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Author Topic: How much is enough for winter?  (Read 2377 times)
wff
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« on: December 30, 2006, 08:08:09 PM »

After searching this forum, the internet, and all the books in my library, I've collected the following recommendations:

A hive needs:
- 40 lbs of feed to overwinter at high latitudes
- 40 to 50 pounds of stores to overwinter (location unspecified)
- not less than 60 lbs of honey to overwinter in Connecticut
- 80 liters of hive volume (that's about 2 deeps, presumably filled with stores and brood, location unspecified)
- 20 lbs of stores per month (location unspecified)
- 10 lbs of stores per month in "the midwest" (recognizing that there are many different definitions and ideas about what consistutes the midwest)
- to weigh at least 100 pounds going into winter

- I've also read that two deeps is a "standard" overwintering configuration in cold climates and one deep is a "standard" in southern climates.  Two deeps coincides with what we did in Oklahoma in the 1970's.
- I've also read that no more winter stores are required in northern climates than in southern climates.

Clearly, there are some discrepancies there.  So,
- what's your rule of thumb for how much stores a hive needs to overwinter in your area?
- where is your area?
- do you have any information that might help reconcile the discrepancies in what I've found?

My primary interest is in figuring out whether my TBH design is capable of holding enough stores to overwinter in a pretty severe climate, but I'm also just curious how the different "rules" I found hold up against the experience of folks here.
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« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2006, 09:13:06 PM »

Generally speaking the equivalent of 2 deeps will work anyplace, from Key West to Nome.  Bees in colder climates may actually consume less stores due to more prolonged inactivity than in warmer areas.  Warmer areas have the advantage that additional supplies might be available year around.
So the variables remain variables.  Even a distance of 50 miles can make a notable difference in variables.  It is best to find out what the variables are in your area and go with that.
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« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2006, 10:18:58 PM »

You might check with the Local guys see what is the average for your areas
it might be similar to Finski he has long winters were he is at
Kirko
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wff
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« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2006, 10:42:29 PM »

You might check with the Local guys see what is the average for your areas
it might be similar to Finski he has long winters were he is at
Kirko

Problem is, very few (if any) people even attempt to overwinter here, so there's no one to ask.  It's commonly accepted here that the only option is to kill the bees every fall and order packages in the spring.  There's only one local who hasn't told me I'm a nutcase when I mentioned wintering bees, and he's just too nice to say it out loud.

There are folks in Anchorage who winter, and their advice goes along the lines of 2 deeps.  But the Anchorage area is not much different than the northern tier states as far as winter climate, except winter is a bit longer.  Here in Interior Alaska, we have a much more severe winter climate, and about a month less growing season than Anchorage, so I tend to think of advice from there the same as advice from Minnesota or southern Canada.  That doesn't mean it's not useful, just that it's not local.

I've been browsing Finski's posts looking for something I could take as an indication of his thought on this, but haven't found it so far.
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Finsky
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« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2006, 12:47:45 AM »

I live at the level of Anchorage. You live some hundreds miles to north? I depends what is your local climate.
In our country 64 degree  -30C (-22F) temperatures in winter are normal. The cold is not so bad as the length of cold period.
And do not believe sayings " cold does not kill hives, it is moisture". In north both kills.

First of all insulated hive bodies are very useful. If you have solid one inch wall in deeps, it consumes 50% more food.

The size of wintering hive depends how much you have brood in August.  I put hive in one deep for winter if it is possible. If August has bad weathers winter will be smaller and hive must be in one deep over winter.

If bees get red clover pollen in august, they raise more brood and I am lucky and perhaps 2/3 like now will be in two deeps.

The size of hive commands how much room for winter.

Then hives full of sugar syrup. It is on average 40 pounds sugar. (20 kg).

In your level many professional beekeeper prefer one deep. They move hives to shelter over winter.  They restrict brood area with excluder.

I prefer big hives, not for over wintering but for early yield and for good spring build up. That is why I use now electric heating in spring.

