Marty Hardison visited the BackyardHive Bee Club this month and spoke for the entire 2 hrs. Turns out he lives in the same town as us! He said our colony needs a new young queen. I don't know where to get one at this time of year, but I think a replacement's on the top of the girls' Spring To-Do List. They already started constructing queen cups. Marty calls the preliminary construction a Play Cup.
It was great to be able to ask someone with 28 years of TBH experience what to do. His Spring Management checklist is pretty simple.
Spring Management Checklist
1) Harvest or move the overwintered honey combs to the back.
The bees will eat their way toward the back as Winter progresses, leaving empty comb behind. They'll use these combs for brood rearing in the Spring, but if there's a surplus of capped honey (3+ combs) left at the end of Winter, the bees may feel crowded. With cold temperatures and the colony number being at its lowest, it's difficult for the bees to relocate the honey to make room for baby bees. It helps the bees to move the honey combs out of the way.
The best action is to move them further back in the hive. This gives the bees space to expand the brood chamber but keeps the honey available if Spring turns cold. However, if warmth, moisture, flowers, nectar and sunshine abound, then take the honey out altogether; the bees won't eat it. It will be in the way at best and contribute to swarming at worst.
2) Take out the worst three of four brood combs (those that are misshapen or not well-centered).
The combs nearest the entrance should still be empty in January. By February, the queen may have started laying in these combs. Replace the culled combs with new bars between straight brood combs. This both "opens" the brood nest and ensures straight new comb.
3) Provide a ready supply of syrup (weekly)
to encourage the bees to build more combs and to raise more bees, ensuring the colony's success.