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Question About Bees in Winter Cold

 
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So I'm mostly on the site to dream about this lifestyle while doing research. I get Social Security Income and until I find a job that's decent or find someone to join on this journey, this is a pipe dream. The homestead life. But Bees! Here in Michigan we get snow and recently the weather's been really cold. I know there are insulation siding you can use to protect the bee's but is it beeneficial at all to have a bee house? Like a small shed/shack which you put the bee hives in? Something insulated with a place for bee's to come in and out of? That type of thing.
 
pollinator
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I am not a super successful beekeeper. My bees died though when snow completely covered the hive. the lack of air flow caused mold and death. So, being in Michigan it's important for you to think about snow!
 
gardener
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It is generally good to have hives covered from the elements. We see a marked increase in survival here when we do so.


Using hives like hollow log and woven straw skep hives also helps tremendously,  as these are inherently well insulated and allow for the bees to build naturally.  They do not maximize honey production,  but the increased survival is worth it in my opinion.

You can also modify langstroth,  warre,  and horizontal topbar  hives to be better for bees. These usually involves better insulation,  round entrances to help them fight off robbers,  and even round inserts,  which encourage a more natural inner hive environment
 
Josh Sparks
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elle sagenev wrote:I am not a super successful beekeeper. My bees died though when snow completely covered the hive. the lack of air flow caused mold and death. So, being in Michigan it's important for you to think about snow!



I was thinking possibly something like this.
 
steward
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yup. keeping entrances free of snow is very important.

a structure isn't necessary, but one can help if done well. done poorly, a structure could cause more problems than it solves.

I like putting hives under the east facing eaves of existing buildings.
 
tel jetson
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Josh Sparks wrote:I was thinking possibly something like this.



they used different colors on that so that the bees will go to their own hives. that will help a little bit, but there will still be a lot of drift between hives with so many so close together. that spells horizontal transmission of pests and pathogens, which is bad news for bees.

if bears are going to be a problem, something like that might be worthwhile. otherwise, it's probably overkill.
 
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It can be done, but shouldn't be necessary if you have a healthy colony.
It may even be detrimental to keep them in a building. If it warms up too much inside the building when it's still cold outside, the bees will leave the hive thinking it's a nice day for a flight.
They go outside, get chilled and won't be able to make it back to the safety of the hive & die. Fewer returning bees result in a weaker hive. A weak hive is more likely to freeze to death.

Best to keep the hive healthy (inspect for diseases), well-fed, sheltered from the wind and be sure to keep them dry (ventilate the hive).
Most of the colonies I lost were due to condensation build-up in the hive. Cold, wet bees = dead bees.

Using screened bottom boards or quilt boxes will help prevent suffocation from snow build-up. They also do wonders to keep the hive dry.
I'm using a screened bottom board on one hive and a quilt box on the other, both are nice and dry.

They are easy to build, here's a few links:

https://www.honeybeesuite.com/how-to-make-a-moisture-quilt-for-a-langstroth-hive/
https://www.tillysnest.com/2014/11/diy-winter-beehive-quilting-box-html/
https://cityboyhens.com/2015/03/06/how-to-make-a-screened-bottom-board-for-your-beehive/


 
master pollinator
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For my dear friends the bees -

Some things l've found essential for bees in Winter:

Have the back of the hive elevated about .5". When condensation collects on the inner cover, instead of dripping down on the cluster, it will roll towards the front of the hive and down, and hopefully out the front entrance. As Pete wrote, " a wet cold bee is a dead bee".

Absorptive material on top of the hive another essential.

I always give the bees an upper entrance/exit. If it snows and I can't get out there to clear the snow from the entrance right away, they have another way out. It also creates air flow and they need ventilation. Also, in the heaviest nectar flow they have a shortcut closest to the upper supers, they get to work smarter not harder.

Be careful with insulation, a hive needs to breathe. Think about those new sealed homes that cannot breathe at all.

Give the hives a boost by keeping them in as much sun as possible. This helps them keep warm in Winter. AND give them ventilation, especially in Full Summer sun. Full sun in Summer helps prevent pests and diseases.

Give them a wind break to the West and North. Wind chill factor is brutal.


About snow removal and a single entrance - we are putting them in an unnatural environment, I consider it my responsibility to them to make sure I am doing whatever must be done for their survival that they cannot do for themselves.

Thank you for stewarding well those in your care.
 
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How in the world are they going to inspect the beehives in the building in that video? Aside from the logistics of even opening a box and pulling frames, it is dark, and imagine the cloud of angry bees in that enclosed space. Yikes. It did not look like it would have anywhere nearly enough ventilation, either.

I would think if you absolutely need an anti-bear structure, enclosing the bee yard in a really strong wire cage would be a better idea. Cattle panels on a wooden cube frame, maybe?  Just brainstorming.
 
pollinator
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I'm thinking for really cold climates, like mine, a three sided building that is open to the south may be a big help.  I have an old tree stand on my property that I am going to close up on three sides and roof just for this reason.  It will also be raised to hopefully help deter bears.  I won't have more than three or four hives though.  Mine will be Perone hives, I'm sold on the idea of very big hives for cold regions.  I know the arguments against, but I think the positives out-weigh the negatives.  Either way, I'll know in a few years.
 
tel jetson
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Kelly Pakes wrote:How in the world are they going to inspect the beehives in the building in that video? Aside from the logistics of even opening a box and pulling frames, it is dark, and imagine the cloud of angry bees in that enclosed space. Yikes. It did not look like it would have anywhere nearly enough ventilation, either.



there's a long tradition of keeping bees in a similar arrangement in Slovenia. there are some drawbacks, but it can work very well.
 
Kelly Pakes
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there's a long tradition of keeping bees in a similar arrangement in Slovenia. there are some drawbacks, but it can work very well.



I never heard of that. Thanks, I will try to check it out.
 
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