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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Northern Minnesota
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    This is my first attempt at overwintering two-story hives in a dark, cool (20-30 F), insulated building. Does anyone have suggestions as to when I should take them outside? Our strongest four hives are alive and well (I lost three), and have adequate food stores. Here in northern Minnesota, we still have snow on the ground and the temps hover in the 40's/20's (day/nite).

    Thanks,

    Jim

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Bismarck, ND USA
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    514

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    I used to winter some (20 - 40 hives) indoors for a few years. I moved them out generally anywhere from the end of March to the middle of April, depending on the weather.
    Gregg Stewart

  3. #3
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    Mar 2005
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    Northern Minnesota
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    Thanks, Gregg, for your advice!!

    I'm curious, did you stop wintering inside? If so, why?

    Jim

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
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    Bismarck, ND USA
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    Yes, stopped wintering inside. They now winter outside, but in warm & sunny (sometimes) California. If I ever have any "extra" that don't go to CA, I may winter some inside again, but not sure if the extra work of moving them in and cleaning up would be worth it for a small number of hives. The one year when I wintered 20 inside (single deep), all of them survived. The next year I had 48 hives inside (probably too many for my rather small hot room, not really designed to winter bees), I lost about 1/3 of them.
    Gregg Stewart

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Northern Minnesota
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    California sounds MUCH better!!

    I agree with the work concerns, it is a lot more work. But, I was hoping I could get by with less winter stores by keeping them in a warmer environment (20 above vs 20 below).

    I'm curious about the single box method... When did you make the "single", in the fall?

    Did you make divides from those in the spring or just let them build up and add a second body?

    What kind of bees were you using with the singles?

    As you can tell from my questions, I'm pretty "green" yet, but willing to learn.

    Thanks again!

    Jim

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Bismarck, ND USA
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    I did some "experimenting" back when I was wintering up here (very low tech) using single deeps vs. double deeps. I had better success using a single deep and feeding the heck out of them (5-6 gallons of HFCS in September/October) than I did with the double deeps. I kept them in single deeps for the brood chamber year round (supers above a queen excluder in the Summer). Mainly used Carniolans (and still do). I was naturally concerned about starvation by Spring, but of those that I lost that generally wasn't the problem. Quite often the good hives would have 4 of the 9 frames still full of syrup in the Spring, so I didn't do any Spring feeding back then, just swapped frames around where necessary.
    Gregg Stewart

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Manitoba Canada
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    5,834

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    Do you know why you wintered better in singles. I know all the economics and logistics of singles, but why did they winter better?

    I have been considering converting my entire wintering to indoors, but not crazy about running singles. I am considering wintering doubles indoors. To me, the hives as doubles should winter better, having a longer brooding period due to more avaliable comb to lay in. But I guess the honey might be a disadvantage,...
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Bismarck, ND USA
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    I really can't say for sure Ian. I did not feed the doubles nearly as much (some none, if in my estimation they had enough honey in the Fall) as the singles. I fed the singles so much nearly every frame was full. In fact, I was a little concerned that if we got an early cold snap they might be in trouble, because they do need some open cells to form a good cluster.

    This is just speculation on my part: perhaps the singles did better since they had a smaller space to keep warm? I know they don't heat the entire hive cavity, just the cluster, but with a much smaller space maybe the heat is kept in better keeping the cluster warmer? Maybe because the bees are so crammed into the single (one disadvantage to this method, trying to drive all the bees into a single deep when stripping honey) that they are able to keep warm more efficiently?

    I left my hive top feeders on all Winter. After they were empty I stuffed fiberglass insulation in them, not only to keep the heat in but also to absorb moisture. Wrapped the hives with a single layer of black roofing paper.

    Also one year I tried stacking the singles on top of each other (3 high) above double screen boards. The idea was that the rising heat would help keep the hives on top warmer. Only tried it one year, but it seemed to help. If I recall, the only hives I lost that year were the ones on the bottom of a stack.
    Gregg Stewart

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Northern Minnesota
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    40

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    Gregg:

    Thanks, again...

