March is always viewed as the start of the beekeeping season and in many ways it's one of the most difficult time for bee colonies. The adult worker bees from last year have done their duty in seeing the colony through the winter and are dying off in large numbers. The population of adult bees in the hive is now at its lowest point in the year, and as the Queen has resumed laying eggs in late January, there will soon be many growing larvae and emerging bees that all need feeding.
Although plants like crocuses, snowdrops, hebe, and lungwort are all important food sources in early spring, it's really trees like hazel, alder and willows that are critical for honeybees. They can uniquely coordinate their efforts to bring a large number of workers together in one place to collect the large volumes of pollen and nectar they need from one or two trees without using up their precious reserves foraging from a few widely spaced plants.
We were hoping for a few days of warm sunshine in March, but its been a very cold spring and few of the main flowers have emerged yet that would act as a source of food for all pollinating insects including bees. So we are now beginning to put sugar candy patties on most of the hives to make sure that the colonies survive until their normal food supply comes into bloom.
Hopefully the weather should warm up quickly in early April as we need some warm days to enable the flowers to emerge and provide food for all pollinating insects and also for beekeepers to inspect their hives properly for the first time this year. If we are very lucky, the sun will shine, the flowers will bloom and as early as the 3rd week in April here in Hampshire, we will be able to also start adding extra super boxes ready to collect the harvest of wildflower honey from the main spring nectar flow - Ever the optimist!