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Author Topic: Winterizing  (Read 3105 times)
SapperSteel
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« on: October 20, 2013, 02:39:11 AM »

I've had a devil of a time trying to successfully winter-over hives here in SE Idaho.

I started with six hives (Italian) in the spring of 2011 (2-lb packages w/queen) which did well that summer and fall.  My wife set these up that spring with help from my adult children, and a son-in-law as I was in SW Asia at the time.

In the fall of 2011 my son-in-law and I winterized the six hives by wrapping the hives (all of them comprised of 2 ea deep supers at the time) in roofing felt.  I lost two hives that winter.  Four of the six made it through the winter and thrived during the summer of 2012.  I noted in spring 2012, when I removed the roofing felt wrapping, that the felts did not allow water to transpire out of the hive and as a result my inner lids showed water damage on the interior side and there was some mold, not much but none-the-less unmistakable, in each of the six hives.  Though the four hives that made it through the winter seemed healthy and strong, the mold scared me so I resolved not to wrap them similarly in the future.

Last winter, the winter of 2012-2013, I lost all four of the remaining hives.  I did not wrap them, and we had three consecutive weeks of -20 degree F weather in January 2013.  Come spring I found ample honey remaining in each of the four hives (extracted over 30 pounds from the frames I took out of them in the spring), but no living bees.  I'm pretty sure that they simply froze to death in January.

This past April I bought six more 2-pound packages w/queens (Carnolian) and started again.  All six hives thrived this summer, servicing mostly sagebrush and alfalfa.  I set each of them up initially with one deep super holding ten deep frames per hive, which each of the six quickly filled.  I added a second deep super with ten more frames to each of the six in late May.  Then in July I added a shallow super with ten shallow frames to each of the six.  This fall I took all 60 of the frames from the shallow supers.  I found 15 of them fully drawn-out with capped honey, another four at least partially drawn out and capped on one side, and one partially drawn out on one side and filled with honey but not capped -- the remaining 40 were not drawn out or filled to any significant degree.  I extracted a total of 27 pint jars of light amber honey from the 20 shallow frames that had been at least partially drawn out.

When I took the shallow frames, I reduced each of the six hives back to two deep supers, total of 20 deep frames, per hive.  My plan for winterizing them this year is to stack straw bales around each of the six hives.  My hope is that this will adequately insulate them while also allowing appropriate transpiration of water vapor from the hives.  It may be a fool's errand, though.  I just don't know.

I'm very interested in what advice you experienced beekeepers might want to offer that would help me to get these six hives through the Idaho winter of 2013 - 2014.  Please advise!

Thanks,

Sap
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Finski
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« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2013, 04:23:08 AM »

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Quite much losses....

First you should have such bee strain which stop brooding when summer flowers are over.
If it continues brooding, the bees will be weak and brooding will consume winter stores.

* In late half of summer take care that hive has enough room to lay winter bees. Extract honey and keep the hive warm for brood rearing

* When summer is over, reduce the bee room to minimum.
.....It means that if the hive has 6 brood frames, it does not need more wintering room.
.....Douple brood hive will need 1 or 2 wintering boxes.

* Have you treated varroa in late summer?

* feed the hives full that they cap the food.

* keep the ventilation modest. A mesh floor open during winter you have 10 times too much ventilaition, because with solid floor hive get ventilation enough.

* direct wind is bad to the hive. It may consume 100% more  food

* insulation saves winter food and help fast build up in spring

The bigger the winter cluster, the better is goes over winter.
5-frame cluster  is minimum to over winter. Small may be alive after winter but they have difficulties to start brood rearing
.

