There are a broad range of opinions on the topic but I think it depends on whether your are a new beekeeper or not.
The other question is what do you mean by opening up the beehive. Are you talking about opening the top and taking out a frame or two or doing a complete top-to-bottom inspection?
For the beginner, I think it is imperative to learn so I don't think that Once a week is too much especially if starting from a package or nuc. That way you get to see week-by-week the progress a colony can make. If you have two or more hives you can get a week-by-week comparison of the other colonies.
Benefits opening the hive on a weekly basis for the beginner:
1. In smaller hives it is easier to spot the queen. You can practice finding the queen in these smaller hives.
2. You can easily practice spotting eggs and seeing the various stages of brood.
3. You can watch as they begin to draw wax and watch their weekly progress.
4. You can compare queens and buildup (w/ multiple hives)
Maybe others can give more reasons those are the main ones that come to mind.
Personally, I think a beginning beekeeper should focus on learing the first year and honey should be of lower priority. I think that the focus on learning will pay bigger dividends in the long run. Just my Humble Opinion!
I'm with the above comments. If we are talking about maximum honey yeilds it's one thing. If we are talking about learning beekeeping, it's a different thing altogether. I think you should open it reasonably often in order to learn. But if you open it every day you will stress them out too much. Try to keep it to once a week. Before you open listen to it and try to imagine what to expect. Then open the top and see what you can figure out without pulling a frame. Then pull some frames and see what they are doing. After a while you'll get so you know what's going on by listening and watching.
If honey production is the issue I'd open them probably not more than once a month unless I have a real reason.
I say open the books,...then open the hive when you have a reason to. Not just to look when you have nothing to look for. During swarm season, a minimum every 10 days if you want to prevent a queen from emerging. In the winter, never below 40 degrees. Again, whenever you have a reason. I have one hive I have opened twice this year, I have one I have opened twice this weekend.
"let me make a distinction between using smoke/versus no smoke. when I do not use smoke, the bees ignore me and go about their business. I don't think this sets them back at all, or very little."
This maybe fine for seasoned beekeeps to do, or not do, but when you are talking about beginners who have not worked a hive enough to know how, then the use of smoke is almost manditory. With a few seasons under one's belt, then they have the knowledge of when smoke is required or not required. I would not recommand suggesting to a newbe to forego the use of smoke to work their hive.
Let me make a distinction between too much smoke and just right. If you use the right amount of smoke it will not disrupt them but will calm them. If you are upsetting the bees when you smoke, you are using too much.
"So it's ok if I use a bit of smoke? Just enough too relax them,so I can pull out a frame or 2 to see what they are doing.But not more often then once a week?"
Yes it's ok to use smoke, in fact you should never open a hive without it if you intend to poke around in there, unless you know what you are doing. I usually recommand you keep a small nuc around to play with. That way you can poke around anytime you want, and it's a great learning tool, as there arn't as many bees to deal with like the with the full strenght colonies. Once a week may be too much with a full colony, maybe every two weeks would be better.
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