Winter has finally arrived. I can only hope you managed to wrap/winterize your hives before the cold really set in. Here are some comments you might find useful.
Approximately 4 years ago I was off work sick and failed to completely wrap one yard. It had 16 hives, all of which were readied for winter in the usual fashion, ie. 3 boxes, lots of stores, young queens etc, the only difference between them was that 8 were left unwrapped.
Once I was fit again I walked around the yard, deep in snow, the results were quite remarkable. It was a bright sunny day, warm out of the wind but the air temperature was still well below freezing point. The wrapped hives had bees at the top entrance and house cleaning was taking place around the bottom entrance, whereas the unwrapped looked dead and only the faint hum said they were still alive.
The real advantage was seen when we started working the hives. The wrapped hives took down their early feed much faster, and I commented at the time that they appeared to have more brood, as the rate of feed taken is a good indicator of brood feeding. When the weather warmed enough for us to start spring management the differences were really noticeable. The wrapped hives were far in advance of the unwrapped. They had more brood, were more frugal with the winter stores, had more adult bees, bottom boards were much cleaner, and generally the hives were better placed and ready for spring.
The cost of wrapping the hive in black tar paper is approximately $1.50 per hive, not much to avoid the death of a hive. Cost of replacing that hive, over $300, by the time you add the loss of that year’s honey crop, replacement and the time and effort cleaning and repairing the hive and frames.