The Springtime Hive
Inspecting the spring hive is hopefully a joyous event for you, with bees who have successfully overwintered buzzing about, and beautiful brood patterns. Now is the time to assess the health of each hive; here are some considerations.
Assure there are enough bees to raise the brood. What’s enough? Picture a full cup of coffee—that’s about the smallest amount of bees you need to have for success.
Check brood patterns. If weak, keep a close eye on the hive and consider queen replacement.
Use a pollen patty directly above the cluster to assure additional nutrition.
If you have multiple survivor hives, and some hives have a strong queen who has laid brood across multiple frames versus other frames with not much brood, consider equalizing the amount of bees (and future bees) in each by moving frames between hives. If you have a hive with substantially fewer bees, make sure they have sufficient numbers to keep any brood you may relocate to it warm if nights are still chilly.
Combining hives may be necessary if you have a strong and a weak hive or queenless hive.
Note where the cluster is; that is where your queen probably is. If the brood and cluster are in a top hive body, you will probably want to put that box as the first box above your bottom board. If the brood pattern covers more than one box, you will want to move the boxes down to the bottom board in the same order as they existed.
Look carefully at your bees for any mites on the bees or more obvious signs like deformed wings.
If the colony is strong (a good cluster still exists) you may want to treat with a softer mite control such as Apiguard or newly out Apivar if you use chemical treatments.
This season, do it write! When you leave the apiary, make copious notes on what you found in each hive.
Feed, Feed, Feed
Allow for a community feeder for those first warm days. Bees will be flying and they will have a purpose to bring the carbohydrates you supply via feeding supplements such as sugar water, corn syrup, or honey.
A pollen patty above the cluster will provide the protein they need to successfully get the queen started or continuing laying brood.
Review stores in the surviving hives and distribute them evenly among the survivors.
Look for pollen and nectar-producing spring foliage or trees to help sustain strong colonies and start thinking about planting for spring, summer and fall plants that will assist your bees in their survival. Don’t kill or mow down those dandelions; they are a great food source!!