Wrapping with plastic sheet or with such watrer proof material keeps the hive wet and bees get bad nosema.
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sawdstmakr
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« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2013, 08:18:43 AM »

Sap,
I was on vacation in Yellowstone this summer and went into SE Idaho looking for local beeks. We found a store, Browning Honey. Web site:
https://maps.google.com/maps?oe=UTF-8&hl=en&client=safari&ie=UTF-8&q=browning+honey&fb=1&gl=us&hq=browning+honey&cid=0,0,17785409135113886947&ei=LMRjUtrLNIvm8gTWrIAY&ved=0CDAQ_BIwAA
They are near Idaho Falls.
It is run by the daughter and 2 sons of the founder. I talked to the daughter, at length, about bees. She was very helpful.  They run about 30,000 hives, moving around the country. Each of the sons manages 15,000 hives. They probably have some hives that stay local.
If you get a chance, stop in and talk to the owner of the store. I'm sorry, I do not remember her name.
I would recommend that you add insulation to the inside of the telescoping cover of your hives. I use 1/2" metal coated insulation that you can buy in 4'x8' sheets at a good hardware store. I use them more to protect from the suns heat, but also for winter to reduce the condensation. You may want to use the 3/4" one. I seal the edge with caulking to keep the bugs from hiding behind it.
Jim
« Last Edit: October 20, 2013, 09:06:46 PM by sawdstmakr » Logged
BlueBee
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« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2013, 12:26:52 PM »

My plan for winterizing them this year is to stack straw bales around each of the six hives.  My hope is that this will adequately insulate them while also allowing appropriate transpiration of water vapor from the hives.  It may be a fool's errand, though.  I just don't know.

A straw covered hive last winter. 



This is a neighbors.  It survived, but moving bales of straw is more work than moving foam. 
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BlueBee
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« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2013, 12:33:05 PM »

I have experimented with numerous insulation systems to deal with winter freeze outs and used a system of wood hives covered with foam shells in the past (before moving to my current all foam hives).  IMO, the wood + foam shell design works just as well (maybe better) than an all polystyrene hive.  Here is a photo of one of my previous designs.





If you want to stick with wood (and most American beeks seem to), then you might consider some version of a foam shell to put over your wood brood boxes in the winter.  I used 2Ē thick foam for my shells and the bees did wonderfully.  However you donít want the winter configuration to have too much volume or else your insulation becomes a freezer instead of a heater.

IMO, the most critical thing you should do in any hive is provide a SMALL top vent for water vapor to escape.  If you go with a foam shell design, you could vent into the foam shell and that conserves the heat of the vapor and still gets the water vapor away from the bees.  Just go into a foreclosed house sometime with no top vents and see what kind of a mess you get when you have moisture and no top vents.  

Wood + Foam shell works well, but it adds cost, bulk, and the need for summer storage so I have moved to all foam in my case.  But if youíre just doing a few hives, the wood +foam shell works well.  Much easier to deal with than bales of straw and it is re-usable.  In Michigan 2" thick sheets of extruded polystyrene sells for about $21; for a 4'x8' sheet.  You should be able to make a shell out of a single sheet.

If after insulating you discover your bees have still declined down to just a couple of frames by late winter, then varroa has probably hit them hard.  At that point the only way to save them is with electric heat.  See the other thread for ideas there.
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derekm
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« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2013, 02:38:16 PM »

....
IMO, the most critical thing you should do in any hive is provide a SMALL top vent for water vapor to escape.  If you go with a foam shell design, you could vent into the foam shell and that conserves the heat of the vapor and still gets the water vapor away from the bees.  Just go into a foreclosed house sometime with no top vents and see what kind of a mess you get when you have moisture and no top vents. ...


NO! why bother insulating if you go and let the heat out... the smallest of vents loses lots of heat...
and why is high humidity  bad for bees when high humidity destroys the ability of varroa to breed? and bees prefer 75% RH?
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If they increased energy bill for your home by a factor of 4.5 would you consider that cruel? If so why are you doing that to your bees?
BlueBee
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« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2013, 03:07:41 PM »

I donít disagree agree with you about losing heat through a top vent.  You are correct about that.  However there is rarely a design that doesnít require a compromise somewhere.  IMO, a top vent is a compromise that needs to be made.  If you have a wood hive + foam shell design, you can vent into the foam shell and not lose the heat in the vapor.  However there is a compromise in that design too; itís bulky and more expensive.   Bee keeping isnít perfect, at least not south of Helsinki.
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Finski
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« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2013, 04:21:11 PM »

 Bee keeping isnít perfect, at least not south of Helsinki.


