I was talking to a new beekeeper today who has possibly lost one of her colonies going into her first winter of beekeeping. From what I can gather, it seems the colony has starved. It didn't have enough honey going into winter. But when I asked if she gave the bees any kind of emergency feeding, she said:
"No, because I was told not to open a hive until it's at least 60°F or 15°C."
That's bonkers to me. While I think it's best to leave the bees alone as much as possible, if I'm concerned they're running low on honey, I'll take a peek under the hood to see how they're doing. Where I live, I'd have to wait until June for 60°F / 15°C if that's the only time I could open them.
I dismantled and rebuilt a full hive in the middle of February once to clean up some shrew damage and the bees came through in the spring just fine.
I'm afraid this new beekeeper lost a colony because whoever first taught her how to keep bees was adamant about not opening the hives in the winter. To me, that's bad advice.
I've been messing with bees since 2010 and, although I'm basically a mentorless beekeeper because of where I live, I'm happy with my track record so far. Overall, my bees seem to thrive. And I'm not afraid to open the hives in the winter.
A question for more experienced beekeepers: What's your policy on opening hives in the winter? It is an absolute no-no? do you take a peek under the hood every 6 weeks or so? What do you do?