Dara has been very positive about our one remaining hives survival. I kept saying, "I think they are dead" and she kept saying "no way". This is one case where I wish I was wrong.
I found this small cluster of dead bees in the center of the hive. They did not have the numbers to make it through the brutally cold winter. Bees keep warm in the winter by forming what is called the "winter cluster". The worker bees cluster around the queen in the center of the hive and actually shiver to raise the temperature to around 81 degrees F. Once the queen starts to lay again the bees ramp up the shivering to bring the cluster temperature to around 93 degrees F. This hive did not have the numbers to keep everyone warm.
They did draw out a lot of comb. I will use this comb in swarm traps this spring to attract local honey bees. The last two years I have bought my colonies from a local bee supplier. He drives down to Georgia every spring and brings back hundreds of boxed colonies. I think part of my problem has been buying colonies from down south and expecting them to acclimate to our temperature extremes.
I will be baiting my hives and building 3-4 swarm traps this spring. If I catch bees, I will be a bee keeper this year. If I don't, I guess I get a year off.