There is sea there.

.view to north



view to south
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BlueBee
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« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2013, 02:10:18 AM »

Nice looking city Finski  applause 

But you know all that concrete in your buildings is a bad insulator. Sad  I wonder if you're insulating the bees better than the humans  laugh
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Finski
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« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2013, 02:13:37 AM »

Nice looking city Finski  applause  

But you know all that concrete in your buildings is a bad insulator. Sad  I wonder if you're insulating the bees better than the humans  laugh


That only tells that you do not know much about house insulation .

Concrete is outer cover, or brick, and insulation layers are stone wool or glasswool, or polystyrene.

Between outer cover and insulation there is a air gap, that moisture (rain) from outer cover does not move into insulation.



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BlueBee
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« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2013, 02:21:38 AM »

I think our British friends will confirm that concrete is not a good thermal insulator!  Not enough air pockets.  As for house insulation, I just bought a trailer full of cellulose this weekend!  I got to prepare the humans here at least as well as I prepare my bees.  You know Halloween is coming up soon.  I might need to make up some honey balls for the kids and bees alike  Smiley
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Finski
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« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2013, 02:26:12 AM »

.
Insulation layers of small house are ready.

Then they istall outer layer, panel, brick or what ever.

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BlueBee
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« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2013, 02:28:26 AM »

You know, some people insulate their HOUSES here with STRAW.  I don't recall the exact numbers, but I believe a bale of straw can insulate as well as 100mm to 200mm of polystyrene.

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Finski
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« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2013, 02:30:13 AM »

I think our British friends will confirm that concrete is not a good thermal insulator! 


Yeah. That is very new to us!!!!!!!!
I appreciate more and more your help


Like stone wheels. WE have never invented stone wheels like the British tend to do year after year.
We have not afford to do that.


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Finski
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« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2013, 02:31:19 AM »

You know, some people insulate their HOUSES here with STRAW.  I don't recall the exact numbers, but I believe a bale of straw can insulate as well as 100mm to 200mm of polystyrene.




Yes, they are called international idiots. House is too expencive property to play eco-games.

How many mouse families can live there?
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Here is a straw house from Finland



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Finski
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« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2013, 02:40:29 AM »

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We have in this country very high quality education system.
We know about engineering things quite much.
.......But, insulation makes bad room mould problems and it is not under control. It is really bad.
If you sell here mould problem house, you must give money back


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derekm
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« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2013, 04:28:29 AM »

.
Insulation layers of small house are ready.

Then they istall outer layer, panel, brick or what ever.




british hives

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If they increased energy bill for your home by a factor of 4.5 would you consider that cruel? If so why are you doing that to your bees?
BlueBee
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« Reply #17 on: October 22, 2013, 12:53:50 AM »

My plan for winterizing them this year is to stack straw bales around each of the six hives.  My hope is that this will adequately insulate them while also allowing appropriate transpiration of water vapor from the hives.  It may be a fool's errand, though.  I just don't know.

Sap can you elaborate on what you're going to do with the straw?  Are you going to completely cover the hives with bales of straw?  Are you going to leave any kind of a vent or just assume the straw will breath to some extent?  Some people use the bales of straw just for a wind break while other use them for insulation by encapsulating the whole hive. 
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Finski
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« Reply #18 on: October 22, 2013, 02:43:31 AM »

.
I know about straw heap, that it is very moist place to keep hive and full of mould.

Yes, I made a cottage once to children and you cannot go into it. It is full of mold.
And molds start to rotten the heap at once.


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T Beek
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« Reply #19 on: October 22, 2013, 07:11:33 AM »

I know -I know, this whole thread has apparently gone mad  rolleyes, but as someone who has some experience with 'alternative building construction' I can say with some confidence that the "secret" to preventing mold with straw bale construction is to keep it dry, above/off ground, preferably on a substrate that doesn't rot, with sufficient overhang keeping everything dry.

Can we get back to winterizing bees now?HuhHuh??  grin
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