While preparing to do my winter oxalic acid treatment, I found these dead bees clogging up the bottom of a hive. So I removed the mouse guard and scraped them onto the ground in order to clear the entrance and clean the bottom board. Since the weather was fairly warm, I opened the hive and checked for signs of life with a flashlight. Sure enough, there's still a cluster of bees in the brood chamber. I'm not gonna lie...I'm worried about whether the hive will live until spring. I'm hopeful these were just summer bees that made it into early winter, and that the remaining cluster is still big enough to withstand the next 3 months of cold. I'm bolstered by the fact that I've seen this before, with seemingly large losses of individual honey bees mid-winter; in each case the colony has survived. So I'm going to remain cautiously optimistic until they give me another reason to worry.
Another quick note regarding oxalic acid vaporization. If you use OAV to treat varroa mites, now's a good time to do your winter treatment. In the next couple weeks, as the days in the northern hemisphere start getting longer, our queens will instinctively get broody. Believe it or not, this celestial shift can mean there will be brood in your hives in January--even in cold climates. So it's about your last chance to treat a completely broodless hive, which is the best time to use OAV since none of the mites are hidden in capped cells.