Is there anything like a hive heater/warmer on the market? I don't have a temperature controlled bldg for over wintering hives. I'm thinking of just using some water pipe heating tape coiled up on a tray just below the sbb to keep the hive temp at least 32F. The idea to to protect the bees from cold snaps that we occasionaly get in NC, but still allow them to fly on the warm days during the winter.
You're in North Carolina and you want to heat the hive in the winter? I had them in Western Nebraska and Laramie Wyoming and the temps often got to -30 F in the winter. I've never used any heater. I have considered it though. An old water bed heater might have the weather resistance etc. to handle the problem. They also make heaters for chicken waterers (see Murray McMurray's web site) that might work well.
i'd be worried about having your bees being more active and consuming more honey and possibly running out of stores if you keep them too warm.would the queen keep laying more if the temperatures inside stayed high?
The October 2001 American Bee Journal had an article on 'Hive Heating Revisited'. Light bulbs were used as a heat source.
So far, the only things I've done were putting them on top of a strong hive with a double screen board or putting them on a strong hive with an inner cover with the cutout up and double screen on the hole. Anything more, I'm afraid would be counter productive, but in NC I don't think I'd bother with it. I'm just afraid of those 30 below nights with a weak colony here. I'm not worried about them at 10 degress F or so. I don't think you get any colder than that do you?
hoosierhiver brings up a very valid point. More warmth = more active = much higher chance of starvation.
I've noticed when we have a mild winter here in north Texas (and the bees have been more active), the chances of late
Spring starvation are greatly increased. They have consumed more of their food stores than during winters where it's been very cold.
Be care about your logic that leads you to believe that warmer is better.
Normally, I wouldn't be concerned about helping the bees warm. But I think this small colony (about 3 deep frames of bees) is special: I rescued them from a historic bldg (cir. 1786) that was about be be restored in late Sept. Based on the condition of the wall cavity - bees had been using it for a very long time. This colony only had one or two mites drop over 48+ hours.
In NC we have a mild-wild winter with temps ranging from 0 - 70F, 0 - 2 inches ice, 0 snaow to 2 feet, all of which can change drastically in a short time. I believe I've lost a couple of colonies that were caught off their honey stores by a cold snap. IMHO constant deep cold is better for the bees than wild temp fluctuations.
I don't think keeping the interior of a hive at about 32F will make the bees more active then they already are. Also, I read an article from a bee operation in Canada that investigated over-wintering: they found that completely covering hives with snow reduced losses. A couple of feet of snow as insulation will keep the hive interior at a constant 32F. This same outfit concluded that overwintering outdoors with a blanket of snow was better than indoors in a climate controlled building. I think the key is not to heat the interior above 32F (bees should be tightly clustered, but safe at this temp).
I've been feeding sugar syrup and gave them a couple of extra combs full of honey.
I'll investigate the water bed and chicken water heater suggestions.
THANKS to all for the feedback - keep it coming!
I too have a couple of ferral hives that I have removed from OLD buildings. A precious gem to take good care of for sure, but don't be overprotective either.
I would do as MB suggested and stack them above a strong hive and let them share the warmth. Just be sure that they don't run out of stores.
The chicken waterer is trying to keep the water just above freezing. This is better than keeping it warmer, I think. I agree about 32 would be a nice temperature. They would be clustered and quiet but not need as much energy to heat the cluster.
I stiill think the most foolproof method is to just put them on top of another strong hive if you have one, with a double screen board or an inner cover with screen on both sides of the hole and the entrance notch up. That way the cluster below will keep the upper story warm and at adequate humidity.
I've never tried overwintering a small hive on it's own before, and I don't know how well they will do, but I have six hives of about that size right now that are in seperate hives. I also have five that are on top of other hives. I'll know better how they all do in the spring.