I am checking the bees regularly now. Feb is an important month for bees.
The queen starts to lay as the older wintered bees start to die off.
It is a critical time for them. If the queen lays too many eggs, the pressure of extra brood to rear could starve the colony quickly, but if she doesn't lay at the right time she won't have enough worker bees to replace those that are dying off now.
She wants to be at an advantage for when the first pollen sources come available next month. She will need foraging bees to work those sources, those bees will need to be reared soon.
From when the egg is laid by the queen to emerging from the sealed cell as a young worker takes 21 days.
The young bee will spend the first three weeks working inside the hive as a nurse bee, drawing comb from her wax glands, temperature regulation etc.
After the three weeks she will start to go out of the hive to foraging, she will do this till she dies, usually by six weeks.
If the queen needs foragers in six weeks time, she will need to lay them now.
On one hive I was using a ashford feeder with strong syrup. I noticed that they were not using it and the hive was getting very light. So I took it off and replaced it with a crown board and fondant.
I don't like to open up a hive like that at this time of year but needs most. I don't wish for them to starve.
As you can see from the photo there are bees covering two frames. I placed the fondant immediately above the cluster and they started taking it down immediately. The feeder was of no use to them as they will only feed above the cluster. To break cluster would cause them to chill and die.
The hive that I wintered in a double brood box seems the strongest. I will winter all the hives next year like this. They will have twice as many frames for stores and would be at a great advantage with needing very little if any feeding.
This worker bee landed on the roof of the hive. She used it as a chance to cleanse her full over wintered bowels and take in water to return to the hive with.