I imagine the cluster to be a spherical shaped object. I'm sure the bees don't do this becasue they like soccer balls, but rather becasue it is a very efficient shape when you consider the ratio of surface area to volume. When I think of the cluster, I think of a spherical shape moving about the hive chasing honey, which was in a vertical direction this year with the atypical winter conditions.
Knowing that the bees were up into the candy boards 4 weeks ago already, I made the decision to add another candyboard and today was the best shot I would get. Temps were in the mid 20s and no wind. I found that two of my hives were dead, and the other 4 we're still doing "alright." I say "alright" because I don't know what the heck I'm looking at. The bees were up into the candyboard and against the quilt box. So, am I likely seeing a "disc" of bees, or just the top of a bee "ball?" If the latter, Hey, I"m in good shape! if its the former, then I don't have many bees left. With the cold temps, i didn't stay in there long and only had them open for about 10-15seconds to quickly add food.
So, any guesses as to what shape the cluster really is? I'm curious as I'll be sending out another bee order and would like to replace all of my dead hives, and plan as accordingly as possible for more deaths. I know the future is tough to guess at, but I'm going to do my best.
Random tidbit of info, the two dead hives, one was a 5 over 5 set-up, and the other was my strongest hive in a 10deep over 10deep configuration. I thought it was odd that the biggest and smallest hives were dead. Might be an indicator that "average" is better than extreme in either direction. Of course, it could also mean nothing.