"So Merlyn sent you to me," said the badger, "to finish your education. Well, I can only teach you two things -- to dig, and love your home. These are the true end of philosophy."

- T.H. White, The Sword in the Stone

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Thaw -- 13 February 2014 -- The last time I opened the hive was early August, half a year ago. That gave the bees plenty of time to gather more stuff, arrange it all for winter, and seal up the hive. In October they still had not kicked the drones out, but they're definitely gone now. I peek in the window about once a week, and I was expecting to see a large population eat their way front to back through the honeycombs, but instead I've watched a declining population stay at the front of the hive. Last week we had an unseasonal deep freeze, and after a night when it got down to -3F (-19C), the bees were clustered so tightly to the ceiling that I was afraid the colony was dying.

In the photo you can see that they're fine. Two days ago, on the first warmish sunny day, there were a few dozen bees flying around and pooping in the snow, and yesterday they all came out. You can also see that they like the front entrances better than the top entrances that the hive was designed for. I've drilled a total of five holes on the front, and through most of winter I had three of them sealed with wine corks. On the coldest nights I closed them down to one hole -- you never want to completely close it because they need ventilation to get the moisture out. That black thing is tar paper to help them keep warm, but I've removed it now, and as the weather warms I'll keep more entrances open full time. They still have massive honey stores, and should regrow their population with no supplemental feeding and be ready for the first flowers in a month.

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