Greetings! I'm trying to get a feel for losses this 2013-2014 winter in Northern climates. I've been experimenting with an in-hive heater/warmer design with exciting results. I'm looking for any input from others who have attempted to warm beehives during winter to compare some observations and results. We started this winter with two in-hive warmers with two major goals, but now have 3 warmers in play with excellent results. The first goal was to successfully overwinter two NUCs of between 4 and 8 frames of bees. The second was to prove that an in-hive warmer could significantly increase the queen laying and brood rearing season.
I kept my 4 frame NUC at an internal temperature around 70 degrees until mid November, and observed at least a paper plate-size patch of brood and eggs up until I turned down the warmer to more dormant-level temperatures, for the winter. So I considered this test a success, although one or two hives is a small sample to make any grand conclusions. However my brother forgot to turn his in-hive warmer down in the fall, and left it at the higher level until we checked on it last week Feb 22. Holy Cow! He thought he lost most or all of the colony by the number of dead bees on the ground, however upon inspection, it was actually stronger than at the start of the winter! This queen continued to lay and raise brood all Winter! I expect that the higher dead count was due to the artificially warmer environment not extending bee life by dormancy. So bees apparently continued their shorter life span by not going dormant, however the queen continuing to lay all winter, has apparently more than made up for the losses. Anyone out there experiencing anything similar?