How To Inspect Your Bee Hive: Step By Step Guide

The main goal during inspection is to finish up everything in about 10 minutes. Any longer and you could expose the hive to too much cold or wind, or simply overstay your welcome.

 So have your inspection checklist and all of your tools ready and close by, so you can get in and get out as quickly as possible.

 Here’s your preinspection checklist:
 »Inspection checklist.
 »Safety gear.
»Hive tools 
 »Beekeeping journal (and pen).
 »Smoker lit and ready to use All right then, let’s dive in.

What To Look For

When you are inspecting your hive, there are some specific things you should look for. The more you observe your hive, the better you will get at recognizing everything.

 It will take time to become familiar with all of the components of your beehive, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t see everything listed here the first time you inspect.

Identify and locate the queen: 

If you didn’t buy a queen that was marked, refer here, where I go over the physical attributes of the queen, to help you recognize her.

 Comb development:

 If you are using frames with foundations, your bees should have started to draw out, or build out the combs from the foundation. If you used foundationless frames, your bees should be building their comb.


Bee eggs will look similar to tiny specks of rice, and may be hard to see. Each cell should contain only one egg.


 Larvae are the next step in bee metamorphosis. At this stage, they will resemble white maggots. Some of the larvae cells will be capped and some uncapped, meaning some will be sealed and some will be open.


These are bees in the final stage of development, the pupa stage. At this stage, they will start to resemble bees. They have wings, eyes, and legs. At the end of the pupa stage, which lasts 7 to 14 days, the baby female bees will chew their way out of the cells.


 Collectively, all the developing bee cells are called brood. You should see drone cells, worker cells, and queen cells (if queen cells are needed by the colony) in various stages of bee metamorphosis.

 The worker cells will generally be located in the center of the frames and be almost flat—unlike the drone cells, which will have a domed cap. The queen cells will be larger than any other. 

Honey production: 

Honey cells will be filled with shiny nectar, and the caps will be more translucent than those on the brood cells.

Filled comb: 

Whether by brood or honey, your combs will start to grow or your frames will fill. If three-quarters of your frames are filled, then it is time to add more room for growing. In Langstroth or Warre hives, this would mean it is time to add another box.

Dead bees: 

A few dead bees is not a big deal. But do you see an abundance of dead bees in the hive that aren’t being removed? If so, then you will need to inspect further into your hive for signs of pest or disease. Other reasons for an excess of dead bees are extreme cold, exposure to poison, or starvation.

Langstroth Hive Inspection

In a Langstroth hive, you will have the bottom board, the boxes, the inner cover, and the top board.

 Bottom board: 

The bottom board will have the entrance into the hive. Some beekeepers like to add a wire bottom so that small hive beetles will fall through the bottom onto a sticky board, keeping the bees safe inside.


The boxes are the main body of your hive and come in three different sizes: shallow, medium, and deep. The deeps are generally used for brood production, while the shallows and mediums are used for honey production. (Although the bees don’t know that, and will use the boxes as they like.) 


 You will have an inner cover and a top board (outer cover) on the top of your hive. The inner cover helps prevent the bees from gluing the top board to the boxes with their propolis. 

Queen excluder: 

A queen excluder looks like a grate and is installed between the deep box and the medium or shallow box. 

The spaces are big enough to let the worker bees through, but too small for the queen bee to climb through. 

Beekeepers do this to prevent the queen bee from laying eggs in the honey boxes. This also keeps the queen in the bottom of the hive.

 Side note: 

queen excluders are not included with the purchase of a Langstroth Hive and will cost additional money. Some beekeepers choose not to use them because they do not want to restrict the queen’s movement within the hive. It is a personal choice to use one or not.

Langstroth Inspection Steps

  • The first thing you will want to do is lightly smoke the front of your beehive if you plan to use a smoker.
  • Remove the top board. If the top board is stuck, you will need to use your hive tool to remove it.
  • Lightly smoke the inside of the hive again.
  • Remove the inner cover and place it off the ground but within reach
  • Depending on how many boxes you have, you will want to repeat this process for each box.
  • Carefully remove a frame to inspect it. Look for the items on the inspection checklist.
  • Replace each frame after inspection, paying the utmost attention to the bees. Unfortunately, many queens have met an early death from being squished during a hive inspection.
  • Replace the inner cover, then the top board.
  • When you are finished, slowly move far enough away from your hive so you can safely remove your bee suit without a slew of bees covering you.

