View Full Version : Results of hive wrapping test

09-25-2006, 05:36 PM
The new issue of ABJ has some surprising results. They wrapped 1/3 of the colonies in tar paper, 1/3 in 1" styrofoam then a heavy wrap of waxed cardboard, and 1/3 did not wrap.

They weighed them in the fall and in the spring. The test was to see how much stores were consumed.

the same number of hives, 20%, survived the winter in all three groups.

The heavier insulated hives had the same amount of weight loss as the uninsulated hives. The tarpaper wrapped hives had a significantly lower weight loss.

This really surprised me. The tar paper hives lost half as much weight as te other hives.

Anecdotally the author noted that the insulated and wrapped hives appeared to be stronger in the spring. The untested theory is that they built up earlier and consumed the stores to raise brood earlier. The wrapped hives simply consumed less during the winter, while the unwrapped consumed the same amount as the insulated ones, but may not have built up.

So now I am rethinking my plans...

Costs to wrap per colony:

Heavy insulation $15 and 20 min.
tar paper $.75 and 2 minutes (that seems pretty fast to me)

Michael Bush
09-25-2006, 08:21 PM
I've only wrapped once, and that was last year with tarpaper. I butted the hives against each other so two sides were protected. I wrapped the whole lot of them together. I put styrofom on the lids. The condensation was bad. It didn't seem to be bothering the bees, but the wood was soaked all winter and it was hard on the hives.

I don't think I'll be doing it again.

I've not wrapped all the rest of the years I've had hives, including when I was in Laramie at 7200 ft.

Dan Williamson
09-26-2006, 05:36 AM
I wrapped half my hives last year and left the other half unwrapped. I actually found that my unwrapped hives did better.

They built up more quickly and few earlier in the season than my wrapped hives. All of my hives were dark colored. I think that the unwrapped hives had better solar gain than the wrapped hives. I also think it took longer for the warmth to penetrate the tar paper and then penetrate the wood.

These are purely speculative and not scientific opionions in any way.

The bottom line is that I will not be wrapping at all this year. It just wasn't worth the trouble.

09-26-2006, 06:45 AM
Anybody try Tyvec. At least it breathes.

09-26-2006, 07:23 AM
Dave and i have been talking about rapping and other witering ideas.I have never rapped any hives.Not to say my overwitering has been great.It just seems to me that back tar paper would do 2 things 1 Make the tems in the hive go up and down more.thus createing problem 2 moisture.Would it be better to try and keep a more even temerature in the hive?

09-26-2006, 09:31 AM
I'm going to try wrapping mine with tar paper for the first tiem this year. I also built inner covers that have a 3/8" by 3" slot for a top entrance and top ventalation. It has three inch deep sides in which I will insert a 2" thick piece of styrofoam insulation. then an outer cover on top.
I'll let you know how it works out in the spring.

09-26-2006, 09:41 AM
Word of warning: Carpenter ants like to make their homes in foam board insulation. Found this out on my spring house...

[ September 26, 2006, 11:42 AM: Message edited by: Hobie ]

Dick Allen
09-26-2006, 10:19 AM

09-26-2006, 01:59 PM
Dick that was very interesting. What I got out of it is that in Madison Wisconsin doesn't much matter if you pack them or not. What do you think?

09-26-2006, 04:18 PM
"It has three inch deep sides in which I will insert a 2" thick piece of styrofoam insulation. then an outer cover on top."

That will be ok....if the girls can't get to the styrofoam....they seem to like to chew it and throw the pieces out of the hive.

09-26-2006, 04:55 PM
You guys dont have month long -30C spells in the middle of a 5-6 month winter.

The insulation wrap is to protect the hive from cold snaps that fall late in the winter, early spring. This is when the cold will kill a hive. The wrap allows the hive to maintain a looser cluster, allowing them to access more feed while in tight cluster.
If you dont have this kind of winter/spring conditions, then you have no need to wrap.

09-26-2006, 05:23 PM
I have to agree with Ian. We wrap to help protect the hive. The hives are insulated with R15 fibreglass, the tops have 1 1/2 styroform and R15 on top of this. The bottom entrances are closed and top entrance is left open. I used an infared thermometer to take temps throughout the winter. The inside of the hives stayed between 15c and 20c anytime they were checked. With temps like this inside the hive, moisture was not a problem. I would not try wrapping with just tarpaper here as I think the warm air inside the hive would probably create frost on the inside of the hive when there was no solar heating. (warm inside air against cold outside wall at night)In daylight the tarpaper would warm the hive wall enough to melt the frost.

09-27-2006, 04:24 AM
I do have #8 hardware cloth over the hole in the inner cover to keep the bees out of the space that the styrofoam will be in. In the summer I will remove the styrofoam and this arrangement will provide good ventelation.
Ian, I live in northern Vermont about 20 miles south of the Canadian border. I am hoping wrapping and insulation will improve my winter survival rates. I also have all Russian colonies now which I hope will help also.

09-27-2006, 04:11 PM
The boarder stretches down there quite a bit from where I stand here, to where you are.

Worth a try!

An upper enterence is essential when using a wintering pack.

Dick Allen
09-27-2006, 08:31 PM
Way up here in the south-central region of the Far North it's sometimes warmer in winter than you folks have it down there in America. Temperatures do plummet to below zero readings from time to time though. I still don't know if wrapping is necessary around here or not. We do have long winters. I've tried it both ways and have had hives surviving and hives lost. Those that are wrapped sometimes do appear stronger than those that aren't wrapped, but by the end of summer there doesn't seem to be much difference.

