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inspection technique - move bees!

3629 Views 21 Replies 18 Participants Last post by  dkofoed
i was relaying the status of my hives to an experience beekeeper recently. it seems like i have a smaller than normal pattern of capped brood in the top box only, a good part of that is drone brood. the rest of the hive (4 mediums total) is empty comb, but its covered in bees. he said, "requeen, right away!"

i don't have enough experience to argue the point, but that doesn't "seem" right to me. or at least it doesn't seem right to jump to requeening immediately. it's a relatively strong hive. lots of bees on frames. lots of bees foraging. and of my two hives, they are both doing the same thing. so after thinking about it for a while, the problem could be me.

to explain: i think i'm a timid inspector. i pull out a frame covered in bees. i stare at it. i see a bunch of bees and patches of empty comb. so i assume the whole comb is empty. i might move them out of the way with a finger, but i'm really not seeing the whole frame. i've never ever seen eggs. my eyes don't work that well. and even with small open brood it takes me a minute to see them among the busy background. so i'm realizing these empty combs could have had eggs or small open brood and i didn't pick it out.

finally my question: what do you do to move the bees out of the way? shake them off? gentle nudges with a bee brush? i need to be less timid about it. especially before taking the measure of requeening what has been a perfectly good first-year queen up to now.
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Take time and take a finger and slightly nudge them after a small small puff of smoke. Always have the sun at your back and if you need them use a pair of Orvis flip glasses off of your veil to see up close.
If I see eggs on any frame and the hive is full of bees I leave them alone. Concentrate on eggs and egg pattern and don't worry about seeing that special lady. If there are eggs she is close! Just inspect every 5-7 days and just take your time and enjoy inspections.
I have a problem seeing the eggs in my hives as well. I can find the queens sometimes and there is capped brood and larvae. Could someone post a picture of cells w/ just eggs in them.

'next time you are near the dollar store and get some 3x reading glasses (or the highest power you can find).

I still have good vision. 3X just magnifies everything, and I'm not ashamed to utilize a cheap method of aiding my vision. Eggs are very tiny, and one of the hardest things to spot.

In any brood nest, the larva will stand out much more than the eggs, and you should normally see a nice even pattern of them. If you see larvae in a nice solid pattern, you don't need to find eggs. If the bees are really covering the frames, they may just be tending to the larvae. Brushing the bees off, so you can have a better look, is a very effective aid.

Pic #7 has what appears to be an egg, in the center of the cell , 4 across, and 4 up from the lower left corner. I know I've seen more and better pics around here - they just get lost in the cyber shuffle.
I gently blow on the bees to move them out of the way, works great and they don't get fussy. Don't eat bananas first.
If you use a brush flick the bees. Do not brush with long strokes as this rolls bees and makes them angry.
What really helps me when I'm looking for eggs or brood is shaking the bees off. Pull the outer frame up and with a quick up and down jerk the bees should fall in the box or on the top of the frames. Set that frame aside and then go to the middle and slide half the frames over to the edge and pull one of the middle frames up. Tilt the frame towards the sun and look for brood and once you see brood work your way out to the edge and look for wet spots on the bottom of the frames. If you see that then move out some more then you'll see eggs. If you don't try another frame in the center. Sometimes I have to walk away with the frame and unzip my vail in order to have a really good look. I can also appreciate the magnifing glass idea as well.

Smashing bees is all part off the process. At least it is for me.

Good luck!
Our nucs were that way when we first got them. The frames were so covered with bees we couldn't see brood well enough to judge how much of what we had, yet it was quite clear it was under there. Smoke will move them but then you may have trouble finding the queen.

And yeah, we're hopeless at spotting eggs without magnification, and its hard to impossible to see down to the bottom of the cells unless you have light (either the sun or a lighted magnifier) putting light down the cell. Sun's better, most lighted magnifiers don't point the light in the right direction.
If you have to remove bees from a frame to inspect it, consider where you move them. If you pull a frame and brush or shake them off, they might not get too irked. But if you've deposited them on a frame that you are going to look at next, they will be going for a second trip and might not be as forgiving. A third trip and who could blame them?

Get a pair of cheater readers, as was mentioned. Wear them on the end of your nose, and when you need to look for eggs and small larvae, you can just tilt your head back a bit.

Spend some time on "honey bee frame images", and learn there what you are looking for. It's a lot easier to study frames on a computer screen than when faced with thousands of stinging ladies. A gentle blow will get the bees out of the way, but once you know what you are looking at, I think you will find this unnecessary.
Is there anyone who can take photographs of the frames as you hold them up? Perhaps it's "bad" technique, but my husband and i rely heavily on our inspection photographs to find eggs on the combs. Yes, we've spotted them on the combs themselves, but it took a little time to develop "egg eyes" and even now it's a struggle. Pictures allow for a post-inspection review that can reveal all kinds of fun things. In our case, we have two hives, so each of us takes a turn holding the combs versus the camera.
ha. i totally have no problem seeing eggs or finding the queen in pictures or slides. but i get out there, with a veil in my face and buzzing in my ears, and i have trouble focusing. mostly i just need more practice.

fwiw, my 5 year old is much better at spotting the queen. i've spotted her twice, she's spotted her 4 times. ..beginners mind.
I found to that if you wanna clear a patch of bees away on a from I blow on them and they'll clear a hole. Maybe it's just my bad breath.
Get a bright flashlight to shine down into the cells. Wear whatever you need to read the fine print in a contract. Whether that is reading glasses or no glasses (for me it's no glasses and for distance I need glasses). If all else fails take pictures with a flash of each frame at a high resolution and study them on the computer later. A lot of your "empty combs" may be combs of eggs and young larvae...
A lot of your "empty combs" may be combs of eggs and young larvae...
it took me a few days of pondering, but now i think, 'why would these empty combs have been covered in bees? they must have been doing SOMETHING.

i'm going to have to mount one of those shop magnifyer lamps on the side of my hives.
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