After my last post, checked the syrup one more time in December and then left town. It has been sub-freezing (20's) here since I returned to town so I haven't had the chance to check on the critters.
I will admit that I am using the lazy beekeeper strategy. If people in northern Illinois can keep hives over the winter with little intervention, I am going to try the same. So I fed the bees heavily in the fall hoping they would build up sufficient stores to take them through this tough winter. I did not wrap the hives or put any insulation in the top. I did not even put any additional ventilation in the hives (although this is the one thing I wish I had done).
Hive #1 had not been taking any syrup through out the fall, so I had some crystallized sugar that I just dropped in on top of the inner cover to see if they would take that. It may be that they simply had enough stores and were not interested in any more.
Well it warmed up to 49 yesterday and the girls were flying so I took a couple of peeks inside. Amazingly all four hives are still alive! I am surprised, particularly hive #4, it is essentially in one medium super, and I would still not be surprised if another cold snap wiped it out. With the weather being soo cold, I did not feel comfortable putting syrup back on the hives so I tried the newspaper method of feeding. I put down a single sheet of newspaper and poured granulated sugar on top of the newspaper. In hives 3 and 4 I put the newspaper right on the top frames. In hive #2 I put the newspaper over the inner cover. In hive #1, there was still about half of the crystallized sugar left on top of the inner cover, so I just left it alone.
From the activity in the front of the hives - the most active was hive #1, #2, #4, #3.
So, so far so good. I am sure we will have another deep freeze before the winter is over, so we'll see.