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I've had the bees for 2/3 months or so. One hive has 2 brood boxes and a super. The other is a very small captured swarm (I captured it in my yard about 2 weeks after I got the first box from a friend. Different bees) Captured swarm is easy to inspect (3 frames of bees). The larger hive is not as easy as it is larger...

I have looked in the second brood box a few times before adding the super (by pulling a few frames) and everything seems to be going well. Brood, comb building, nice pattern to the laying, etc...

Now it's been a couple of weeks since I added the super and excluder. No work on the super so I pulled a frame from the top brood box and added it to the super to help get it started. That was 4 days ago. Opened the top today and the comb building has started. I have several frames of comb started now.

It's been a few weeks since I inspected below. Should I break it down and pull frames from the bottom box to inspect what is going on in there? What am I looking for and what should I want to see when in there? I'm trying to look for problems but don't know what to expect. I'll clean wax from the bottoms/tops of the frames and the sides of the boxes too. Am I looking for different types of cells and should I expect to find some?

Sorry for all the questions but I am nervous about this one since there are lots of bees and I have yet to do a full inspection on the bottom box since adding the second and the super.
 

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It's been a few weeks since I inspected below. Should I break it down and pull frames from the bottom box to inspect what is going on in there?
Any problems will likely be manifest in both boxes. Signs of mites, viruses, etc. can be seen in the top box as likey as the bottom. I'm not sure what the swarm season is like down in Calif. but if it is that time of the year for you guys, go through the boxes and look for swarm cells. Not just queen cups, but larvae in the cups. Also look for backfilling of the brood nest with nectar (prelude to swarm).
What am I looking for and what should I want to see when in there? I'm trying to look for problems but don't know what to expect.
The basics I look for are: eggs (means the queen was there 3 or less days ago, DWV (deformed wing virus), K-wing (each set of wings don't come back together and look like "K's"), chalk brood (dried white larvae in or outside the hive), nice brood pattern, and any issues with drawing the comb (I run foundationless). But if you've got few dead bees out front and a really populous hive, you likely don't have a problem that worth worrying about. I've had all of the above and have done nothing and the problems went away on their own. I could treat like the beeks at my club, but their bees die anyway. I don't bother worrying about it anymore. (
I'll clean wax from the bottoms/tops of the frames and the sides of the boxes too.
I don't find the removal of the extra wax or propolis to be worth while most of the time. The beed just replace it. If it's not in the way of functionality, I leave it.

Am I looking for different types of cells and should I expect to find some? .
There will, of course, be both worker cells (flat caps) and drone cells (domed caps). They might have built some queen cups, maybe even many of them, but that is a sign of spring, not necessarily that they are going to swarm. When you see larvae, royal jelly, and new wax on the leading edges of the cups, that is a sign that they are thinking about swarming. Little can be done to dissuade them. Make a split, or two, with the completed cells and a frame of honey.

Sorry for all the questions but I am nervous about this one since there are lots of bees and I have yet to do a full inspection on the bottom box since adding the second and the super.
Yes, the first time or two it can be, but if you go into the hive with intent, calmness, and gentleness I don't find a large hive much different than a small one and I don't use a smoker on most of my colonies. Though I do have a few jumpy ones that get nice thick puff in the front door a few minutes before opening them.
~Reid
 
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