    If you had a good fall nectar flow, could you forego the HFCS? Using singles though the honey flow, did you have problems with swarming? How about yields, do you feel you give up some yield with singles?

    Some of my limited homework on indoor overwintering would suggest that lack of proper ventilation is a primary killer, did you ventilate the room and leave the top/bottom open to some degree?

    Jim

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Bismarck, ND USA
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    Not much of a Fall flow around here, and since they were in singles all Summer, they didn't store much honey in the brood chamber, so I felt the heavy feeding in the Fall was absolutely critical. I did not have many problems with swarming using the singles. Usually the hives weren't overly strong in the Spring, so by doing a little equalizing it wasn't an issue then. I can remember having a few swarms after taking the first round of honey off in late July/early August, but not very many, only a few from over 200 hives.

    As far as production goes, I don't think my honey production suffered much. Looking back over my records (I ran singles exclusively for 5 years), I averaged anywhere from 90 lbs. {2001, a poor honey year} to 180 lbs. {1997, a very good honey year}. Do you get as strong a colony from a single as compared to double? Probably not, but strong enough IMO to get a good crop and getting an "extra" box of honey is more than enough to make up for it.

    I think you are correct in that ventilation is critical for wintering bees indoors. I had mine in my "hot room" of my honey house (kept at 40 degrees and in complete darkness). I did not have wintering bees in mind when the honey house was built, so this roomed was definitely not designed for this. I think I over exceeded the capacity of the room the Winter I had 48 hives in there and lost some of them. The previous Winter when I had only 20 onside I did not lose any. Bottoms were open on the hives but I had no way to ventilate the entire room, which I think would have helped tremendously and greatly increased the capacity of the room.
    Gregg Stewart

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Northern Minnesota
    Posts
    40

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    Greg:

    You are exceedingly helpful!! Thank you again.

    If I may, I have a few more questions...

    I'm an Extension agent with the "farming disease", so aside from my day job, we raise animals on pasture (as well as a few bees). In doing so, I manage the forages (largely clover based) so we have flowers all summer and well into the fall. Also, we typically are not as dry as you may be in the fall, so I think we may have more nectar available in the fall. So if I could build the reserves without feeds, I would be happy. Time will tell...

    My wintering room is not used for extraction and is more than large enough for our few hives, so I'm confident we can keep the temp, humidity, and ventilation in a range that's conducive to overwintering success. So I hope to continue with this process. My only change will be to develop a system so I can do it without bending/lifting. So, in terms of time, I think
    moving hives (across the yard), will be a wash to wrapping.

    Sounds like the single system was well, why did you change?

    Also, would you divide the overwintered ones?

    Thanks again, I'll quit pestering you!

    Jim

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Bismarck, ND USA
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    Post

    Hey Jim,

    My Dad was an Extension agent for 30 years (now retired). [img]smile.gif[/img]

    You are probably right thinking that you get more of a fall flow than we do here. We usually get pretty dry in August/September. You still may consider doing some feeding in the Fall. With double deeps you can probably get away without feeding much, but I don't think I'd try it with singles.

    I quit running singles when I began sending the bees for the Winter to CA. They need to be in two boxes for almond pollination, so I run them in 1 & 1/2s now.

    I used to make some splits from hives wintered indoors (and outdoors also). I tried not to weaken them very much though, take maybe 1 frame of brood from a hive, so it'd take 3 good hives to make one 3 frame nuc. In my experience, they won't have any brood right when you move them outside, having been kept in the dark all Winter. I'd give them 3 - 4 weeks after moving them out before splitting them. Also during this time they'll be using a lot of food to get that brood going, so watch them for stores.

    Have you looked at your hives yet that are inside? Let us know how they did.
    Gregg Stewart

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Northern Minnesota
    Posts
    40

    Post

    Sending them to CA is much easier, I'm sure... not to mention more profitable...

