If the hive was low on honey going into winter, March is the month they may starve to death. They have probably moved all the way up in the hive and their overall population is very low due to normal die-outs over the winter. The bees are going to be flying more during March and they will be finding pollen even in the northern states. The queen will start laying eggs in the brood frames much more in March. The entire hive will begin to return to normal operations now that spring is approaching. There will be cold snaps, but the bees will do fine as they begin to expand, provided they have enough food.
Continue emergency feeding as needed! Place entrance, internal, or top feeders on the hive and feed 1:1 thin sugar syrup (one lb. sugar dissolved in 1 pint, or 1 lb., of hot water) when temps are consistently above 50F. Also consider treating for Nosema at this time. Continue with the pollen patty feeding. Inspect your colonies! March will provide you with a few days when the temperatures will rise to 50F or higher; at this temperature you can look into the hive and pull out a few frames, but do not break your colony cluster(s). Keep in mind that since there is not a heavy flow, and since it is cooler, the bees might be a bit more aggressive, so wear your protective gear! March is a great month to start feeding higher protein pollen patties to build worker bee population for increased foraging and honey production during the coming nectar flow. Pollen patties truly do jump-start the colony. It signals the queen that pollen is coming in with which worker bees can feed developing brood. “Brood Builder,” “AP23,” or “Ultra Bee” pollen patties are good options for this time of year. If small hive beetles have been a problem, consider only feeding 1/4 or 1/2 of a patty at a time – replace as consumed. The bottom board will probably be filled with dead winter bees. They did their job, so play “Taps”, salute them, and toss them in the yard for the birds to enjoy. Serve your mice an eviction notice if they found their way into your hive. Actually, don’t serve a notice, just kick them out! Clean bottom boards of beeswax flakes, dead bees and beetles, etc., by scraping the boards clean and replacing them under the hives. You will now be able to assess how many of your colonies have died out over the winter. Clean out these boxes and freeze the comb if you can. This will prevent the spread of wax moths by killing larvae and eggs. Store equipment and any drawn comb frames for later usage, and do not forget to put “Paramoth” (NOT moth balls!) in hive boxes as the label directs to prevent wax moth damage and destruction.