External hive inspection

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Note: Most of the content was retrieved from the books "Beekeeping Manual for beginners" by Holeta Bee Research Center and the APIRE project [1]. and from "Advanced Beekeeping Manual by Ethiopian Beekeepers Association and Netherlands Development Organization (SNV-Ethiopia).[2]

Every time a beehive gets opened, the colony gets disrupted. To understand what goes on in the bee colony, a complete inspection is un-avoidable, but an external hive inspection, especially observing the activity of bees at the hive entrance gives a first impression on the hive status and tells the beekeepers, if internal inspection is necessary at all. In general it is said that the more active your bees are, the better. Strong colonies are more active than weak ones. Bees carrying plant pollen is an indicator of brood rearing in the colony and the color of the pollen loads indicates the plants that are in bloom at the time. When observing the bees at the hive entrance, the manner the bees land at the entrance gives information on the amount of nectar beeing collected by the foragers. Bees landing heavy or lose their grip when landing on the landing board are often heavy loaded with water or pollen. Heavy loaded forage returners indicate a nectar flow. Another indicator of nectar flow is the heavy smell of nectar at the hive [3]. Accumulation of bees at the hive entrance could have several reasons: starvation, poisoning, swarm preparations, attacking predators, or simply when it is a hot day. Inspecting the surrounding where the beehives are placed helps to find out if there are ants and other predators. If so, necessary corrective measures should be taken. Whether dead bees are found at the entrance of the hive. A few dead bees are totally normal, but if an extraordinary number of dead bees was observed, there could be something wrong with the colony.


  1. Holeta (unknown date). Beekeeping Manual for beginners.
  2. Ethiopian Beekeepers Association & SNV (2011). Advanced Beekeeping Manual. Express Printers PLC, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
  3. Conrad, R. (2019). External hive inspection. URL (access: 02.12.2019): https://www.beeculture.com/external-hive-inspection