Darn I looked for the northern lights last night and didn't see them.
The absolute worst winter for me. Lost all eight hives. Two were single deeps, that in hind sight I probably should have combined. Thought I would test wintering single deeps. The rest were double deeps with a super of honey too boot. I pulled only two thirds of my supers last fall because the hives were so strong. All had screened bottom boards with the insert in. All had slatted racks. All had the all season inner cover with the insulation installed. The two hives that made it to late February I added outside insulation on the east, north and west sides. Most of the hives were a combination of natural comb (foundation-less), small cell (4.9) and regular cell (5.4).
Only one appears to have eaten most of it's stores and they were the darkest bees I had. Go figure, eh. The rest didn't move the one inch to get stores. None had moved to the top of the hive.
Last year I had a 80% survival rate (4 of 5) and the previous year 50%, 1 of 2.
I also lost 3 hives in October, when they superseded in September and failed to raise good queens. Queens were observed, but not laying.
I am bummed about the swarm hive and all of it's splits and swarms dying. It would fly at 40F, build fast, and the parent hive had survived the previous year with flying colors.
As far as I can recall, 6 of the 8 hives were Italian queens from northern California. One was a late feral swarm, and the black queen was unknown (maybe a dark Italian based on how they ate their stores). I have a couple of Georgia packages coming in late April and Ohio NWC queens ordered for late June to split the packages with. I also have a Russian package coming as well. I think it is time for me to get away from Italians. (Unless of course Finski is selling his line. :-D )
Thanks to a tip from MB, I dissected some of the late survivors and looked at their intestines. They were clear, so nosema or other intestinal conditions were not an issue. Other than prolonged cold and a few blizzards that were very windy and cold, I can't see any other reasons for their demise.
I am looking at maybe building a wintering shed and possibly more insulation.