Just in time for a little snow and a cold snap (10 degrees!), I got the hive all bundled up.
Lest you think I'm completely nuts, Backyardhive.com suggests using a hive cozy so the bees can make their honey stores last longer. They don't have to use as much energy to stay warm. A Goodwill sleeping bag wrapped in plastic fits the bill.
It looks all wrapped up, but the south-facing entrance is not covered.
I have some good news, too. I joined a Yahoo group about feral bees and one of the members looked at the video of the hovering squadron (that's a still photo of it above, in warmer weather) and said those were not robbers but young bees that were orienting themselves to the hive and exercising their wings. Healthy behavior, along with guard bees hanging out at the entrance.
And I learned that this chunk-of-tree-with-hive is called a "bee gum." I've seen the term before, but never really knew what it meant. Though strictly speaking, a bee gum would be a piece of trunk (from a gum tree or any tree) that has been hollowed out and roofed to make a hive, much like a skep. The photo at left is from the North Carolina Museum of History. Beekeeping seems to have been a pretty big deal in Appalachia.
I could spend days mucking about online, reading about bees.
P.S. I've since learned a little more about the importance of ventilation, so I'm rethinking the whole insulation and plastic setup. More on that later.