I can tell because trees are blooming and I'm taking lots of pictures like this
The first of a less-welcome spring sign happened when I walked into the house yesterday, and a child said, "You really need to see this."
"Man! Did they swarm?"
You see, when I had checked out the hives in the early afternoon, making sure that all was well in the newspaper-combined one, I noticed that the other hive, the one with only one brood box, was looking significantly busy. I filed it under "give that hive more room," and just hoped it would work.
Hoping apparently doesn't deal with spring build-up. They had thrown off a rather nice-sized swarm.
Fortunately, we have the Most Attractive Apricot Tree Ever, or something like that. They landed where every swarm landed last year.
I deputized a photographer and got to work. First, I humped out a new brood box and honey super, plus an inner and outer cover.
Nice-looking bunch, eh? They were about 12-14" long, plus a small sub-swarm on a lower branch. I figured the queen was in the big bunch, so that was where the effort would be concentrated.
I set up the new hive box (right where the collapsed one was yesterday, of course) and got to work. One good shake while holding the bucket underneath.
And the bulk of the bees "fwumped" right into the bucket.
Easily poured into the waiting box.
They just flow down in. I went back and did a secondary shake, and got the stragglers set up to walk into the front of the covered hive.
When I went out in the evening, happy sounds were coming from the hive, and since it's rainy this morning, that's probably a nicer place for them to be than the tree. I don't know now if one swarm means the original hive is happier and less likely to swarm, or if they have the proverbial bits in their little teeth and will spend all spring splitting. It will be a good test of my beekeeping chops to see if I can manage them well.