One of the biggest problems with new beekeepers is that they over inspect their hives. Bees are very interesting. It is only natural, as a new beekeeper, to want to check your hives a little more than you should. As beekeepers we are able to learn an incredible amount of information about our hives each time we open them up. As a new beekeeper it is good to open up the hives often. It gives you the practice that you will need later on. Almost every new beekeeper does it and it is not bad but it is not good either. If you are curious, go ahead and look. They are your bees, check them whenever you want. With that said, be aware that disturbing them too much can set them back.
Every time you open a hive you damage what the bees have been working on. I believe that every time you remove burr comb and propolis you are making more work for the bees. They put it there for whatever reason and as soon as it is gone they will put it back. One of the most irritating things that I hear people tell beginners is that whenever they check their hives they need to remove the burr comb between the boxes. When I first started beekeeping I had a really hard time getting the queen to lay in the upper boxes. The reason that she wasn’t laying up there is because I was checking them every week and removing the burr comb at the bottom of the frames. As soon as I quit inspecting and removing burr comb my hives began building up faster in the spring.
As beekeepers we need to realize that there are things that the bees do better than us. Once you figure out that the bees will survive without you, you’ll find that the bees keep themselves better than we keep them. Obviously there are things as beekeepers that we have to do. We have to make sure that we can easily harvest the honey so there are necessary management techniques that we have to use.
How often do I check my bees? Well, it depends on the hive and management style. Some systems, like the Warre method, requires very few inspections. Personally, I check my hives a little more often than most. I don’t use foundation so getting the combs built in the right places is really important in the beginning. I do all other inspections at two week intervals until I have enough combs built in the first box that I can checker the built combs with empty frames. This gives the bees a guide on both sides of the empty frame and also allows me to stop inspecting them until I feel that I need to add another box. Once I don’t have to worry about the bees building cross combs I leave them alone unless I see a serious decline in activity at the entrance.
With all that said, it is really up to you as the beekeeper. You know what your intentions are before you go into the hive. You know when you are doing an inspection just because you are curious. Keep the curiosity checks to a minimum and learn to read the hive from the entrance.