The bees have started their cleansing flights. They now fly on sunny days when the heat of the sun is warm enough to heat the hive, usually for a few hours around midday.
It is a chance to empty their bowels after the winter and bring back water to the hive. Sitting in front of the hives, I watch the bees fly near the hives, collecting droplets of water from the wet grass. Several housekeeping bees carry out dead bees at the entrance. Not brave enough to go further in case the temperature drops and they are stranded away from the hive, which would be fatal.
The queen will start laying again next month. This will put a strain on the hives for honey and pollen. This is the time that hives can starve. With brood to feed and few foraging bees or stores remaining and unpredictable weather, it can be a worrying time.
I lifted all the hives today to check their weight. They still have stores but could easily use them up quickly next month. I will be checking then regularly to add extra fondant.
I over wintered one hive in a double brood box. There is a large difference in stores and strength in this hive. I plan to move to using all double brood boxes. A single brood box just is not enough space for a good queen to lay, never mind additional stores. It encourages them to swarm and going into winter with a strong double brood box is like insurance. I know they probably have enough stores for the winter, but I can feed them anyway, just in case.
So far, I have a 100% overwinter survival rate, but it will be March/April before winter is comfortably behind them.