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Author Topic: Question on hive size for winter  (Read 1695 times)
Kris^
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« on: October 14, 2006, 05:06:52 PM »

Each hive I've ever wintered successfully has had at least one full box of bees, and I've used two deeps to winter them in.  This year I have several hives that don't quite fill a box.  Three of them, in fact have about 5 -- 7 frames of bees. Still some brood to erupt, but that's it.

With these colonies the size they are, should I reduce them to one-deep and winter them that way?  What I'm meaning is will a colony that size do better in a two deep hive or more crowded into one deep?  I've been feeding all the hives and they are filling comb in both boxes.  But then again, the hives with smaller populations are slower about taking the syrup.  So should I reduce them so as to let them get a deep full of stores before winter sets in?

I also have two hives that I started from splits this summer and are now full one box hives.  They are taking syrup just fine.  Shall I just leave them as is?

On all the hives I plan to put 15 lbs. sugar boards, so hopefully running out of stores shouldn't be a problem.

My inclination is to leave the two one-deep hives as is, and reduce the other three weaker hives.  Then stack all the one-boxers and wrap together for protection and warmth.  Not certain this is best, though.

-- Kris
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2006, 06:28:21 PM »

What race are they?

My ferals will overwinter on a softball sized cluser.  The Cariolans I've had will overwinter on a cluster slightly larger than that.  The Buckfasts will overwinter on a cluster more like a soccer ball and the Italians on one more like a basketball or slightly larger.

The Italians would crash on a cluster the size that the ferals perefer.
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Michael Bush
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Kris^
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« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2006, 08:45:32 PM »

Italians.  The clusters are smaller than a basketball but way larger than a softball.  So would these smaller clusters winter better in a single box or a double-deep hive?

-- Kris
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2006, 10:36:41 AM »

If it's a small cluster, I'd leave them in one deep (or one or two mediums).

If it's a REALLY small cluster I'd combine them.
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Michael Bush
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm
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Ymbe
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« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2006, 09:23:11 AM »

I've just picked up and wired (elastic banded!) in a small five comb feral colony. The combs aren't big, the largest being about 10"x8", but there are enough bees to cover them. They are enjoying some syrup at the moment and our mild autumn, but are in a poor state due to Varroa and currently undergoing treatment. This unfortunately rules out combination with another colony.

Can anyone recommend anything which will help get a small colony through the winter? Would insulating the hive help for example?
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Robo
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« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2006, 12:27:09 PM »

Quote from: Ymbe

Can anyone recommend anything which will help get a small colony through the winter? Would insulating the hive help for example?


I have succesfully wintered small nucs with some artifical heat.  Finsky recommends terrarium heaters, but being cheap, I have used 2 - 7w lights that I get at the $1 store.  I have them hooked up to turn on when the temperature falls below freezing.  I place them right on the middle of the bottom board.



One thing to keep in mind with insulation, is that it not only keeps heat in, but also out.  So on cold nights when the hive temperature drops,  the sun the next day may not be able to heat it enough for the bees to move to new stores.  

Moisture is the biggest enemy in winter, and it seems that just a little heat keeps them dry.
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Ymbe
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« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2006, 05:49:45 PM »

Thanks Robo, getting power to the site will be a problem so I won't be able to try it this year. If the weather is as mild as it has been over winter I probably won't need it...

Good point about the insulation. This is a wooden hive rather than poly and the best I can do is to put a slab of polystyrene on the crown board with the vent holes cut out. It shouldn't affect heating up too much as most of the heat from the winter sun will be hitting the sides anyway.

They are on a mesh floor at the moment which I'll cover up with the bottom board to help with heat retention/draft reduction - the rest of my colonies (except one nuc) are on open mesh floors and it'll be interesting to see how they compare in spring. I guess they'll just have to take their chances.
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Robo
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« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2006, 07:48:05 PM »

One thing that does work pretty well here is wrapping the hive with tar paper.   Not sure if you call it the same or have it available.  It is used here under asphalt shingle roofing.  It us basically a heavy paper that is soaked in tar.  It helps cut down on the draft, but more importantly radiates heat into the hive on sunny days.  It really has minimal, if any, insulation value, so you don't have the "holding the cold in" issue.
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Kris^
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« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2006, 10:07:26 PM »

What I ended up doing was combining the smaller two hives.  The third hive I was concerned about actually turned out to be stronger than I thought it was, once I got into it.  I think the combined hive is likely populous enough to make it through the winter, given enough food, etc.

-- Kris
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2006, 06:38:38 AM »

I have had good luck with the terrarium heater.
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Michael Bush
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm
My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
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"Everything works if you let it."--Rick Nielsen
Finsky
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« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2006, 03:42:54 PM »

Quote from: Kris^
.  Three of them, in fact have about 5 -- 7 frames of bees. Still some brood to erupt, but that's it.


5 frames bees =size of winter ball is good enough to stand winter.  It is better if extra frames are taken away and space is restricted with medium wall.

Difficultes arise in spring because that size of hive is slow to build up.

However now problem with wintering if box is insulated and there are no extra space.

Here is my small hive and it had 3 W warmer too.  The warmer is in the empty part of box.

If you put your 5-frame hives in the shelter during winter they manage well. But shelter should  have  fresh air / good ventilation.

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Kris^
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« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2006, 09:15:05 AM »

Hmmmm . . . all the hives had more bees than shown in your picture, Finsky.  Do you really manage to get hives that small through winter in Finland???
Anyhow, I'm not gonna undo what I did now.  I'll be going into winter with 10 hives; let's see what I come out with.

-- Kris
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Finsky
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« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2006, 09:54:23 AM »

Quote from: Kris^
 Do you really manage to get hives that small through winter in Finland???
-- Kris


And even all smaller hives.

I have wintered on purpose 2 frame colonies with heater and they have managed splended.  Alone 2 frame colony is impossible to get over winter.

System is for small colony:

* no extra/vain space to where heat escapes
* small upper hole for ventilation
* outer peacefullo shelter where is frech air but no wind.

* if you have severel small hives you may make a shelter from insulate boards and you may pile there 4, 6 or more hives. They produce their own heat there.
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