Greg and I had one beehive survive going into winter. We lost the other hive (the nice hive) in August. Some kind of mass pandemonium occurred that we cannot put our finger on. The queen died or there was a swarm (where the queen takes off with most of the bees looking for a new home) and the bees that remained very suddenly became infested with wax moth larvae. It was horrible. I can only describe it as a scene similar to opening your fridge and finding hundreds of maggots crawling all over the prime rib you had planned on eating that night. Shocking, revolting, disturbing and most of all, disappointing. I was inconsolable for about two hours, despite my dad's best efforts to make it better.(He even went as far as promising to build beehives from scratch the next go round.) Bless him for trying. Anyway, by the time we discovered the problem it was too late to do anything but cut our losses and pack the hive up for the season. On the upside, we were able to salvage about 20 jars of honey before the disgusting moth larva got to it. We will try again with that hive in the spring.
The mean hive managed to move into fall with a good strong population and lots of honey stores. In November we winterized the hive by placing straw bales around the north and west sides of it to protect it from the wind and placed insulation around the sides as an extra measure.
It was 54 degrees on December 30th so i got the chance to peek in the hive. The bees were still in there. They formed a tight little cluster where they ideally will stay until it warms up in the spring. From what I can see, they are doing what they are supposed to be doing and they look okay. Because the weather was so freakishly warm that day there were even bees flying around the hive. Problem: It appears that there is honey leaking down onto the bottom board of the hive and pooling up around the entrance. I tasted it. I am pretty sure its honey. Unless bee poop looks different in the winter than it does int the summer...and tastes like honey. We have been scratching our heads over what is causing it. We are pretty sure that is not supposed to happen. We aren't sure what could cause honey to leak out of the hive in the winter time but we hope to figure it out soon. If there are any random seasoned beekeepers reading this post, and you know what is going on, these greenhorn beekeepers would really appreciate your advice.
On a lighter note, it looks like the beer is working. We have not seen bubbles in the airlock in the fermentor which tells you that the beer is fermenting but there is some foam forming at the top. A good sign. Yeast+sugar=Fermentation=alcohol.