yesterday was picture perfect here in northeast alabama with clear blue skies, 60 degrees, and light wind.

the foraging was strong with lots of pollen and nectar coming in, most likely from maple, elm, and juniper.

i couldn't resist fueling up the smoker and taking the first in depth look of the season into a handful of my hives.

what made the day even more special was that i was accompanied by beesource contributors sonnypemberton and wcubed, (walt wright).

many thanks walt for helping to expand my understanding of what i'm looking at in the beehive!

and to you sonny for providing an extra pair of hands!

sharing the experience with others is an awesome thing, and i highly recommend it.

we did a full inspection on four hives and found three of them to be brooding in earnest with great patterns. it was obvious that they were expanded their broodnest through the last of the winter stores.

the manipulation consisted primarily of checkerboarding medium supers over the single deep brood chamber.

the fourth hive was a disappointment, as there was no worker brood but rather only spotty drone brood. some was in drone cells and some was in worker cells. there were multiple eggs laid in some cells. no queen was found, we assumed laying workers, and the bees were shook out to 'work out their own salavation'.

i experienced a high percentage of queen loss this winter, 5 out of 18 hives.

2 hives were laying workers and were shook out. one hive had been robbed (i am assuming after losing their queen)and the few remaining bees starved. another hive had just a few bees, some stores, and there was no sign of robbing. yet another hive had no bees and there had been obvious robbing.

all of these looked as good as the rest last fall when i last inspected them. i didn't do mite counts on these and there were no treatments given for mites, but i didn't find much feces in the combs. they have been on a honey only diet.

going forward, i think i'll put a little more effort into raising quality queens this year, and plan on overwintering a handful of nucs. i am also set up to do mite counts, and i'm considering a microscope to check for nosema.

in the meantime, i'm wondering why so many queen failures? this is my fourth winter, i had zero losses in the first three.