I take all honey away. Perhaps 10 pound will be in brood frames when I start feeding. There is no advantage to leave honey for winter.

There is no stores per month.  I take care that hive has equal at least 2 frames full frames of capped food for bad days. In spring vain room is harmful and too much food. Extra food I take away.

One box hive consumes less food than two box. Often one box hives have extra food frames. Those I give to hives which have too small store.

Consumption of big hive depends in spring the volume of brood.

In spring is a big advantage if you put 2-box colony into one box and take extra room away. Spring build up will be faster.

If you keep hives in shelter over snow time, hives will do fine even at the level of 65 North.

The most important is that you have a stock which survive well at you level. It may be Italian or Carniola.  If you bye every year queens from south, they often have sences to adapt your year's running. They make brood too late and get nosema and are restless in winter.

Quote
My primary interest is in figuring out whether my TBH design is capable of holding enough stores to overwinter in a pretty severe climate, but I'm also just curious how the different "rules" I found hold up against the experience of folks here.

TBH is very demanding at these levels. There is no advantage in this method. It is mere a toy. But it depends why you keep bees.

If you like to keep bees as naturally as possible, that is a false because on these levels there are no honeybees.   For bees these are edges of survival and it is vain to play Africa.

.
We have some beekeeprs on the area of Polar Circle.  Carniolan bees are prefered on northern areas. Carniolan bee is quite new in Finland. It was introduced here 20 years ago.

My brother kept a couple of hives 20 years in North Sweden. They were Italians in Langstroth hives.  He got about 100 lbs from hive because there were a lot flowers but no other beekeepers.  He build extra box around hives for winter. It is 25,5 North level at see shore.

The concept how to keep bees is clear. They survive well there.

The summer is too short to start every spring a new hive.  I ahve noticed that in Alaska you have southern methods in beekeeping because it is so easy to get new bees for summer.

***************

You may take bees from those who kill hives. Over winter them and sell them back in spring in good condition.



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Michael Bush
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« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2006, 11:21:15 AM »

In the end you'll have to find what works for you.  Finsky, of course, has more experience in colder climates than most of us.  I have had bees at 7200 ft in Laramie, Wyoming where we would have a month of not getting above -10 F and some nights in the -30 F range.  I think bees are more hardy than most think.  I never tried overwintering in less than two deeps unless the cluster was pretty small and usually if the cluster was pretty small I combined them.

On the other hand, there are those in Canada overwintering in one deep.  It's not really winter that burns up the stores, it's early spring when brood rearing starts that goes through a lot of stores in a hurry.  If you have enough warm weather in the late winter and early spring to feed this can be made up with feed.  If not (and I'm guessing you wouldn't) it could be more problematic.

If it was me, I'd probably hold back some stores (seal them up to keep out the mice) and reduce them down to one deep.  Sometime in February or so, you could open up the hives on a reasonably warm day (32 F would do) and replace some empty combs with full combs.  This would minimize the space for overwinter, but make up some of the stores in the late winter so they can rear some brood.

Of course I don't use deeps anymore, so it would be two eight frame mediums. Smiley
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Finsky
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« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2006, 12:29:22 PM »

I may say that wintering is very easy even to beginner in Finland because we have not much choise to try all tricks what is offered in the world.
To get all hives alive, is not much. Spring build up demands more skill and understanding. To select pastures is really difficult: how to select cards for play in all weather circumtancies.  If you have special honey pasture, probably it is any more after 2 years. Fireweed and rasberry come and go.


One friend has hives on polar circle. He hunts the nectar of cloudberry because it's flavour is exelent (just heard, never tasted).
In moist area heather honey is one of best. It needs all the time moist soil. It does not give nectar on sand or on cliffs.

One friend has bees on polar circle. He hunts the nectar of cloudberry because it's flavour is exelent (just heard, never tasted).
It blooms at same time as dandelions. In those condition he starts brood raising with pollen patty to get early foragers.

Warm insulated boxes like styroform of heateing with electrict makes possible to get hives bigger than in natural way. Moving place to place you may get special honey "Alaska" which has more value than 1$/pound.

