Managing the Inspection
My worst encounter was 4 or 5 years ago, I decided to inspect a colony not far from my home. It was a typical
day, early/mid July and the nectar supplies were starting to wane in our part of the country. As soon as I
cracked open the colony the bees were on me as if to say “NOT NOW!” I forged militaristically on. I was
looking for signs of the queen, a man on a mission, marching headstrong into this routine inspection and
nothing was going to stop me. I had to know, was she or wasn’t she healthy; was she placing those eggs side
by side, was she or wasn’t she making me a proud apiarist with only the highest quality queen in my apiary?
I pulled out the first frame; the bees were pelting my gloves like tiny laser guided missiles targeting an
enemy aggressor. I pulled out another frame, and bees were pounding the netting around my face; I pulled out
another frame and there were bees in the air everywhere, stinging my clothing; buzzing me; bumping my veil,
warning me to GET AWAY; it was insane. I quickly finished my inspection, closed up the hive, and made my
get-a-way. Before it was over, I had well over 200 stingers in my clothing—one of them penetrated my skin
but I can only imagine what I would have felt like had I not been wearing proper protective gear.
In retrospect, I learned a great deal from that experience. Had I determined before doing my inspection to
listen to the little ladies, I would not have been so ravenously attacked. They were quite nervous that day,
uncharacteristically so. I needed to slow down my inspection technique.
The key takeaway: FOR SAFETY’S SAKE, MANAGING THE INSPECTION IS AS IMPORTANT AS MANAGING THE COLONY.
1. LISTEN to the LADIES (accept the occasion when the little ladies say “not today”).
2. ALWAYS wear protective gear (yes, there is always a rogue bee somewhere in the colony).
3. When the inspection HAS to occur today; use plenty of cool smoke and be patient after using your
smoker and allow some time prior to your inspection.
I routinely wear gloves, a nylon jacket and veil. The nylon jacket seems to be less prone to having bees rest on
it after an inspection, reducing the odds of catching you off-guard and subsequently, you getting stung when
removing the gear after an inspection.