OK, so I checked my hives and it appears all have made it through the mild winter here in upstate New York. All are Carniolans and I left them plenty of stores. Left the Screened bottom boards open this year with cafeteria trays (mite trays) about 2" below to block direct wind. Used black roofing felt stapled to the wooden hives for solar gain, but didn't do anything special to the polystyrene hives (BeeMax).
Just checked two hives today rather quickly since the temperature was 50 degrees and I didn't want to chill brood. Found eggs in one hive, but didn't find eggs or brood in the other (although I didn't check all the frames, just the ones on the sunny side where most of the bees were). Here's a question. I found a drone! As far as I know, drones don't forage (or rob other hives). So, can I assume this drone was from the hive even though I didn't see any brood? We had a very warm January, and I was surprised to see so many bees in the hive considering they are carni's, which usually have a small winter cluster this time of year. I'm wondering if they started raising some mid-winter brood in January (with temp's in the 40-50's) and then shut down again in February once the cold returned. Any thoughts?
It is possible that they raised some late fall drones, but usually the bees kick out the drones for the winter. There is a possibility that if you did not see any eggs or the queen, that you have a queen that is only laying unfertilized eggs, which becomes drones, or you have a laying worker, which will also only lay drone eggs. Just watch them closely, and if you begin to see a lot of drone brood, then you know that is what you have.
If you still can find no sign of a queen, and there is some drone brood, make sure there is not a queen, then take the box of bees about 20 yards away, and shake out all the bees. Then replace the box on its old stand. All the workers will return to the box, but the laying worker will not be able to fly, and will die. At this point it is safe to requeen. Good luck!
I went through about 150 hives the last two days. The weather was nice. I pulled frames in almost all the hives to do an inspection for eggs, desease, etc. In three hives, I noticed drones. I looked very carefully for drone cells and signs that they could be new drones. I did not see any. I can only assume they over-wintered with the bees and were raised late in the year. The hives were healthy in every way, with queen, eggs, etc.
I guess mother nature always allows small variations and nothing is absolute. I was happy to see the drones.
I also have russians and carni's. Can't remember which hives off hand, but it was from one of those two lines.
My drones started showing up in January this year. Right now drone production is in full swing preparing for swarm season.