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Author Topic: Wintering a hive in the North  (Read 1444 times)
robk23678
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« on: June 26, 2013, 08:01:22 PM »

Ok. I know it's still June, but I need to start gathering supplies for wintering the hive. Being in northern Wisconsin, we only get about 16 weeks of summer. I know what the books say, but what do others in the far north do for wintering? Books aren't specific to this area.
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Steel Tiger
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« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2013, 10:35:46 PM »

 My plan is simply to save at least 10 frames of honey to feed back if their stores get low in the winter. My hives are painted dark enough that they should pick up solar heat during cold days. If I can't get them moved to the spot I want them in, I'll be building some sort of wind shield, more than likely a temporary fence. I'll also be putting an upper entrance because of the amount of snow we can get hit with.
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robk23678
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« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2013, 11:05:10 PM »

I have my hive painted hunter green, blends in with the 12' tall lilac and the grass.
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BlueBee
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« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2013, 11:08:34 PM »

Now don’t get us arguing with Finski about wintering when it’s only June  grin

You probably need to ponder rather or not you're going to insulate your hive(s) and top vs bottom vents/entrances.  Some people will winter their bees inside.  Some people even add some electric heat at times.  A good colony of bees can definitely survive the cold, even in a wood box, but I like to think giving them a little thermal help is a good thing.  Everybody has a different opinion about how to best winter a hive and conserve the bee's heat.  Wintering indoors was the way to do it north of Columbus in CC Millers time.  Since then, most everybody winters outdoors.  I'm sure Finski will have some opinions.  Smiley
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Finski
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« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2013, 03:37:36 AM »

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* The most important thing is to have a bee stock which react properly to local course and summer.
It stops brood rearing at right time and then you have date limit, when at least, your must feed the wintering hive full.

* Reduce the colony to so small room as it stays inside. Then feed. For exaple, if I have 6 boxes in summer, ther hive will have one or two for winter. Depends on amount of brood before stopping.

* Insulation saves energy.

* let the hive be in peace during winter. No national festifal meals or paper+sugar operations. Bees in nature do not get those gifts either. No honey balls or open feeding in warm spells.

.* No knockings during winter: are you alive-- surrrrr. It is is dead, it is dead. Knocking will not awke it up
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Oblio13
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« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2013, 07:17:29 AM »

I think we're at about the same latitude. My winter problems have been bears, starvation and mice, in that order.

I have mostly 8-frame medium hives, one 10-frame deep, a few Warre's, and one top bar. The top bar has never made it through a winter.

My goal with the 8-frames and Warres is to leave one full box of honey above the box containing the brood nest.

Starting in August, when there's not much nectar available here, I take most of the honey supers off and feed, to encourage the bees to pack honey around the brood nest and so that there's no empty space above the brood nest. I add a super under the brood nest to keep it away from the drafty entrance and the wet base, and so that it will already be in place for spring.

Winter preparations: Windbreaks, food, ventilation. Make sure there's some kind of top entrance, at least a 1/2" hole, so condensation can escape. Block the mice. In winter, "the top is the bottom" - when the cluster is at the top of the hive, they're at the bottom of their supplies. Make sure there's always food directly above the cluster.
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Finski
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« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2013, 09:53:54 AM »

Make sure there's always food directly above the cluster.

If the wintering room is 2 boxes, it is important to move brood frames to lower box. Bees start wintering where they had last brood.

Important is to kill mites during winter feeding with thymol pads.

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« Last Edit: June 29, 2013, 12:47:02 AM by Finski » Logged

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Palouse
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« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2013, 07:59:22 PM »

Tagged.

Great thread. Concerned about my first winter also, and I think it's a good thing to start thinking about it early. A local guy who's been doing this for 15 years says he needs 70 - 90 pounds of honey per hive to make it through the winter. I don't know how many frames that equates to, but it seems like a lot.
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Sunnyboy2
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« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2013, 09:20:48 PM »

My bee are bit more south (southern wyoming) but at 7000 ft.  Last year I had a KTBH, I built a Warre type quilt and cover, plus insulated sides and bottom.  I also cleared out all comb not full of honey to make space as small as possible.  Hive is placed on southeast side of thick willow stand which provides needed wind break.

