This video was made by Jerry Linser who took all the pictures.
Bees have been in their winter cluster since late November. The bees have started winter in the box below the top box. The bees in most cases have consumed about two to three frames of honey since late November.
We are coming to the time of the season where bees make the transition into the top box of the hive. The top box should be mostly full of honey.
Remember last fall when I talked about having a partially filled frame of honey put into the center of the top box when overwintering a colony? As bees make the transition into the top box right now, having a partially filled frame will make this transition easier. The cluster will slowly start occupying the bottoms of a few frames of frozen honey in the top box. The partially filled frame will aid the bees into moving up a few inches on to the empty cells of the partially filled honey frame. There is no frozen honey on this frame, so it takes little effort to move up. The bees will then be able to warm the adjacent frames of honey for their consumption.
If all the frames were full of honey, the bees will have a little more effort to move up. Especially if it is very cold out. Don’t get me wrong, the bees can still move up, but the partially filled frame makes this transition easier.
By the end of January most of the bees would have moved into the top box. The exception will be, if the hive was very heavy with honey. The bees may not need to move up yet because of an ample food supply.
No peeking yet. Your hive may have dead bees in front of the colony. This is normal. If a colony was weakened by mites, it is not uncommon to find the colony full of honey and empty of bees. Over the course of the winter the bees had dwindled down to an unsustainable cluster of bees.
At the moment there is nothing we can do to help the colony much. As we get into February, there is a few things beekeepers can do to help the bees survive. I will post those soon.
Right now lets think about a few things coming to a colony near you.
The queen will start laying in about a month. Pollen patties will be going on in about six weeks. Reversals in about two and a half months. Package bees in two and half to three months. It doesn’t look like it, but spring is coming, before long the bee suit will be on and the smoker will be lit.