Opening Hives

[music] So we’re here this time
to talk about working with bees, how to open up a
colony, how to inspect the colony, to go through it,
to remove the frames, and do everything in a
way that keeps the bees nice and calm and
protects the queen. We always need to be
thinking about the queen when we are opening up
a hive and going through to ensure that
we don’t damage her with our
manipulations. So we are working in
the spring of the year, we’ve got a small colony
here, things are a lot easier than later on
when there’s bigger population, more
equipment and so on to work through, so this
is a good place to start at the beginning
of the year. This is an over wintered
nucleus colony that we’ve just transferred
over into a full-sized hive about a week ago. We’re going to open it
up and have a look. I like when we are
working in the brood chamber,
I like to be sitting down, so either
sitting on a bucket like this that we carry
our smoker fuel in or on a stool like so,
but a bucket works just fine too. So first thing we’ll do
is add some smoke to the colony. We’ll puff a bit of smoke
at the entrance where all the bees are
going in and out of the hive. So we call that the front
of the hive or the entrance and we don’t stand or
walk at the entrance that’s because we’ll be
obstructing the bee flow. We could be standing on
bees or stepping on bees so and the movement of our
feet in front of the entrance we are likely to get stung
on the ankles if we are working in that area,
so we just stay away from the front of the hive,
we’ll just puff some smoke there again and then we’ll sit down
and take the hive apart. As much as possible we
avoid injuring bees as we are working
through the hive. They can get crushed in
between bits of equipment and so we try and
avoid that. We puff some smoke as
we open the inner cover. So just peel that
inner cover back and puff a little
bit of smoke in and then we’ll lay that
inner cover on the ground. We use a canvas
inner cover, some people
use feedsacks as a fabric cover, but the most common
thing is to have a wooden inner cover,
but just this is our preference is
the fabric cover. So you can see
that that smoke makes the bees go down
inside the hive and gorge on honey, so as the bees come up
to the surface of the frames we add a bit more smoke to move them
back down again. So we do need to add
smoke to the hive periodically and of
course the smoke has to touch the bees
for it to be effective, so on a windy day you
have to be a little bit more focused on how you
are directing the smoke. We don’t, however, puff the
smoke down in between the frames because that
just gets the bees running around. Now we always take the
second frame out first. The first one is often firmly
attached to the box, it’s a bit harder to get out
without crushing bees. As we move more
towards the middle the queen is more likely
on these frames and that first frame you
pull out there’s the biggest risk of crushing a
queen and other bees, so we’ll move back to
this second one and there is less
risk involved. We also want to be
working across the box methodically so we can
do a thorough inspection. So, if you start in
the middle you have to go
two directions, so we’ll start with
the second frame. We pry against
the third frame, holding the second
frame in position, and then we pry
against over here and what we’ve done is
we’ve broken the bond in between the second
and the third frame. I like to jam my finger in
here and then pry up that with my finger gives
a bit of a space so I can’t pry that frame
against the next one. And then we loosen that
up there, pinch the frame with index and thumb
on both sides and then just pull up
as straight as possible. There is a natural tendency
to tip towards you as you are pulling up, which would mean
crushing bees with the bottom of the frame
as it’s being pulled up, so pull it up nice and
straight and slowly and then you can lean a
corner of the frame down and tip it over and have
a look at the comb. We are not going
to be focusing very much this
time around with what we are
seeing in the hive, we are more focusing
on the technique of dismantling the hive. But that frame will
then lean against the far front corner
of the hive by doing that we
are getting it completely out
of the way, so it doesn’t interfere with
us taking out other frames. If the queen happened
to be on this frame and she dropped
onto the ground at least she is
near the entrance and can just
run into the hive and again we are not
doing anything in front of the hive so that is a
nice safe area there. Now we have lots of space
to be working with, we have all this extra
space, so from then on there is less risk of
crushing of bees or even the queen. A few bees with their
heads looking up at me, so we’ll just puff a
little bit of smoke there doesn’t take
very much, and then we’ll hold the
frame with the thumb and pry it towards me. We hold onto it as we pry so
that it doesn’t snap free, sending vibrations
through the hive, which agitates
the bees. So then we can
pull that over into the middle of the
space and then come straight up and you
can see there is very little risk of
crushing bees now that we have
all this space. To handle the frames
and to tip them from one side
to another we need to move
one hand at a time, so I like to put the
frame up vertically and then rotate
the upper hand and then rotate
the bottom hand to go from one side of
the frame to the other. Easier to do than
to describe. You can tip it and just move one hand
at a time as you are going. We have a look at that
frame and then we can put it back into the hive, transfer our fingers back
onto the top of the frame, lower it down where
we have all this space and then just gradually
move it over and snug it up against
the next frame so you maintain all
this working space here. We’ll then hold this frame
and pry the next one free. Pry again and then
pull the frame up straight up and then we
rotate our hands around the end so we can hold
it like a book and then we can transfer
it over to the other side and again look at it like
you are holding a book. I happen to see the queen
on this side of the frame here she is right here
surrounded by her retinue or her court, all the bees that
are feeding her and cleaning her. She’s busy looking
from cell to cell looking for a place
to lay an egg. Of course her behaviour
is altered by being exposed
to sunlight, occasionally you’ll see
them laying an egg even out in the
sunlight though. So we want to take extra
special care of her, so what I am
going to do is lean her against
the other frame that we’ve set out
of the hive to make sure that we
can keep track of where she is while we do the rest
of the colony inspection. So I will take this frame and I’ll lean it in a way that we are not going to
crush any bees or the queen. Now she’ll stay in
that nice dark spot in between the two
frames there and we can carry
on and inspect the rest of the colony. If bees get in your
way you just kind of bop them out
of the way with your hive tool
so that you have room for your
hive tool without pinching
any bees. Pry that one loose, pinch the frame, move it over to where
we have space pull it
straight up, rotate our hands around and tip the frame
towards us so we can
inspect the cells. Now we are going to close
the hive back up again. We transfer our fingers
to the top of the frame move it down,
slide it over I should mention
at this point it’s not a good idea to pry against that
end of the frame. It seems like a natural
place to dislodge the frames, but you
are prying against this weak part
of the box, and if the frame
is really stuck down with wax
and propolis, you’ll actually break the box there, so always pry against
the adjacent frame. Alright, so now we
know that the queen is on one of
these frames here. We are going to
pick up this frame I don’t see her on this side – oh yep there she
is right there, right here, so I am
going to protect her by turning the frame so that she is
on the opposite side and then give her
lots of space as I am putting
this frame down, and then just slowly
move that over into place. That means she is safe over here in between
the frames and we can then move the frames back to
their original positions. And then the first
one we took out goes back to its
original spot, we gradually lower
the frame down. Now we have a little
extra space here, so we need to just shift
the frames around slightly so that they are nice
and evenly spaced throughout the box. We are going to apply
a bit of smoke now to get the bees
moving down, so that when we put
the inner cover on there is very little chance
of crushing any. So we’ll just set that into position there, wiggle it around a little bit, let any bees out that are
going to be trapped. As we put the lid on
we’ll make sure there aren’t any bees
on the inner cover; any bees that are
up here will be trapped in there when
we put the lid on and will then die, so we clear them out
of the way there. We make sure there
aren’t any bees in here, if there are then
tap them off, there is one that
snuck in, and then we just set the
lid down in place there and we’ve done
our colony inspection. So there you’ve seen a
few ways of handling the frames safely to
avoid damaging the queen and to enable
us to be able to do a colony inspection. Coming up right
next we’ll actually inspect each of
these frames to see what we can see
inside a normal beehive. Thanks very much.
See you next time.


