I've had a devil of a time trying to successfully winter-over hives here in SE Idaho.
I started with six hives (Italian) in the spring of 2011 (2-lb packages w/queen) which did well that summer and fall. My wife set these up that spring with help from my adult children, and a son-in-law as I was in SW Asia at the time.
In the fall of 2011 my son-in-law and I winterized the six hives by wrapping the hives (all of them comprised of 2 ea deep supers at the time) in roofing felt. I lost two hives that winter. Four of the six made it through the winter and thrived during the summer of 2012. I noted in spring 2012, when I removed the roofing felt wrapping, that the felts did not allow water to transpire out of the hive and as a result my inner lids showed water damage on the interior side and there was some mold, not much but none-the-less unmistakable, in each of the six hives. Though the four hives that made it through the winter seemed healthy and strong, the mold scared me so I resolved not to wrap them similarly in the future.
Last winter, the winter of 2012-2013, I lost all four of the remaining hives. I did not wrap them, and we had three consecutive weeks of -20 degree F weather in January 2013. Come spring I found ample honey remaining in each of the four hives (extracted over 30 pounds from the frames I took out of them in the spring), but no living bees. I'm pretty sure that they simply froze to death in January.
This past April I bought six more 2-pound packages w/queens (Carnolian) and started again. All six hives thrived this summer, servicing mostly sagebrush and alfalfa. I set each of them up initially with one deep super holding ten deep frames per hive, which each of the six quickly filled. I added a second deep super with ten more frames to each of the six in late May. Then in July I added a shallow super with ten shallow frames to each of the six. This fall I took all 60 of the frames from the shallow supers. I found 15 of them fully drawn-out with capped honey, another four at least partially drawn out and capped on one side, and one partially drawn out on one side and filled with honey but not capped -- the remaining 40 were not drawn out or filled to any significant degree. I extracted a total of 27 pint jars of light amber honey from the 20 shallow frames that had been at least partially drawn out.
When I took the shallow frames, I reduced each of the six hives back to two deep supers, total of 20 deep frames, per hive. My plan for winterizing them this year is to stack straw bales around each of the six hives. My hope is that this will adequately insulate them while also allowing appropriate transpiration of water vapor from the hives. It may be a fool's errand, though. I just don't know.
I'm very interested in what advice you experienced beekeepers might want to offer that would help me to get these six hives through the Idaho winter of 2013 - 2014. Please advise!