As the days begin to lengthen the bees will begin to breed in earnest and build up for the season to come. They will be working the early spring flowers and the trees such as the willow and hazel to bring in pollen so they will need plenty of food. If they are bringing in pollen there will be brood.
On a warm day – about 10°C / 50° F- it should be possible to have a look inside the hive for a quick check to see if all is well. Is the queen laying O.K.? There is no need to search every frame as we are looking for a palm-sized area of brood which should be somewhere near the middle of the hive. Just take out an outside frame and gently slide the others across until brood is seen. Once you know it is there you can replace the frame and close the hive for the time being. Later in the month on a really warm day when night temperatures are beginning to rise you can check to see that there is a plentiful store of pollen and nectar. If at all possible check the outside frames and get rid of pollen which has been left over from last year and has gone mouldy.
Last year you replaced two outside frames at one end of the hive with foundation and these should have been drawn out by the bees. Now you should be able to remove the two frames at the other end and slide the rest along to make room for a further two new frames of foundation. This should be a regular part of your annual beekeeping cycle of renewing brood frames. Change or at least clean the floor board if you have a solid floor. At the same time make sure that the inside of the hive is dry. Bees can tolerate cold but damp can kill them! Don’t have the hive open for any longer than necessary as you don’t want to chill the brood. Those young bees are your honey harvesters in the weeks ahead. They will be vital if you have an early crop of oilseed rape close to your apiary.
Think carefully about the anti-varroa treatment you will apply this spring. Will it be Apiguard, Apivar or another product? Remember that the mites which had developed a resistance to Bayvarol and Apistan are well gone and these products may now be effective. A list of approved substances can be found on BeeBase.