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View Full Version : Overwintering Bees in Buildings/Shelters??



CentralPAguy
02-17-2010, 07:49 PM
Are there individuals on this forum who move their hives into shelters over the winter months.

If so, what kinds of shelters do you move them to. Do you supply some sort of minimal heat source. Do your buildings have windows or are they kept totally in the dark? And do you provide some sort of entrance way to the outside of the building for the bees for cleansing flights.

If you do bring in the bees, do you continually feed them some sort of sugar syrup. Do you also provide bee pollen substitute such as "Megabee" to build up the numbers to get them ready for the first of the Nectar flow.

Thanks.

Grant
02-17-2010, 10:33 PM
Dig out some old beekeeping books and you'll find ample information on "cellaring" bees.

Basically, it has to be totally dark, a constant temperature around 40 degrees, and you have to be able to change the air and keep the humidity constant.

Here in Missouri, the winters are not so severe as to warrant the extra labor of cellaring, and then we have some really warm days in December and in the early spring that would require some fancy thermostats or massive insulation.

And then the bees don't start brooding up until moved back outdoors for the pollen.

I think it's an interesting concept, but perhaps not economically feasible. If you could find a cheap trailer/container and regulate the temperature, it would be fun to overwinter a bunch of singles or nucs for the spring.

Grant
Jackson, MO

Allen Martens
02-17-2010, 10:40 PM
This has been discussed several times on Beesource and if you do a search you should find a lot valuable info.

The concept of indoor wintering in not that different than outdoor wintering, other than your wrap is a building instead of individual wraps. You don't want the bees leaving the hives so the building is kept totally dark. Feed wise, wintering indoors is most successful if the hives are fed heavily in fall and have enough feed to last for the winter. Emergency feeding can be done during the the winter indoors with broadmans but it is a lot of work and reduces wintering success.

Probably the most problematic aspect of indoor wintering is overheating of the wintering room. If the temperature reaches 15 - 20 C the bees crawl out of the hives and can't find their way back. Lots of bees die in this situation. We rarely reach melting temperatures in Manitoba during winter, so it's relatively easy for us to keep the temperature down until spring. At that point we move snow into the wintering room if we need to cool things down. The bees produce a lot of heat, especially as spring approaches and brood rearing begins. Currently, we are experiencing highs of about -5 to -10 C and lows of about -20C. I have about 600 hives in a 2000 square foot building with a 16 foot ceiling. Every 2 hours I run a 3000 cfm fan for 15 minutes to draw in outside air. The temperature is the wintering room are running at about 5 -7 C with no other heat source. As, you can see, heating is not what will give you a headache.

Quick synopsis, hope it gives you a start.

Allen Martens
02-17-2010, 10:47 PM
If you could find a cheap trailer/container and regulate the temperature, it would be fun to overwinter a bunch of singles or nucs for the spring.


Actually a hot room is probably one of the most cost effective wintering room. My first hot room was about 500 square feet and I regularly put 300+ singles into it.

USCBeeMan
02-18-2010, 12:14 AM
Allen Martens;504830]The bees produce a lot of heat, especially as spring approaches and brood rearing begins[/B].

So somehow in a pitch dark enviornment, the bees know when to start up rearing brood? No change in temp. No sun light with longer days. No foraging for pollen.

I am understanding it correctly?

mrspock
02-18-2010, 08:46 AM
I wonder if a whole hive could be moved indoors, with outdoors access provided by a 1" hole drilled through an exterior wall, and tubing run to a modified entrance reducer.

USCBeeMan
02-18-2010, 03:41 PM
Sure, but what would be the point? Bees would be warmer than the outside air. They would eat their reserves because it's warmer. They would want to fly to forage only to fnd nothing, come back hungry and eat even more honey. Others would probably fly out and not make it 6 feet before having to free fall to the ground due to the cold and never return back to the hive.

sqkcrk
02-18-2010, 03:47 PM
There are lots of articles and threads about indoor wintering of bee hives. I suggest some digging.

I don't like to discourage anyone from doing something that they think might be a good idea, but......... Don't you think that if indoor wintering was a good idea, practical and good for the bees, that there would be lots and lots of beekeepers doing it? Doesn't mean that it can't be done. Knock yourself out.

Ventilation and temperature control is the key, if I remember correctly.

Countryboy
02-18-2010, 05:30 PM
Ian has a really good webpage detailing his overwintering barn in Canada.
http://www.stepplerfarms.com/stepplerhoneywintershed.html

giant pumpkin peep
02-18-2010, 06:21 PM
A master beek and the president of our bee club,dana stahlman, winters inside. He puts him his barn for the winter. He had 0 percent loss last winter and hasnt lost any yet this year. When it gets warm he just opens up the barn doors I guess.

