I have had a few calls of some concerned beekeepers about their hives. So to help with that here is some background of what is happening in the hive.
Right now the bees should have no brood in the hive. The bees are in the lower box of a two deep colony and the middle box of a 3 deep colony. If a beekeeper opened their colony right now and looked at the top box there should be no bees present. But if you peered down deep you might be able to see the cluster in the lower box. If a colony has a large amount of stores the bees may be down deep and the only way to know they are there is to rap the side of the hive and listen.
The snow we have received is a bonus for helping to winter the bees. It should provide a little more insulation.
It is not uncommon to see some bees flying out of the hive and dying in the snow in front of the colony. This will go on all winter. The hive started winter with 50,000 bees. If by March 1 there is 20,000 left, that would be considered a nice overwintered colony. So 30,000 bees have to die and go somewhere. That somewhere is either the bottom board or in the snow in front of the hive.
In late winter after the snow is melting back some the snow in front of the colony, it will be covered with dead bees. This is normal.
I did have a beekeeper in yesterday and said his bees were dying in droves and dwindling down to nothing. Could be a virus at work there.
Frost at the entrance of the top entrance hole on a cold day is a sign that the bees are alive and the vapor of their respiration is frosting up the hole. Again this is normal.
It is best to leave the bees alone and check them in Feb to see if they are alive.
Slide show by Jerry Linser