Re: Winter clusters chimney up and starve out
I am also high mountain dessert. last freeze is May 15th first is October 15th. Our last flow from Rabbit Brush begins after first frost. Have the same chilly nights you would have year round. and I have seen it snow on July 4th.
I do not go into winter with small clusters. I did have one hive last year with a tiny cluster and they still survived to spring. That was a bad queen situation.
I feed my bees going into fall so they have a full deep of bees and a full box of stores. my bees are still bringing in pollen. Thanks to the sage brush. I have heard that some beekeepers move their bees to Nevada in the late summer just to let them prep for winter. I found my bees bringing in pollen in February.
Overall impression so far. strong colonies will survive. Your bees are not starving. they have food. they are freezing. There is a difference if you think about it.
Significant Minority vs Insignificant Majority, 20% of causes produce 80% of the effects.