Bees are very good at looking after themselves and don’t need human intervention in the same way as dogs or cats so why do beekeepers inspect hives?

Inspecting The Hive

We will leave aside the arguments of the so called natural beekeeping movement here as they believe that hives should be left alone and the bees undisturbed. If you are a member of that movement then please still read on as I hope this blog will go some way to causing a change of heart. For everyone else here are the main reasons why beekeepers inspect hives:


All animals including bees can suffer from disease. This need not be because of something the beekeeper did anymore than a child catching a cold being the fault of the parent. However, just like a responsible parent we need to be on the lookout for disease and when it happens we need to help our charges get over it if possible. Unfortunately some diseases such as European Foul Brood and American Foul Brood are really contagious. If a hive contracts either of these then the number of bees will start to decrease and possibly the hive will die out all together. The problem is that bees are opportunists. If they spot a weak or empty hive they will be straight in there to rob out any honey. This is a great way for them to take the disease back to their own hive and spread it around. Responsible beekeepers inspect regularly and are on the lookout for any signs of disease in order that they, or their local bee inspector can take action to stop it spreading. In the case of European Foul Brood, if it is spotted early enough then it may even be possible to save that colony.


In the environment that we current see it is very easy for the colony to run out of stores. This need not be because the beekeeper has taken too much honey. It may just be due to a prolonged wet period when the bees have not been able to get out or indeed an extra mild spring where the colony has built up too quickly before a good supply of nectar is available. A hive that has swarmed is particularly vulnerable to starvation as most of the older foraging bees will have gone off with the swarm. A responsible beekeeper will spot the problem and be able to feed the bees before they start to suffer.


We can argue about swarm management and whether it is a good thing or not in another blog. However, if you are going to carry out swarm management (and you should!!!) you will need to inspect your hive in order to spot the signs that it is about to happen.

General Health

A good beekeeper inspecting the hive regularly will be able to spot other possible health problems and help the colony before problems arise. A failing or drone laying queen can lead to the death of a colony over a relatively short period of time and so a responsible beekeeper will be able to re-queen the colony before it is too late. This can only be done by inspecting regularly. Similarly, a large outbreak of the varroa mite causing problems such as deformed wing virus can wipe out a colony but spotting it in time will allow treatment before it becomes a disaster.

It Is Educational

Finally, one that is principally for the beekeeper. It is only by observing the bees in the hive that we will increase our knowledge. There is still so much that we don’t know about bees, but by regular inspections we can build up our own knowledge and possibly even find the answer to some of those outstanding questions which always begin “why do bees …….?”

Undoubtedly, too many inspections are detrimental to the hive and like most things in life it is a balance. If the bees are flying well then we recommend inspecting every seven to ten days, but only if they are flying well. Inspections should never be carried out in the brood box during winter or the colder parts of the year. However, checking that they have sufficient stores is an all year round task.

If you want to see how an inspection is carried out then please have a look at our YouTube video Inspecting The Hive

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