You should to be thinking and planning ahead out into March and April.” Moisture and extreme swings in the daily temperatures is again a huge issue this February. The bees will be cluster during the very cold days, but the bees acclimate very well as long as they are healthy bees. The queens will start laying during warm days above 50 degrees and the bees will be flying. Be watchful of Tracheal Mite issues; bees staggering around on the ground outside the hive; the wings appear to be deformed. The old timers used to make up grease patties for Tracheal mite control. A few dead bees outside the hive is not unusual because the winter bees will start dying off. February is the time for early Varroa mite treatment before there is any significant buildup of brood. Many beekeepers will be using Oxalic Acid either by vaporization or fogging. Treatments should only be applied on warm days when the bees have broken cluster and are flying. Refer to the Honey Bee Health Coalition website for more information. For screened bottom boards, be sure to remove the debris/inspection boards and scrape them clean before replacing them.
On a nice warm day above 50 degrees with little to not wind take a look into the hive to see if the cluster is about the same size as previously and that there is still adequate stored or supplemental food source available. If the hive has died out, take it down and clean it up for use later. It is NOT recommended to start feeding 1:1 sugar syrup in February because there are still periods of very cold and freezing temperatures. Feed any spring pollen/protein patties can be done after the middle of February if the weather has started to warm toward spring. Adding these patties will stimulate the bees and the queen to lay so be cautious that you don’t apply to early. Some beekeepers do not apply these patties until mid to late March. .
If you have a need to relocate any hives, February is the best time before the weather really warms up too much and the bees begin actively forging for pollen. Recommend relocation when there is going to be a three or four day period of cold weather which will keep the bees cluster within the hive. Be extremely careful not to break up the cluster while moving the hives.
Now is the time to get the beekeeping equipment repaired or built for use in the spring. Old black/dark foundation should be removed and replaced with new. It is best to wait until close to the time the new foundation is to be used to place the wax foundation into the frame. The wax foundation can become dried out and cracked and the bees will not work it. This is true for waxing of plastic foundation—wait until closer to the time that you need to put it into use.
If you have not yet order packages and Nuc’s and/or queens for spring—it may be too late for delivery in April and early May. But later delivery is not a bad thing though.
Start attending HCBA meetings; attend a HCBA March 30th Bee School and join the KY State Beekeepers Association.