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I don't get too carried away with the examination. I don't let them build comb end to end, always have at least two or three bars that I can remove. Then I can see the face of the first comb and reach in if I need to cut any attachments. I slide the bars in the empty space created by the removed bars and examine bars one at the time, and place them next to the bar s I already examined. Keep the order of the bars and the orientation and the bees seem very happy to be reunited. Harvest or insert bars to expand as I see fit but otherwise try to minimize disturbance. I rarely go through the whole hive unless I have a reason to. If I inspect the first two bars of brood and see that everything looks good I go no further. I can usually tell how many bars of brood they have. You can peek through the other end if you want to be sure.)
I do use smoke most of the time. I admire the guys who don't. I think they are onto something (i.e maintaining the hive scents and environment as undisturbed as possible.) Maybe it's my handling them, not as smooth as I should, but I see them less disturbed by the smoke than by me opening the hive. I know smoke does not "calm" bees, they just seem less frantic when I use some smoke.
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