Thursday, March 1, 2018
It is pollen (yes) and feeding (maybe) time
A strong overwintered colony may use three to four full pollen patties. Possibly more than that if the spring season is wetter than normal, keeping the bees in the hive. Plus, a pollen patty should be placed on a hive around mid May because the fruit bloom may be over and there may be no large amounts of pollen available until early June.
If the bees have not moved up into the top box, the pollen then needs to go between the boxes where the main cluster is. If this is the case you may want to put pollen on top of both boxes.
Feeding syrup. Feeding can be done now only if the bees need it. Feed 1:1 sugar syrup or ProSweet syrup. Do not overfeed. The bees will plug the hive with syrup if the beekeeper keeps feeding pail after pail of syrup. This will leave no place for the queen to lay. and will impact the hives population.
Lift up the top box off the hive a few inches above the hive to feel the weight. If it feels light, feed, if it feels heavy, don't feed.
I wouldn't pull frames yet and look at the brood. A little cool for that.
When looking at your hive as the patties go on. The population should have about four frames of bees. Carniolans may have three frames of bees. Anyting less than this population may mean you colony is too weak and may not build up to a viable colony without an addition of bees. If you have multiple hives, a frame of brood can be added to this weak colony later in March. Then add another frame of brood in early April. A reassessment will then be needed to see if the hive needs more brood later in April.
If there is only two frames of bees in a hive right now, I would call the colony dead. This is because this hive will never build up to a good population probably until late summer. This type of hive will be a total liability. It will never put up enough food for winter and the beekeeper will need to feed it all of its winter stores. This weak colony may be compromised by mites and may fizzle out by the month of May leaving the beekeeper with nothing.
It would be best to shake out this weak hive in the snow and start again with a new package of bees.
This can be troublesome to some beekeepers, but this is farming and to be successful at farming, sometimes the herd has to be culled.