I usualy don't like to stick my nose in other people's business, but here I will risk it, cause, I for a longest time read, the same thing over and over.
If one has had a bad experience with upper entrance - that does not mean that the same will happen, or not, for all others?
Personally, I don't have a clue where this people live that are so against upper entrances? I gues that, if you live in hot and arid regions, than there is no fear from moisture? That said; in such areas the upper entrance is a WERY good thing to have, especialy in heat, don't you think? Otherwise an enormous labour force is lost when hot bees must gather up to two gallons of water a day to cool the hive. (Amount of watter of course varies with intensity of heat)
In my 56 years with the bees, I DO KNOW that I would not even attempt to keep even one hive of bees, without upper entrance, no matter where I was.
One can go into old bee books, as far back as one wants to? Forever has been mentioned; a cut in the rim, on inner cover, is a must. It has been a part of beekeeping practice as long and as far back as I know it and/or care to remember.
That cut is not only needed to get rid of moisture, that cut will get rid of many a other thing that can be deadly for a colony, especialy in winter. (and if you have no winters? Prepare for it anyway, as whether of late shows us. Snow fell so far this year in all 50 states of your great nation!)
A strong colony can ventilate in other times of the year and save the bacon to a careless keeper. They thus use a lot of power and labor, for this task, which could be avoided by simply placing a small cut in the rim of your covers. Are you are afraid of one extra opening? Bees will propolise it, they know if they don't need it? But when they need it, they suffer because it is not there, they sure can't go, grab a saw and cut one in!
When we take the bees, force them to live in boxes of size and colour that suits us - the least we can do, it is our duty as keeper of Gods creatures, to provide them with suitable, if not premium places to live!
Bees in winter burn food and create moisture (a few diferent kinds of moisture, by diferent means, I mean) and gases which must exit, or trouble will befall the colony. You all find, I'll bet, in Spring, that side combs are black and covered in mold? I bet that more than just #1 and #10 frames are moldy? Right? With upper entrances all this will be, should be eliminated.
Another important thing about survival in cold is, that for bees, to get out and poo, or do whatever? They have to crawl all the way down and out. Not many, if any, make it back to the cluster!
A monumental feat in cold weather, don't you agree?
With upper entrance, all that is eliminated. Bees have only a few short steps to get out, poop and are back before the cold slows them down, so much that they can't move and than must die.
There is a lot more to this, but I think that it should be enough for a person, with an open mind, with sense of care for bees in one's heart, that would come to reasonable conclusion about the importance of upper entrance.
I have traveled in warmer regions, not in US, I agree, but the world over... Such is the way with this issue, that one can find upper entrances in most places in most hives on our globe. At the same time, one can also find those who are against it, also in all those places.
Why do you think that so many swarms freebuilds their combs? Builds outside, not in a box?
One more thing; a piece of homasote, on top of inner cover is a good idea and on top of that a piece of Styrofoam. The humid air only condenses on areas where it comes in contact with cold surfaces. #1 such surface is on top of the hive. Others are of course the sides of your boxes, but, there some water won't bother your bees per se, it will run down and out if the hive is tilted forward. But, on floor it comes again in contact with cold and there will most likely frieze, turn to solid ice. This will frieze your bees and if ice is allowed to accumulate, plus the rest of stuff that ends up on the floor? That will block the bottom entrance, guaranteed, and your bees are again gone!
If it does not block the entrance, it will surely chill your bees and slowly release moisture right through the whole cluster - especialy so, when this ice starts to melt.
So, insulate it and bees will love you for it. One can also sleep better at night, when one knows that everything has been done to the best of our ability. Insulate at least the top, so it wont condensate there, turn into frost and ice and chill, eventually, in a day or two, kill the cluster. But, when it thaws, than the danger is the greatest, water drips on bees and wet bees suffer much before they die.
Remember: "Cold don't harm bees - moisture does! Every wet bee is a dead bee - guaranteed!"
I also have SBB which are closed, for the most part of the year. Yes, closed also in Summer! I open them only about an inch, when they start bearding. They must also be closed for some WERY important 'other' reason! (But that is another story)
I also insulate under the bottom board with Styrofoam! This is that important to me, an old man, that I crawl down, lay in the snow and insulate the bottom, every year. On top of that, my bees are in total wilderness and I must drive for two hours to get there, at the end of season that is. Spring, Summer and Fall, I live there... I mentioned this only for the reason to drive home the idea that it is important for me to drive that far and fix it right! And if winter starts early, than I snow-shoe in, cause the road is not plowed.
On the pictures above, I did not see any caped honey over - say, under the top-bar?
Your bees had starved to death. It sure looks so to me...
Don't falsely think that if you found a honey-frame, or perhaps two, on the sides, that they had enough to eat?