Ian
02-18-2010, 09:26 PM
>>Don't you think that if indoor wintering was a good idea, practical and good for the bees, that there would be lots and lots of beekeepers doing it

there are quite a few beekeepers who manage indoor wintering. You have to realize one very important factor, as Allen mentioned. You need a constantly cold winter. Over heating of the chamber is deadly. A 10-15 degree C day is hard on bees wintering indoors. We experience cold, long winters. Some winters dont let up. Thats perfect conditions for wintering inside. And by wintering them inside, we tend to provide the bees an advantage of not enduring months of -25 to -30 degree C temperatures.
Few hundred miles west of us, in Alberta, they cant winter inside effectively. They tend to get mild spells. Might as well have the bees outside.
Even so, there are many beekeepers who dont believe in the un natural act of indoor wintering and do so fine outside. Others just dont have the facility to do so,

WHen it comes down to it, there is little difference between indoor and outdoor. Some years its a toss up, depending on the winter. It comes down to preference and management style. I choose indoor wintering. I hate wrapping hives. I could never get a handle on mice and skunks. Nothing worst than unwrapping mouse and skunk poop two weeks straight!

USCBeeMan
02-18-2010, 11:03 PM
So somehow in a pitch dark enviornment, the bees know when to start up rearing brood? No change in temp. No sun light with longer days. No foraging for pollen.

I am understanding it correctly?

I am still waiting on to my question / observation of the quote attached.

Allen Martens
02-19-2010, 12:41 PM
So somehow in a pitch dark enviornment, the bees know when to start up rearing brood? No change in temp. No sun light with longer days. No foraging for pollen.

I am understanding it correctly?

One of the quickest ways stimulate bees in indoor storage to begin rearing bees is to raise the humidity. Some years ago, I was drawing air for the wintering room through a very moist portion of the building. A cold spell came along and I let the temperature in the wintering room drop slightly below freezing. This is normally not a problem, though smaller hives tend to winter better if the temperatures are kept slightly above freezing. In spring, a number of the smaller hives had died. On analysis in spring, these hives had staved on a patch of brood with food available towards the sides of the brood chamber. If I had not let the temperature drop below 5C I'm sure they would have been able to transport food to the brood. Granted, these were Italians. They don't seem to have a shutdown trigger. Carnis may respond differently.

As spring approaches the temperature in the wintering room typically will increase a bit due to the warmer weather. Spring air is also moister than mid winter area. These to factors will trigger some brood rearing. Typically, it is a very small brood nest.

Allen Martens
02-19-2010, 12:51 PM
I don't like to discourage anyone from doing something that they think might be a good idea, but......... Don't you think that if indoor wintering was a good idea, practical and good for the bees, that there would be lots and lots of beekeepers doing it? Doesn't mean that it can't be done. Knock yourself out.

Ventilation and temperature control is the key, if I remember correctly.

I'd agree. I don't think most places are probably well suited for indoor wintering. Best places to to use it, IMO, are places where winters are long and it is consistently very cold. In these conditions you'll find a lot of beeks wintering indoors.

For example, within 20 miles of my place there are about 6000 hives indoors among 7 or 8 beeks and hardly any outdoors. In other parts of Manitoba a greater percentage of bees are winter outdoors. These areas tend not to be as migratory as ours.

doc25
02-19-2010, 05:01 PM
By migratory do you mean that you specialize in pollination? I guess guys who do pollination are used to and equipped to move hives anyways.

Ian
02-20-2010, 09:24 AM
I read in the ABJ a fellow in north or south Dakota wintering his bees in an old potato shed until he moved them out to Almond pollination

Allen Dick
02-20-2010, 09:55 AM
I notice that the beekeepers I know who winter indoors tend to use the indoor facility for their overwintering nucs and singles first, then maybe some doubles.

That is not universal, but a tendency, since smaller first-year hives and singles can be great hives the following spring, but can be a bit tender for wintering due to smaller and variable populations, and indoors gets them through reliably. Also the smaller units are easy to move and for that matter often have to be moved anyhow, while the mature hives can usually stay on their current locations.

Moving hives in and out is hard work and bad weather fall or spring can really screw things up compared to just wrapping hives on the spot and leaving them. Getting locations back in the spring can be a problem if you move off a location sometimes, as well.

That said, though there are quite a few who winter all their mature doubles indoors, especially as one goes farther north. Often in the southern regions of Alberta it is a split: half outdoors and half indoors.

Personally, I inspected wintering facilities for a wintering grant program and if I can say one thing it is this: If you plan to winter indoors, make sure you know what you are doing and be prepared to spend the money to get set up right.

