Early Spring Inspection

We finished up the North Carolina State Beekeeper’s Association (NCSBA) spring meeting yesterday in New Bern. I learned more in those three days than I have any chance of ever remembering, but at least I took copious notes.

Nancy Ruppert, state inspector for the Sandhills region, led a workshop on “Late Winter/Early Spring Management” and reminded me that the most likely time for a colony to starve is right now. There is pollen available to them, but no nectar – and the queen is (or should be) laying eggs like a madwoman, beginning to build up colony strength for the spring honey flow. So the bees are flying, nursing, doing a ton of work, but they don’t have enough carbohydrates (nectar/honey) to do it with. Nancy’s specific simile was “they should be eating like teenage boys.” Wow. I’ve had teenage boys. That’s some serious stuff right there.

Okay, I’m convinced. I was going to wait until the end of March or beginning of April to start regular inspections – I mean, it could still freeze, or even snow, so it’s not like winter is “over” yet. But between Nancy and Master Beekeeper Tia, I was persuaded to go have a look now. Big agenda items – give them the food that they need to get through this buildup, and make sure they have enough room so they don’t feel pressured to swarm.

I also got to test out my new hive stand that the Hubs built for me last week.

This was taken before we put the new stand in place, but it is actually UNDER the hive now. 


There was a LOT of activity at the entrance, including several foragers coming home with very full pollen baskets. 


In some cases, VERY full. Blows me away that she could fly like that. It looks like a Cessna is carrying a tank meant to be loaded on a C-130.


We had added cedar chips to the ventilation top back in the fall, to absorb moisture and keep condensation from dripping on the cluster. We went ahead and removed that today.


We also removed the candy board that I put on in December. They hadn’t eaten much of it, but clearly they are now beginning to eat some of it. Honestly, I probably could have left that in place and they would be fine, but I wanted them to have the syrup instead. Many experienced beekeepers claim that thin syrup is the ticket to get them to draw wax – and I very much want them to draw wax right now! It’s their natural instinct to draw wax this time of year anyways, so Yay! Nature!  Also, I would like to have some frames of drawn comb to get Thyme back up and running later this spring, since I lost all of last year’s comb to wax moths. (Boo! Nature!)


Under the candy board – bees. LOTS of bees.


I didn’t pull all the frames – just enough to make sure that the colony has a laying queen and looked disease-free. But the very first frame I pulled out, from the middle of the upper box … boom, there she was. So, I guess that answers that question!


Lots and lots of open brood in a nice tight pattern. Do you see Her Highness in this one?


And a frame mostly full of closed brood. She still had some room to lay eggs, but not a whole lot. Nancy and Tia were right – now seems a great time to add another box. They wouldn’t have to get too much more crowded than this to think about swarming!


So I added a third box. I found some empty but fully drawn comb in the bottom box, so I put a frame of that in here, along with a frame of “drone sized” plastic foundation. I painted melted wax on the green drone frame last night, I want to see if the girls will draw it out. I figure, right now is their optimal “wax building” time, so this is my best shot at getting a proper drone brood mite trapping operation started.


This is one of my same old feeders from last year, but the Hubs modified it to more of a Miller style (less float, more hardware cloth.) I want to see if there is any less drowning with this modification than there was with the floats.



After all the chaos I created, moving things around, I guess these girls were concerned that some of their baby sisters might have been displaced – so they threw on the homing beacon to help everyone find their way in.



3 thoughts on “Early Spring Inspection

    1. This is my second year. I had thought about letting them swarm on their own, too, but where I live there is too high of a chance of them landing in a neighbor’s tree – possibly a neighbor inclined to freak out and grab a can of Raid. I don’t want to risk it. If I think they might want to swarm, I’ll split them.

      Liked by 1 person

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