The most common crop is from fireweed or from raspberry.

berries of cloudberry



White flowers of cloudberry





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wff
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« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2006, 01:24:01 PM »

Quote
I live at the level of Anchorage. You live some hundreds miles to north? I depends what is your local climate.
In our country 64 degree  -30C (-22F) temperatures in winter are normal. The cold is not so bad as the length of cold period.
And do not believe sayings " cold does not kill hives, it is moisture". In north both kills.

According to the weather service, on average Anchorage has 3 days per year where the max temperature is <= -20 F and none where it's <= -40F.  Fairbanks, on average, has 44 days where the max temp is <= -20F and 10 days where it's <= -40F.  Also, on average, we have 221 days (7 months) where the temperature doesn't break 32F.  Those are averages, though, and the variation around that average is considerable.  I'm a bit of a weather watcher, and according to my records from 20 years of living here, we've never seen a winter with less than 7 days below -40, and we've seen eight winters with more than 30 days below -40.  We've also seen a four years with 10 or more days below -50.  So, as you say, the length of cold period is a significant factor.  We also have an extremely dry climate here, so moisture is likely not as big a problem here as in some places.  Lots of things can survive a severe cold snap.  An extended cold period with extremely low humidity is another story.  Things freeze dry.

Quote
First of all insulated hive bodies are very useful. If you have solid one inch wall in deeps, it consumes 50% more food.

I've assumed that was important, and I've worked out several ways to insulate my TBH hives. The ones I tried (unsuccessfully) to winter in this year were built from 3" styrene board, with just a couple openings for ventilation.  Those were a bit clumsy and not so sturdy, so I'm building some insulated overpacks to try next winter.

Quote
The size of wintering hive depends how much you have brood in August.  I put hive in one deep for winter if it is possible. If August has bad weathers winter will be smaller and hive must be in one deep over winter.

OK, my hives are 90 liters volume, which is a bit more than two deeps. However I can reduce the volume with a follower board to any size I want.  So, if I have a small colony going into winter, I can move them all to one end and reduce them down to about 1 deep, but if I have lots of brood going into winter I might give them the whole hive.  That makes sense.

Quote
I prefer big hives, not for over wintering but for early yield and for good spring build up. That is why I use now electric heating in spring.

I've considered trying electric heaters.  I've put automotive oil pan heaters under a metal sheet in the nesting shelves for my pigeon loft and plugged it into a thermostatic cord and a timer so it only comes on for a couple hours at a time and only if it's below -10.  I have squabs surviving year-round that way.  Seems like something similar could work with bees.  At what point in the spring do you begin using the heat?

Quote
I take all honey away. Perhaps 10 pound will be in brood frames when I start feeding. There is no advantage to leave honey for winter.

So do you feed them lots of syrup in the fall and let them store it to use, or do you have some system to feed through the winter?

Quote
In spring is a big advantage if you put 2-box colony into one box and take extra room away. Spring build up will be faster.

Again, this is something I can easily do with a follower board in my TBH's.

Quote
If you keep hives in shelter over snow time, hives will do fine even at the level of 65 North.

This is something I've considered, but haven't tried.   The only people around her who do overwinter take a couple hives into thier basements.  Several years ago a local fellow got a grant to build a bee wintering house.  He was able to overwinter some bees, but said there was no way it could ever be economically feasible, and no one has tried it since as far as I know.  I have lots of excess hay bales that aren't suitable for feed, and may try building a hay and pole shelter to put some hives in next winter.

Quote
The most important is that you have a stock which survive well at you level. It may be Italian or Carniola.  If you bye every year queens from south, they often have sences to adapt your year's running. They make brood too late and get nosema and are restless in winter.

