Hello! We’re seeing gorgeous sunny weather this week, 61 today and 64 tomorrow-yesterday the bees were unbelievably active. Poop covering the snow, bees on every corner of our property and visiting the neighbors. Is now a reasonable time to check for eggs/brood? Not a full inspection and clean-out, just wanting to quickly verify the queen is laying. 🙂
We do not recommend checking for brood yet (if you are in a warmer area it would be OK). In winter a cluster of bees needs to be at around 70 F but if they have brood, they have to regulate up to 95-97F and keep it constant there. A drop in temperature could kill some of that brood.
As a general rule, we only want to check on variables we can fix. This way we make sure our inspections do not cause more harm than the good we would do by correcting a problem.
For example, if they are short on food, we can add honey from the honey bank or emergency food.
If for any reason they had a queen problem right now, even if you could check and find the issue, there's nothing you can do about it. You cannot obtain a replacement queen right now.
As your bees become more active we do recommend to check on:
- food stores (sometimes even by weight, without getting inside the hive but trying to check from the outside)
- top and bottom entrances are open (and clearing obstructions if they are covered)
- checking for moisture levels (making sure you don't see condensing water in the inside of the telescoping lid or other inner surfaces)
In some really nice days, we would go as far as checking boxes in more detail and for smaller clusters of bees, we would remove one or two empty boxes. If you have a two-deep or three-medium configuration, the bottom box would probably empty (no bees, no honey, no pollen; just empty frames). If we remove the bottom empty box making the hive smaller, the bees will have an easier time in keeping work and can have a bigger patch of brood with the same amount of worker bees.
If you want to check your hives in detail (that could be a learning experience too), we'd recommend doing it on the highest temperature day, when the bees are already flying around and as early as possible (they'd be flying by noon). Do the inspection as fast as you can and close them giving them plenty of time to settle down and cluster together before it gets colder that night.
Thank you! Yes they are in a double deep configuration, thanks for the tip on possibly removing the bottom box. From peeking in the top cover we can see they are beginning to feed a little bit on the emergency sugar stores, and a surprisingly large number of bees survived-yay! Looking forward to seeing how everything is looking in there once it warms up some more.