While this was very encouraging, what we really wanted to do was look inside- just to get a quick peek to see if they were eating any of the granulated sugar we placed in the back (as a back up food source if they had run out) and, well, to see if they had any stores left of their own.
The following day was beautiful- a little breezy and a balmy 78 degrees, according to our thermometer. Jamey came home earlier than I expected, so out we went.
None of the hives seemed to be taking any of the sugar. In the back of each one, there were a few empty combs (to be expected) and in front of those...capped honey. Each hive had at least a couple combs mostly covered in capped honey, showing us that, yes, for now they have food.
We were tempted to go further into the hive but didn't want to disturb whatever size brood nest might be started. There are fewer bees this time of year and with the temps still dipping low at night, we didn't want to chill the nursery or disturb them too much. In a couple weeks, if it stays nice and warm, we'll go back in and make sure the honey is close to the nursery and they have room to expand the nest as the queen starts laying more.
Two of the hives had excess moisture. This could be seen in one by a little mold on a few of the back (empty) combs. In the other hive, we could tell the divider was damp. The combs still smelled sweet so we didn't think it was anything more than a little mold but I couldn't remember what to do about this, so we broke off the three moldy combs and put the top bars back in the hive. In the one with the damp divider, we spaced it out from the back combs with some empty bars to increase circulation.
After reading this post, I realized that our breaking off of the moldy combs may have been premature. It sounds like once they would have dried out, the bees would have cleaned them out well and then used them. Oh, well. Instead, I'm melting them down for wax to use in making fire starters.
We know that spring can actually be a pretty precarious time for bees. The pollen and nectar flow comes in fits and starts and the temps see-saw back and forth. We need to keep a close eye on their food and their ability to reach it. If they look like they are struggling, we'll use sugar syrup again.
my bee notebook enjoying the breeze and sun on the counter
For now, we are encouraged and can't wait to see our honey bees pollinating all our fruit trees and bushes this spring.