I bought bees from Keith Malone in Anchorage last year.  He sends his queens from colonies that overwintered there down to California to a guy who produces packages with them to ship back up.  As I said, Anchorage is not the same as the Interior of Alaska, but I don't know any way I can get closer to genetics that have overwintered here. I'm pretty sure I can't legally get bees from Canada right now.  I don't know if I could bring in queens from Finland or not, but I'm not ready to risk that kind of investment yet anyway.  grin

Quote
TBH is very demanding at these levels. There is no advantage in this method. It is mere a toy. But it depends why you keep bees.

If you like to keep bees as naturally as possible, that is a false because on these levels there are no honeybees.   For bees these are edges of survival and it is vain to play Africa.

You may well be right, but I'm hard headed enough that I'm going to give it a hard try anyway.  I worked for a guy with 500 langs when I was in high school in the 1970's, so I know how they work, and I know any type of hive can be managed lots of different ways.  I don't expect I can run a TBH in the Arctic the same way they do in Africa.  On the other hand, I'm not a highly experienced beekeeper, and I may well be setting myself up to fail.  If so, I'm doing it with my eyes open.

Also, this is the edge of the survival limit for everything on my farm.  Angora goats and cattle can't survive on their own here.  I'm at the northern limit of where wild pigeons are found.  Chickens are tropical birds.  Ducks and geese leave for the winter.  My garden is not natural here.  The hay we grow is not native this far north.  Many of the trees we grow are not native at this latitude.  I don't do any of those things natually, because they're not natural here.  However I do use lower-technology, less resource intensive (and often more labor intensive), and often unconventional methods compared to producers in other areas.  Commercial producers in those things have told me there's no way I can succeed in a harsh climate if I don't use the latest technology available.  I (and others) have proven them wrong.  I don't see why bees must be the exception to that.

Quote
The summer is too short to start every spring a new hive.  I ahve noticed that in Alaska you have southern methods in beekeeping because it is so easy to get new bees for summer.

You're right, and that's why I'm looking for information on this forum.  People locally make some very strong arguments that killing bees in the fall and buying packages in the spring is the only rational choice.  I don't buy it, so they all just think I'm irrational. 

Quote
You may take bees from those who kill hives. Over winter them and sell them back in spring in good condition.

Now that's a great idea! 

Thank you for all the advice!


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wff
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« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2006, 01:45:14 PM »

If you have enough warm weather in the late winter and early spring to feed this can be made up with feed.  If not (and I'm guessing you wouldn't) it could be more problematic.

If it was me, I'd probably hold back some stores (seal them up to keep out the mice) and reduce them down to one deep.  Sometime in February or so, you could open up the hives on a reasonably warm day (32 F would do) and replace some empty combs with full combs.  This would minimize the space for overwinter, but make up some of the stores in the late winter so they can rear some brood.

Thanks, Michael.  It's very unlikely I'll ever see a 32F day before the last week in March, and most years not until mid April.  However I can use a temporary shelter and space heater to bring the temp around a stack of hives up above freezing.  I could start winter with a hive full of stores, put in a follower board to give the colony about 1 deep then, in late Feb. warm up the space around the hives to artificially make a reasonably warm day, pull the follower board and put it on the other side of the cluster so they can get to the reserved stores. Only a very small portion of the hive would be opened, and only for a very short time.  I'll keep a note of that to try next winter.
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Finsky
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« Reply #9 on: December 31, 2006, 01:54:55 PM »

Wintering shelter for bees is very simple and not expencive.

My friend has a "big box". The walls are styrofoam construction board. They are here 220 cm x 120 cm. He has there 20 hives. Box needs not floor. You put them together and then pile one-box-hives in three layer.  Hives produce so much heat that you need not electrict heat in the "box".

I have now 5 hives in my firewood shelter. It gives only wind protection and walls cut worst frost. It is more than easy.

Here permanent snow begins at the beginning of December and cleansing flight is in the middle of March. After that you put heating cables on bottom boards. When half of snow is away, you may start spring feeding. That is usually first week of April.

I suppose that you willows start to bloom about first of May.

If you do business with "local nucs",  5-frame nucs are good. When you sell them in May, they have 3 frames brood and 2 food frames. That hive is not able to forage surplus honey. One box full of brood at the end of May will give a good yiled.

