Oh, baby it's cold outside. The winter up to this point has been easy on the bees. Many beekeepers have been seeing their bees alive and doing ok. Now the bees will face the cold weather challenge for about for the next week or so. Healthy bees can survive the cold, if they have food, usually without much problems.
I think the cold came at a good time. Most colonies should have the cluster of bees transitioning up into the top deep box right now.
All beekeepers should have had their top box full of honey going into winter. So the bees should be on full frames of honey right now. The bees will be consuming honey and giving the cluster of bees the warmth they need to survive. This time of year bees eat about 12 lbs of honey per month. That is about a frame and a quarter of honey. The food consumption will increase when brood production starts.
If we look at this historically, in the 60's and early 70's the upper Midwest had many more below zero days per winter than we have today. Without the scourge of mites in the 60's, winter loss of bees was around 10% - 15% of a beekeepers colonies. 20% loss was considered a major loss at that time.
Now with mites, the parasites can weaken colonies, making harder for bees to overwinter. But, now is the payoff for good mite control. Healthy bees can make it through this cold snap if they are on food.
The queen will start laying in a couple weeks, usually by mid February.
When there is brood in the hive, that is the time of possible starvation when it gets cold. Anytime after Feb 1st, is a good time to put on winter patties, sugar, fondant for emergency food. The emergency food can prevent starvation on cold days, when brood is in the hive.
We almost have January licked, February is just around the corner, days are getting longer, the sun is getting stronger, beekeeping is on the horizon.