this is a good time of year to check hives for yellow jacket queens. they won't be inside the hives, so there's no need to disturb the bees, but yellow jacket queens, and other wasps, frequently overwinter under the roof of beehives. it's a nice dry spot kept warm by the honey bees underneath. wait much longer, and they'll be headed out to start new colonies that will prey on your bees later in the year. pick a dry day, and check all your hives.
in Warré hives, the quilt is a very likely spot to find them. in Langstroth, they'll be between the telescoping roof and the inner cover. in horizontal top bar hives, they'll hide between the roof and the top bars.
every hive I checked today had at least four yellow jacket queens under the roof.
I don't think it's clear what time of year I posted that, but really any time after yellow jackets die as things get cold and before the queens start a new nest as things warm up is the time to check. that will vary depending on location, but a dry day in the middle of winter is a safe bet. just try to minimize any disturbance to your hives. if you don't have winters to speak of, you're on your own.
one more public service announcement while you're here: while some of them do cause trouble for honey bees (and humans), yellow jackets and other wasps are also great garden allies.
Please elaborate on how yellow jackets and other wasps a great garden allies.
I provide water for the bees even though I have no hives yet. In doing so, I'm also providing water for the yellow jackets and other wasps. I have allowed the wasps to build numerous nests around the outside of the house under the large shade structure. I'm starting to think I may need to turn at least a portion of those wasps into chickenfeed since the wasps got way too many of my mulberries and now are eating on a high percentage of my Texas Persimmons. It's not like they eat the entire fruit either but they eat part of numerous fruits. I'll still eat the fruit after they have had a bite or three but the quantity of fruit I'm able to harvest is not even yet enough to provide as much as I'd like to eat on a daily basis much less enough to start to think about putting any away for use later.
So, yellow jackets, "what have you done for me lately?"
I know a lot of people have been finding that round entrances (usually made out of bamboo) are great on beehives for preventing robbing by yellowjackets. They pack it full of guard bees and the yellowjackets can't make it in there. We use them on log and skep (woven) hives, but they can be used on others too
When you reach your lowest point, you are open to the greatest change.