This has not been a typical year so far. And unlike last year that was several weeks ahead, this year is the opposite. The silver maples just started blooming at the very end of March and the last of them finished blooming today.
This past weekend we were able to inspect most of the hives for the first time of the season. The good news is that the majority of hives survived the winter and losses were less than what I expected. (Great news really given the reports of larger losses from some other beekeepers around the country). The bad news is, given the cool March and late blooms, hives are easily 3 weeks behind in development. Typically I’d expect to see a good amount of capped drone brood in most hives by the second week of April. We found only a couple of the 80 hives checked this past weekend that had drone brood . We put more pollen patties in the hives to hopefully encourage drone rearing soon.
So why does this matter? One of the big factor for good queens is having an ample supply of mature drones. Grafting now to raise queens would be a futile effort and waste of time because there won’t be enough drones when the queens are mature enough to mate. For early queens we don’t look for drones themselves, but for a good amount of capped drone cells when we graft. These drones will be old enough to mate when the queens grafted are ready.