Late fall – At this point the bees are starting to cluster for the winter. They still fly out on warm days (greater then 50 degrees F) and collect pollen. The queen is usually not laying any eggs at this point. It is important that the hives are sealed to prevent mice from entering the hive. During the winter mice can destroy a beehive. I place an entrance reducer and seal any large cracks that I see on the hive. I do think small cracks are fine. I believe that cold will generally not kill a beehive and that it is moisture and a weak hive that usually results in winter loss. I do check on my beehive ever couple of weeks just to make sure they seem to be doing well. If it is warm I like to see a couple of bees out. If it is call I usually knock on the hive and listen with my ear to the hive to make sure they are still alive. A gentle buzz when I knock on the hive reassures me that the hive is doing well.
As we get to winter I spend a fair amount of time cleaning up all of the equipment, hives, tools, and start making new frames for next year. If the weather gets warm I often try to repaint some of my beehives.
At this point of the year the bees are mostly staying in the beehive in a large cluster. If the temperature increases to the upper 40's they may venture out for a "bathroom" flight. It is best not to disturb the hive at this time of the year. You should have a entrance reducer to prevent mice from entering the beehive. I like to periodically check to make sure the beehive is doing well. The easiest way to tell is to put your ear to the edge of the beehive and gently knock on the beehive. If the bees are alive you will hear a soft buzzing sound inside. The only other thing to do is to brush off the snow from the front entrance so humidity does not build up inside the beehive. I believe that the cold does not hurt the honeybees but high humidity with cold can be deadly. This is a good time of year to prepare for the spring. I start making frames and superiors for use in the spring.