Should I Perform Beehive Inspections with Supers On?
Ask the Expert!
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David Curtis asks: Once I have my honey supers on, how often should I be checking my brood boxes?
Rusty Burlew replies:
As a general rule, I try not to go into the brood boxes when the honey supers are on. There are a few reasons for this. For one thing, disruption to the colony causes nectar collection to drop, sometimes for several days, while the bees calm down, re-group, and repair any damage. Secondly, it’s best not to use a lot of smoke around open honey cells because particles and odors may contaminate the honey. Smoke contamination is not common, but occasionally it does happen. A third reason is honey supers can be extremely heavy, so lifting them may be a chore.
In most places, the nectar flow doesn’t last very long. In those cases, you can treat for mites and do your inspections before adding your supers. Then, when the flow is over, you can remove the supers and do more inspections. If the colony is healthy and mites are controlled, it should easily get through the nectar flow without any additional inspections. On the other hand, if the colony is not strong, it shouldn’t be given a honey super at all.
The dates will vary with your locality, but where I live in Washington, I check the bees and treat in April, add the honey supers for the months of May and June, and then take them off around July 4. In those areas where you also have a fall flow, you can check and treat the bees in August and then replace the supers for September, although many beekeepers leave the fall flow on the hives for the bees to overwinter.
If you don’t know the timing of the nectar flows in your area, try asking some local beekeepers. Then you can easily schedule inspections around the placement and removal of honey supers. In any case, if you think something is amiss with your colony, then an inspection is always appropriate, regardless of the honey supers.
We hope this helps!