I've been reading some of George Imirie's articles lately, and he suggested checking the hive on the first day in February that the temperature goes above 50 degrees F. So that's what I did today, and I was pleased with what I found, I think. There were plenty of bees in there, a lot more than what I started with last year, and healthy looking and active. There was also a lot of food in there, both capped honey and uncapped syrup, mostly in the upper super. I located my queen in the lower super, walking along a frame of comb that looked pretty cleaned up. There was a good deal of empty comb in the bottom box, so I saw no reason to reverse.
In the upper super I found a clump of dead bees about the size of a golf ball near one of the walls; the bees were mostly head-first into the comb and I couldn't pull them out of one frame where they were deeply embedded. The bottom board had a lot of dead bees and crud, so I replaced it with a clean board.
There was no new brood in the hive yet. I prepared some 1:1 syrup to put feed them, but held off because of all the food they had in there. I did place a pollen patty and a grease patty between the supers before closing it up.
Would this be the right time to start feeding the 1:1 syrup to stimulate the queen to start laying?
On another note, I built some top feeders that ended up looking pretty good. But I soon discovered that aquarium silicone apparently doesn't work well on wood. So I used some other silicone to seal the feeders from the outside, which almost worked. I'll have to partially disassemble them and re-seal them on the inside with something that will work. Which is the source of my current frustration. I hope my next projects finish up better.
This is ALL a learning experience for me!