It has been snowing in central Pennsylvannia and last time I went out to the hive there were several dead bees on the ground. I smiled. My bees are alive!
In winter the hive is ghostly quiet and appears to be dead. But inside the bees have huddled into a cluster surrounding the queen. They maintain a temp of 90F by muscle contractions. Basically they’re shivering to produce heat. Maintaining the cluster at all costs, bees carry and pass honey from the perimeter to the center. They cannot leave its warmth to seek out stores farther away in the hive. They can starve to death just inches from honey. Dedicated unconditionally to colony welfare, a starving bee will pass the last drop of honey forward rather than consume it.
On sunny days some bees will fly outside to defecate since they are fastidious when it comes to cleanliness within the hive. Unfortunately, just because the sun is out doesn’t mean they’ll make it back without falling to the ground, particularly when the temps are still barely above freezing.
I must wait till spring to inspect the hive, but these bee losses are usually a sign of a healthy colony.