I am an novice beekeepers and I work at an outdoor school. Last spring, we got a three frame observation hive (the frames are stacked, so all cells are visible). I am wondering what it would take to overwinter a hive like this in South-western Michigan. We don't have many visitors in the winter, so the hive doesn't need to be visible. It is located in a school room where the temps will drop to the low 50's over the winter. The bees seem to be doing well right now, and seem strong. They have an access tube outside the building. I would love to be able to keep them alive over the winter, but don't know if that is a realistic hope. Should I feed them? Should I insulate them or is 50 degrees okay?
I am guessing that the biggest problem would be lack of stores for the winter. What would happen if I would arrange a deep super under the obs. hive with a queen excluder over the passage between the two, so that the workers could store honey in the super, but the queen would be visible in the observation hive until the end of October. Then, I could remove the queen excluder and allow her to go down into the hive where the honey is and move her back to the observation hive in the spring. Anyone have any other ideas?
With just 3 frames, I think you would need to be able to feed periodically. You should provide some insulation, a foam panel on each glass should work. Michael B. will be along in a few minutes with more experience with OB hives. He is in Nebraska, so he has to deal with winters too.
>I am wondering what it would take to overwinter a hive like this in South-western Michigan. We don't have many visitors in the winter, so the hive doesn't need to be visible. It is located in a school room where the temps will drop to the low 50's over the winter.
I overwinter similar hives inside my living room, but it's more like 70. Actually 50's is probably better as they won't be so active.
>The bees seem to be doing well right now, and seem strong. They have an access tube outside the building. I would love to be able to keep them alive over the winter, but don't know if that is a realistic hope.
I overwinter them all the time. If you start with a fairly full hive and feed them they should make it to spring.
>Should I feed them?
> Should I insulate them or is 50 degrees okay?
Insulating the glass probably wouldn't hurt. It will probably help them manage to raise brood over the winter.
Just make sure you have plenty of bees and a feeder and keep feed on them and they should overwinter fine. The insulation may help them be able to raise some brood. Make sure the tube doesn't get clogged with dead bees. I sometimes have to clear out the tube so they can fly on warm days. I just disconnect, put some cloth on connection to the hive and blow all the dead bees out of the tube to the outdoors. Mine has a swivel on it and the bees sometimes pile up in there also, so I sometimes take it out on the porch and dump the dead bees out of there or use a large auger bit to fish the dead bees out. There's no real traffic in the winter on a cold day so the bees seldom get out while doing this.
Thanks for your replies,Ross and Michael!
Michael, does that mean that you would not try to modify the observation hive to increase storage using a deep super?
When we installed the hive, we figured that the bees would die off over the winter, so if I can keep them alive, it would be a great $$ savings!
Also, I am curious, how much do you medicate your observation hive bees?
>Michael, does that mean that you would not try to modify the observation hive to increase storage using a deep super?
I would not.
>When we installed the hive, we figured that the bees would die off over the winter, so if I can keep them alive, it would be a great $$ savings!
And you get to see how the bees act as they overwinter.
>Also, I am curious, how much do you medicate your observation hive bees?
Not at all. But then I have feral survivors on small cell.
If you really needed to treat for mites you could pull the frames and put them in a nuc and vaporize some oxalic acid. After a half an hour or so put them back in the observation hive and back in the building.
Off the top of my head this is the list of any medications used on any hives ever from 1974 until now:
Terramycin. 1974 and 1975 because I was told to. Never since.
Grease patties. Once in 1999, before I figured out that Varroa were the real problem.
Apistan. 1999, 2000, 2001 only in the fall. Complete failed to kill Varroa in 2001.
Check mite. Never
FGMO fog only. 2002
FGMO on top bars 1999
Formic acid. Never
Oxalic acid vapor. 2003 2004 on selected hives
Oxalic acid trickling. Never
Essential oils (Wintergreen 1999 and HBH 2001)
Nothing at all on all hives from 1976 to 1998.
Nothing at all on selected hives from 2002 to 2005 including two four frame observation hives.
Same here. The observation hive doesn't get medicated and they seem to be doing fine - but I have much less experience than Michael Bush. You probably have to feed with sugar water and pollen substitute (optional - starting in February). On a nice day in winter, I'm going to try feeding them a full deep frame when they have used up the bottom deep frame. For that purpose I have frozen a deep frame of summer honey. The sugar water feeding was messy.
Do you feed pollen substitute to your observation hive over the winter? If so, how do you feed it? As patties or dry or what?
Also, what sugar:water ratio do you use for feeding your observation hive over the winter?
>Do you feed pollen substitute to your observation hive over the winter?
Real pollen yes. Substitute? No.
>If so, how do you feed it? As patties or dry or what?
I just dump it in the hole I put in the top to fill the frame feeder. Not very much and not very often. Unfortunately it also acts as yeast food and makes the syrup go bad. Not the best system. I probably need another hole that won't land in the feeder.
>Also, what sugar:water ratio do you use for feeding your observation hive over the winter?
Sometimes I've fed them honey all winter. Sometimes I feed them 2:1.
How much ventlation do you provide in your OB hive?
I am building a 5 (deep) frame that will be in my garage (she wont let me have it in the house) :( I keep the temp. at 50 degrees I will use foam insulation to cover the glass and have a 1 1/2" PVC pipe going through the wall.
I have 6 - 3/4" vents that I can close while doing dusty work in the garage, so what do you think?
Six 3/4" vents sounds about right. Seems like all observation hives take a bit of tweaking. If they are having trouble rearing brood you may have too much ventilation. If the glass keeps getting condensation on it, they may not have enough.