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Author Topic: Northern Beekeepers - do you all wrap your hives for winter?  (Read 4500 times)
Algonam
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« on: October 27, 2011, 08:49:17 PM »

It is unbelievable but we haven't had our first heavy frost yet! I have been busy and haven't done much with the bees in the last month(nor have I checked in on this message board). Now I am wondering if I should wrap my 2 hives with tarpaper or tack on 2" styrofoam to the sides or just leave them alone.
Our nights are now forecasted to regularly dip below the freezing point and our winters can have some cold snaps of -35C or so, with the off chance of meeting F at -40.
With this being said, I am wondering if any of the cold weather beekeepers don't bother wrapping their hives?
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Oh Canada!
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« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2011, 09:05:27 PM »

Id have to ask the same things some say yes others say no.  Some say that it causes a moisture problem to wrap and the bees come out when its still too cold thinking its as warm outside as the inside and die when they leave the hive.  Others say that it allows the cluster to move around inside the hive to relocate on the stores and lets the bees access the outer frames that are close to the outerpart of the hive.  Another thing to consider is that the hives dont have much R value compared to the inside of a tree that might have 6 inches of wood to insulate the cluster but i dont know i wish i did know the answer maybe someone will give us some good advice .  Chris
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garys520
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« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2011, 09:42:29 PM »

I've been using the Bee Cozys for 5 years and haven't had any problems at all.  It's important to fold the wrap back at the top for proper ventilation. Also, I add a extra long dry wall screw about 2 inches above the entrance reducer to help keep the wrap from covering the opening.     
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BlueBee
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« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2011, 10:32:06 PM »

Iíve got two commercial guys within about 15 miles of me that donít wrap their hives; really too many to wrap I suppose.  They lost between 60% and 100% of their hives last winter.  Obviously there is a lot of debate on what is BEST to do.  You have to make up your own mind since we all do things a little differently, but you should do something! 

Tar paper is going to add heat to your hive during sunny winter days and allow your bees to move to a new area of stores to prevent them from starving IF you have sunny days in the winter.   My part of the Great Lakes region is cloudy most of the winter.

If you go with a good insulation job, it traps the bees heat inside the hive and keeps the bees from experiencing extreme cold day and night.  However some argue that insulation also prevents the hive from getting warmed up on a warm sunny winter day; which is true.

Some have even played with electric heat in a hive to keep the bees from freezing.  Most donít like that idea.

Ultimately you have to pick what you think is best for your climate or copy what any successful local bee keepers are doing.
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rdy-b
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« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2011, 10:51:52 PM »

Heres some info --pic topic our winter wraps-- http://www.honeybeeworld.com/diary/topics.htm
   cheesy  RDY-B
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T Beek
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« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2011, 07:31:44 AM »

 shocked  I'm amazed by Algonam weather in Canada!!.  We had rain, sleet, snow and hail yesterday and 22 F this am.

I've done both wrapping and not, and had bees survive and thrive come Spring (even left a SBB wide open one winter and those bees became an awesome and productive colony, that was 'dumb' luck'), but I am convinced wrapping w/ tar paper reduces "wind" infiltration (a killer when temps, not just wind chill, can get to 35 below zero) and heats the hive during sunny periods as explained by bluebee.  

As for moisture issues, I use notched inner cover 'Top' entrances w/ a 'vent box above that' I fill w/ dry sugar and place 2" ridged insulation on top, under telescopic cover.  I wrap the hole thing with tar paper, vent box and all, leaving only the top (opening cut down to 1/2" max) and bottom (1/4" max) entries open.

Despite warnings (mice) I place hay all around my hives about half way up and when snow comes I'll cover w/ that as well.  By Spring (if there's been a lot of snow) a cavity has formed around the 'survivor' hives but still provides protection from late Spring storms.  I've taken off the tar paper later and later each year.  This next season I'm waiting until the dandelions are in full bloom, around mid May.  Better late than early, at least up here.

thomas
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danno
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« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2011, 08:23:30 AM »

I do not wrap.   I have in the past and really dont see a difference in survival.  Last year I lost below 20%.  Very exceptable in my book.  I have about 200 hive bodies with 90 of them being used now.  I paint dark colors not typical white.  Colors like dark green and even black.   I started doing this so they would blend in better but also saw the heat advantage.  I can spot white hives a mile away.   This far north we dont have to worry about summer heat so light colors are not important but on the sunny days in winter I think it makes a huge difference.  I do insulate the tops with vented inner covers leaving a top and small bottom enterence.  After I finish mite treatments I dont open them unless something tells me I have to.  Things like low to no activity when there should be.  By not messing with them by cold weather everything is glued tight.
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BlueBee
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« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2011, 12:37:17 PM »

Danno, that sounds like a pretty good idea; painting the hive a dark color for some winter solar gain in the north as opposed to fooling around wrapping a bunch of hives in tar paper. 

