Updated: Mar 28
Even in the depths of winter, beekeepers are thinking about spring when their hives will become active again. Spring is an exciting time for bees as they transition from overwintering hives to full size colonies, but they may need some help along the way.
First and foremost, an overwintered hive is operating with limited resources. Before Summer Solstice, the increase in hours of daylight should have a noticeably positive effect on each hive. Forager bees have more time to look for pollen, nectar, water, and propolis as flowers start to bloom and vegetation comes back to life.
In the early part of a new year, Master Beekeepers Earl and Carol Hoffman start to prepare for the spring thaw. They keep a checklist based on years of experience, observations, and analysis. Every colony is different and dynamic. Early spring is the time to determine the health of the colony and gauge its potential to reach full size.
Scattered or Irregular Brood Pattern
There can be multiple reasons for this, including:
- The queen is not performing at her full potential due to pathogens or poor mating
- A shortage of young, healthy nurse bees could negatively impact brood larvae
- If nightly temperatures drop, thermal regulating the cluster and brood is challenging
- The hive lacks the resources to create an abundance of sexually mature drones
- Brood nest combs are pollen bound or honey bound, with no clean cells for eggs
- Pests and disease are obvious – small hive beetles, Varroa mites, Chalkbrood, Foulbrood, Nosema
Pollen and/or Nectar Dearth
A dearth is a starvation condition due to limited floral resources in spring. Consider:
- An overwintered hive may be lacking a strong field force of foragers as adult workers shift from working in the hive to foraging
- The colony is small (juvenile) and struggling to raise more workers
- Limited floral resources in the spring
- Field foragers have died from agricultural chemicals
- Again, pests and disease are obvious – small hive beetles, Varroa mites, Chalkbrood, Foulbrood, Nosema