There is life!
After two weeks of bitterly cold temperatures we finally have a break. I knew the bees would take advantage of above freezing temps and take a cleansing flight from the hive. This is a good time to look at the hives and see if you see any dead bees in the snow. Although dead bees may sound bad, this time of year it is actually good. Not all the bees that fly out to take a cleansing flight make it back in, so some dead bees in the snow in front of a hive are actually a good sign that the hive is alive. The good news is that BOTH hives had dead bees in the snow in front of them! The double hive had the entrance down to the small opening, so it was completely blocked with snow. I did uncover it, but I am sure they are using their top entrance. The other hive has a larger entrance, and apparently had done some house cleaning and removed the dead bees from the bottom board while the weather permitted. These are all good signs. It is still very early in the season, but after the last two weeks it is good to see signs of life. Many hives, especially those that were not insulated, probably died during the bitter cold. We had 15 straight days of temps that didn't get above 20 at all and spent a lot of time below zero, especially with wind chills. Even with plenty of stores on the hive, the cluster has to get very tight and small to withstand those temps. When it is that tight, it cannot move to more honey when it eats all it has around it. For a few days that is OK, but 15 is probably too long. The insulation gives just enough edge that they can move to new stores when the current ones are depleted. The tar paper on the outside absorbs sunlight - which we did have, even on those bitter days - and allows the temp in the hive to warm even a few degrees more. So I am encouraged for now. I think both hives have enough food, so if they can keep a large enough population as the winter goes on, they should be OK. Time will tell.