  1. Couple things I do differently. 1. If I find the Queen on a frame, that frame goes back in the box, never on the ground. 2. When prying frames apart to remove them, I pry in-between end bars at the self spacer. That is where they are glued and I find less tension prying there than on topbars.

  2. Thank you to everyone for watching and supporting our videos! If you have any questions about our videos, please check out our list of FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS on our website, which can be found at .

  3. Why do bee keepers put the frames back in in the order they took them out. Does it confuse the bees if you don't?

  4. Just want to warn folks about sitting or standing on plastic buckets or the like… My friend stood on a bucket and it shattered and cut his leg from his ankle to the back of his need.. laid him right open… I was there and we wrapped up his leg fast because it was bleeding like mad… Plastic gets brittle with sunlight.. you never know just how brittle the bucket is until it breaks… doesn't have to bee brittle on the entire bucket.. just enough to start a crack anywhere on it… and you get you ass cut all to hell… could be life threatening if a guy was to mess himself up without anyone around to assist with the injury… Don't do it… I only do it if I know the bucket is only a month or 2 old and hasn't been in the sun… why play the odds on something that can really mess you up? Hope this advice reduces injury.. /salute.

  5. In flowering season how many times we can harvest honey…
    And what the average production rate of melifera bees..
    …is that good to put honey supers ….permanent

  6. You mention that you like a canvas inner cover on your hives. Do you use these through the winter also? If so, how does the hive evacuate the moisture so you don't get mold inside during the cold months?

  7. I really like the idea of the canvas inner lid…another benefit is that you avoid cracking the lid open and agitating the beees.

  8. @11:00 do frames need to be evenly spaced or should be they touching shoulder to shoulder with all the extra space going to the sides? I am having lots of burr comb on top and bottom bars of the brood nest of new colony – that is with many peripheral frames still not drawn (new foundation only). Also it seems they want to build drone cells at the bottom of the bars as if the uniform plastic foundations would not allow them to do that. Would you suggest putting 1 plastic drone frame or some foundationless frames into the box?

  9. I think holding the frame like that in horizontal is a big mistake,speacially if it has nectar in it : it will cause the nectar to drop on the ground and that will attract predators so holding the frame in the vertical position is always recommended

  10. I have really enjoyed your videos. They are very informative and I feel like I learn something every time I watch one. Keep up the good work.

  11. Ha folks Merry Christmas to u all when are u going to put the new videos u made this past summer on here I am so excited to see them thanks

  12. sir, when you use a new piece of canvas cloth do you apply anything to the canvas or let the bee's season it for you?

  13. Do you prefer to sit while inspecting just to save your back, or is it less threatening to the bees?

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