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Author Topic: Snow covering the hive entrances  (Read 1408 times)
fletchroot
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« on: December 09, 2010, 03:57:42 PM »

Hi, I'm wondering how worried I need to be about snow covering the hive entrance.  We've had a ton of snow in the last few days, and I cleaned off the landing board yesterday.  Generally, do I need to keep it clear for them, or are the bees ok?
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Hemlock
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« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2010, 04:05:21 PM »

Everyone I know keeps it clear for them.  Hives have to breath & bees need to fly on the occasional warm day for cleansing flights.
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Cascadebee
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« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2010, 07:35:40 PM »

Do they have a top entrance or are they on screened bottomboards? I wouldn't worry too much about it if so.  From what I saw of your weather on the news there won't be any cleansing flights in NY anytime soon.
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BjornBee
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« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2010, 07:41:53 PM »

I just wrote this up the other day for an association newsletter.

Seasonal Advice you can use RIGHT NOW!

One of the questions you will here from beekeepers over winter is “Should I be concerned about snow and ice at the front of the hive? Should I clear it away for the bees?”

Answer: The short answer is no. But this assumes that the beekeeper did a few simply tasks earlier in the year. One of those tasks is simply tilting the hive forward. And we are not talking anything more than what it would take water to run downhill. If this task was completed, 98% of the winter weather will be kept at bay, and will not affect the hive.

There are some situations where severe ice storms and bad weather with high winds will pile up the snow and ice in from of the hive. But reality is that most hives are not completely air tight. And to this day, I have never read of a hive actually suffocating from snow or ice. What normally happens is the warmth of the hive, and there is a significant amount of heat being generated, will no doubt quickly melt the ice in a 1/4 inch or more gap away from the hive walls and entrance.

Some will suggest upper entrances and other management tasks. And those are for another discussion. The bottom line is that your hives will not suffer with two feet of snow piled up around the hive. And some suggest even a benefit of this snow. Your hives will not suffocate no matter how thick the ice. Just make sure your hives are slightly tilted forward, and know that this is not one of those items that should keep you awake this winter. Your bees will do fine.
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edward
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« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2010, 10:11:48 PM »

As long as they can still breath  Wink
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Hemlock
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« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2010, 10:44:31 PM »

BjornBee,

If you get a typical snowfall one day and there is 5 to 8 inches of snow piled up blocking your hive entrances you would leave it be?  What about a week of sub-zero temps later when the snow has turned to ice?

I think if I left the screened bottom boards open for winter and the bees stayed in cluster due to low temps it would be OK to leave it blocked.  But the first day above 50 degrees I'd have it open for them to fly.  Fortunately we have those days down here.
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BjornBee
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« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2010, 07:17:10 AM »

BjornBee,

If you get a typical snowfall one day and there is 5 to 8 inches of snow piled up blocking your hive entrances you would leave it be?  What about a week of sub-zero temps later when the snow has turned to ice?

I think if I left the screened bottom boards open for winter and the bees stayed in cluster due to low temps it would be OK to leave it blocked.  But the first day above 50 degrees I'd have it open for them to fly.  Fortunately we have those days down here.


Yes, I leave it.

The snow will melt back away from the hive from the hive's own warmth, and will almost always allow air penetration.

I've had situations where the hive was covered up to the second box. The bees came out the entrance, along the front of the hive and up to the top till they cleared the snow line, then flew around, and went back down. Never have I had a hive suffocate, no matter how deep the snow got.

And any day warm enough to have bees fly will be long enough for ice to melt back from any entrance. (As long as the hives are in sun, pointed south, etc. But that should be a given)

Last year, we had back to back huge snow storms that dumped 24 inched each time. I had a hive (three 5 frame boxes) fall off the stand between the storms. The second storm buried the entire hive under 24 inches of snow. 4 days later when I found it, all I saw was a small hump in the snow. I dug it out, and the bee cluster looked fine. The bees just don't need much air exchange. And the idea that any hive would suffocate is stuff that urban legends are made. Someone probably mentioned it once, and it has been repeated over and over since then. Many things in beekeeping are like this.

Show me one article, one research paper, one first hand experience of a hive that suffocated. There are none. Yet, this idea of hives suffocating comes up constantly. It just does NOT happen. The hive's own loss of heat and the rising or warm air, creates air flow and exchange.

I'm actually surprised that some beekeeper or company has not come out with some heated front entrance to make a buck off this erroneous idea. I bet it would sound reasonable to many beekeepers who worry too much about nothing. Hold that thought.....I might have something for you guys after I look into this.  grin
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2010, 07:30:08 AM »

In my climate, it may be the only days warm enough for a cleansing flight all winter happen while snow is blocking the entrance.  It can make the difference between survival and not.  I always shoveled them out until I went to top entrances.
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BjornBee
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« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2010, 07:42:27 AM »

In my climate, it may be the only days warm enough for a cleansing flight all winter happen while snow is blocking the entrance.  It can make the difference between survival and not.  I always shoveled them out until I went to top entrances.

Interesting.

So how far north is the line that bees all die due to not having the days of cleansing flight you have in your area. I would think areas north of you have many less cleansing flights or none at all, and yet I have never heard of mass die-offs due to lack of these flights.

So what prompted you to clear snow prior to going to upper entrances? Did you go on the repeated advice of others. Or did you have substantial losses recorded for lack of cleansing flights.

What is the data as too how long a bee can survive without a cleansing flight? How many must be made to distinguish between life and death. I'm very interested.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2010, 08:51:53 AM by BjornBee » Logged

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Hemlock
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« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2010, 08:36:28 AM »

When I said
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Hives have to breath &...
I was referring to moisture control.  I've had issues with water in the hives before.  It was fixed with passive air flow.  My fear is that a buried hive might produce more condensation than a hive that can transfer its humidity outside. 
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2010, 11:45:34 AM »

I have seen many a calm sunny day after a heavy snow.  I wanted them to have that opportunity.  I have seen an occasional winter where there was no day warm enough for a cleansing flight all winter, but most winters we get some.  I know when they don't, I have more losses.
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Michael Bush
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T Beek
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« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2010, 04:38:48 PM »

Checked my hives about an hour ago.  Today was sunny, calm and 18 degrees F.  We got about 2 inches of snow last night, but are gonna get hit tonite and tommorow w/ up to 16 inches.  Any way while I was there "clearing snow from bottom" entrance on one of my Langs I noticed a small hole in the snow leading directly to the entrance with about ten dead bees w/in inches away and a few scattered around w/ in 10-20 feet which is usual.  This is the same colony that I Cleaned out a plugged hole a week or so ago.  Never saw that before, a hole in the snow leading to their entrance that is obviously made by the bees, which besides being dead, looked healthy, no mites, no deformed wings, just dead.  Pretty cool. cool

thomas
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kathyp
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« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2010, 05:53:09 PM »

i clear the entrance.  they fly in the snow.  i leave the rest covered as i figure it is some insulation and wind protection.
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« Reply #13 on: December 12, 2010, 04:01:45 PM »

yes, yes, yes.
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