The commercial guys with the big losses by me paint their hives white and donít wrap.  However they make money at this, so theyíre not dummies when it comes to bees.  They know how to make their system work for them even with high losses in the winter.  Iím just a hobbyist so I can afford the time, effort, costs to baby my hives a little more. 
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Vance G
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« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2011, 12:43:19 PM »

I believe in wrapping but only if you take steps to allow top ventilation to lose the ten gallons or so of water your bees are going to produce by metabolism.  In my experience the best winter wrap of all is your colony buried under six feet of snow until some time in march or april.  A cavity the size of a 55 gallon drum melts in the snow and the bees do just fine til you liberate them or the top of the snow cave melts in and a cloud of bees appears over the drift.   I would winter over 80 % this way in the early seventies when the bees would be from november to april without flight days.  But those conditions sent most of the states commercial colonies to Texas.  
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danno
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« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2011, 01:05:50 PM »

I started using 4 way pallets for the first time this year.  I dont move my bee's around much so I have always used single stands.  This past winter a friend gave me a milk crate full of pallet clips for free so I came up with a size of 33 X 45 pallets and started building.  I started a new small yard of 16 using these pallets.  The boxes are close together but not touching.  With just alittle snow and ice 2 sides of each will be sealed.  With my vented insulated inner covers the snow never melts on top and by mid Dec I will have 1ft + snow covering the tops.  These pallets are 5 inch high so the bottoms which are solid will be sealed from wind in no time.  This only leaves each colony hive bodies exposed in front and one side.  I will be keeping my fingers crossed.  Not much else I can do
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gardeningfireman
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« Reply #10 on: October 28, 2011, 09:18:08 PM »

Last year I only put up wind breaks, and lost all. This year I stapled 1/4" insulating panels on the hives (two layers on a double nuc), and am going to wrap with roofing felt when it stops raining.
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Robo
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« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2011, 09:25:03 PM »

I use to wrap before switching to BeeMax polystyrene hives.

Here is some good info on wrapping from a well respected Canadian beek -> http://www.beeworks.com/informationcentre/wintering.html
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Finski
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« Reply #12 on: October 29, 2011, 03:14:37 AM »

.
Best you can do in Canada is to use polystyrene boxes as brood box.
It pays back when spring build up is fast and the hive forage surplus earlier.

Tar paper has no meaning as insulator.  Sun does not save your  hives in winter in Canada.

Polystyrene hives have been in Europe over 20 yeas. In Canada they just begin to use them.

polystyre has 10 times better insulaton value than wood. It means that 15 mm styrene gives as good insulaton as 140 mm wood.

If you use open mesh floor in winter, who knows the value. At least wind comes in via floor.

I have fast bottoms. Main entrance is in winter 15 cm  x 1 cm and upper entrance in front wall 15 mm. This is enough for ventilation.

Just now most of my hives has winter cluster.

I do not wrap hives but I keep a geotextile clothe on the hives. It close 3 walls and gives wind shelter, protect against snow and birds. My cottage yard is windy place and wind makes high heaps of snow in winter. Wintering under snow in my area is not so good as in open air.


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Finski
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« Reply #13 on: October 29, 2011, 03:23:53 AM »

.
A few years ago Canada made a large wrapping material test. One of them was clearly best.

I suppose that Florida and California beekeepers have final anwer to that issue.
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T Beek
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« Reply #14 on: October 29, 2011, 06:06:18 AM »

Robo;  I completely agree, those folks at beeworks know how to keep bees in cold weather.  And they've got a great queen rearing DVD too.

thomas
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BlueBee
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« Reply #15 on: October 29, 2011, 08:08:54 AM »

Finski, I looked up the weather in Helsinki and it looks pretty balmy over there still. 

Have you taken a IR gun and measured the temperatures inside your poly hives? 

Hereís what I measured in one of my 3.8cm thick foam nucs the other night.  It was -0.5C outside but 18C inside the hive.  The bees are warming my foam hives 18C above the outside temps.  My bees probably wonít cluster until December.


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Finski
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« Reply #16 on: October 29, 2011, 08:36:03 AM »

.
No, I do not measure hives. They are what they are.

Weather has been especially warm here. The reason is low pressures which have given rain more than enough. Often killing frost comes here 10.9 but it has not been here yet. Pumpkins caught cold a week ago.
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rdy-b
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« Reply #17 on: October 29, 2011, 07:49:35 PM »

I've been using the Bee Cozys for 5 years and haven't had any problems at all.  It's important to fold the wrap back at the top for proper ventilation. Also, I add a extra long dry wall screw about 2 inches above the entrance reducer to help keep the wrap from covering the opening.    

  Bee cozy---  http://www.youtube.com/user/ebcorbett123#p/u/3/8qAnnRe96-s   -- Smiley RDY-B
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rdy-b
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« Reply #18 on: October 29, 2011, 09:00:56 PM »

Robo;  I completely agree, those folks at beeworks know how to keep bees in cold weather.  And they've got a great queen rearing DVD too.

thomas
what i got out of it was they are in suport of wraping--RDY-B


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.

 
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Sparky
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« Reply #19 on: October 29, 2011, 09:03:07 PM »

.
Best you can do in Canada is to use polystyrene boxes as brood box.
It pays back when spring build up is fast and the hive forage surplus earlier.

Tar paper has no meaning as insulator.  Sun does not save your  hives in winter in Canada.

Polystyrene hives have been in Europe over 20 yeas. In Canada they just begin to use them.

polystyre has 10 times better insulaton value than wood. It means that 15 mm styrene gives as good insulaton as 140 mm wood.

If you use open mesh floor in winter, who knows the value. At least wind comes in via floor.

I have fast bottoms. Main entrance is in winter 15 cm  x 1 cm and upper entrance in front wall 15 mm. This is enough for ventilation.

Just now most of my hives has winter cluster.

I do not wrap hives but I keep a geotextile clothe on the hives. It close 3 walls and gives wind shelter, protect against snow and birds. My cottage yard is windy place and wind makes high heaps of snow in winter. Wintering under snow in my area is not so good as in open air.



Finski, when you say that you use "fast bottoms" is that solid bottoms ?
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