The purpose of the winter to spring inspection is to quickly determine if all is well. The hives should not be opened for long, since the cooling down of brood can lead to stress and subsequently to disease. Also there is a risk that the queen may be balled and die (Link needed for balling queen).
Hence the main three signs to note are:
- Is there worker brood in the center of the frames?
If there is, the queen is present and the colony will develop well. If not, then the colony is in trouble and it is best find to another colony to combine it with; preferably a weak colony.
- Is there enough food in the colony to survive the coming weeks?
If not, provide food in the form of:
- food frames from neighboring colonies if they are free of brood diseases or
- a small portion of sugar candy placed over the bees to conserve their heat or
- a feeding frame inside the hive body as the first frame from the edge and 50% sugar solution.
- Quick evaluation of the number of adult bees is also done in conjunction with oxalic acid treatment. Notes are made on how many bee ways are occupied by bees in every colony. This is also a preliminary estimation for individual colony management in June.
In Finland, on Parainen Island, the beehives are not opened for a proper inspection until very warm weather, between 15 and 17 ℃, occurs. This happens many times and as late as in June. The brood area (the frames) is kept strictly in the same order during all of spring and during the early summer season.