The winter of 2011-2012 was pretty much nonexistent. We had a couple of weeks of colder weather here and there, but the bees were able to fly on multiple days during every winter month. It has been in the seventies and eighties lately--the kind of weather we often don't see until later May or June. A few years ago, the cold kept the bees inside during the entire stretch from November through March.
The consequence of the good weather (and timely varroa treatments last fall) is a large number of strong overwintered hives. Here is an image from a yard down by Lynnville that was taken this week:
In other words, splitting season is going to come early and require a lot of queens. Our winter loss was also extremely low, so we have more surviving hives than we've ever dealt with in past years as well. Now the priority will be getting around to them quick enough to keep them from swarming in April and May. Hives this strong will need split twice to keep them at home.
For everyone else out there with lots of bees to split, I also wanted to let you now that I will not have queens for distribution until the first week of May. Splitting and life at Mount Mercy Univ will keep me too busy to do any queen shipments in April.
I hope all my readers have a similar situation with lots of bees and very few deadouts to clean! It makes for a much happier spring than some of the rougher experiences with winter loss in some of the past years