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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Installed my 2 Nucs without a hitch about a week ago. Had a friend who has a *little* more experience than me to assist. Today, went out with my teenage son as a 2nd set of hands and man, it is going to take me awhile to get comfortable. I'm not talking about being worried about the bees - I am not. But there just seems like there's so much to know. I wrote down my plan before going in, and honestly, it's like as soon as I take the top off I turn into a bumbling, stumbling idiot :)

The Good (this will be a short list).
1. The bees stayed pretty calm. Did use some smoke, and that worked fine.
2. The bees had drained a gallon from each hive top feeder with only a few drowned bees evident. I think I have a good top feeder so that's at least a plus.
3. There is comb being drawn out on all of the foundation - so I actually took that as a sign to add my 2nd brood box - which I did. This was a relief as I used plastic foundation (which some seem to love and others swear the bees will hate) prepped with beeswax. There was actually quite a bit of burr comb on top of the frames and below the top feeder, which again I saw as positive.

The Bad.
1. I could not find either queen despite them being marked. I did not press the issue as I figured either I missed her (I did not pull out every frame on one of the hives) or possibly they've chewed off her bright green marker (I've heard that can happen). Chances are, I just didn't spot them. I find it hard to be slow and methodical when I'm in there - I need to have a more consistent step-by-step process and stick to it.
2. The worst part is, I did not really confirm larva and eggs being present. I know that's probably the #1 point of going in. But there are so many bees on every frame, it's very hard to see anything, much less ID what you're seeing in detail. I did see larva and eggs a week ago, so I'm going to cross my fingers and hope things are well, and the next time I go in, will ensure I confirm they are there even if that's the only thing I accomplish.

The Ugly.
1. Did you know that if you are clumsy enough preparing your smoker, you can actually dump hot coals on the rubberized cloth of the bellows and burn holes in it on only your 2nd attempt to use it? It's not easy, but I can confirm it's possible.
2. I am finding it more challenging than I thought it would be to fit all 10 frames in the box when returning them - I feel like I must be squashing bees but there doesn't to seem to be much you can do about space other then make sure the frames are snug up against the self spacers as you go.

Tell me I will get better at this :)
 

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You already have. ;) One step at a time.

If there is any way you could hook up with an experienced beekeeper and shadow him/her on one of their inspections you would be surprised how many tips and tricks you could pick up.
 

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Don't be so hard on yourself! It's just my third year, I still have so much to learn. SO much!

I wrote down my plan before going in, and honestly, it's like as soon as I take the top off I turn into a bumbling, stumbling idiot
I was the same way. It's all so exciting, that you lose track and get nervous that they'll catch on to you, start worrying about the smoker going out…
You will start noticing things the more comfortable you become with inspections. The eggs are best to spot in the sun. I only saw one of my marked queens the first few inspections. Luckily, a lot happens around the capped brood, so if they are all over it, look in and around that, and you will see plenty of what you want to see as they're moving about.

Eventually, I became less nerve-wracked and am to the point where I don't wear gloves and most often just a veil and always long pants. (however I did get stung in the face on Monday, one had snuck up into my veil, I didn't have it tucked in.) For the big jobs, I do suit up.

I hated the smoker for a very very long time. That is a dreadful thing to get the hang of. you will get better at it!

I feel like I must be squashing bees but there doesn't to seem to be much you can do about space other then make sure the frames are snug up against the self spacers as you go.
That can be heart-breaking, I know. With more inspections under your belt, you will become gentler if you want to. The bee brush helps a lot. You will develop your own technique that helps with that. I have seen keepers who don't really seem bothered in the slightest that they are crunching away their population, but I try not to.

It sounds like you are doing well so far to me (just be careful with that smoker :))! This is an exciting time; they are going to teach you so much- enjoy it! Every time from here forward for a long time, when you pop the cover, they will show you something you have never seen before.

You have also found a wonderful network of people here at the forum, I'd be hopeless without this place.

All the best to you!!

Jamie D
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I am typically of the 'figure it out yourself' mindset (ie...male :)), but I am thinking about finding a 'mentor' - or at a minimum joining my county beekeeping association. It's really the hands on practice/expertise that will be tough to get on my own, other than by making glaring errors. And since it's obvious already that so much of what makes a good beekeeper is the ability to observe and assess what's going on (or about to go on) in the hive. I am going to work on getting better and more knowledgeable every time I go in. Today was not a confidence booster though.