    I plan to move our hives out in the next week or two when the weather is a little warmer so I can get a better look inside. I've only peeked at them in storage with a flashlight and lifted the boxes to determine remaining food stores.

    Thanks again for your help.

    Jim

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Northern Minnesota
    Posts
    40

    Post

    Gregg:

    We moved the hives outside this weekend. When they went into storage, they weighed from 90 to 108 lbs (two deeps with top/bottom). We reweighed them and they lost only about 20-25 lbs. Does this abnormally low? Thoughts?

    On our first warm, sunny day, I'll open them up and add honey frames and do a better check, but for now, we just moved them outside.

    Jim

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Bismarck, ND USA
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    514

    Post

    Jim,

    Did they all make it (dead hives, depending on when and why they died, don't use much stores )? IMO that seems reasonable for food usage over the Winter (I am speculating somewhat here as I never weighed mine), as long as the hives are strong. Maybe someone else will chime in on if that amount of stores used sounds reasonable? That is one advantage of wintering inside, in that they shouldn't use as much food as compared to hives outside (out of the wind and the wildly fluctuating temperatures). Are they brimming with bees? They will probably begin using a lot of food to raise brood. What race of bees are they?

    Sounds like these should be good hives to split in a few weeks (if that's what you want to do). Continue to keep us informed.
    Gregg Stewart

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Northern Minnesota
    Posts
    40

    Post

    Gregg:

    We only weighed the live ones and I have not looked at the "dead" ones. When I last peeked, the clusters were small and judging by the color, I suspect they are carniolans, but I'm not sure. We bought them from a retiring hobby beekeeper in Ada (MN)and if he told us, I don't recall.

    They are certainly not brimming with bees and I suspect the queen has not started laying eggs yet. I don't know, but that's my guess. The storage room was dark and kept at about 25-35 degrees.

    I'll give you an update when I get a better look. Waiting for warmer weather.

    When do yours come back to ND?

    Jim

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Bismarck, ND USA
    Posts
    514

    Cool

    WOW! 71 degrees here today! Bees will get back in early May, although I checked and where they are at in CA it is only 59 degrees today.
    Gregg Stewart

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Lakeland FL
    Posts
    840

    Post

    so gregg an Ian do you think it is better to use a single than a double? does the queen have enough room to lay in the spring? and with indoor wintering if it warms up in the middle of winter say it goes from 20-30 up to 45f does this hus the bees? thanks Nick

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Bismarck, ND USA
    Posts
    514

    Post

    hey st,

    I had better luck wintering singles than doubles, both inside and outside, but that doesn't mean it would work for everyone. I first got the idea of wintering outdoors in singles from an article in the ABJ about an outfit in Canada that did it. If I had to start wintering up here again, I'd probably do more experimenting with doubles & singles outside, but IMO singles are the way to go for indoor wintering. I think the queen has enough room to make a hive to produce a honey crop (as noted above).

    I don't think it will hurt the bees during warm spells in the winter, as long as it doesn't get too warm inside (adequate ventilation is crucial). I have read of beekeepers moving their bees outside on a warm Winter day to give them a chance for a cleansing flight (probably only practical if the hives are on pallets and a forklift is used, otherwise a lot of time and work involved; mine stayed inside all Winter when I was wintering inside).

    Your turn Ian [img]smile.gif[/img] .
    Gregg Stewart

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Langley, B.C. Canada
    Posts
    413

    Post

    >> does the queen have enough room to lay in a single 10 frame box

    Using these facts and the fact that 21 days after an egg is laid, a worker bee emerges, we calculated the theoretical maximum brood area for a normal queen under ideal circumstances:

    1500 eggs X 21 days to emergence = 31,500 cells full of brood for a good queen laying full out every day.

    31,500 divided by 6,500 usable cells per frame = 4.85 maximum possible full frames of brood per normal single queen hive

    Terry

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