If your colony does not build up the bees may have Nosema (try feeding sugar syrup
containing menthol or thymol at 0.1%).
Check on the smell of the hive by raising the cover board and smell; a cold and dank
hive may have died; ammonia or mousy smell check for a mouse; decay and horrible
smell may mean brood disease.
If you find varroa, treat with lactic acid (or Apistan/Bayvarol whilst there are
no supers). Early in March do not inspect the bees unless you have a good reason
so to do. In mid March (or at dandelion time), give a gallon of 50/50 sugar syrup
in a contact feeder.
Towards the end of the month reverse the brood hives where there are two well stocked
brood boxes; alternatively move a frame of brood down and add two frames of foundation
to the top brood box. Check that you have equipment as suggested in Jan/Feb. Remove
mouse guards and close down the cover board to the brood box. Keep a water supply
available such as a car tyre laid flat on the floor.
If you have a hive which is very strong take a frame of emerging brood from it and
give the frame to a weaker hive. Check hives for food, lift the crown board and check
the size and position of the cluster relative to the top bar, if the bees are at
the top feed them. Check for the queen by moving the cover board back, remove the
dummy frame, then the outer frame checking it for food, then the next frame (check
for food) until you see brood then close up immediately.
Do not inspect (as apposed to checking) the hive until the Flowering Currant is in
bloom. The size of the hive can be estimated by the number of frames being used in
the cluster, there are usually 4 to 7 seams of bees to a cluster Make plans to replace
queens that are 18 months old.
Remember throughout the year to keep the apiary tidy, replace with foundation at
least four brood combs a year in every brood box, do not stress your bees unnecessarily
by too many internal inspections.
Using a mesh floor check for varroa. A sample of thirty bees can be taken for microscopic
examination for Nosema and for dissection for Acarine.
Do keep records of what stage the hives are in.
When a colony has over wintered on two brood boxes they can be reduced to one on
a warm day in March by removing the lower box and placing any stores beside the brood
in the upper box. About three weeks later add a brood box of foundation above the
box with brood.