Spring is almost here
As winter slowly winds down and longer days with warmer temperatures approach, it is time to think about our bees that are beginning to stir. With activity, the bees will be consuming more food and that raises the risk of starving just as spring approaches. In fact, more bees starve during March than any other month. If it is cool, tilt the hive from the back to see if it still feels somewhat heavy. If not, you need to feed. You can add plain sugar or fondant to make sure they have an adequate supply. If no warm days are forecast, you may need to add food anyway. Open the hive quickly to add the sugar or fondant. Although cold temperatures are a risk, a starved colony is just as dead as a frozen one. It is possible the queen has started to lay so it is a good idea to add a pollen patty.
The patty should be placed over the brood area. It is important to keep the patties in a warm place the night before to avoid adding a cold patty into the cluster. The reason for the pollen supplement is to maintain any brood in the hive.
On a warm day, when you see bees starting to fly, you need to check their food supply and the size of the cluster. If bees are flying, they are eating. It is important to note not only the quantity, but the location of any food that may be remaining. Ideally, there will be food above the cluster. Bees want to move up and may not go to outside frames for food. If the nights are above freezing and the days are warm (preferably above 50) you can add liquid food. (A sugar syrup mixture of 1 to 1 or even 1.5 to 1). As days become warmer you can change to a ¾ to 1 which is closer to natural nectar (6 pounds of sugar to a gallon of water). Adding a pollen supplement is meant to maintain any brood that the queen has laid until natural pollen is available. Once there is an adequate supply of natural pollen the bees will stop taking supplements.
It is important to stimulate the queen to lay so you are prepared for the flow. You need to have a large population to take advantage of this important event. (Adding sugar syrup along with pollen will stimulate the queen to lay.) The old winter bees are starting to die, and you need to get brood going while there are still enough bees to care for them. When the queen lays a fertilized egg, it takes 21 days for the egg to become an adult bee. An adult worker bee typically becomes a forager 21 days after emerging. This means you need to have the queen laying to her capacity a minimum of 6 weeks prior to the beginning of the flow to have enough foragers when the flow starts to bring in the needed nectar and pollen.
Another task that you want to consider is treating for mites. There are several options to evaluate, and our best advice is to go to the website www.honeybeehealthcoalition.org and use their tool to help you decide which action to take. It is important that if you plan to treat, you have the treatment completed prior to the nectar flow and preferably before the spring build up.