I have a few different things I would like to ask for info on.
But first I will give you a run down on what I have going on.
I bought my hive locally from a well respected fellow. I got 2 used brood boxes, one of which was full of bees thick on every frame and where all the comb was already drawn out, 10 frames. The other box has 9 frames and foundation but no work yet by the bees.
the 9 frame is a honey frame designed for harvesting honey, you will want to get a 2nd 10 frame box and use a double brood box in your area. The colder temps in the north will require the amount of honey 2 boxes can hold in order to successfully overwinter.
At first the bees were a little slow getting going, this would be 4 days ago. On their first day they started moving around and exploring. They also moved out of the hive a bunch of dead bees. Not a ton, I didnt count them but compared to what was inside I would say it was rather insignificant. Just about a couple table spoons full. It was warm that day and they eventually began leaving the hive exploring around.
All typical behavior for bees in a new location. The removal of dead bees is a sign the hive is most probably healthy and hygenic. a little house cleaning.
Then we got a little cold snap so I put the entrance reducer in to cut down on cold air flow going into the hive and also put the catcher under my screened bottom board to do the same. I also had already put in place a top feeder inside its own thin super which has venting. So when the weather turned cooler I put the inner cover in for additional insulation.
That much fiddling with the mite board, etc, isn't necessary. I overwinter my bees using bottomless hives, mite boards left off, a small vent at the top, and temps, like you, sometimes into the single digits for a week or so at a time. Cold doesn't kill the bees, getting wet and then freezing, running out of stores, or preditors (2 & 4 legged) kill the hive.
Yesterday was kinda cool and I did not see much activity. And this morning I watched 2 bees exit the hive about 5 minutes apart. But by noon the temp was in the upper 50s under sunny skies and the bees were very active coming and going in multiple directions. I have not opened the hive again for 2 days now. I dont want to keep going in and messing around with them while it appears they are busy and working. I also want to add I did not see any dead bees or other debris moved out of the hive this am.
I noticed a fair number of bees coming home in the evening that cant quite make it all the way. Some of them land in the grass out in front of the hive and sit there for a minute or so then fly back to the hive and some others just crawl around, often in the wrong direction. Its not that many but my dogs have already learned to keep their snouts out of the hive entrance but they do like to target the bees that hit the ground, when they see the opportunity. I am guessing this is fairly normal bee activity when they are tired or something. Like I said most of them that end up in the grass get back up and into the hive, though a small percentage of those do not. I was able to get one to crawl up a stick and set her on the front porch and watch her crawl into the hive though I have to wonder if that actually did anyone any good or not. I noticed one of her wings was torn in half.
Anyway 4 days in I am seeing all kinds of different behaviors. Anyone recommend some reading on how to try to understand what I am seeing?
The bees will fly for forage at temps as low as mid 30's if Russian or Carniolans and mid 40;s if Italians. As the day warms up more bees will begin to forage, this is why having the hives located in full sun is important, that heat on the hive energizes them.
You will notice over time that returning bees laden with pollen and/or nectar will take frequent rest breaks on the way back to the hive, very few on the way out unless it is a farily long distance. I've seen a bee land 300 feet from the hive, wait a minute or 2 then take off, land 100 feet from the hive and rest for a minute, and on approaching the hive is so laden with nector or pollen that he lands short (in front of the hive). They the crawl up the hive stand and into the hive.
Working Forager bees can literally wear out their wings in a week. You will sometimes see bees with wings like tattered flags walking away from the hive. Walking away from the hive is a bees last hygenic act for the good of the hive so that piles of dead bees don't build up in front of the entrance.
I would recommend placing a chair about 15 or 20 feet from the entrance to the hive and just spend an hour a day watching the bees come and go. You will see a host of interesting things. What you see will make you read up on beekeeping and ask questions here at the forum. Just watching the entrance will reveal a lot of distinct behavior patterns of the bees. You may even see washboarding, the waggle dance, scout bees from another hive trying to probe of weakness so they can rob your hive, etc. Inside it is even more diverse. Seeing 3-4 worker bees all doing the waggle dance on the same side of a frame of comb is a exciting as finding the queen.
You have entered the Twilight Zone....may strange events occur there... :-D