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Author Topic: To wrap or not to wrap...  (Read 1899 times)
dpence
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« on: November 19, 2008, 11:33:47 AM »

What the general consensus on wrapping a hive for winter?  I have some foil backed bubble foam wrap that might suit.  My only fear is moisture or condensation.  I guess my main concern is wind.  Some of my hives are well protected from wind but others are not.  Thoughts appreciated.

David
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Shawn
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« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2008, 12:18:24 PM »

Although I did wrap my hive this year I dont think I will next year. I was given some wrap from a friend that he got from Betterbee. Read the below section form the link I posted.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beeslazy.htm

 Stop wrapping your hives.
I suppose this also includes all the worrying about winter and trying to give them heaters and such. The bees have lived for millions of years with no heaters and no help. If you make sure they are strong and have enough food and adequate ventilation so they don't end up in an icicle, then you should relax. Work on your equipment and see them in the spring, or at the earliest, late winter.

"Although we now and again have to put up with exceptionally severe winters even here in the south-west, we do not provide our colonies with any additional protection. We know that cold, even severe cold, does not harm colonies that are in good health. Indeed, cold seems to have a decided beneficial effect on bees."--Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey, Brother Adam
"Nothing has been said of providing warmth to the colonies, by wrapping or packing hives or otherwise, and rightly so. If not properly done, wrapping or packing can be disastrous, creating what amounts to a damp tomb for the colony" --The How-To-Do-It book of Beekeeping, Richard Taylor
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kathyp
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« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2008, 12:25:37 PM »

the only time i wrapped was when we had a nasty wind.  the wind chill was so low i put some old horse blankets over the hives until it passed.  other than that, i don't bother.
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« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2008, 12:32:23 PM »

No wrap for me either.  I do have my hives where they are at least a slight bit sheltered.  In my opinion one is further ahead to invest in planting some strategically located bushes to provide a subtle windblock.
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bassman1977
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« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2008, 12:37:24 PM »

The first and only time I wrapped, I found that there was a lot of moisture inside the hive.  Since then I have not wrapped and it seems to be a lot drier.  I recommend not wrapping.  If you are concerned about wind, then use a wind block.  We have occasional high winds where I have my hives.  I am not concerned about it.
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dpence
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« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2008, 01:28:26 PM »

Thanks for the inputs, I am lending myself to providing natural windbreaks.  Works for me.

David
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Robo
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« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2008, 02:16:00 PM »

It all depends on how severe your winters are.

Here is some further reading from David Eyre.
Quote
Keep the hive dry is a good adage.
We hear of keepers who insulate the whole hive with styrene or fibre glass wraps. My view is that when the internal hive temp drops it will be very difficult to warm it up again as its insulated from the outside warmth, whereas black tar paper absorbs the heat from the sun on clear days and transmits it to the hive interior allowing the bees to move to access food.

It is now 19 years since we completed our tests on our system and to date we haven't lost a hive to winter loss, yet. I hate to brag, but I have to believe that finally we have a system that works.

Update: Approximately 4 years ago I was off work sick and failed to completely wrap one yard. It had 16 hives, all of which were readied for winter in the usual fashion, ie. 3 boxes, lots of stores, young queens etc, the only difference between them was that 8 were left unwrapped. Once I was fit again I walked around the yard, deep in snow, the results were quite remarkable. It was a bright sunny day, warm out of the wind but the air temperature was still well below freezing point. The wrapped hives had bees at the top entrance and house cleaning was taking place around the bottom entrance, whereas the unwrapped looked dead and only the faint hum said they were still alive.

The real advantage was seen when we started working the hives. The wrapped hives took down their early feed much faster, and I commented at the time that they appeared to have more brood, as the rate of feed taken is a good indicator of brood feeding. When the weather warmed enough for us to start spring management the differences were really noticeable. The wrapped hives were far in advance of the unwrapped. They had more brood, were more frugal with the winter stores, had more adult bees, bottom boards were much cleaner, and generally the hives were better placed and ready for spring.

The cost of wrapping the hive in black tar paper is approximately $1.50 per hive, not much to avoid the death of a hive. Cost of replacing that hive, over $300, by the time you add the loss of that year's honey crop, replacement and the time and effort cleaning and repairing the hive and frames.

 Entire article is here -> http://www.beeworks.com/informationcentre/wintering.html

I have switched to polystyrene hives, but before that, I wrapped in tar paper.
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ArmucheeBee
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« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2008, 07:34:15 PM »

Is there a concensus on about what temperature bees start to freeze or are adversely affected?  My first year, but I assume I have nothing to worry about in NW GA even with small hives and nucs?
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« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2008, 11:54:55 PM »

A wind break will do much more for your bees than wrapping the hives.  My findings have been that it isn't necessary to wrap hives even in Anchorage, Alaska.