Visit several successful indoor wintering beekeepers and don't expect to just haul bees indoors and succeed. One serious mistake or power failure and you lose ALL your bees. Losing 100% is much harder to do outdoors where the hives are distributed over the country (it has been done though by ill-advised feeding of bad syrup).

I only tried indoors once myself and decided outdoors made more sense for me.

Another thing: the dead bees on the floor of a wintering building can harbour crippling fungi and cause serious and chronic conditions of the lungs. Be aware of the risk and use a good mask when disturbing the dead bees and ideally use a vacuum system that sucks up the bees and exhausts outside rather than sweeping the floor.

Ian
02-21-2010, 09:43 AM
I like the vacuum idea. That would eliminate all the dust floating around.
mold is a bad thing,
its good to keep the shed swept up, to avoid such a build up.
A good mask is essential!

Allen, I dont know how you figured it out, but I could not get a handle on rodent damage in my wintering wraps.
Mouse damage especially. Then skunk!
I found nothing worst than unwrapping mouse piss and poop two weeks straight in the spring.
One advantage to wrapping is if you left the wrap on a bit later in spring, you'd provide protection from those cold spring blasts!
I have all the toys to make hive movement easier, so its easy to say
I love wintering indoors

Allen Dick
02-21-2010, 09:53 AM
> Allen, I dont know how you figured it out, but I could not get a handle on rodent damage in my wintering wraps. Mouse damage especially. Then skunk!

I used blocks of the rodent poison under the pallets to discourage mice. Additionally, out wraps are all made with Kodel liners and mice just don't seem to like the stuff. They do love fibreglas, though, as I found the few times I tried it.

I only very, very occasionally get skunk damage. It is usually one particular skunk which has learned bad habits and her offspring. I mostly co-exist with skunks, but may have to have a confrontation with one I am seeing around here lately.

> One advantage to wrapping is if you left the wrap on a bit later in spring, you'd provide protection from those cold spring blasts!

That is very true. Wraps do their most important work from January through the middle to end of April.

Allen Martens
02-22-2010, 11:28 AM
By migratory do you mean that you specialize in pollination? I guess guys who do pollination are used to and equipped to move hives anyways.

No. Maybe moving would be a better term than migratory. This part of MB (Red River Valley) is intensively farm so there is no spring or fall forage for the bees. Bees get moved in from the parklands for the flowering crops and back out after the blooms stop.

Allen Martens
02-22-2010, 11:36 AM
Another thing: the dead bees on the floor of a wintering building can harbour crippling fungi and cause serious and chronic conditions of the lungs. Be aware of the risk and use a good mask when disturbing the dead bees and ideally use a vacuum system that sucks up the bees and exhausts outside rather than sweeping the floor.

This one of the reasons I scrap the dead bees together as opposed to sweeping them.

One thing I have never understood is the health concerns that are often expressed about dead bees on a wintering room floor, but similar concerns are not mentioned about cleaning out deadouts. Seems to me the same microbes, should grow as readily in deadouts if not better. The person cleaning up the deadout is also working very closely with the dead bees and often for extended periods of time.

Allen Dick
02-22-2010, 11:48 AM
One thing I have never understood is the health concerns that are often expressed about dead bees on a wintering room floor, but similar concerns are not mentioned about cleaning out deadouts.

We are not discussing deadouts here, so that did not come up. Of course there are the same concerns and maybe more when handling deadouts since there are patches of active mould in them.

(Of course, good beekeepers never have deadouts and that is probably why it never occured to me to mention them.)

Allen Martens
02-22-2010, 02:20 PM
We are not discussing deadouts here, so that did not come up.

True enough. Point I was try to make is that of all the exposure to pathogen and allergens related to dead bees, the wintering room seems to be fairly insignificant. However, it is often the one that is mentioned.

That being said, it's probably the one I am most paranoid about and where I use the most precautions.

Ian
02-22-2010, 04:44 PM
Cleaning bees in a wintering shed, as you know, is done in close quarters and most of the time bent right over in the midst of the dust and stuff floating around.

Cleaning dead outs is usually done in a more open area, even perhaps outside, me anyway.
I do see your point Allen M, harmful stuff in both situations, but you do have to agree cleaning indoor floors is pretty intense.
I have rairly worn a mask cleaning dead outs/scraping boxes. I probalby should

silvergramma
04-27-2010, 10:24 AM
how about building a straw bale shelter with a way to control air flow and temperature ... cheap building material..

mrspock
04-27-2010, 10:38 AM
Few hundred miles west of us, in Alberta, they cant winter inside effectively. They tend to get mild spells.

What about a well-vented greenhouse? This would mitigate the cold, provide a little more temperature stability than outside, and protect from wind.

The part I don't understand is how the bees deal with the hive relocation...