In January I check the colonies so that entrances are not blocked buy either dead bees or ice from condensation. That can happen if the winter is very cold, like minus 20-30 centigrades for a couple of weeks. In our climate with low sun above the horizon in winter due to our high latitude (59°) there is no big difference in day and night temperatures. Some winters I have had to take the skies to the yards.
Depending on temperature and amount of snow I have had to do it in February too. If the snow covers the hives I don't have to worry about blocked entrances from ice. The breathing air from the bees will melt ice in the entrance as the covering snow insulates the hives. And this breathing air will melt snow around the hives somewhat like a bubble around each one. These later years we have had very little snow.
In March I start checking if the colonies have food enough. I bring with me stored food combs to give to those that need it. I check the top through the plastic inner cover and if needed lift it at the ends to remove an empty frame and replace with a food comb or sometimes even remove one of the dummy frames as I may have misjudged the amount of food in that colony. Most often the bees now havn't been out of the hive for a cleansing flight since the beginning or so of November.
Cleansing flight most often will take place in late March, sometimes somewhat earlier, sometimes later.
Cleansing flight in March after being confined to the hive since late October, about 5 months.
In April the need for supers starts. Still it's important to check the food amount. In March brooding is normally somewhat more intense. But not heavy until the cleansing flight has taken place and bees can fly for the first pollen, which happens when for example crocus and the hazel tree flowers. A little later the most important spring tree flowers, the willow. Then come Dandelions followed by Maple trees.
If there is winter rape it normally flowers in May. The colonies now are on three brood boxes under the queen excluder with two supers above. In late May the colonies start to develop differently. The best quickly need more supers.
In middle or late May I start making splits from the most Varroa resistant and strongest colonies and let them raise queens themselves and thus multiply the genetics of good colonies.
In the first part of June I continue making splits from the best colonies. Grafting larvae for making queens is now in conflict sort of with harvesting and extracting winter rape and dandelion honey, if there is any.
I havn't been moving splits to other yards from where I make them for a couple of years to see it that will have any effect concerning Varroa resistance. Earlier I did move most to other yards. Compared to that I havn't been able to see any differences concerning varroa resistant. Other aspects have had more effects on varroa resistance, like monitoring varroa level and focusing on not allowing higher varroa level in any colony higher than 3 %. I have found that treating with thymol those colonies that show a varroa level above 3 % as soon as they reach there will give the more varroa resistant colonies to show their resistance and not be reinvaded by mites by silently robbing the colonies with higher mite loads.
Most splits have been staying in the same apiary as the colonies from which they are taken. It's important that both parts will have enough brood and food. If I don't know where the queen is both parts must have eggs and young larvae as well as capped and hatching brood. The part that is moved must have a lot of bees as many of the bees will return to their original place. It's best for different reaasons if the queen is following the split moved. Focus is on multiplying the good genetics, not getting maximum harvest in the short perspective.
Here, each frame is taken out of the third brood box, shaken off of their bees back in the hive and then placed in the box to the left. When finished the queen excluder are put on top of the two lower brood boxes. The box to the left with the now empty brood frames are put above the excluder. Then the two supers just to the right of colony are put back on top. After half an hour, the bees (yes faster) have gone up to the brood in the box above the excluder so you can remove it. The queen is not in that box now but in the two lower brood boxes. You know that because you shook all the bees down below.
These two bottom brood boxes plus the bottom board can be moved to a new place in the apiary as a split. At the old place, a new bottom ar placed, then one of the two supers on the new bottom at the old place. It will be the first brood box later on. Next box will be the brood box without the queen, then the queen excluder and the remaining super on top. After about 6-8 days, the two parts are checked concerning bee strength. You may have to rearrange boxes according to bee strength, if many bee have returned to the old place. Remove all queen cells except one (or two close to each other to avoid swarming with a virgin queen).
Instead of moving the two lower brood boxes with the queen to a new place in the same apiary, you can take the brood box without the queen from above the excluder and move it to another apiary. If you plan to do this, it is a good idea to place a box with extracted combs from last year on top of the excluder before you put back the box with empty brood combs to be to be covered by bees again from below. Then, after half the hour, these two boxes, the one with brood combs without the queen and the one with extracted combs from last year are put on a new bottom board (maybe netting on top) and moved to the other yard. In this way you get somewhat more bees to the split.
If I'm in a hurry I may take the upper two boxes of the three brood boxes and move them to another bottom board on another location about 5 meters away, not to far away and not too close. The idea behind this is that the split may keep some field bees if the queen follows the split, which is the best. Sometimes I don't identify where the queen ends up. Which method I use in making splits depends on how much time I have for doing them.
The field bees will start better built queen cells and thus better queen quality at the original place of the colony. That's because they have many field bees that bring in fresh pollen and nectar to the nurse bees.
If you are unlucky a split without the queen may loose most of the field bees if it's placed in the same apiary as the mother colony, yes most of the bees, and will get in trouble raising a good queen. They may need a ripe queen cell and an extra brood frame with hatching brood.
When I have moved the two upper boxes to the new place I check the remaining bottom box at the old place. It must contain at least some young larvae to make a queen of and some capped brood frames. And I have checked the amount of food in the supers. If the situation is not good enough in these respects I take the upper box of the two removed and put it back on top of the bottom one left at the old place. After I have shaken most of the bees in the box left at the new place.
Now if I do that or not I check that both the split and the number of boxes below the excluder at the old place will have two boxes with enough food and enough of brood and the right kind of brood. In the moved split there should be enough bees so that they still will have many bees after that most field bees have went back to the old place. To get the right amount of bees left in the split it may be easier to move it to another yard.
Replace the queens in the least good colonies
The weak hives or those that are least resistant against the Varroa mite will get their queens replaced. I try do that as soon as I have mature queen cells that I have bred from my best resistant colonies that have given a good crop and have a good temper.