How to Open Your Beehive

When opening your beehive for inspection, approach your hive from the side or rear. Avoid walking right in front of it, because the bees shooting out the entrance will collide with you.

As you approach the hive, take a moment to observe the bees and then ask yourself, “In what direction are they leaving the hive?” Usually it’s straight ahead, but, if they’re darting to the left or right, approach the hive from the opposite side.

  1. Standing at the side and with your smoker 2 or 3 feet from the entrance, blow several puffs of thick, cool smoke into the hive’s entrance.

    Four good puffs of smoke should do fine. Use good judgment. Don’t oversmoke them. You’re not trying to asphyxiate the bees; you simply want to let the guard bees know you’re there.

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  2. Still standing at the side of the hive? Good. Now lift one long edge of the outer cover an inch or so, and blow a few puffs of smoke into the hive.

    Ease the top back down and wait 30 seconds or so. Doing so gives the smoke time to work its way down into the hive. These puffs are for the benefit of any guard bees at the top of the hive.

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  3. Put your smoker down and, using both hands, slowly remove the outer cover.

    Lift it straight up and off the hive. Set the cover upside down on the ground (with the flat metal top resting on the ground, and its underside facing skyward).

Your next step depends on whether you’re still feeding your bees at the time of the inspection. If no hive-top feeder is on the colony, skip ahead.

Removing the hive-top feeder

If you’re using a hive-top feeder, you’ll need to remove it before inspecting your hive. To do so, follow these steps:

  1. With your smoker, puff some smoke through the screened access, and down into the hive.

  2. Hive parts often stick together, so use the flat end of your hive tool to gently pry the feeder from the hive body.

    Do this slowly, being careful not to pop the parts apart with a loud “snap.” That only alarms the bees.

    If you’re using a hive-top feeder, apply some smoke through the screened access to reach the
    If you’re using a hive-top feeder, apply some smoke through the screened access to reach the bees down below.
    Use your hive tool as a lever to ease apart hive parts.
    Use your hive tool as a lever to ease apart hive parts.

    Here’s a useful trick. Use one hand to gently press down on the feeder, while prying the feeder loose with the hive tool in your other hand. This counterbalance of effort minimizes the possibility of the two parts suddenly popping apart with a loud “snap.”

  3. Loosen one side of the feeder and then walk around and loosen the other side.

  4. Blow a few puffs of smoke into the crack created by your hive tool as you pry loose the feeder.

  5. Wait 30 seconds and completely remove the hive-top feeder.

    Be careful not to spill any syrup. Set the feeder down on the outer cover that now is on the ground.

    Positioning the feeder at right angles to the cover when you set it down, results in only two points of contact and makes it less likely that you’ll crush any bees that remain on the underside of the feeder. Always be gentle with them, and they’ll always be gentle with you!

Removing the inner cover of your beehive

If you’re not using a hive-top feeder, you’ll need to remove the inner cover (an inner cover is always used unless a top feeder is on the hive). Removing the inner cover is much like removing the top feeder. Follow these steps:

  1. Puff smoke through the oval hole and down into the hive.

  2. Using the flat end of your hive tool, gently release the inner cover from the hive body.

    Loosen one side and then walk around and loosen the other side. Pry slowly, being careful not to pop the parts apart with a loud “crack.”

  3. Blow a few puffs of smoke into the crack created by your hive tool as you pry up the inner cover.

  4. Wait 30 seconds and then completely remove the inner cover.

    Set it down on the outer cover that’s now on the ground, or simply lean it up against a corner of your hive. Careful! Don’t crush any bees that may still be on the inner cover.

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