If you want to help your bees set up a wind break on 2 sides of the most common prevailing winds and leave the other 2 sides open to the sun.  Wrapping (insulation) not only keeps the heat in but keeps the heat out, so the bees will not begin spring flights as quickly as they will without wrapping. 
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Robo
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« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2008, 06:44:37 AM »

Wrapping (insulation) not only keeps the heat in but keeps the heat out, so the bees will not begin spring flights as quickly as they will without wrapping. 

I agree with the insulation part,  but my experience (and David Eyre's) wrapping with tar paper has been just the opposite.  Tar paper wrapped hives warm-up quicker from the sun and the bees fly much earlier.   I have seen times where wrapped hives get a 1-2 week jump on collecting spring pollen over non wrapped hives in the same yard.
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utahbeekeeper
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« Reply #10 on: November 21, 2008, 12:40:58 PM »

Robo is right on.  Wrapping is not the same as insulating.  Black tar paper is a sun warmth magnet, it helps protect cracks from cutting winds, but does not insulate all that much.  My hives will be wrapped tomorrow.  No moisture trouble as I keep a 2" high box (shallow SHALLOW super) on above the inner cover all winter.  If I need to feed fondant or sugar or crystallized honey, I just pop out the bee escape and set the feed out on the inner cover.  The very shallow box allows feed space, and with the bee escape installed by default, it ventilates the hive nicely.

I shouldn't have to feed anyway until March, at which time I will place top feeders in that same shallow box.  The tar paper positively allows the cluster to access stores off to the sides of the chambers easier.  I like wrapping.
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« Reply #11 on: November 21, 2008, 12:47:34 PM »

I wrapped my Hives for the first 2 winters, I do not know the benefits of it first hand. I have decided not to this winter, we'll see what happens. I don't think 3 winters is enough to judge.
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mswartfager
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« Reply #12 on: November 23, 2008, 09:23:15 AM »

I live in Northwest PA and the winter is cold and snowy so far.  I have a "Bee Max Hive" (polystyrene) from Dadant.  This is my first year.  It has a screened bottom board, but sits on 2x6 boards, so ventilation is minimal from the bottom.  The hive is two deep with lots of honey and healthy bees this fall.  The queen was just installed in September.  I've used no other "insulation" and was going to just create a windbreak, but never got to it.  I've heard about ventilating the top, but how much?  I thought this would make it way too cool inside??  When the snow falls, is there a need to keep the snow off the entrance or from around the hive, or just leave them alone?  Seems like they wouldn't want to be messed with.
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bassman1977
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« Reply #13 on: November 23, 2008, 10:16:57 AM »

Quote
I've heard about ventilating the top, but how much?

I use two wooden shims like you would use for installing doors.  I'm not exactly sure, but I think it leaves an opening at approximately 1/4 inch (maybe a bit less).

Quote
I thought this would make it way too cool inside??
 

No.  The internal temperature is not really the concern.  It's the temperature of the cluster.  With a telescoping cover on, it will cover enough of the artificial opening enough to block out any direct winds.

Quote
When the snow falls, is there a need to keep the snow off the entrance or from around the hive, or just leave them alone?

Generally it's a good idea but I don't make it a priority.  I think it's more important to do it when you see a big melt off.  Sometimes the entrance gets iced up in the reducers.  You want them to be able to get out of the hive if it's warm enough for them to fly.  Typically, at that point, the entrance is clear, but not always.  Like I said, that is when I see more ice build up in the reducers.

Quote
Seems like they wouldn't want to be messed with.

Yeah, don't go tapping on the hive to hear them buzz.  If you want to know if they are still alive badly enough, just get a stethoscope.  It works well.
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« Reply #14 on: November 24, 2008, 10:34:43 AM »

This would be a good experiment for all that don't know the benefits of wrapping to try.  If you don't have tar paper available, hit some homebuilding dumpsters and see if you can't find enough.  Wrap 1-2 hives, leave an empty super above the inner cover in case you want to feed throughout fall, or winter, or spring.  Compare in the spring.  Depending on your area and severity of the winds it will be a good experiment.  If you have wind, rain and no sun all winter, there probably is not much solar gain to be gained, so to speak.  If it's sunny and marginal temperatures you may be surprised. 
Those that say the bee's have been managing winters on their own for millions of years have forgotten some of the newly man made stresses, ie., mites, pesticides, etc..  I'm of the mind if this helps at a minimal cost of labor and materials I'm interested.  Just an idea.
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Cossack
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« Reply #15 on: November 24, 2008, 11:03:57 AM »

I dont wrap either, but I have learned a simple trick that helps and could be useful for others to try. I cut a small piece of old shag carpet to fit under the hive cover and above the inner cover. This adds a little insulation.

Good Luck.

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BjornBee
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« Reply #16 on: November 24, 2008, 05:16:23 PM »

I do not wrap my hives (although going into wionter this year, I have an bad feeling about this winter...  shocked )

I think that a well selected apiary site makes all the difference. It helps with many aspects of beekeeping.
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