Right now the bees in most cases have moved into the top box. The queen is laying and there is definitely brood in the hive.
A beekeeper stopped by today to order some bees. He looked at his hive two weeks ago and they were alive. He did not check his available food stores. He checked his hives again yesterday and two of them had died.
He opened the hive to figure out what happened. On inspection, the hive was packed with bees. There were four frames of brood in the colony and the hive had starved. Unfortunate.
My colonies all had have big populations in them also. It would not surprise me if many other beekeepers are in the same boat. The easy winter has not been hard on the bees. Many colonies that have died, has been from Varroa or the consequence of Varroa, ie. viruses brought on by the blood sucking of the mite.
A beekeeper right now should be lifting the top box off the box below it to feel if it is heavy with food, light of food or somewhere in between.
If a colony is light on food, a feeder pail can go on. If a colony is heavy in the top box no feeding is necessary.
This weekend pollen patties can also be put on. When the pollen patties go on, the hive brood production will start to increase. As the brood production increases the bees will eat more food stores. Pollen patties should be placed right where the bees are. The bees have to be able to touch the patty or they may not eat the patty. Leave the wax paper on both sides of the patty, it helps keep the patty fresh. A strong colony will eat a large pollen patty ( one pound patty) in about 10 days. It would not surprise me than an overwintered colony will eat at least four pollen patties by mid April.
Feeding syrup will also stimulate the bees to raise brood. Feeding syrup is a nectar flow to the bees.
There is one thing to remember when feeding overwintered colonies. Don't overfeed. Strong overwintered colonies will suck down the syrup. If a beekeeper feeds pail after pail of syrup. The bees will fill the brood box with syrup and the queen will have no place to lay eggs. When feeding overwintered colonies, just feed enough to keep them alive. If there is capped honey in the hive that is an indicator that they are storing food. If no capped honey is present, a colony could be close to starvation. If is a fine line we walk. But it always better to over feed a little than to under feed.
What we do now in late winter (syrup and pollen patties) will help build up the hive to a possible strong divide in May.