In their natural economy honey- bees winter practically without any major amount of pollen (or protein) but consume only honey, a fairly pure mixture of carbohydrates: and since they would apparently have come to do this in the face of natural selection, it is perhaps a fact worth thinking about. ... just as flowers have been modified by natural selection into forms which make their pollen conveniently available to bees, so the nectar of flowers may have become modified into a very pure form of carbohydrate (with in general very low levels of protein) partly because absence of protein has given the highest survival of overwintering honeybee colonies, able to continue the pollination of the flowers of succeeding seasons. ... on the other hand, however, the low protein in nectars could also be a question of providing an ideal mixture for safe storage over winter without fermentation or other deterioration, which again could have been achieved by natural selection.
Swarm prevention is important in the spring and I prefer to make splits of strong, over-wintered hives in early May. Hives with two brood boxes mostly full of bees and brood are excellent candidates. Just separate the boxes to make two swarms. Check that both halves have at least two frames of brood, one to two frames of honey, and some drawn combs with plenty of bees to cover. Place a queen in the other half or let it raise one on its own. IF you have a few good queen cells, they will do as well. Almost immediately take the hive with the old queen to a new location at least 2 miles away,leaving the new queen‘s hive at the old location. If at a later date one swarm does not take, you can always combine the split halves back together.
I would not recommend alternating drawn comb with frames of foundation. They will not draw out the foundation in that situation except as a last resort. Let them build up on drawn frames and then put the all-foundation-box of frames on top and feed heavily to draw out the foundation. Also, bees don’t like to build out plastic foundation as there isn’t a lot of wax on the frames to start working from and it is best to put full boxes of just plastic foundation on when you do. You can feed heavily or put them on during a heavy nectar flow to draw them out. Another problem with foundation is that if you try to force them into foundation this way during May and June, watch them closely for the tendency to swarm. A frame of drawn comb in the middle of a box of foundation will often help them move into it more quickly.
Bees and Queens
A colony is at its fastest growth rate from about 6 - 11 frame strength. So if you want to split prior to early flows, yet produce the most amount of bees, keep the bees in this strength range. On the other hand, it is more bee-efficient to mate out queens in smaller nucs. Mating Nuc size is dependent upon temperature--the warmer it is, the smaller the possible mating nuc.
The 2018 honey crop
Due to the often and heavy rains the bees didn't get some honey crops. They missed the Russian olive, basswood, most of the clover, goldenrod and other reliable sources.
The bees did okay this year, but not much of a crop. A few hives produced surpluses of over 100 lbs but nothing like last year. There wasn't as much variety in the honey produced and some had high moisture contents so that went back to the bees. At present, December 1st, 2018, I have some wildflower honey left but so little I am only hitting a few market days. I shall have comb honey available for my retail sales thru next may, but that may be my only product in early May outdoor markets.