Spring is here, even if it's still 0-5 degrees at night. The flowers are flowering on the street trees, and as soon as the daytime temperature gets about 10 I'm seeing serious activity in my hives (bringing in lots of pollen).
Out of the 40 hives I had going into winter I had 5 die. Four of them were a direct result of cold, wet, and weak colonies, and I just didn't have time to save them. I would have had to make new floors and feed extensively, and I just didn't have the time with a newborn baby in the house. But I've modified my floor design this year - I'm using screened bottom boards with small entrances - so ventilation should no longer be an issue. The last hive died because it was queenless... honestly, I tried to requeen those ladies four times and they cost me over a hundred dollars, and they just kept killing the new queen off. They were vicious bees, and I'm not too sad that they're gone. I'll use their boxes for less angry bees with a better sense of self-preservation.
So what else is different this year? Well, I'm going into comb honey production. I'm going to try to double my hives, put about half of them onto Jellybush/Teatree (that's Australian manuka), and just makes tons on honeycomb, with much less wax/raw honey production. Why? Because there's a big market for it!
Finally, I'm going to be charging for swarm and hive removal this year. Last year was a learning experience. I now know that my bee suit is a deterrent, not armor: A hive of bees will sting through the suit, guaranteed. That's worth getting paid for. Driving my truck to a swarm removal costs fuel, the suit cost money, and my bee-vac isn't something that everyone has - all of that is worth getting paid for, just to show up.
I'm really excited about my new red cedar boxes this year too! I'll post more about *those* once I have some pictures of them.