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I went out today on a very welcome 20 degree day--partly sunny, no wind--springlike after what we have been having already this young winter--to check on the bees. I noticed right away that there were dead bees in the snow in front of hive #1 but none in front of hive #2. On closer inspection, I noticed the scratch marks in the foam insulation above the entrance. I tapped lightly on the hive and very quickly brought forth several bees, each of which flew a short ways and then dropped to the snow. They apparently are still agitated by whatever had been scratching in the night. Skunks are the most likely candidates, but we certainly have our share of oppossum and raccoons as well. I couldn't make out any discernible tracks in the snow. There were similar scratch marks on the eight frame hive, seen below. No dead bees out in front of it, though.
Seeing no dead bees in front of hive #2, I decided to take a closer look. I pulled the slide out from the screened bottom and listened--no sound, even after tapping on the hive. I decided to take a quick peek under the top. There was a bit of frost on the bottom of the telescoping cover, and a couple dead bees on the inner cover. I carefully moved that aside and still saw only a few dead bees on top of the frames. Not a good sign. I tapped again and listened--no sound. All the frames in the top box were full of capped honey. I decided to take a deeper look, certain I'd find a dead hive. I slid the top box over enough to look underneath, and saw frames full of very live bees. I quickly covered them back up, grateful they were still alive and still well down low in the hive.
Happy Holidays to everyone!