This is probably the only month of the year I will write this message and not have any beehives in Nevada County. It was around Valentine's Day that I completed moving all of my colonies down to the Almond Orchards. This year, I held off on taking them down to the orchards until I saw those first blossoms. I took a lot of chances in waiting so long; weather can move in and make it difficult to get to some bee yards to collect them, as well as wet ground conditions at the destination orchard. I held off taking them so long because they were very actively foraging and collecting a lot of pollen here locally. I know in the last message I mentioned that I thought the Alders were going to be done, but I was wrong and they just kept on going producing pollen and the bees only benefited from this natural pollen flow. I also kept my bees spread out and smaller in numbers in their bee yards, just as we do for nectar flows, but for the benefit of the pollen flow.
I would consider these "management practices" to be somewhat different than what I have done and seen done in the past. The payoff, or not, always comes later and that is when you can look back and give a pat on the back, or tell yourself, "I probably won't do that again". The jury is out on waiting so long this year. I know they benefited from the pollen, and I believe some of the yards even pulled in some Manzanita nectar and pollen. They would have been otherwise flying fruitlessly in the orchards had they been moved earlier. In addition to fruitless foraging in the orchards, they run the risk of bringing back sprays (herbicide, fungicides) to the colony while in the orchards. Another risk in the orchards is drift from other beekeepers' bees and the possibility of theft. On the flip side, there is a small but real chance that they can forage some mustard pollen, but my orchards are not really close to any plum or walnut orchards where this becomes a real consideration. I did however manage to get stuck in the mud a half dozen times, and I learned that a 16,500 pound winch is sized too small for my truck + bees combination. At the end of the day, nobody got hurt, mud washes off, and sleep can be caught up…
As I mentioned above manzanita is blooming and is likely a factor currently in your bees' buildup. I had split apart some hives and already exhibited some drone brood between top and bottom supers. This means that they are building up now and you will need to keep an eye on the strong hives with drone brood. Make a plan that involves knocking them back by pulling resources from them, or splitting them. Or be ready to watch them swarm off on you. The weather is looking favorable next week so that will be the time to get the smoker lit and check on your bees.