry. I have taken a photo but not sure if I have added it. There are maybe 30 bees all clinging together. Is this bearding? I thought arghhh serious problem with this hive are they all dead but no. They seem to be alive. Any ideas?

It looks more like “balling”. Bearding usually results in a single layer of bees over the front or shaded sides of the hive on a hot day. If the beard “overflows” underneath a hive, it can be multilayered, but not usually above the entrance like your photo. Bees sometimes cluster on the front of the hive when they are getting ready to swarm, but the cluster would be hundreds or thousands of bees, not a couple of dozen.

Balling is a method that bees use for killing another insect. They cluster around the victim and vibrate their wings to generate body heat. The centre of the ball can reach 45C in a few minutes, and quickly kills the insect in the middle. The most common balling victims are queen bees and wasps/hornets.

I can’t quite see the structure of the entrance, but if that is the hive entrance, and you have an entrance reducer, it may just be that the entrance is a bit small.

Thanks very much Dawn! Absolutely fascinating. There is so much to learn. They have dispersed now so i guess they got whatever it was. Have a super day.

Morning everyone :slight_smile: I inspected the hives yesterday and all seem fine. The one we left with no queen I think has what looks like a sealed queen cell. We took the queen away 8 days ago and split the hive as there were queen cells and the experienced beekeeper who came along said they are wanting to swarm and this may help prevent it. That hive also has pupae (quite large visible at the bottom of the frame (some bees were eating one of these?) and I noticed a dead white bee. Like it had changed into a bee from the pupae stage and not made it any further. The hive that has the queen we removed is the one in the photos. It seems to do this crowding round the entrance (I think more so when I have inspected) and bearing in mind it is 7.15 am and around 13degrees. The other hives arent even up and out yet! The photo of the entrance without so many bees on it is one I took the other day to demonstrate the size of it. This crowding round the entrance has intensified since last time I queried it. I dont think they are killing something coming into the hive as they seem to be doing it very frequently. Is there a possibility that because this is the bulk of the hive that had started to make swarm cells etc that it still has a desire to swarm. Ive no idea! Thanks again for replies in advance.

Have you added a super above the QX, I am thinking along the idea that the colony is in need of more room, adding a super gives them the extra room and work to do building out the comb from the sheets of wax foundation. Only by inspection can you know if they are making swarm cells for a queen.
One way I have averted swarming if you get to it early enough is to figure out why they are making to swarm in the first place. A couple of reasons could be the brood area is too small, or the hive is just plainly over crowded. That is when the frames are almost totally covered with bees that you can hardly see the comb. Adding a box mainly of drawn comb and an outside frame of foundation is the answer. If there is far to many bees in the honey super you could add another super under the one already there. If done early enough this is one way of preventing swarming that has worked for me.
Welcome to the forum Henry, there is a lot of experience here that can guide you as you go.

Hi Peter. Thanks so much for your reply and nice to meet you. This forum is a lifeline for me! There is a new super above the QX. I apologise as I said this was the hive without the queen and thats the other one. This is the brood frame and queen we took out from the hive that was producing swarm cells. (I have only had bees for about 8 weeks so forgive me! Massive learning curve) This colony was living in a polystrene nucleus for about 3 days till the hive arrived so I put it in there along with about 6 new brood frames and a new super. I wouldnt have thought room would be an issue yet. When I inspected yesterday the brood frames that are new a couple of them are still untouched.

My name is Henny and Im female. :wink:

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Sorry, I read your name too fast. No problem helping new bee keepers, the world needs every one of us. Two hives is good to begin with as your weekly hive inspections will take a fair bit of time till you get confident.
Ok, to the hive, has there been queen cells made? If yes you can simply cut them out or scrape them off and dispose of them after firmly placing your foot on the cell, if the cell is close to hatching you don’t want that queen sending out sounds(tooting). I have never heard it but there is a lot of evidence that they can communicate by sound.
Welcome to the forum Henny, lots of helpful people on the forum.

I agree with you that they are not balling. It looks like your entrance may be a little small for them. I would open it up a bit more. :wink:

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Thanks Dawn. Do I just take the wooden thing out completely? (That would leave the width of the hive open). They must be going elsewhere this last couple of days because their pollen pockets have gone from bright yellow when they return(rapeseed I imagine) to a terracotta red pollen (maybe the hedgerow pollen). Isn’t it crazy but I never really noticed that pollen from different plants was a different colour but when I took the dogs out yesterday and looked at the hedgerow flowers…sure enough! its a deep terracotta colour. I also have a broody chicken sitting on 8 eggs so its like the Good Life round here at the moment. Giving my age away now :slight_smile:

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If you don’t have an entrance reducer with a bigger gap in it, yes, I would just take it out completely for now. You will need to watch for robbing, but it looks like you have a very strong hive there, so I think that is a very minor concern. Beautiful cedar hives, nice to see British Nationals up close again. :blush:

There are better charts available, but this one gives you some idea of pollen colours:

and this is very nice too:

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Once again, thanks Dawn. I shall attend to it straight away. I had a look at the pollen colour charts. Very interesting.

Hello again. Just completed another hive check on my 3 hives. Two are getting along well. Saw the queen in one of them and in both could see brood and so am happy they are fine. The third one is a bit of a mystery. It was a queenless hive a number of weeks ago as I had split a hive. I had presumed last time I inspected that it had a new queen as it had plenty of brood and lots of bees! This time however there is no brood of any kind. No eggs , no larvae (or not that I can see and I really looked hard!) but lots of bees with full pollen pockets. So I think I had a new queen and now I don’t. Any ideas what may be going on here and also what you would recommend I do about it. Thanks in anticipation.

The best thing to do as soon as possible is to add a frame of brood. Brood in all stages so that the bees can make a new queen if they need to. Then check in a weeks time to see what’s happening with that brood.

You need to do this before any workers start laying.

If the colony already has a queen, it wont matter. That frame of brood will help with bee numbers.

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Thanks so much JeffH! Will sort that out tomorrow when its warm. I was going to check that hive again just to make sure i wasnt missing anything. I will keep you posted. :slight_smile:

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You’re most welcome, good luck with that, cheers :slight_smile: