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Author Topic: preparing hives for winter  (Read 10138 times)
bee-nuts
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« on: September 20, 2009, 07:07:00 PM »

I have done a lot of reading on honeybees this year.  I have learned that bees in the foam Polyester (or whatever they are) boxes use less honey in winter, build nucs up faster bla bla bla.  So is it a bad idea to rap hives in r-board or brown board.  I have read/heard that it traps moisture.  Well what about the foam boxes then.  If I have a hole in the top box and in bottom entrance is this not enough ventilation.  I would rather have the bees a little warmer and use less honey then freeze to death or starve to death.  some things really seem to contradict one another.

I live in Northern Wisconsin and want my bees to have the best chance possible to survive this winter.  So what is the best way to prep hives for winter? 

Also, how much pollen do they need?  Should I steal some for spring feeding if any have extra?  One hive has tons of pollen in bottom super.
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« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2009, 08:02:10 PM »

I will share my experience and views on the matter.  I'm sure you will get more that disagree than agree with me, but it works for me.

Why upper ventilation?  - To remove moisture (and heat).   Now you'll hear that cold doesn't kill bees moisture does. Now although this may be true,  my response is warmth makes it easier on them.  Just think about it.  You could survive winter with your house at 40F,  but it wouldn't be as easy as say 65F.  You would burn a lot more calories keeping alive.

Why do bees raise their earliest brood in the top of the hive?  To take advantage of the warmth that rises to the top.  Want to prove to yourself that the heat is the reason,  place a night light on your bottom board and the queen will come down to the bottom of the hive to lay in the comb right above the light.

Why do we need to remove moisture from the top of the hive?  Because warm moist air rises?  True, but not the complete answer.  The common Langstroth set-up has poor insulated tops and this warm moist air condenses on this cold top and then drips down and wets the bees.   When the humidity is too high in your house in the winter,  does it normally condense on the ceiling and drip on you?  No, it condenses on the windows because they are the coldest spot.

So the key is to make sure the top of the hive has the highest insulated value.  With this, the condensation will occur on the walls and the moisture will run down the sides and the bees will stay dry and toasty (just like you do in your house if you don't touch the wet windows).   A few drain holes in your bottom board allows the moisture out.   Take a look at the Nordic countries, and you will find very few if any that use top ventilation in the winter.

I've done a large amount of feral removals over the years, and I have yet to find a single colony that didn't seal up every crack and crevice tightly.   I have yet to find a feral dead out that could be attributed to too much moisture,  it is mainly mice damage or starvation.   So upper ventilation is not the only way to over-winter bees, it is merely one way to deal with the poor design of our hives.
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« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2009, 11:41:02 PM »

HMM........

How we solve this in out homes is to make sure we have adequate ventilation into and out of our attics so the warm moist air that rises can escape instead of piling up in blocks of ice.  we release tons of moisture cooking and showering every winter.  It took most people till the 70,s or later (around here) to realize that you needed ventilation through the attic which is why you need ventilation to come from your soffit and then up through some type of ridge vent.  If you don't have adequate attic ventilation come spring you can have all kinds of nice leaks that leave those pretty stains on the ceiling when these frozen pockets of ice melt when the attic temp rises above freezing.  It will also condense on windows toilets and whatever is cold.  Same principle as Moisture beading up on a glass of iced soda.

So I wonder if your right, and all that the bees need is some catching up with the times.  If you put an insulative layer on top of hive, yet something that lets moisture travel through it then use the same principle as we do on our homes to flush this moisture out via a vented top above the insulation then why cant we then give our hive an R 32 rating.  LOL!!  The real difference is our homes are heated and heat drives the moisture up.

Another way which would not be insulated but a screened inner cover and a top with a 12/12 pitch would force the moisture to run down the walls instead of dripping on the bees.  I guess you could insulate this but you would have to drill holes through the floor like you said.

I may have to experiment with this.  There has got to be a way to insulate the hive and keep it dry inside.

Thanks for response Robo!
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« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2009, 11:50:48 PM »

Last winter I wrapped a hive in 1/2 scrap foam rubber. I did not cover the top of the hive, I did provided a very small hole to the outside between the brood boxes using a Irmie Spacer and did not cover the normal entrance with anything special. I did reduce the size of the normal lower entrance with a pint stirrer and a few nails. The scrap foam rubber simply covered the majority of the wooden surface of the hive on all four sides. Because we get such strong winds for the west most the winter in eastern Washington, my intent was to prevent any drafts from entering the hive and reduce the effects of the almost constant winds. It seemed to work well. The hive was in great shape come spring time and the spring build up was quick. During the winter months, when the weather permitted, I would visit my hives and feed them sugar water using the zip lock plastic bags. That worked out well.

I think Robo's idea about insulating the topic cover is a great idea. I noticed some condensation on the bottom side of the inner cover. I suspect that any condensation dripping on the frames is something to be avoided. I was lucky, the foam rubber was scrap, so it cost me nothing.  Go luck in Wisconsin. Having lived down by Sheboygan, I know that your winters can be rough.

Regards,

Tucker1
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« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2009, 02:04:09 AM »

These two methods look ok to me

Tar paper wrap
http://www.extension.umn.edu/honeybees/components/pdfs/posters/Poster%20164%20wrap%20for%20winterTP%208x11.pdf

Corrugated plastic or something
http://www.extension.umn.edu/honeybees/components/pdfs/posters/Poster%20163%20wrap%208x11.pdf

the doc's may take a bit to load up

I think I will do it like this but I will wrap with some type of foam on outside then tar paper and put OSb sheets on north and west side to block wind, cover south side of sheets with tar paper to catch suns heat from the south and see what happens.  I made a post about this wind block system before and was worried about the fluctuations between day and night temps and effect on the clusters but I going to try it anyway.  I really hope come spring I still have bees.

Tucker

what kind of bees do you raise there.  I hear carnies work well there.  I want to try a few myself.

Winter here is usually good for a week or two of -20 to -30 below with wind that chills you to the bone.  But many people just wrap in tar paper with two deeps and get by.  I ask a commercial beek and they told me three boxes was overkill so I hope they are right cause im gong with two.


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« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2009, 03:42:57 AM »

I've been thinking of something along these lines...

I use migratory covers.
I'm thinking of making a spacer rim under the migratory cover made of 1x2 with 1/8 hardware cloth stapled along the bottom edges and the space filled with pine shavings and my migratory lid on top. Could also drill some 1" holes, maybe three along each side in the 1x2 spacer to let air out. What you all think?

I use 8 frame deeps, doubles, and the top box has a 3/4 hole in just under the front hand hold cutout. Was also thinking of just cutting out a piece of 1" insulation board the same dimensions as the migratory cover and just place it on top of the cover and put a brick on it. I was thinking I'd have ventilation from the 3/4 hole and insulation on top from the insul board. This way would be less work to do.
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« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2009, 08:03:46 AM »

I"m in Michigan, I think I'm going to wrap, but also use a sugar barrior to help hold the moisture. last year I didn't wrap but used sugar. that was the only hive that survived. so this year wrapping and sugar insulation. figure bees can eat some and it will
hold some heat in the hive bodies, as well suck up moisture..
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« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2009, 08:05:19 AM »

Another way which would not be insulated but a screened inner cover and a top with a 12/12 pitch would force the moisture to run down the walls instead of dripping on the bees.  I guess you could insulate this but you would have to drill holes through the floor like you said.

Check this out -> http://smarterbee.com/
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There has got to be a way to insulate the hive and keep it dry inside.


There are many ways to approach the issue.  It mainly comes down to scaling.  If you have 2-3 hives you can design a more elaborate approach,  but it would not scale very well to larger number of hives and most likely become cost prohibitive once you get above 10 hives, not to mention the storage of additional equipment.

Upper ventilation is viewed as the cheapest approach.  I have taken a different approach in an effort to retain the warmth which cost a little more.  But will argue, if you do the analysis doesn't really cost any more because they use less stores.

If you only have a handful of hives,  2 7-watt night lights on the bottom board will keep the hive quite dry,  assuming you don't pump it full of syrup after October 1st.

I still can not overlook everything that I have seen with ferals, who handle moisture exceptionally well.
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« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2009, 10:01:02 AM »

I will share my experience and views on the matter.  I'm sure you will get more that disagree than agree with me, but it works for me.

Why upper ventilation?  - To remove moisture (and heat).   Now you'll hear that cold doesn't kill bees moisture does. Now although this may be true,  my response is warmth makes it easier on them.  Just think about it.  You could survive winter with your house at 40F,  but it wouldn't be as easy as say 65F.  You would burn a lot more calories keeping alive.

I will attest to the 40F. I lived in a boat house while building a massive lake house up in northern MN. The highest I could get the temp was 40F, mainly b/c the nights got down to -40F. There wasn't much moisture, maybe b/c it was too cold to evaporate.

I cut down all my deeps so I'm taking all my short boxes and making insulated tops. My neighbor has sheep and she's giving me all the junk wool that the wool buyer didn't want.
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« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2009, 11:51:29 AM »

>>>>How we solve this in out homes is to make sure we have adequate ventilation into and out of our attics so the warm moist air that rises can escape instead of piling up in blocks of ice. <<<<

Maybe you should look again. In my house, all attic vents are above the insulation. I have a vapor barrier between living quarters and the attic, with the insulation above the barrier. There is no purposeful heat escape from the living quarters to the attic.

I agree with Robo. Hold all the heat in that's possible. If you can vent above the insulation, fine, but not by letting the heat out.
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« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2009, 01:29:06 PM »

In a couple of places I heard that keeping the hive warm reduses the useage of stores. I live in the south where extreme cold is not a problem but months without nectar is. I question, at least in the south if keeping the hive warmer might increase activity and there fore use up the stores faster. ?comments?
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« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2009, 09:21:30 PM »

>>>>How we solve this in out homes is to make sure we have adequate ventilation into and out of our attics so the warm moist air that rises can escape instead of piling up in blocks of ice. <<<<

Maybe you should look again. In my house, all attic vents are above the insulation. I have a vapor barrier between living quarters and the attic, with the insulation above the barrier. There is no purposeful heat escape from the living quarters to the attic.

I agree with Robo. Hold all the heat in that's possible. If you can vent above the insulation, fine, but not by letting the heat out.

Your house is not every house.

Yes the vents should be above the insulation.  Whether you believe it or not, unless you have plastic between your Sheetrock and insulation(which it sounds like you do), moisture will travel through the ceiling.  And to most peoples disbelief, air will even travel through the plastic to some degree but not enough to ever notice, unless your have a dogs nose.  Sheet rock and most insulation breaths.  I have no need to look again for I have seen thousands of attics and have resolved moisture problems and winter condensation leaks in many of them. Either way, if a colony of bees generates enough heat and gives off moisture like in our homes we have something to compare with and use common solutions.  Using a plastic vapor barrier would obviously not be a good idea in a bee hive for the moisture would just condinsate on the ceiling like it already does now.  The reason it wont in your home is, it is to warm on the ceiling to condensate.

So you have three options unless you put a dehumidifier in your beehive. 

One - use insulation that breaths

Two - Force condensation down the walls and not on the bees.

Three - do nothing

Robo

I have never done a cutout so I obviously have no experience with the nature of them.  That said of the ones I have seen pictures of, are in wall cavities between the studs.  If this is a typical situation then there is not enough ceiling for condensation to build up and drip on the bees but rather run back down the walls instead.  There also is one side that should be nice and warm, right. 

I think (know) bees like us will burn more calories to stay alive the colder there environment gets.  If you get wet it is even worse.  So if you can rid the moisture from the hive, then the warmer you can keep it, the better.  Simple math should tell anyone that if the bees consume less sugar water or honey to winter that translates to cash in your pocket (so I agree).  Like a feral colony in a hollow tree, the tree sucks up the moisture and wood is also a great insulator.  A log home built correctly has great R value.

"If you only have a handful of hives,  2 7-watt night lights on the bottom board will keep the hive quite dry,  assuming you don't pump it full of syrup after October 1st."

How do you supply electricity to these, will a 12v battery work?  I miss your point to the syrup after October 1st?

To all:  I mean to debate the issues at hand and never to pick a fight.  I don't know why some can get so worked up when a different or dumb view is seen.  How would mankind solve anything if we just beat each other up if they did not see things our way.  If you don't see something the way I do, fine, lets debate it.  Reason should win, but people are people, and people will see things the way they want to.  That includes me.
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« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2009, 09:58:14 PM »

Who's fighting? Who's worked up. I just think you are comparing apples to oranges, rather than realizing the whole picture.

Air, and moisture, yes, penetrates insulation, but heat is slowed down drastically. That's why moisture gets above the insulation in an attic and must be ventilated. It is done in a house with a minimum of heat loss, not with a direct opening from the living area.
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« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2009, 10:51:12 PM »

what about the question of carbon dioxide duild up in a unventlated hive. this always buged me about ferel hives, they seem to do as robo stated pluging all the holes. May seem logical to keep open vents at the top but the bees seem to work it out fine . for me i leave my sbb open and use a vented inner lid 3\8" thick . this is where beekeeping is local, what works in my climent has different effects in yours.     jeff
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« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2009, 11:31:04 PM »

Who's fighting? Who's worked up. I just think you are comparing apples to oranges, rather than realizing the whole picture.

Air, and moisture, yes, penetrates insulation, but heat is slowed down drastically. That's why moisture gets above the insulation in an attic and must be ventilated. It is done in a house with a minimum of heat loss, not with a direct opening from the living area.


Apples to oranges, missing the whole picture.  What am I missing? 

The bees generate heat and moisture.  Heat rises, moisture condensates on cold surfaces.  Get the moisture out, keep the heat in.  Insulate the hive in a manner that allows the moisture to escape but does not release all the heat.  Provide enough ventilation so they don't suffocate.  Homes now have become so efficient that some type of controlled ventilation is needed.  In the case of honey bees, I'm sure if you can control the things as mentioned above a single bottom entrance would suffice.  Yes I have now went from two entrances to one now thanks to the discussion provided on this subject. 

Please tell me what factor I am missing.  I want to provide the best possible conditions for my bees this winter.  I try to have an open mind, if not why should I even ask a question.  What would you do different.  Start poking at what you think is wrong and why.  I see no reason not to admit when I am wrong or when someone presents a better idea or theory.  When someone sticks to a idea just because they cant handle being wrong or not right is just stupid.
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« Reply #15 on: September 22, 2009, 08:34:40 AM »

I have used the Beemax (polystyrene) hive last year with two ten-frame deeps packed full of bees and they froze/starved.  I'm in northwest PA and thought they would be fine.  I left the screen bottom open, but still guessed they would be fine because the hive sat on a 2x6 plank floor and the screened bottom was still protected from direct wind, etc..   In mid winter they flew on nice days.  Late winter there was no sign of life.  Opened it up and all looked dry inside but they clustered at the very top and apparently opted to be warm and stay clustered instead of reaching out to the plentiful frames of honey that surrounded them.   
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« Reply #16 on: September 22, 2009, 08:56:18 AM »

>>>>Insulate the hive in a manner that allows the moisture to escape but does not release all the heat.<<<<

Now we agree.
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« Reply #17 on: September 22, 2009, 10:33:08 AM »

Robo

I have never done a cutout so I obviously have no experience with the nature of them.  That said of the ones I have seen pictures of, are in wall cavities between the studs.  If this is a typical situation then there is not enough ceiling for condensation to build up and drip on the bees but rather run back down the walls instead.  There also is one side that should be nice and warm, right.


Granted that is the most common percieved feral situation, maybe because the south has more swarms and more uninsulated walls, but not typical here in the north.  Most wall cavities up here have insulation in them,  and those that don't are only summer cabins with no heat in the winter.   I find many many more ferals in ceilings, floors, and soffits, where the overhead space is much greater than the wall space. 
 
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"If you only have a handful of hives,  2 7-watt night lights on the bottom board will keep the hive quite dry,  assuming you don't pump it full of syrup after October 1st."

How do you supply electricity to these, will a 12v battery work?  I miss your point to the syrup after October 1st?


Extension cord.  Your not going to get enough power/heat out of a battery.

http://forum.beemaster.com/index.php/topic,11721.0.html  (Note, this was before I stopped using upper ventilation)

I don't like to add any additional moisture into the hive once it starts getting cool.
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« Reply #18 on: September 22, 2009, 09:56:46 PM »

"(Note, this was before I stopped using upper ventilation)"

By this do you mean without a top entrance? 

I picked up some syrup from my commercial beek friends for less than I can make it myself (corn syrup instead of making sugar syrup).  They showed me how they used to do there winter prep before they started doing the almonds.  Anyhow they put a layer of fiberglass insulation like used in house walls on top of inner cover then wrapped in felt, folded the felt over top then put the top cover on.  Same thing as in the links I provided earlier.  They said it worked real well and did a good job of letting the moisture out.

Thanks for your responses Robo.  If you will, what kind of bees do you keep, Italian?  I wonder how much better carnies winter in our climates.  I worked with some guys from Manhattan and they said winter here was colder but I think it may have just been a cold one here that year.  Maybe a big difference inland NY from coastal though, no idea myself.  Good luck this winter!!

Iddee

I'm glad we can agree on something.  I'm not sure where you figured I wanted to let all the heat out.  With a top entrance? 

Thanks for the debate!!  I enjoyed it.  By the way how do you winter your bees if you don't mind? 

Have a good one.
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« Reply #19 on: September 22, 2009, 10:05:21 PM »

North Carolina doesn't require any special attention for the winter. If they have 60 lbs. of honey and enough pollen to feed the young until maple bloom, they will make it fine. They do seal the top, tho, many times propolizing the oval hole in the inner lid completely closed.

Yes, I have noticed many discussions on the forum is between 6 and a half dozen, just a different set of words sounding different.
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