How To Perform A Brood Inspection

When it comes to inspecting a One Queen Keeper hive, one piece of equipment you may find useful is a stool, ideally around 18 inches high. You might raise some eyebrows among fellow beekeepers when they see you inspecting a hive while comfortably seated, but trust me; it's a game-changer!

Don't forget your "quiet box" either. A nuc box with #8 hardware cloth or a piece of plywood attached to the bottom works well. It is also helpful to have an inner cover on the quiet box to keep it dark. After inspecting a frame, gently place it in the quiet box. Ensure you maintain the same order when putting the frames back into the hive.

In addition to your stool and quiet box, gather a J-hook hive tool, a smoker, and whatever protective gear makes you feel comfortable. The key to successful beekeeping is taking it slow and avoiding any sudden movements or loud noises that might disturb the bees. Remember, they can sense your stress, so staying calm is essential. If the bees are particularly agitated or you need a moment, step away from the hive, and return to close it up later when everyone has calmed down.

Keep in mind that the brood nest is typically symmetrical. Therefore, I usually inspect frames #1-4 in the brood chamber unless there's a specific reason to look at more. If you do want to inspect all the frames in the brood chamber, move frames 1-4 into the quiet box and then slide frames 5-8 from beneath the queen excluder. Frame #8 is rarely moved unless you're specifically looking for swarm cells. When removing frames from the brood chamber, use the flat part of your hive tool, as the J-hook won't work. You can use the J hook to slide the frames out from under the queen excluder gently.

You'll be pleasantly surprised by how little propolis sticks to the ends of the frames and how smoothly they slide within the brood chamber. It takes a bit of practice to get used to working with the frames in the One Queen Keeper, as it's different from a standard Langstroth hive.

During every hive inspection, there are four crucial aspects to assess: Bees, Brood, Food, and Disease. Commit these to memory as part of your colony inspection routine. You can evaluate all four by inspecting a few frames in the brood chamber.

Bees: In a well-established colony, the brood chamber should be teeming with bees. After opening the hinged roof, glance through the observation window at the first four frames. The spaces between the frames should be filled with bees. If not, it may indicate recent swarming, queenlessness, or a potential disease issue. I recommend starting by removing frame #2 during an inspection, as it poses less risk of accidentally rolling the queen compared to removing frame #1 first. Frame #2 typically contains both brood and food (pollen/nectar). Frame #1 usually has capped honey. Take a close look at the bees: Are they healthy? Do their wings look deformed? Are they lively, or do they seem sluggish? Do you spot some drones but not an excessive number? Drones are often found on the outer frames of the brood nest.

Brood: Check for brood in all stages: eggs, larvae, and capped brood. The presence of eggs indicates the presence of a queen. Ensure there's enough room for brood expansion if the colony is growing, or consider if there's too much room if the colony is shrinking or small.

Food: Most frames should have some pollen and nectar on the outer edges of the brood. Frames #1 and #8, on the extreme outer edges of the brood chamber, should contain food resources. If there's no pollen or nectar, it might signal a dearth. Keep in mind that in a single brood chamber hive, you won't find an abundance of food in the brood chamber. Often, the best view of food resources is in the medium spacer box just above the queen excluder.

Disease: Examine the larvae – they should appear pearly white in color. Check if there's an ample amount of royal jelly in the cells with young larvae. Inspect the cappings on the brood; they should be free of pinholes or sunken areas. Look out for small hive beetles, particularly on frames #1 and #2. Keep an eye out for hive beetle larvae in the honey. Lastly, sniff the frames for any unusual odors and watch for signs of bee feces.

By looking at just 3-4 frames in the brood chamber, you can thoroughly assess the health of your colony without needing to lift heavy boxes and disturb most of the colony. Take your time during inspections, and remember that your gentle approach will go a long way in keeping your bees happy and productive. 

Happy beekeeping! 🐝🏡🍯