In 2015 Rich reported that with the mild (2014-15) winter, honey bees have been busy producing brood so hives have more frames of brood than usual for this time of year. With our Milder February we may have a similar situation this spring.
Rich recommended, if the bees are flying, to get into the hives and check for eggs and larvae. If more than one colony, compare brood frame numbers to evaluate how good each queen is. He said to consider equalizing colonies, now and later in spring, by taking brood from the strong to give weaker colonies; it will help slow down swarming in the stronger colonies. BUT SO SO ONLY IF DISEASE FREE.
ROTATING BROOD BOXES
If bottom box is empty of brood, switch boxes, so the queen and brood are in the bottom box; empty top box will provide egg laying space for the queen to move up into. If however, there is some brood in the bottom of the top box and some brood in the top of the bottom box, do not switch the boxes as this would break up the brood area and make it difficult for the bees to keep it warm. I include the diagrams from HONEY BEE BIOLOGY & BEEKEEPING showing the right and wrong way to reverse.
Rich continued – Clean the bottom board of debris. If you have the resources to do so, it’s great to replace the bottom board with a clean dry one. He said he was getting questions about the need to feed colonies? His response: “If you want to split your colonies or they are light, the feeding of syrup and protein patties would be great. If you don’t care to split your colonies in the near future, don’t feed. If you feed now and don’t split the colony, they will build up early and swarm before the honey flow gets here. A colony that swarms isn’t going to make honey. If you overwintered any nucs, those will need feed. They can easily starve. There isn’t enough room for honey in a 5-frame nuc.”
SOME ADDITIONAL TASKS
Rich concluded with advice for anyone getting packages or nucs, hat March is a good time to prepare the site. Put down concrete blocks, pavers, pallets, or whatever you are using for the hive(s) to set on. Hang out yellow jacket traps to catch the queens. Plan and prepare for a vegetable garden.
He listed abundant FLORA: Camellia, Crocus, Daffodils, Dandelion, Forsythia, Heath, Willow, Oregon Grape, Buttercup, Peach, Cherry, Plum, Prune, Maple, Oregon Ash, Wild Mustard, Blueberries, Almond (here in the valley), and Pear. NOTE: that a great resource of monthly blooming plants is the monthly presentation by Glen Andresen of PUB group. Glen lives in NE Portland. See his photos and comments at: www.bridgetownbees.com/whats-in-bloom/
March can be highly variable. It is a month when colonies are on the edge, in danger of starving or getting too large and swarming by April. It is a challenging month for the relatively inexperienced beekeeper, and with highly varying weather, the experienced beekeeper alike. The 2nd and 3rd years are the toughest, in my estimation, not the first year. Will this March find bees far enough along to reverse or will they need more feeding just to keep them alive? Keep on top of them. Good luck.
Update provided by Dewey M. Caron