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So, one of the problems that us northern beekeepers face overwinter is trying to determine if a hive is still alive or not in the middle of winter without disturbing it too much. It isn't advisable to just open it up. I have tried peering into the entrance with a flashlight to see the cluster, trying to figure out what the relationship is to the number of dead bees that a living hive should be expelling each week, etc.

If it is cold enough though - there is another way. I think that I might have stumbled on another strategy!

This photo is of the upper entrance of a nuc that I know is alive today (12 December 2010). I know this because I can look through the entrance with a light and see the cluster, happily 'pulsating' away.

[attachment=2:1nt8fo19]Alive.jpg[/attachment:1nt8fo19]

This photo is of a nuc that I know has died. Again, I can see the cluster - and it is (sadly) not moving.

[attachment=1:1nt8fo19]Dead.jpg[/attachment:1nt8fo19]

This final photo is of the upper entrance of a nuc that I just wasn't sure about. I can't see the cluster, it hasn't produced any dead bees in front and I don't want to open it up to check.

[attachment=0:1nt8fo19]Yeah!.jpg[/attachment:1nt8fo19]

On cold, dry days - heat and moisture from the (living) cluster produces frost on the upper entrances. Looks like, so far so good!
 

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Yesterday was unusually warm- 40F and sunny. Oddly, one of my hives was busy doing cleansing flights. the other was no action at all. But then again it was an iffy temperature for flying.
BUT....I have open screen BB's on both of them, so I knelt down on the ground and put my head down by the open bottom of the silent hive (they are up on cement blocks) and I rapped once on the side of the hive in the middle. I could hear a nice 'BSSSSSHHHHHH' of bee wings responding to my single knock, so I know there are a bunch of live bees in there somewhere! :)

But yes, I'd say that frost condensation in your photo indicates that your nuc in question is indeed alive!
 

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I used to tap on the side of the hive with my ear up to the hive first couple years after that I thought what can I do if they are dead or alive nothing abolutely nothing so I went back and set in front of the fire and waited on it to warm up then check them
 

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I have a SBB with a board underneath. A quick pulling out of the board will show new wax debris under the cluster. I dust it off, and put it back. If there is new wax debris next time, I know that there were live bees in there some time in between. It's not an exact science, but it's interesting "watching" the cluster move from the location of the trash heap.
 

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Ingenuity, that's us!

Either that, or we get really bored in winter and have to amuse outrselves with something.
 

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I use the stethescope trick myself. I use my boys toy medical kit that he doesn't play with anymore and believe it or not the scope actually works quite well :mrgreen:
I usually don't even have to knock on the hive.

Perry
 

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omie writes:
lol!

tecumseh:
reading thru this thread is kind of funny for me Omie. I get the image of a bunch of kids standing around the Christmas tree all nervous but knowing they can't open their packages till next year.

some of the insights (like Hobie and Tyro) although totally unrelated to my own beekeeping I do find quite interesting.
 

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Well living in the northeast (and more north than PA) has its pros and cons, bee-wise.
There really won't be ANY time I can safely open hives between now and Spring, so that just takes that question right out of the realm of possibility for me. Can't do much of anything anyhoo, so might as well just do other things for the winter and just make a few frames when the mood strikes. I have a new musical instrument coming next week that will keep me plenty busy while sitting by the fireplace on some of the coming dark winter evenings. :D
Tried to dig up the last of my carrots from the garden yesterday but the ground is frozen hard as a rock now. Forget about those last carrots, I waited too long- d'OH!!

Larry, I'm sorry about your loss! :( Did you open them to be sure? What do you think caused it?
 

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Hobie, that's a great idea! Our basement stays a little too warm to make a good root storage place, unless we were to build walls around a window and go to a lot of trouble. You bucket idea sounds good. Interesting that they cut out the entire bottom of the bucket. Too deep for moles and such I guess, and keeps it all drained and dry.
I don't have much trouble with moles and voles in my garden, because when I see the evidence of one, I put out mouse traps under the leaves and that gets them very quickly. Larger stuff like rabbits or groundhogs can't get in at all through (or under) my state of the art garden fence. :D
I'll know better next year to get all the carrots harvested before the deep freeze though.
 

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That is a dandy idea, one of those "duh, why didn't I think of that". I wonder if that would be a good way to store taters also.
 
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