Today had a very 'Lucy' feel to it...


And thanks Mike and Jamie - I've already fallen in love with this community. I run a vbulletin community of my own (NFL related) and this place reminds me of my own community - only slightly different subject matter. Thanks for the encouragement - it helps!
 

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As a newbee myself as of this month, I can relate to exactly what you are going through. Thank you for sharing.

A little trick I learned to inspect new comb for eggs when you have a frame out in front of you. Put the sun to your back so you can use the light to see - blow on the bees hovering over the cells. They will move and you can keep your hands holding the frame. I know it may be old hat to most, but man, it sure made things easier for me. I got so excited to see those larva swimming in royal jelly the other day.
 

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Thats my biggest issue, squashing bees. I left space in between lots of my frames to try and not squish bees. Don't do it. I have a few frames that have comb thats 3 inches think (total) as each time I put it back I did the same thing, kinda like a snowball rolling down a hill.

Just remember, its just a box of insects. They will be fine without your help, they can survive without us. Do your best and enjoy it ! Its the most fullfilling thing I've ever done.
 

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As a brand new beek, too, I really appreciate your post. My first real inspection is this weekend, and I've been rehearsing it in my head over and over. Such a basic skill, and so many ways to mess it up! Even installing the package two weeks ago, I had a moment when I just had to walk away and breathe.
 

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Once the bees get all your equipment completely gummed up with propolis it becomes easier to avoid mashing bees, since the frames have to be pried apart and back together, they won't slide in all that glue. Just push them together slowly and give the bees time to move out of the way. They don't like to be squished any more than you like to squish them and will move out of the way quick enough when the space closes up.

After a few more inspections you will relax and things will work better. One thing I can recommend is to stand to the side of the hive so you don't reach over it -- my bees don't like that and will jump all over my gloves when I to. Reaching in from the side they don't mind so much.

I remove an outer frame from each box when looking at frames, and lean it up against the front of the hive. This gives me lots of room to move the others around. I typically don't actually remove frames from the box when inspecting unless I'm checking for swarm cells, and even then tipping the whole box to look at the bottom bars is eaiser than pulling actual frames. I just move the frames from one side to the other, one at a time. I can see what I want to unless I need to see eggs, gotta pull the frame at least part way for that. I can see brood or lack of it, queen cups, queen cells on the face of the frame, and the density of the capped brood, all that I usually need to see.

When I'm finished, I gently push all the frames together by prying with my hive tool on the last one, and when that's done I slide the frame I took out back in, then adjust them to push all the frames together tightly and center them in the box.

You will get used to it soon enough, it's only nerve wracking for the first few times.

Wait til you get "runny" bees -- I had one hive that was out and over the sides of the box as soon as I pulled the box above off. Big pain getting them off the seating surfaces so I didn't squish too many, and they flew all over. Once the queen got replaced by the bees, they got much better behaved.

Peter
 

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Peter is right, Im just in my second year but am alot more comfortable now when doing simple to deep inspections. I doo find myself letting the bees tell me when they need inspecting alot more. Im only going deep if I see negative signs shallow. I used to feel like I had to find the queen every time, now I just look for her work. Lot less chance for casualties that way. Settle in and enjoy, you will find yourself hopelessly addicted soon. Im thinking of creating a 12 step program.........:D
 

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As previously stated, The sun over your shoulder is key to seeing eggs. If you saw eggs a week ago, you should have capped brood by now. Eggs should be surrounding the capped brood.

When pulling the first frame out, I always look for the frame that has the least bees on it, typically on one of then ends. Then leave that frame out, rest it on the side of the hive, while you inspect the rest. If you need 2 frames out to make room to maneuver frames just stack them against each other against the hive. When you put the frames back in, scrape any burr comb and insert the emptiest frame last, along the wall with the fewest bees.
Luke
 

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>Tell me I will get better at this

Of course you will. The first time you do anything is usually the worst. If you have a veil on (don't try it without) blowing on the bees often moves them. With testy bees they sometimes hit you in the face instead... well not instead, I guess they still move...
 
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