It actually got near enough to 60F yesterday that I could open the hives for the first time this year. We did have one day that was in the 60's early in the month but I was out of town. This would of been the first day to open the hives but alas I was absent.
Here in North Idaho we have a very short growing season that seems to get shorter every year. I have almost given up the idea of ever seeing a red tomato in my garden anymore. Also, this makes our bees more dependent on our help to get them though, too. Even well established hives that go into winter with great stores of honey can starve to death in the early spring while waiting for the first flowers to open.
Beekeepers feed their hives sugar syrup to make up for this short fall but need to be careful when they put liquid feeds into their hives. In this region the general rule of thumb as been April 1 to November 1on giving liquid feeds. The other five months are just too cold and the liquid feed turns out to be a heat sink in the hive which robs the precious heat that the bees work so hard to maintain. During those cold months beekeepers use candy boards (made from sugar) or patty feeds which contain proteins and sugars.
When I opened my two hives yesterday, it was cool and windy enough that I opted not to pull frames to examine them. Both hives were boiling with bees and bees were flying back and forth in large numbers to the hives bringing back with them some sort of pollen. Also, along the tops of the frames I did see capped honey which, along with the live bees, indicated that their winter stores are still keeping them fed. I think it it safe to say that my hives made it through the winter. (Knock on wood!)
In each hive, I left a Bee Pro Patty on top of the frames and closed them back up. This will only be my third year raising bees and my first time using a solid food. I'm hoping I will be able to make a split off both hives and end up with four hives. Last spring I made a split off my original hive and also started a hive with a package of bees. The split hive has thrived but mid summer the package hive lost their queen and never was able to replace her even though I added frames of uncapped brood weekly. In the fall, I ended up combining this hive with my split hive which saved the bees from the queenless hive.
In a week or so, I plan to start adding liquid feed to both hives and examining some frames. I promise I will get some pictures to show you all, too.