Mar 03

First Inspection of the Season

Yesterday was in the mid 40s and was a good time to do the first inspection of the season and install pollen patties on the hives.    The forecast was for a high of 50 with Monday being even warmer, but with a narrow window and rain being called for on Monday, today was the day.  Once the temperatures warmed up to 42 I headed off to the first yard hoping that what I found would be dramatically different than last year’s huge loss.  The bees weren’t very active at the first yard, but as it got a bit warmer though the day they were more active until the sun disappeared behind the clouds.  The timing for placing pollen patties was just about perfect.  While we are expected to get some very cold weather yet this week, it should only be 2 or 3 weeks until the maple trees begin blooming and the bees will quickly loose interest in the pollen patties when the real stuff is available.  So they really need to be on the hives soon so the bees will take advantage of them.

Bee Hives in the snow

Much to my relief I found most hives were quite alive.  Most had fairly tight clusters still with the chill in the air from the snow pack, but many more hives than not were very strong.  Even with the smoker going to drive the bees down into the hive it was a challenge to place pollen patties on some hives without squishing anyA strong hive bees.  It was too cold to consider pulling frames a checking brood, but judging by a peak between frames and the warmth coming from the hives, they have started raising brood already.  It’s like night and day compared to last year where I could count the strong hives on my fingers.

It’s also very important this time of year to check the weight of the hives to evaluate how much honey they have left.  As the bees start rearing brood over the coming weeks they will accelerate their use of honey and hives that are strong now could quickly be lost to starvation.  I found a few hives will need some feeding soon myself, but most will be fine, at least until I get around to check them again in a couple weeks time.

The tally at the end of the day, 123 Live hives, 8 dead (including 2 I knew were dead months ago and 2 others that are so weak right now that I’m betting they won’t make it), and one very tired beekeeper.  Checking 131 hives in 5 yards in a matter of 6 hours by oneself, even if it was only a quick inspection, is exhausting work.  But it’s a good feeling when you get back home and peal off the soggy boots after finding only a 6% loss.

Another bee yard in the snow

Permanent link to this article: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/blog/beekeeping/first-inspection-of-the-season/


  1. Costas Eleftheriou

    Dear friend ,before a few days i meet you in internet and i found in your site lot of useful things.What do you do and you have too many bees in your hives in the winter . I am from Marathon -Greece with no cold winters and my hives has 8 or10 frames . Any way , your all work in website is very nice and i learn from you .

  2. Tim Arheit

    I’ve been told commercial beekeepers in the states have complained of too many bees in the winter requiring excessive amounts of feeding at times. They typically overwinter in the warmer southern states so the weather would be closer to what yours is. While the winters are warm, there still is often a period of time with no significant flow and hives need fed or they can starve.

    I don’t know what you can do from a management point of view, but I’ve been told some commercial operators use a hybrid bee. The Italians tend to brood up resulting in large hives over the winter months requiring lots of feeding, but the commercial operators also weren’t happy with the carniolans due to their smaller nest and refusal to build up in size until pollen is coming in. The solution in this case was to use a cross between the two resulting in a bee with larger clusters that was still somewhat responsive to the incoming resources (pollen and nectar)

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