Getting started on the season: evaluate, install packages, splits, combines.
On a good warm day (>50 degrees), evaluate existing colonies:
– Brood? How many frames? Where?
– Honey stores: Adequate, or continue dry sugar feeding?
What to do:
– Install packages in good weather if you can, in early afternoon shortly after they arrive. If poor weather, wait for a break in rain/snow and do it fast.
– If you have overwintered bees, your winter boxes may need to be downsized. Provide a new box of frames if the frames in the existing box are 75% drawn (e.g. 6/8 frames in an 8-frame box). Remove extra boxes.
– If you have a weak colony, evaluate why. If a small population (versus unexplained dwindling), combine with another colony.
– Prepare for splits. Strong colonies are good candidates. Wait until drones are flying to split without introducing a new queen, i.e. by allowing the colony to create queen cells.
– Be prepared to super after the maple flow gets going (fingers crossed: this is an iffy prospect year to year).
– Reduce entrances on weak colonies and look out for robbers. Robbing season is before nectar flow.
– Set out yellow jacket traps to capture queens. The usefulness of YJ traps in late summer is negligible, but by culling queens in the spring you can reduce seasonal YJ populations by many thousands.
Pollen: Dandelion, Alder, Cedar, Scots Broom beginning.
Nectar (soon): Maple, Raspberry, Apple, Fruiting Cherry.
Bob Combs, Patti Loesche