Be cognizant that colonies of honey bees can consume huge quantities of honey once they begin brood rearing. This means you must be vigilant about checking for adequate honey reserves in early spring, especially if the weather is as it has been this year. In our queen rearing areas – South Central Texas – spring appeared to off to an early start with colonies in late February having 5 – 8 deep combs of brood and hives full of bees. However since Valentine’s Day there has been only intermittent flying weather with bees confined to the hive most of the time, and many days without any flying time at all due to cold and rain.
The practical consequence of large quantities of brood and bees plus sustained periods of bad weather means colonies will need to consume many pounds of honey to keep the brood nest warm, and and keep brood viable. It is possible for a colony to consume 5 pounds of honey per day when rearing 8 or 9 combs of brood with temperatures dipping below freezing. Also, when bees cannot forage they must relay upon stored pollen to produce brood food to feed baby bees.
Because of these realities we value bees that pack the broodnest with honey and hoard substantial stores of pollen in the combs in and around the broodiest. While we have emphasized mite and virus resistance above other traits for the past 27 years, we also select and breed bees for more than just mite tolerance and viral resistance – honey production, pollen hoarding are at the top of the list. We also value bees that do not turn supplemental feed into more brood when conditions are not favorable, but rather store up reserves for those long periods of rainy, cold days that we are confronting now.
However, the immediate action you can take to help your colonies under these circumstances is quite simple. Check them for weight and provide extra feed if they are light. – and do that as soon after the cold breaks as time and competing demands permit.