Here one box hives are value about  300 US $ with box, bottom board and covers. Hives must be free from AFB.


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wff
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« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2006, 01:59:31 PM »

Cloudberry locations are jealously guarded here.  I have about 1/4 acre (0.1 hectare) on my farm.  I will set a hive there this spring.  I'll hunt around for more.  Fireweed is easy to find any place there was fire or disturbed soil two years prior.  We also have a small patch of white fireweed (wff is White Fireweed Farm) that we're trying to expand.
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Finsky
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« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2006, 02:12:15 PM »

Thanks, Michael.  It's very unlikely I'll ever see a 32F day before the last week in March, and most years not until mid April. [/quote]

That looks same as we have in same latitude in Finland.


Quote
I could start winter with a hive full of stores, put in a follower board to give the colony about 1 deep then, in late Feb.

That is not possible and not necessary. When bees are full of feces and you feed them, they burst out of hives and kill themselves. You may feed them only after cleansing flight. They survive surely untill you anow is away in sunny spots and bees may come out.

Our cleansing flight happens in March when there is bright sunrise, calm and it is +5C (41F) outside. Those days are few but worts fece-girls may come out and make poo on the snow. Usually we have  1-2 feet snow at that time. Then hey go back into winter cluster.

1) The first thing after cleansing flight is to try how heavy hive is, does it have food enough.
2) If hive is light, then I open the inner cover and look, do I see capped food in upper parts of frame. If I see, I let them be.  
3) If not, I take from other hives capped frames and even food stores.
4) SO we go towards warmer weathers and good examination is possible. The most important is to see, that queen is in normal condition. If there are bee pupae on bottom board it is sign that queen is there.
5) Clean debris from bottom boards = change dirty board to clean.



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Finsky
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« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2006, 02:16:31 PM »

Cloudberry locations are jealously guarded here. 

That is interresting! Perhaps they arrange flowers to you bees?

Two flowers are talking
- let's go into marriage?
- OK, where we get bees?
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wff
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« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2006, 03:24:46 PM »

That is not possible and not necessary. When bees are full of feces and you feed them, they burst out of hives and kill themselves. You may feed them only after cleansing flight. They survive surely untill you anow is away in sunny spots and bees may come out.

That makes sense.  I guess the trick is to get bees that can last long enough to make it to the later spring, rather than bringing spring to them early.

Quote
Our cleansing flight happens in March when there is bright sunrise, calm and it is +5C (41F) outside. Those days are few but worts fece-girls may come out and make poo on the snow. Usually we have  1-2 feet snow at that time. Then hey go back into winter cluster.

1) The first thing after cleansing flight is to try how heavy hive is, does it have food enough.
2) If hive is light, then I open the inner cover and look, do I see capped food in upper parts of frame. If I see, I let them be. 
3) If not, I take from other hives capped frames and even food stores.
4) SO we go towards warmer weathers and good examination is possible. The most important is to see, that queen is in normal condition. If there are bee pupae on bottom board it is sign that queen is there.
5) Clean debris from bottom boards = change dirty board to clean.

That makes lots of sense too.  It's probably a week or two later here before we'll see 41F, but the idea still makes sense.  Thanks.

Oh, and the cloudberries - I know they are not self polinating and people always claim there aren't enough, so the people who have them may very well be interested in letting me put a hive on them.  I'll have to ask around about that.
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« Reply #14 on: December 31, 2006, 04:04:41 PM »

I may say that no hive die lack of food. That is very near the truth. But in many hive get nosema and some are in bad condition after winter. Some queen are not able to lay properly after winter. It can be seen in May.  Mite is not problem at all.

But no worry about that. I keep 20% small extra hives and I discard bad hives in spring or put them together to someone.  Bees are not what you need to crye for.  Then you need to dry all the time if you think that every day in the hive emerge 2000 bees and every day 2000 will die.

 I almost cry for swarms when they escape. I nurse the hive whole year around and then it say to adios!  I do not like it at all. And they are best hives which run away. tongue
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