It's hard to see, but in the photo above (click on photo to enlarge) there are about 100 bees in a pot that is just inside our gate entrance. Why? It is in the 50's today and the bees are out looking for water. I've noticed over the past few years that the bees are attracted to Brandi's potted plants. My theory is that the potting soil that Brandi uses contains peat. Peat is good at holding moisture and it also has certain resins that the bees can use for propolis. Propolis is, of course, used in 'gluing' areas inside the hive such as cracks that may allow air or pests through.
I did manage to open one of my hives up this past Sunday (with my 86 year old neighbor Jackie). I found some brood, but I was expecting more. With the recent cold weather, I'm not entirely surprised. Seeing brood however means that I have a healthy laying queen.
I also found a lot of dead bees in the frames. This surprised me at first, but I realized that this is the earliest I've ever opened up a hive coming out of winter. The dead bees I found were all in the cells of the wax which to me indicates one thing; they died of exposure. When it gets really cold, the bees huddle into a ball shape to maintain a temperature of about 95 degrees (within the ball). The bees on the outer edge of that ball face the coldest temperatures and they can succumb to the cold. Over the next few warm days, the worker bees will start clearing out the dead bees to make room for the new eggs that the queen will be laying. They better hurry; the nectar starts to flow in mid April.