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Good Idea? Bad Idea? Winter hive prep.

 
pollinator
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My bees are in a shed and I have much hope that that helps them survive the winter this year. It has plenty of air flow. First real snow here today so last night I went out with pine chips and set about insulating. I have a nuc that I just covered with chips. Then I have 2 hives with feeder boxes on top. I filled the feeder boxes with wood chips. What do you think? Filling the feeder boxes a good or bad idea? Should I do more to insulate them? Gets pretty cold here imo but realize that -30 is about the lowest I've experienced and some of you get worse.
 
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I have no experience keeping bees though freezing winter but have read about people insulating boxes with 2" thick insulation board to help them survive though cold climate winter.
 
gardener & hugelmaster
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Minus 30 is very cold for bees. Some people do use insulating board & in Europe there is a type of hive that is made basically like an ice chest. Made of styrofoam or something like that.

I think the chips are probably helpful unless they attract pests or absorb water. What I would probably do is sandwich the nuc between the other 2 hives & surround them all with hay bales. Top and sides. Keep their entrances open. That works pretty good. Don't know how well that works in minus 30 though. That's harsh.
 
elle sagenev
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Mike Barkley wrote:Minus 30 is very cold for bees. Some people do use insulating board & in Europe there is a type of hive that is made basically like an ice chest. Made of styrofoam or something like that.

I think the chips are probably helpful unless they attract pests or absorb water. What I would probably do is sandwich the nuc between the other 2 hives & surround them all with hay bales. Top and sides. Keep their entrances open. That works pretty good. Don't know how well that works in minus 30 though. That's harsh.



I can't really do that. The shed they are in is in the general barn fence area. So the pigs could potentially get in there. Thus, I have the hives put on spools inside the shed. I couldn't put the hives together or fit hay bales around them. :(
 
Mike Barkley
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Insulating board might be your best bet then. Perhaps a space blanket too.

I'm curious how you have a nuc this late in the season.
 
elle sagenev
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Mike Barkley wrote:Insulating board might be your best bet then. Perhaps a space blanket too.

I'm curious how you have a nuc this late in the season.



It was an accident. I opened my hives and could not find the queen. Looked everywhere. No new brood. so I went in search of a new queen. Someone offered me a nuc for free that had a queen but wasn't doing well enough for them to believe theyd' make it through the winter. So I went and got it and when I went to combine it with my hive lo and behold there is the queen right on top. So then it was a crap moment. I have this nuc and found my queen and now what. Well, my property has a lot of food so bees tend to do better for me than they do other people, you know, if I can keep them from dying during winter. So I decided to just keep it as a nuc and I must say that within the month I had it they did double in size so...we'll see.
 
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I asked Dr. Sharashkin questions when he was on the boards here along with many others. It got me interested enough that I purchased his book, "Raising Bees With A Smile" and read it through and thought that his horizontal hive was the "bees knees" and I thought about making one from his free plans. But, I went to the horizontalhive.com web site and found that he was having a seminar on keeping bees naturallly.

I hadn't gone anywhere for a long time and just decided to register and go. Well, long story short - I came home with a horizontal hive! The site and his book both have free plans for building such hives. And I got to talk to a lot of people attending - around 55 attendees from 16 different states. Oh, and when all of those people gathered around several of his hives back in the forest - no mad bees!!! No one got stung and many did not have their bonnets up! With the frames touching each other at the top the bees were basically kept inside the hive except for the one-frame-at-a-time that he pulled out to demonstrate differences in the frames and what each of those meant.

The horiz hives have approx. 2 1/2" to 3.0" thick hollowed walls - filled with wool for insulation - so the bees are helped with weather conditions year round. You still need to do things to set up your hive for winter and most of that is INSIDE the hive. The other huge benefit other than the thick walls is the fact that you can get directly to any frame you want to inspect - and if that is a somewhat full honey frame it is probably somewhere between 8 lbs and 12 lbs., so easy to lift.

IF you are in doubt about how effective these hives are you definitely should think about attending one of Dr. Sharashkin's seminars. The more comfortable the bees are I would thing they would produce more honey - but all honey production is based on the environment surrounding the hive in about a 5 mile diameter - conditions like blooming flowers and plants and water being available too.

On his web site Dr. Sharashkin has a photo of one of his hives with about 3-4 inches of snow on it and those bees survived that winter.
 
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At -30, you might consider making them "indoor" hives in a garage or even in your home. You can take some tubing and run it fron the entrance of the hive to a hole made in an exterior wall or out a window and the bees will use that as usual. The bees will go through honey stores quicker being warm in the house, so a garage is probably the best compromise of not super cold but also not so warm as to keep the bees too active. Also, if they are in a shed right now with a normal entrance and it warms up too much they may try to fly and get lost in the indoors. In the absence of climate controlled hive wintering sheds like many pros have, they should always have easy access to outside so they can take cleansing flights whenever weather permits.

Otherwise, main things are to:
1. Keep the hives DRY. Keep the rain off and any drips that might be in the shed.
2. Wind break, but still room for "slow air" to move.
3. A lower and an upper entrance (both reduced, you can screen one if robbing is an issue as well) so air can flow through the hive.

I also use those 2" thick insulation boards, spray painted black to absorb sunlight, with an R value of 10. Moisture boards with chips are nice too if the chips are clean and sterile such as animal bedding (pine shavings). I also give sugar in the mountain camp method.
 
pollinator
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Hi there, this is our inspiration for winter bees. We haven't done it all yet. I'm hoping we can out them vivaldi box on during a run of warm winter days. Say that ver 65 us ok to open a hive?

Do y'all not peep in the gives all winter?

Your bee shed sounds rad.

Great advice!

Thank you much.

 
Mike Barkley
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Anything over 55F is OK. Keep it as short as possible though.
 
Sena Kassim
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That's good to know. Thank you!

Do you insulate your hives?
Or add a moisture control box?

Just curious what others might be doing.

 
Mike Barkley
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I insulated a few hives for several years & in several different bee yards. Didn't seem to make much difference. I think it would be a bigger factor in colder climates.

For condensation control I rely on good airflow. Never tried a Vivaldi box.
 
elle sagenev
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So I wood chipped them, used some landscape fabric to help keep the wood chips in place and tarped the whole thing. The nuc died but the two main hives are still alive. I am feeding them still.
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