It is not a very fun topic, but starvation is a major killer of managed bee hives each winter. Austin has experienced a very mild winter, which ironically, can put more of a strain on the hive’s resources than a cold one. We’ve had plenty of days where it is warm enough for the bees to go forage, but the energy expended finding food is no where near equal to what is available as most of the plants are dormant for the winter months. They would actually spend less energy clustered together in the hive if the temperatures were lower.
Luckily, most of the plants in Austin seem just as screwed up as well, and we are seeing a bloom cycle 3-4 weeks earlier than normal. The roses in my garden are about to go into full bloom when normally February 14th is the day in Central Texas where gardeners recommend pruning them.
This is why it is important to check your hives in the winter months on those mild days to ensure adequate foods stores still remain in the hive. If not, beekeepers usually recommend feeding granulated dry sugar as opposed to syrup during the winter as it is hard to keep the syrup over 50 F. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to feed in the winter, you will need to continue feeding until enough is blooming in the spring for the bees to become self-sufficient.