The bees look good this March. The overall death loss will be +20%, but there are a number of good-looking clusters that ought to split very well. Some of the larger hives have a couple of frames of brood underway already, and the temperatures suggest that the brooding will get going pretty quickly this year.
Here is one of the overwintered hives from near Prairie City:
We didn't really get out to the hives until the beginning of March. The temperatures never really broke out of the high twenties in February, and we usually depend on a warm snap in Feb. to get the hungry ones fed when it is warm enough for them to put down the feed out of a division board feeder (we have a DB feeder in every hive). We probably could have saved several large clusters by going around earlier--the larger population hives can take the syrup decently even in the upper twenties. It always feels horrible to have a fine hive that dies because you didn't give it enough food.
When visiting the Prairie City yard, I did get to indulge in one of my favorite early-year adventures--digging bees out of the snow Several of the hives in the middle of the line are totally drifted over and out of sight.
And below we have some pictures after I have had a good time digging out the bees. Notice how the heat of the hives has melted away several inches of snow around the colonies--I basically just took off the snowcap to inspect them
Luckily, the bees don't suffocate under the snow, and a number of people believe that the snow cover helps maintain a steady temperature that ultimately benefits the bees. Still, I have to think that those bees were ready for a cleansing flight after being shut inside for three straight months!!
Hopefully your bees are looking strong too, but if you are looking to order 2010 package bees from us at Ebert Honey, I'll offer a heads-up that truck space is running out pretty quickly. Good luck with spring beekeeping!!