Too Bar Hive Inspection

A top bar hive inspection is similar to a Langstroth hive inspection; you will perform the same steps, with the exception of removing the inner cover and boxes. The main difference between the Langstroth and top bar hive inspections is the handling and care of the frames.

 Top bar frames are not as structurally sound as Langstroth frames, and the comb can easily break away from the top bar due to its weight. This is especially true if the comb is filled with honey. Use extra caution when handling the frames for inspection.

Warre Hive Inspection

Keeping true to the Warre principle, the hive was not intended for weekly inspections—or even monthly inspections, for that matter. However, some state laws may require you to do inspections at regular intervals.

One of the main reasons for hive inspection while using a Warre hive is to see if your bees need a new box. Generally, you will have to add a box to the bottom in the spring and again in the summer. 

Take the same extra care required for the top bar hive when handling the frames, as they lack support and are very fragile.

Warre Hive Inspection Steps

  • Lightly smoke the entrance of your beehive, if you plan to use a smoker.
  • Remove the top board.
  • Lightly smoke the inside of the hive again.
  • Proceed from step 6 of the Langstroth hive inspection

Be Prepared For Bee Stings

As we all know drones (male bees) don’t have stingers. The queen has a stinger, but she reserves its use for defeating her possible successor. If you get stung, a worker bee did it. Worker bees are the only ones who will sting you.

When a bee stings you, whether by accident or she was defending her colony, she will die. Her stinger is attached to parts of her abdomen, so that when she stings you, her insides are literally ripped out. Between the two of you, the bee gets the worse end of the deal by far.

First Aid For Bee Stings

There is venom in a bee’s stinger. The longer the stinger stays in you, the more the venom will spread. The first thing to do when you get stung is to remove the stinger from your skin. 

You can remove the stinger by scraping it out with a straight edge, such as the edge of a driver’s license or a credit card. I don’t advise using tweezers, as they could release more of the venom in your skin.

 Bees release a pheromone when they sting you to alert other bees that you are a threat and to come attack. So wash with soap and water as soon as you remove the stinger.

 If you are allergic to bee stings, experiencing extreme shortness of breath, extreme swelling, hives, dizziness,or nausea, seek immediate medical attention.

 Do not try to treat the sting yourself. Just try to remove the stinger and get to a medical facility as fast as you can.

Instant Remedies For Bee Stings

These remedies are often tried and true. However, sometimes they are about as reliable as the weatherman,you have a 50 percent chance of them actually working.

 The venom in bee stings is acidic, so anything that helps neutralize this acid should help relieve the pain. After you have removed the stinger and washed your skin, try one of these traditional remedies:

»Baking soda: 
Make a paste with baking soda and water, apply to the sting, and let sit until dry. 

Put a dab of toothpaste on the sting until the pain subsides.

 Wet the tobacco and place it on the sting until the pain goes away. 

»Copper penny: 
Tape the copper penny over the bee sting for 15 minutes. 

»Tea bag:
 Wet a tea bag and press it on the bee sting until the pain subsides. 

»Meat tenderizer:
 Mix one part meat tenderizer to three parts water and place on the sting for 30 minutes.

Crush an aspirin and mix it with equal parts water, place on the sting, and let dry.

Natural Remedies For Bee Stings

 Place raw, organic honey on the sting and cover with a bandage; rinse after 30 minutes. 

We're referring to the common weed her not the large,banana-like fruit. Crush some plantain (the leaves) to make a poultice and secure on the sting with some tape.

»Essential oils: 
Diluted oils such as lavender and tea tree oil have been used to help relieve the pain of bee stings.

 »Apple cider vinegar: 
Soak a cotton ball in vinegar and place on the sting until the pain dissipates.

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