More bees die in March and April than at any other time during the winter, and the majority of these die of starvation. This is because the colony is trying to expand quickly and using food fast in anticipation of more coming in as the spring approaches. Unfortunately the season and type of stores often frustrate the bees intention.
At the beginning of March a colony should have 4 or 5 combs with good sealed liquid stores – this gives them 9kg/20lb of honey. The colonies I looked at today had enough frames BUT the honey was granulated and therefore not usable by the bees, they only had one side of one frame with good fresh stores that were usable. Problem.
These colonies will need slabs of fondant continuously until later in April when we can feed syrup and it will be necessary to get the colony on to new foundation as soon as possible so plan for re-waxing the entire brood box.
Note. Do not go opening the brood area of colonies unless the day is warm enough ie 15C or more, and be very quick, and very, very careful but you can move the non populated frames and have a quick peep to check stores.
So where did my granulated stores come from? The bees are in an area with a lot of Ivy and my guess is that the bees stuffed the cells with that. Had they been fed with more syrup ie a gallon or two in September this would have limited the amount of Ivy nectar stored, the Ivy pollen would have been good and complemented the sugar syrup. I will make a note for next year.