For first year beekeepers I recommend inspecting your hive at least once every 2 weeks. Doing so will really help you understand the natural flow of a hive. You will learn so much in the first year! the best way to learn beekeeping is to go out there and do it!
When conducting a routine hive inspection there are only a few things you need to make sure of.
You can tell if a queen is healthy or not by her brood pattern. Lots of healthy brood of varying stages tells usually means that you have an active healthy queen.
Adequate food stores
Is the hive starving? Do they have several frames of honey in the brood chamber? Are they storing honey in the supers? Is the hive gathering pollen?
Absence of Pests
Is the brood sickly? This could mean the hive is stressed, overloaded with varroa, or have contracted a brood disease. Is there an abundance of wax moths or hive beetles?
Does the hive have any immediate needs?
Is the hive running out of room? Does it need to be fed? Do they have queen cells? Are they being robbed?
When you inspect a hive generally you want to get a look at a few frames of brood. The state of the brood is one of the best indicators of how well a hive is doing. If the brood is sickly, discolored, or in a spotty pattern something is wrong. See: pests If you have an abundance of healthy, pearly, white larva your hive is probably doing just fine. It is normal to occasionally see a few dead or discolored larva, problems arise when there are frames of unhealthy brood.
It is also normal to see a few hive beetles running about. As long as there is not an abundance of them you are fine. If you see hive beetle larva there is an issue. See Hive Beetles
It is not normal to see Wax moths in healthy hives. This is an indicator that your hive is weak. See: Wax Moths
Strong healthy hives will manage wax moths and beetles just fine. Many new beekeepers think that their hive was killed by these pests when they go to check their hive finding no bees and the boxes full of these pests. Wax moths and beetles are only a product of a bigger problem. They move into a hive once it has gotten so weak they cannot defend itself. Only too often this is the result of Varroa. See: Varroa
It can also be caused if a hive lost a queen and was unsuccessful in raising a new one. As the population dwindles these pests will move in and finish the job.
Remember! The more you bang the equipment around the more defensive the hive will become. Move gently and enjoy the process.
1. Puff a bit of smoke in the entrance of a hive. This will put the guard bees off the alert and calm the hive.
2. Open the top cover and puff some smoke across the top frames. The bees will move down and off the tops of the frames.
3. If you have honey supers on and are going to check the brood chamber, remove the super(s) first. Use your hive tool to pry between the boxes, one they are loose you can take them off. I usually set them on their end. This keeps grass and bugs out of the hive. Puff some smoke across the frames once you take the super off.
4. Using you hive tool, gently pry a frame out of the brood chamber. Be careful! you do not want to smash the queen. I usually remove the very first frame or the second. These frames usually have honey on the and the queen is likely more toward the center.
Once you have removed a frame, check it for the queen (just in case) If the queen is not on it, lean it against the hive.
5. You can now loosen the other frames and inspect them at your leisure. It is not necessary to check every single frame. You do not want to keep the hive open more than 15 minutes. If everything looks good, put the hive back to gather as you found it. You can use smoke as needed to calm the bees down.
6. Some basic things you might want to do is rotate frames. Bees like to work the center frames. If you have frames on the edges you can move them toward the center. This will force the bees to use them. If you are doing this in the brood nest, do not rotate more than 2 frames into the brood circle. You do not want to break up the brood nest too much. If the hive is gathering honey and more than 80% full, consider adding another box. See: Honey Supering
Comment below if you have any questions!!