I believe Kirk Webster said that it would be more beneficial to see the varroa mite as a beekeeper's ally than as an enemy. The varroa mite "selects" the survivor hives for the bee breeder, allowing the most adaptable bees to survive. I am trying to see Minnesota winters in much the same fashion, as only one of my hives has survived thus far.
In some sense, my survival rate ( one out of seven) does not surprise me. The two top bar colonies went into August with little stores and no amount of feeding seemed to help. The Metpropolis hive was never very strong throughout the season. I was hoping that the two hives I developed from my own mating nucs would survive but they never quite built up either. Surviving the winter depends on building up during the summer and the constant rain during last summer kept that from happening. The surviving hive this winter was also the strongest last summer and the hive with the most surplus honey in the fall. The survival rate is somewhat predictable then.
Friday, I will call B & B Honey Farm and order two more packages. I will use my surviving hive to start one or two others. Hopefully, if this year's weather cooperates, this survivor hive can produce some real solid stock.