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I just wonder if we do more harm than good to our bees when we examine them every week and poke around in their domain. I realize we need to be on the lookout for pests and disease as well as a laying queen, but there are less invasive ways to do some of these things without pulling frames every week or two. It seems all the smoke and damage to their inner area could be a negative if done too often. I am starting to watch the bees coming and going more closely than I ever have before hoping to pick up clues as to the colony's overall health. I only feed with a hive top feeder that I can refill without opening the hive. I use my oil coated bottoms to look for mites and I only pull the inner cover to see if there are any SHB in my traps. I want to try and keep the thorough inspections to no more than once a month. This being my first year, I was encouraged to look in the hive more often but as my knowledge grows I think my complete inspections could be less.
Any thoughts on this?
 

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Deer Slayer, I think your point is good mainly from a philosophical perspective. When you talk about "harm", you could entirely eliminate the bee to beekeeper relationship and simply banish the idea bees should have keepers. The bees would be free to pursue their own existence without any interference from us and we in turn would need to figure out how do without things like pollination, honey, wax etc.. I on the other hand, think that in any relationship or endeavor, you run that risk. I exploit the bees to get what I want from them. In return, I try to do what I can to convince them to stick around. They on the other hand, will sting me or attempt it whenever they feel the need. So far, I've only been stung when my hand is in their frig.
Personally speaking... my bees seem to be doing ok in spite of my efforts, not because of them. I'm really green and still learning... but I am learning.

They're free to leave anytime they perceive I'm doing them any real harm. There is no gate on the hive and they don't need to go to court.

I couldn't stop them anyway.
 

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The last time I opened my hive was a few weeks ago to see if they were drawing comb in the medium I put on. They were'nt which is not surprising since we are in our summer dearth. Much of what I need to know right now I can tell by watching the front porch.
Right now there is next to no nectar out there but pollen is abundant and the girls are bringing in a boat load. The next class of foragers is out guarding, fanning and cleaning the porch more bees than normal because 1, it's hot as blazes and 2-at this stage in their life they would also be drawing comb but there's no need right now.
Bees have different tasks at different stages in their lives, half their lives are spent becoming bees ,the other half is spent being bees. (The book Beekeeping for Dummies outlines this beautifully). It really is an assembly line and as long as I don't see a break in that line I'll just figure everything is buzzing along normally.
When and/or if the fall flow begins I'll check them a bit more often because i'd like them to have a bit more stores for winter even though real winter here lasts 60 days with an average high of 55 degrees.
 

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Once my supers go on I am done going thru the brood chambers until after harvest unless I see a problem. Depending on the flow I will pop the tops every week and check for burr comb to see if I need to add a super.:)
 

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Balance in everything. For a while, you need to climb the learning curve. Being in the hive fairly often helps you become a good beekeeper. After a while, you get to sort of manage by exception. For example, there's a ton to learn just by watching the entrance. If you have more than one hive in a yard, you get pretty good at judging if one is slow or otherwise suffering from a problem. But, there's no substitute from opening things up and looking. So, get good at efficient inspections. Document what you find. Treat, adjust, feed, manipulate, etc., while you're in there and you'll be fine.

The bigger sin is hoping that nothing will ever go wrong and then finding out that it's too late. That's what I think!
 

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I started out inspecting each frame each week. It eventually became evident that this was impractical from a time standpoint, and increased the risk of accidentally killing a queen. Now that I have some ideas about what I'm trying to do, my inspections are more outcome based. For new starts, I monitor build-out closely. For overwintered hives, I confirm that they have a laying queen early in the season, and see if they're strong enough to split. During the honey flow I'm looking to see if they have enough room.

I've realized that running 10 hives this year takes me about the same time I spent running 1 hive my fist year, or 5 last year.

I'm sure that more experienced hobbyists and the commercial beekeepers are much further along that path of using knowledge and experience to improve efficiency, and can probably handle several dozen hives in the time it takes me to do my handful. I think you're progressing at that more rapidly than I have.
 

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Other then early spring for splits and fall to check for stores we rarely dig out every frame during an inspection. Once you gain experience you will know if something is up with your hives just by the activity at the entrance or by popping the top. Only if things are not right do we dig into the hive and usually if we are it is because we were right and something is amiss.

On another note...I would recommend using an alcohol wash to check your mite count rather then a sticky or oil board. These have been shown to be less then accurate.
 

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Deer Slayer

I am a third year beekeeper. I do not go into the brood boxes after the Spring manipulations unless I have a specific question I am trying to answer. I do, however, break the hive apart from time to time to check on crowding in order to prevent swarming. When the honey supers are on, I remove them weekly in June and July to put xxx sugar on the top of the brood boxes (and brush it off onto the bees below) to control mites. This has worked so far for me. I take very good notes on all three of my hives. This helps so much.

It is unclear from your post whether you are using screened bottom boards placed so that the bottom is open to the ground -- i.e. not placed on a solid hive stand. If you are, using a hand mirror to look under there is helpful to compare numbers of bees and to check for chalkbrood and other problems.

Keep thinking things through for yourself as you are doing. There are so many variations among beekeepers. If, for example, you do not intend to requeen, you don't really need to check out eggs and so forth. It all depends on the style you are developing. Have fun.
 

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The choice is yours i think. Had I not been checking mine, I would not have seen that my girls were thinning my 2 queens in my Russian. I would have missed all the swarm cells in another Russian, and would not have know that the 3rd Russian lost their queen and she had joined the 2 queen Russian Hive. It's a perspective. Just because everything looks good on the lb, that doesnt mean the brood nest isn't in shambles, backfilled with honey, swarm cell laden....etc..etc...etc. I do my very best NOT to kill any bees when i inspect, but I always manage to. Sometimes not looking can do more harm than good imho. I am a 2nd yr beek and there will be people who say my bees will abscond because i look too much. I also look to learn, I listen intently to the hive and see what they are saying. One of the most knowledgable beeks i know said let the bees teach you, and until they do, open them up.
 

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I just wonder if we do more harm than good to our bees when we examine them every week and poke around in their domain.

This being my first year, I was encouraged to look in the hive more often but as my knowledge grows I think my complete inspections could be less.
Any thoughts on this?
If you are at all concerned, then you should reduce your inspections. There are other ways to learn what is going on in a bee hive. Work w/ someone else, for instance.
 

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if you are a first year beek once a week is just fine anfter that once every two to three weeks is healthy. once my suppers are on I wait till the dirth. then I remove the supers and do a full inspection.
 
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