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Opening the hives in Spring: what to look for?


  • When is it safe - weather wise - to open up the hives box by box and inspect frame by frame?

  • In Spring, what the the optimal sugar water ratio?

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Michael’s book:


It is pretty thorough, but I differ in my interpretation of the 3rd photo:

That 3rd photo is highly suspicious of varroa to me. But maybe I am just paranoid! :blush:

I would pick a day when you know there is a decent nectar flow, and day time temps are above 60F with sun and low wind. You don’t want to stress the hive as you take it apart.

All the usual stuff. No piles of dead bees, no bee poop inside the hive, no discolored cells in the brood comb with sunken caps, little chalk brood. Bad smells and lots of dead bees, debris or wax moth silk is not a great start. Then on the up side, pollen and honey stores, eggs and capped brood, you know what - you have done it in the peak season last year. Other alarm bells for me would be no eggs or young larvae in March, even though the nectar flow seems good - queen may have demised.

Well, you can inspect the hive and look for stores. If they still have plenty, you don’t need to feed. If you are an “old-timer” talented hands-on person, you can heft your hives for weight, and only feed when they “feel” light. Or you can get a hive scale and really know how much your bees have left. So if you look at the graph below, I know I gave my bees 4kg of sugar at the start of this time period. I probably don’t need to feed them yet, because they haven’t used it all:

Most people say 1:1, but @Michael_Bush likes 3:5 water to sugar, I think. I actually believe the bees don’t care. If they need it and it is warm enough, they will use it for whatever they think best. Otherwise they won’t.

Not me.

I would do my first sugar roll when the hive is rapidly increasing in population, probably March or April. I don’t use dusting to treat for varroa, only for sugar roll counts. I would vape when the mites are above 8-10 per 300 bees. If I see DWV, I would vape earlier

Absolutely not. Plants have one agenda, bees have another. Plants flower to reproduce, they do it when they can make pollen. Bees gather nectar for the hive, not necessarily to help pollination and plant growth. They are not truly farmers. The plants are able to make pollen at a time when they can’t make nectar because it is too dry/cold/cloudy etc. They then rely on programmed behavior in pollinators to continue passing the pollen around, even when they are not providing a food (nectar) reward for doing so.

Keep caring and asking questions, and your bees will thrive. You are a very good source of new ideas too, so please continue to share. :wink:

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Starting around Groundhog’s Day, I like to see the hive growing in numbers.

Today I checked for food stores and fed 3 hives some fondant Many hives had 8-16 medium frames of honey. I didn’t take a late harvest so I may use leftover honey to make nucs come Springtime.

My sequel rolling out some fondant:


Why do some feed sugar vs patties vs fondant for winter?

Personal preference. You can dump cane sugar on a sheet of newspaper and be successful. The sugar will absorb moisture and clump together nicely. I’ve seen guys set a 5 lb bag of sugar on the frames, add a super to cover the bag, and let the bees chew through when they get hungry.

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