I usually smoke the bees before I check a hive. This does three things, first it masks the alarm smell alerting other bees of an intruder (me), second it makes them start eating honey because since the hive is on fire (they think) they will have to leave, and who wants to leave all that yummy honey? Not the bees. Thirdly, once the bees are full of honey, the can’t bend their abdomens to sting me as easily.
After smoking the bees I open up the hive and start looking at frames. The bees glue things together so sometimes it is quite a challenge to pull up a frame.
On the frames I am looking for evidence that the queen is still alive and laying. The eggs look like tiny little grains of rice at the bottom of a cell. I also look for larva its other stages of development.
Then it’s just a matter of gently (I don’t want to squish anybody) sliding the frame back into the hive and closing things up.
We still need to winterize the hives. I’ll report more on that later.