We had two seporate weeks with lows -25 or less each night and never broke 10 for high 7 days in a row.

I never opened the hive November to march.  I did feed in march.  I thought the hive died in march, but was pleasantly surprised when I started to clean my "dead" hive out.  They are doing great now.
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BlueBee
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« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2013, 01:52:12 AM »

How much food?  A good question and as with all things bees, “it depends”.

Last winter I babied along 4 mating nucs with less than 800 bees in each hive.   The hives had just 4 half medium frames, so they really didn’t have much food at all; 4 lbs max (1.8kg).  I did try to help them out by giving them a little holiday candy on occasion.  Smiley 

In the end, it wasn’t the lack of food that did them it, it was the cold.  Sad

In Michigan we tend to have much fewer bee loses during mild winters than our formally really cold winters.  I’m of the opinion that cold is more deadly than a lack a food, but having the food over their heads is a definite necessity.   
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Better.to.Bee.than.not
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« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2013, 03:54:04 AM »

naw, bees can survive our cold in Michigan. They survive winters in alaska, they can survive here, and the same applies to bumble bees and all our older feral bees. it is something else killing them off, not the cold imo.
  that being said a 3/4" thick solid piece of pine isn't a tree trunk or even a roof vent. They need a large micro climate they can move in, and adjust as their heat situations change, and food to survive. a 1 ft box or two sitting 4" off the ground like many hives on 4 x 4's just isn't adequate unless they really get adjusted. I agree with finsk. what is more important is for the breed to be survivors from the area with the ingrained habits and cycles involved. These people bringing nucs up from the south, just don;t have the genetic instruction set that is ideal. it adjusts, surely, but don't think it is ideal. I'd like to find out exactly who got their packages from down south suppliers in michigan and how many actually survive. I know someone will pipe in and say "I've always got my packages from down south and they over winter just fine!" and some of them will be package suppliers...from down south...but I'd be curious to know for sure.
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Better.to.Bee.than.not
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« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2013, 04:02:05 AM »

some various responces from the past I have found on the subject:
"
... sunbelt queens are having genetic issues and just are no longer a bee that is designed to overwinter in tough climates such as michigan, nor survive without using medications. ...unfit southern bees + poor fall forage + long winter = starvation. He basically said to stop buying packages and just get nucs -...this has seriously set him back.

Dann Purvis on Southern bee producers, queens and their genetics: "They are dead men walking."

Mike Palmer (paraphrased): "Packaged bees from the south are clearly failing, and the solution is to make your apiary sustainable through overwintered nucs."

Erin Forbes (paraphrased): "One of the reasons package bees do not do well is they are STRESSED...they are likely coming from migratory colonies which only 2 months ago were sitting among almond groves in California, soak up the cocktail of pathogens, insecticides, herbicides and other chemicals."

Dr. Debbie Delaney (paraphrased), UD: "Italian genetics [from Southern producers] are not showing signs of diversification, which are contributing to the high rate of failures."

Alabama Beekeepers Association motto: "Packaged bees, Queens, Honey" My response: Tsk, tsk. Those to fail to learn from the lessons of the past (and present) are condemned to repeat it. Definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and over (buying packages), ...and expecting different results (that the packages SUCCEED!) We need to stop living in the packaged bee past and embrace a new revolution in beekeeping...Overwinter nucs, to sustain your apiary, and any extras, sell 'em to sustain your pocketbook. Drop packages like a hot potato, I say. The trend is EXTREMELY evident."

"Dr. Connor. He talked about how he lost every single package colony that he started this year despite having sufficient (he had 15 packages ). He had problems with queen supercedure during the summer. Then in the late season there was not much pollen from goldenrod and his southern queens were not laying well. Overall he attributed the losses to starvation. Colonies were broodless and clusters died very near honey. Often with brown bee poo all over the inside. He had medicated with fuagellin. While these queens may be sufficient for big commercial beekeepers, they no longer work for those who want to overwinter here and not medicate. He attributed these losses to the fact that these sunbelt queens are having genetic issues and just are no longer a bee that is designed to overwinter in tough climates such as michigan, nor survive without using medications.
There were other factors summed up like this. He basically said: unfit southern bees + poor fall forage + long winter = starvation

He basically said to stop buying packages and just get nucs - mentioned data from the USDA in the 1930s had 30% supercedure rates. If you do get packages then He is a big proponent of requeening all your packages with queens from proven survivor/resistant stocks. He mentioned russians in particular. He is working on a program to get survivor queens in michigan, but this has seriously set him back.

I was curious about any other northern beekeepers who started southern/sunbelt packages/queens and how they did over this winter.
I myself started with two italian queened packages, split two nucs off these and lost all four of these hives. They were all less than an inch from honey. "
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Finski
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« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2013, 04:33:16 AM »

some various responces from the past I have found on the subject:
"

There are better wisdom than that.

I have kept here bees 50 years in Alaska altitude.

 in USA guys use same methods and bee strains in south and north. It will never succeed.

Alaska Fairbanks University reports that killing colonies in autumn is the most ecpnomical way to keep bees in Alaska. This tells that your systems there does not work.

Very funny. To get douple brood colony over winter needs only 20 kg sugar.
No package bees can achieve same production than wintered big colony.

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robk23678
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« Reply #13 on: June 29, 2013, 11:43:56 AM »

I have my hive set on a platform of concrete blocks 2-high. Entrance faces south, about 6 feet from a giant lilac. Behind the hive is a pine tree. If we have snow this year like we did last year, I should be able to build them an 8 foot high windbreak. I planned on leaving them the 2 deeps, a super if they have gotten to it before winter, and putting a feeder on top.

As far as wrapping, should I use rigid foam insulation outside the hive before wrapping, or should they be fine with just roofing paper?
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Finski
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« Reply #14 on: June 29, 2013, 01:28:40 PM »

.
If you can get there polystyrene hives, bye those and try how they work to you.
They need not wrapping, but they need wind shelter coat (geotextile).
You need only brood boxes as styrene, but medium size is handy too in wintering.

I live at the level of Anchorage. Hives consume on average 20 kg sugar during winter. I take allmost all hioney off in autumn. I try to winter them in douple lanstroths.
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Farm 779
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« Reply #15 on: June 29, 2013, 01:41:10 PM »

Finski has mentioned this person keeping bees in Alaska:  alaskahoneybee....com. Keith is very knowledgeable in wintering bees in Alaska. I use similar methods, and my brood boxes are 12 inches deep not 9.65" as a standard Langstroth.
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Farm 779
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Finski
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« Reply #16 on: June 29, 2013, 02:52:57 PM »

.
We use in Finland normal American standards Langstroths.
Some use merely American medium frames in hives and in wintering too.

.Our all beekeepers are succesfull winterer. Others cannot exist. Too expencive to be "unsuccesfull".
We do not have here package bees. The price of new colony is in sprin 300 euros =400 US $

Biggest farmer has 3000 hives. He manufactures polyhives. (Honey Paradise)
 Another guy has 1000 hives and he makes polyhives too (Honeypaw)

http://www.paradisehoney.fi/

http://beekeeping.honeypaw.fi/



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Finski
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« Reply #17 on: June 29, 2013, 03:01:45 PM »

.
Honey producers in Finland (volunteer map)

http://www.hunajantuottajat.fi/
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Palouse
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« Reply #18 on: June 29, 2013, 08:41:57 PM »

Hey, I know Debbie Delaney. She and my wife were friends when she was here in Pullman working on her PhD. She and her husband are good people.
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Better.to.Bee.than.not
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« Reply #19 on: June 30, 2013, 01:23:57 AM »

Finski, I think the language barrier interfered a bit. those comments were not mine, they were things others said and they pretty much agree with you. They are talking about package bees from down south being brought up and not being able to over winter.  It is or should be obvious bees 'can' overwinter here fine, they've done it for a long time. people need to have genetics from over wintered hives and good procedures. I'm not arguing about them being able to be over wintered in a 3/4" walled langstroth....of course they can be. I am merely saying it isn't ideal.
  Polyhives do sorta make sense for ultra cold areas though, maybe even here. I've thought about using them also actually.
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