What is below them - might as well not be there. Bees won't touch it. In fact; some on this forum even think that bees don't have a clue that honey is/was there? That they forgot?
Well; to each their own?
Side frames, with honey, are not of much help either, if it is cold out and bees can not move on the other side of the frame, they are gonners. Look at each frame as a huge, impenetrable wall. Bees have to break the cluster and one by one crawl all the way around, below or over, to get on the other side. If queen is not able to follow - they will not move! God forbid that queen-excluder is left on?! Those things are not much good in the Summer, they are down right dangerous in winter!
If they have a few cells of brood, they will not go - they will die first, rather than to abandon brood!
Another falsehood I read/hear about, far too often. About loosing all that heat through the upper entrance?
I don't know how to write it down, that people will comprehend?
Bees don't heat the hive! Air around the cluster, even the surface of the cluster is just as cold as it is outside. In our parts, the inside the hive is often colder than outside. Inside the hive, it takes up to two days, often much longer, for the temperature to equalise, for the hive to became as warm or cold as the outside. Small change in weather and/or temperature are thus for bees less noticeable, if at all?
Bees only heat its own cluster, in the Winter - diferent story in Summer, and that heat stays/escapes only at the top. Only the top area, immediately above the cluster! Therefore, they will most likely, in colder regions locate right away at the top - to block/recapture this escape of wital heat.
Don't you people wory about this loss of heat from the cluster. That will happen, entrance or no entrance, period! That very heat that escapes from the cluster is exactly the bad stuf that kills them. In there is their breath, their gas! There is also all this moisture (breathing, burning fuel to stay warm, muscle flexing, etc...) which is the most dangerous - cause it is that warm moisture that will, at point of contact with cold surfaces, condense and kill your bees!
Well, I will now end my rumblings and hope that, those with open mind, make intelligent decisions based on those rumblings.
Remember: "It is better to learn on mistakes of others, than on ones own!"
Where I live, last winter we had temperatures down below -40 C for 3 weeks. It was usualy down to - 46 in some regions much, much colder. People are freezing to death here, at times like this, especialy if they make foolish decisions!
This winter is the same. Only today the weather broke. We had temps below - 50 C ! Other regions still do.
I hear it is not too nice in the US either? Only for us - your weather is for us - almost time to pull on the shorts and short sleeve shirts.
But, I never lost one colony in a looong time. Hope to God that is the same this winter, which will last here until May and can even stretch in to June. . .
I, for last couple of years, winter my bees in all new way. Bees are changing their ways, I keep discovering, just to keep up and survive with this crazy weather.
They don't start winters in lover box no more - no matter what I do. Right away they start under the inner cover. So, all those 130 pounds of honey that they have is no good to them. They simply starve before Christmas. When food, that they sit on, is gone - so are they. They will die if I give them 10 honey supers of the nicest honey possible, cause they will move through all those boxes and start at the top.
So, to save them I have to give them food right over their heads. This is now in a form of 'sugar candy board!" Tried dry sugar but they made the hole, got on the top, got cut by the cold and that was the end. They will and are always able to move straight up, no mater how cold it is. If they are nice and dry, of course. The slightest humidity and they stay put and die. Too many a keeper forget that bees are cold blooded...
About the new start in Spring?
Friend, forget about packages.
Where do they come from? Australia? Texas?
Don't take strange/foreign bees if somebody gives them to you for free! Those bees are good, maybe, in location where they come from? To successfully overwinter the bees have to be acclimatized on the place where you keep them. And believe you me, that don't happen the first year? The chances in the second year are greater - only they have to get there first.
Spring money for a good nuc! More bees the better.
I am amazed at how many beeks don't get advice to go with established colonies?
What? Is everybody nowadays selling packet-bees and are afraid that some people won't buy?
Here, in my parts of the woods, packages just don't exist. Beeks learn to be self sufficient. Queens are worth their weight in gold, if you can get them. Of Course, when they are available - everybody has them then.
Nuc cost here 175 dollars in a cardboard box. This year the price could be higher? Depends on how bees overwinter? What kind of demand will be - come Spring?
Even nuc is questionable? One gets two frames of bees, who knows what kind of queen and two empty frames? They don't even give you full frames as they are supposed to!
But, for a 200 and up to 300 dollars, I can buy an established colony. Two boxes high, bottom board, inner cover, homasote and telescopic cover and cause I am up in years, they will even deliver and set it up on my stand.
Do you get it?
The difference between nuc and established, overwintered colony is enormous? I get 20 frames of bees, brood, polen, honey/food everything - for a price of an nuc, or a bit more if the equipment is new or almost new!
Such a colony could be split in four and still give you a honey crop. What is even more important is; they are local bees, acclimatized, used to weather, forage and winters. They can't be beat!
But, it is you buying, not me and you will do as you will, right?