Spring Management of Over Wintered Hives

Spring Management of Over Wintered Hives


What to look for in early spring 

At Honey Barrel, I learned the hard way, that spring management of over wintered hives should be taken seriously. Hives should be checked in early March for the presence food and position of the honey bees. Colonies that have died during the winter should be checked for the cause of death. Was it starvation, disease, moisture, etc. and either cleaned or taken home for storage. 

When you are examining the colony wait for a mild or warm day with little wind. Colder days, below 40 degrees F., can chill any brood and slow spring build-up. Open the cover and peer down between the frames. The cluster should be about 1/4 down in the hive body with frames containing honey next to, and above the cluster. Are the bees very close to the top of the hive and low on honey? Then the colony should be fed or it could starve when the level of brood rearing increases. 

Starvation may be prevented with good spring management. First, frames of honey may be given to the colony from a disease free source. I recommend trying to only feed honey back to an original hive that the honey came out of.  Place the frames of honey on both sides of the cluster. 

Frames of honey may not be available, then you can feed dry sugar or combs that have been filled with sugar syrup. Feed dry sugar by pouring 3-5/lbs over the inner cover or on a sheet of newspaper placed over the frames. When using newspaper, make a few short razor cuts in it and be sure to leave several inches of space so the bees can climb above the paper to consume the sugar.  If you’re like me, this is a fast and simple way to feed in an emergency. This should get them through until blooms start opening.


Candy board inner cover
David Burns "Winterbkind" candy board

Another spring management technique is to feed sugar candy. This is a cleaner way of feeding sugar as the honey bees will not think its trash and try to carry it out side of the hive. But in My area, the mid-west, we have enough moister that the sugar hardens a little as it absorbs moister and it makes its own candy. Candy boards can be made up in advance and can replace the inner cover.  I believe our local bee supply house will even make up candy boards for you in the winter.  It’s best to check ahead.

Here is one recipe:  15 lbs. sugar>3 lbs of white corn syrup>1 quart of water>1/2 teaspoon cream tarter. Dissolve the sugar in water by stirring and boiling until the temp rises to 240 degrees F. Let the syrup cool to 190 degrees-182 degrees F. and beat the mixture until thick. Pour the candy into molds lined with wax paper. Optimally molds should be 8x10x3 inches. Have a number of foil pie pans ready for the over flow.

After the candy has set it may be fed to bees by placing it above the cluster using a spacer bar. I have seen spacer/inner covers used as the candy mold so you can do a fast switch out in the winter or spring as needed.  Some people are now adding “Honey Bee Healthy” to the candy board and say it helps with a better spring build up. During my spring management I may try it next year. I'll give my feed back at that time, but I feel dry sugar works in an emergency.

Successful wintering/fall tips