Hives are beginning to replenish their winter losses before spring arrives. This is the ideal time to do some spring maintenance for your hive. Temperatures are fluctuating and you may begin to experience warmer days that will allow you to crack open your hives. Choose one of these warmer days (above 50 degrees F) and head out to your hive.
Over the course of winter, your cluster would have been migrating upward in the hive, consuming their honey stores. This can place the majority of brood nest in an upper super. Beekeepers will want to reverse the boxes so that the brood nest is on the bottom, creating the sense of more space in the hive for your queen to move up and lay into. This will lessen the possibility of swarming.
If your brood nest is mainly clustered in your bottom box, there is no need to reverse boxes.
While we are working the hive, checking the brood and honey stores, why not do some cleaning?
Your bees will be cleaning frames, preparing for the nectar flow. Sometimes they do not remove the debris completely from the hive and its left on the bottom board. Help the bees and clean off the bottom board. Make your hives more functional by cleaning off burr comb from frames, feeders and queen excluders. Check the hive for any other damage. Because the hive maintains warmer temperature throughout winter, you may find other rodents (mice) have burrowed into the bottom frames.
Here are some other things to consider:
If the adult population coming out of winter is small, the brood rearing will start off slow. The small population must keep the brood warm and with empty space throughout the hive, they will have a hard time. Reduce the size of the hive until they grow in population.
Food Stores need to be maintained. We harp on this heavily as winter comes to an end. This is vital to the production of brood and the survival of your hive. Checking the food stores is important until you find that your bees are bringing in nectar, ignoring your supplied feed. They much prefer nectar compared to artificial feed.
Swarm Management. As the colony continues to grow in population your hive can become overcrowded. This can lead to swarming. Add the next super on before the bees get crowded.