Yesterday was sufficiently warm and springlike to go through the hives. the temperature was about 8-9 degrees, and while this goes totally against tradition, I've opened hives many times in colder weather than that, and have never seen any evidence that it did any harm.
All the hives had brood and eggs, showing that they all had laying queens within the last three days. That was what I wanted to know, and once I'd established that much, I didn't look any further. I can now relax and plan on the basis of starting the season with four hives!
Hives 2, 3 and 4 all had 3-4 frames of bees, and small patches of brood. All had a little capped brood, showing that some egglaying continued even in the very cold weather. Hive 5, the one I got in December, had a huge cluster almost filling the broodbox, and, from the look of it, several frames of brood. They gave me several stings, while none of the others even looked like stinging. I can't wait to requeen that one. I'll have to give some thought to its position, as it's right outrside the shed door. They didn't bother me once I'd taken my gear off, but they're in a perfect position to get me as I come out of the shed minus my veil!