Glad to hear of your success!
I just read your blog(s) and see that you switched to Russians. Can you tell me when you made the switch? Also were your bottom deeps covered with snow most of the winter. Being in Hudsonville you got a lot of lake effect snow this year. I am wondering if the deeper snow also helped moderate the hive temp during those windy -20F nights we had. My hives sit on two layers of cement block and don't get covered with snow. Not a problem in the past, but am wondering if it was a contributing factor this winter.
I don't remember exactly when we got our first Russian hybrids, I think it's been around 5 years now. They build up slower in the Spring than the Italians, but generally winter quite well.
I've got my hives setting on 4x4s, so the bottoms of the hives were definitely covered in snow. In my experience the mites are the biggest factor in overwintering. If you have high mite counts in the Fall, the odds are not going to be good regardless of the temperatures.
Same with me also and I don't understand where the bees went. No swarm cells or supercedure cells and no bees left. Last year I lost a couple hives to starvation and plenty of dead bees on the sbb's. Hives still had plenty of stores which I have frozen now to use later. Is this mites?No bugs no goo, no mess what so ever