Here is what to expect in and around the hive in March.
In the hive
This is the month of the colony’s minimum adult population, after winter losses, but before significant spring build-up. The queen is laying at or near full strength and brood is being reared if pollen/protein is available. Bees may be able to bring some pollen into the hive on occasional foraging flights, but because of the growing population and limited external resources, nutritional needs increase and the risk of starvation is high.
- When inspecting a colony in the winter, it is not necessary to open it. See the January guidelines for evaluating its health. Consider renting the club infrared camera to see where the cluster is located in the hive.
- Most colonies that starve die in late winter or early spring. They need more food for brood rearing, but cannot yet forage. At this point, they should have at least 3-4 combs full of honey. Feed them if the colony is light or the stores obviously empty, or if the bees are visible through the inner cover at the very top of the hive. Use dry sugar, fondant, or a candy board, or replace empty combs with combs of capped honey. You will likely need to continue to feed until nectar and pollen are available and accessible outside.
- The location/proximity of the bees to their food stores is key. If the cluster is far to one side of the food stores, you can carefully move it closer, keeping it together while you do so, or move frames of honey closer to it.
- You might consider feeding pollen substitute or supplement to support or further stimulate egg laying. If you do so, be sure to use clean pollen.
- If you plan to rear queens this year, lavishly feed the cell finisher colony chosen in the fall (carbohydrates and protein) for early spring buildup.
Pests, parasites, and diseases
Mites are breeding in the colony. There is no need to monitor and treat just yet, but be aware that the mite population is starting to rise.
- Your equipment should be fixed, cleaned, bought, assembled, or painted by now.
- Ensure that the hive cover is properly secured.
- Remove ice blocking the hive entrance, to give the colonies better ventilation. Don’t worry about snow around the entrance or hive body; it allows enough airflow and may help insulate the bees.
- A few dead bees or a small amount of fecal matter outside the hive is nothing to worry about, especially after a warm day; this is a sign that they are still alive inside.
- Don’t forget to renew your club membership and to get the year’s meetings on your calendar.