I am near the border between Salt Lake County and Utah county. There are about a dozen or so Utah beeks here I think. I started beekeeping in another state, then career brought me here, and for a few years I didn't, but decided to resume in 2014.
I have five hives in Huntsville, two just recently became laying working hives. How many hives have you guys overwintered and if or when/ what time of year do you guys treat? I ve been beekeeping for four years as well and struggle with getting hives to overwinter. I picked up a package of saskatraz about a month and a half ago and got a package of “ blackies” about two months ago..gonna try grafting this year as well.
I've had good luck overwintering. Last fall I had five Langstroth hives going into winter. I also had a Warre that I had been experimenting with for a while. By November a hive from a swarm I captured was weak. I did not know the queen's age so she went into the swarm bait bottle of alcohol and I split up the hive and did a newspaper combine with the others. All of the other Langstroth hives came through the winter. My Warre suffered a disaster because a numbskull clumsy oaf (just saying) spilled the whole stack and killed the queen - the gripping tale (pun intended) is told elsewhere on the forum. The winter before that I had 100% survival except for that Warre again.
I treat for mites. I use OAV when necessary during the summer, and I treat everything with Apivar in the fall. I put the Apivar strips into the hives in late September or early October and take them out six weeks later. If you want to overwinter and you don't have a lot of hives, you need to treat. I use quilt boxes to control winter humidity in the hive. Last winter I experimented with three Vivaldi boards and they worked very well. I am converting the rest of my quilt boxes to Vivaldi boards since they are easier to work with. I use a mix of screened bottom boards and solid bottoms. I close the screens in the winter and tape the board seam. I use hive wraps mainly because we get heavy winter wind here near the point of the mountain, but I have had hives with no wraps overwinter. My experience with Utah so far has been that getting through the winter is not the hard part, it is getting them through the roller coaster spring weather when it goes from 70° and sunny one day to snowing the next. There has always been some hives that needed sugar bricks. I am experimenting with single brood box management this year to see how well it works in Utah - although admittedly my small apiary doesn't offer a lot of data points on that subject.
edit about your laying worker hives: I struggled for most of last summer with a laying worker hive. It went laying worker after a virgin queen failed to return from a mating flight. I tried giving it eggs and brood. I introduced a mated queen, they killed her. I gave it a queen cell, I have no idea if they tore it down before she hatched or after, but she disappeared. It dwindled and then went broodless, maybe the LW died. So I introduced a queen, she was accepted, but now the population was too small to cover more than a couple of frames of brood. I switched places with another hive so it could have all the foragers and it finally started to take off. It overwintered on a single deep with a medium super and it is going strong this spring. Looking back and being honest with myself, I think I would have been ahead to have bit the bullet and combined it with another hive when if first went LW and then made a split a couple of weeks later. I don't know if I can offer you good local advice for your two laying worker hives or not, but if your other hives are strong then I suggest a combine/wait/split/requeen strategy (BTW, I'm grafting this weekend, and since I suck at grafting I graft twice as many cups as I have mating nucs, so if I get lucky I might have some extra queen cells)
Today I’m putting up straw bales on 3 sides , tarp over top, and filling gaps in hives with wrapped insulation, installing sugar blocks as well. And medicating. Fingers crossed.
What do you mean by "medicating"? If you mean a mite treatment, you are way too late IMHO. I would move it up to August at the latest. That is probably why you are having difficulties getting a hive through the winter.
Well this afternoon was beautiful, huge change from the 23° we had just a couple of days ago. Bees are bringing in tons of pollen but I'm not so sure about nectar after that cold snap. So today I moved the last of the nucs (a September mated queen) into an 8 frame and gave it some full frames of honey. They are all fed and all the top box deep frames are filled and capped. I pulled the last of the feeders off, but one hive objected quite strenuously, the others were calm like they were happy to be rid of them. Everyone has pollen and a honey dome in the lower box. They are half way through their fall Apivar treatment. I will remove the Apivar strips the first decent weekend after Halloween. That is when I'll put the 2" XPS foam board wraps on and tape up the joints with gorilla tape since I (hopefully) won't be going back into them. I will also install the Vivaldi boards at the same time I put the XPS wraps on. I did go ahead and converted all of my quilt boxes to Vivaldi boards now — it's a super easy conversion with 1/2" plywood and pocket screws. I expanded a fair bit this summer so I need to build two more new Vivaldi boards from scratch before Halloween. I picked up the stuff at the home center today so I can knock them out this week. I also built a new insulated hive cover based on an idea I've been toying with to mimic how some Northern European beekeepers are using perspex and insulated covers for winter with just one hive. The insulated cover and the perspex inner cover is now on the single deep that now has the September nuc. Hopefully the perspex inner cover should allow me to monitor this hive frequently through the winter without cooling the hive since they are still a small colony.