I've been advised to check on my beehive every two weeks, so by now I've checked on them three times. I was really nervous the first time I opened my hive. I've still never been stung, so I don't know if I'm deathly allergic or not. Apparently the odds of actually being deathly allergic are extremely low (I've heard estimates that about 1% of the population). But I would like not to find out the hard way that I am in that select 1%.
So, I was incredibly nervous the first time because:
1) I had no idea what I was doing, even though I had watched hives being opened by various people at the apiary, and
2) I didn't want to get stung and die
Since I'm still writing this blog, clearly option 2 didn't happen.
The first time I opened the hive a month ago, I noticed that the bees hadn't built up the honeycomb to the plastic frames. My hive was started with 4 wooden frames from another beekeeper who was generous to spare me some of his workers. Those established frames have always been doing well, but it has taken about a month for the bees to start building on the new frames. At first I was told that it was because I didn't wax the plastic frames, so I spent an evening melting old wax and painting it on my 20 plastic frames.
I realized after my first visit that I couldn't live in perpetual fear of dying from two bee stings. At my next doctor's visit, I asked for a perscription for an epipen just in case. The doctor seemed very intruiged and confused about why I would choose to raise bees, and I think spent more time talking to me about bees than the condition that I actually came to the doctor for. He also warned me that epipens are expensive. Multiple people have told me this, as if finding out that paying $50 for a potentially life-saving device would be a deal-breaker. If nothing else, it was worth the peace of mind.
On my second visit, I was slightly less nervous because I had brought gloves and an epipen, but I was still deterred by a solitary angry bee in my face. I did manage to pull out one of the wooden frames to make sure the bees were making honey and brood (baby bees). These are two of the main things you should look for when you're checking your bees, since this means that the workeres are doing okay, and queen is alive and making young. There are ways to check for parasites and diseases in the hive, but I'm not that experienced yet.
I was nowhere near being comfortable poking around the hive, and I wanted to check on the bare minimum and get the hell out of there.