09-28-2006, 05:15 AM
This will be my first time wrapping, we'll see how it works. My thoughts are that the only advantage to wrapping with black paper is it will absorb the sun on sunny days which will raise the inside temp a little. Painting my hives black would probably accomplish the same benefit. But then I would have to wrap them with white paper in thw summer! I am hoping the 2" styrofoam on top will retain a little of the escaping warmth from the colony and help them out some. But the top entrance may defeat that. Time will tell. The winters are long here.

09-28-2006, 07:28 AM
Ok i have allways been told i my area that the cold is not what kills bees it is moisture.I tend to agree with that.And it is true most places here in the lower 48 do not have 20 below temps for weeks on end.

Now i feel that a more even teperature would be better to preven condensation.The reason i fell this way is Ohio is just miserable in witer some years.It can be 0 F one day and 50 F the next or stay 0 for a few weeks.So anything i do besides venolation could be a waste of time and $.

Dwight I wounder the same thing what good can 2''of foam do when you have a top entrance and will rapping make more up and down temps and cause condesation?

Bottom line is we have to roll with what mother nature gives us from year to year.And we do not know what that will be.

09-28-2006, 07:40 AM
I agree with you Mitch. but some of the local guys around here claim to have great success with the methods I am trying this year. Therefore I decided to give the insulation and wrapping a try and see if it helps or not. I only have a dozen hives so it won't cost much to try. In past years I have not insulated or wrapped. I just try to get them in good shape going into winter and make sure they have some ventilation. I think I have been as successful as thoughs who wrap and insulate, but we will see.

Dan Williamson
09-29-2006, 06:05 AM
>>But then I would have to wrap them with white paper in thw summer!

Why? I have hives painted dark brown that do fine year around. I hot dip all of mine now but even then they are brown with the candle dye I added to the paraffin/rosin mix. The hives don't seem to be the least bit bothered with the darker colors.

09-29-2006, 06:22 AM
The darker color probably wouldn't be a problem here either. We average just one day a year that the temp gets to 90 or above. Most of the time we feel lucky if we get 70 to 75 degree temps.
I was being sarcastic when I said I would have to wrap them with white paper in the summer smile.gif

09-29-2006, 08:45 AM
The upper entrance does not have to be large, 1/2" or so is plenty. I have tried tarpaper, with some success. I find the more important thing is making sure your hives are healthy going into winter, and they have something to break the wind. You should also make sure your hivebodies are in good shape and tight without any missing knots and large cracks. Warped covers need to be replaced. Adding insulation to the hive tops might also be a good idea.

09-29-2006, 09:13 AM
The top entrance on my hives is just a 3/8" by 3" slot. My bottom entrances are reduced to the same. The hive bodies are in excellent shape and I don't sepsrate them after Sept. 01 so as not to break the propolis seal between the hive bodies. The top is insulated with 2" of styrofoam and the telescoping covers are tight and in good shape. The colonies are strong and healthy and the hives are full of honey. My yard is surrounded by woods to break the wind. I am going to wrap them with tar paper around mid October. The rest is up to Mother nature. Hopefully they will all winter well.

09-29-2006, 09:15 AM
I forgot to mention, all my hives were requeened with young Locally produced Russian Queens mid summer.

Dan Williamson
09-29-2006, 11:01 AM

I knew you were joking about the wrapping them in white but I was just going with the fact that in our climates even when dark colors are used it doesn't seem to bother the bees. I figured I'd rather have them dark than light as they may need more help in the winter.

**Not to mention they blend into the foliage around them much better.

09-29-2006, 11:04 AM
I agree Dan. In fact, moving forward I plan on painting mine Dark Green.

09-29-2006, 04:49 PM
I am 40 miles north of Toronto and away from the moderating effects of Lake Ontario. Last year I wrapped 1 hive with 1" pink styrofoam and them wrapped that with reflective mylar bubble wrap from the plumbing section of home depot. The colonly was strong in the fall with low mite levels. I could unfold the mylar on the top, lift off the telescopic cover and feed without openning the brood area. I started them on HFCS in mid January and added pollen patties in mid March. When I openned in mid April the colony was had more bees than it did mid summer the season before.

I put a remote digital thermometer on the top frame above the bees. It read in the mid 80's most of the time. The few times we got -10 temps it dropped into the 50's. Never saw a temp in the 40's inside the hive. Whenever the temp was above 75, they were up in the feeder.

Only 1 year. Not scientific. Mild winter. But it REALLY worked well. Beginner's luck ???

This year it will be easier. Beemax stryofoam hives exclusively. Going to make a top entrance inner cover board and make vented attic for using the same small top feeder. Going to add a 4" by 6" hole with #8 wire to be able to feed pollen thru it and keep it covered at other times. I give some credit to the DE hive and it's excellent ventilation system. Going to try to replicate that. (http://www.beeworks.com/cdncatalogue/details/bee_hives.asp

[ September 29, 2006, 06:50 PM: Message edited by: brent.roberts ]

09-29-2006, 06:06 PM
>>I started them on HFCS in mid January and added pollen patties in mid March.

Wonder if they needed the HFCS that early?
I bet it was the early pollen supplement that gave you the boost.

Very exciting stuff, run with it!!