Update on my bees I got this fall: They are alive and well!
We had one of the hardest winters I've seen since I was a kid and I really worried that I hadn't done enough to get them ready for winter, having gotten them so late (October). After every long stretch of bitter cold, I would go down and knock on the box and put my ear to it, listening to the reassuring hum.
I went down and sat with them for a bit today (a most gorgeous day it is) and watched to see if they were bringing back any pollen yet. You can actually sit quite close to the hive, off to the side and out of their flight path. They take no notice of you if you're not waving your arms or banging on their box. No pollen yet, but soon! My curly willows, lilac and the maple trees will be blooming any day now.
They were mostly coming out to take their orientation flights, circling 10 feet or so above the hive. Some zipped off over the hill, getting water from the neighbor's pond I'm sure. No signs of nosema. They seem to be strong in numbers (hard to tell from the still image, but there was much action coming and going from the hive). After what I have read this winter, I believe the chewed up old hive body and bottom board were to their benefit, providing good ventilation. Beekeeping for Dummies says that poor ventilation will make them sick quicker than anything.
I will be opening them up very soon! It's so windy today, but warm at least.