2012 turned out to be a great bee year for most beekeepers in the area, and we at TLC were no exception. There were a few of the typical stumbles along the way, but we went into Winter with 3 strong hives again. They were basically set up similarly to last year, so you can browse those posts for a few more details.
In a nutshell, we build a short wall out of straw bales to provide a windbreak for the hives. Cold winter winds blowing straight across the field toward the hives is the one Achilles' heel of that location. The wind break was an easy quick fix that has worked in the past, and I recommend that everyone makes sure their hives have some wind protection throughout the winter. Each hive also got a metal mouse-guard over the entrance to keep out pesky invaders.
All 3 hives were a little light on stores at the end of the Fall, so in early December I put 5-10 of dry sugar on each hive to act as "emergency stores". If, and when, the bees run out of honey stored in the hive, they will hit the dry sugar that I placed above the frames. It is not the best bee food, but our goal is to make sure they don't starve!
In mid-January we had a very warm weekend, so I took the opportunity to do a quick inspection of all of my hives. Each hive had bees flying, and when I peeked under the cover, I could see theat they had eaten a little of the sugar I placed in there earlier. Hive A, always the most robust, had eaten about half of it, so I just topped it off with a few more pounds of sugar and closed up the hive.
There's not much else to do in Winter, other than wait, and worry, and sometimes give some emergency feed if necessary. Hopefully there will be at least one or two warm days for me to do a similar inspection each month until Spring really begins.