What do I do when I check on my bees?

Photo of AEVAC Educational posters. Not the old-school aluminum paint on the box. 

You have installed a package into the hive, and checked it about a week later to make sure the queen is doing well. Now it is time to make regular inspections, about every 7-10 days through the summer. 

Remember that it will take about 21 days for new bees to emerge. The original worker bees in the package will dwindle in number during this time. Look for eggs and brood in various stages of development. Make sure the worker bees have enough pollen and nectar to feed all those hungry mouths. 

Honeybee stages of development. Photo is of AEVAC educational poster.

Continue feeding bees until there is a steady nectar flow, they have drawn comb in most of the frames in the bottom box, and they have two full frames of honey. 

Once bees have filled 8 of the 10 frames and are starting to work on the outer-most frames, add a second deep box. This will take about 4-6 weeks. 

To add the second box, remove the lid from the colony, puff a bit of smoke across the tops of the frames, and remove one full frame. Replace it with a frame of foundation. Place the full frame in the second box, along with 9 frames of foundation. This will prime the bees to build in the second box. Place the second box on top of the first and then the lid on top. Bees should be free to move between boxes. This second box a main part of the brood chamber. 

Which frame you choose for priming depends on the weather and progression of the hive. If it is hot, you can use a frame from the middle of the brood chamber. This is ideal, especially if the hive is very crowded. If it is still cool at night, use a frame of honey (maybe 3rd from the end) to prime the bees into the second box. 

Add the 3rd box when bees are working on the outer two frames on the second box. This will take 8-10 weeks. Repeat the priming process. On our hives, we use only deep boxes as supers and brood chamber boxes. We do not use a queen excluder. An old saying goes, “A queen excluder is a honey excluder.” However, if you are using a queen excluder, it should go between the 2nd and 3rd boxes. 

Note: If you are starting from drawn comb rather than foundation, bees will fill frames in one box about 2 weeks faster. 

Add additional supers as needed during nectar flow. Some beekeepers continue to stack supers on the hive to harvest all of the honey in the fall. Others let one super fill up, remove it, extract honey, and replace it. For this method, it is nice to have an extra super handy. 

Three rooftop hives, stacked 4, 6, and 6 boxes high. 
See the beekeeper adding a fourth super to the stack of boxes. He has removed the lid, and is adding the box to the top. He then will replace the lid. 

Here is another 1966 photo of Grandpa Arthur Andersen checking bees inside the chicken coop. I can't get enough of these awesome photos!

Another bee yard, which we manage 2 or 3 boxes tall. When supers are full, we replace them with an empty super, put them on the truck, and take them home to extract. 

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