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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA
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    2,901

    Default TBH wintering questions

    This is my first season with two tbh's. I'm starting to think about how to winter them correctly, so I have a couple questions regarding that. After brood rearing ceases for the year, do the bees begin the late fall/winter period clustering in the front part of the hive near the entrance and work their way back towards the rear of the hive as winter progresses? Do I need to do any insulating of the hive on the outside? Should I provide some type of small top entrance somewhere on the hive? Should I make sure that they have bars of pollen reserves located towards the rear of the hive if that is where the cluster will be in late winter/early spring? Can I limit the hive's interior space available to the bees by inserting a solid divider board behind the last bar occupied by the bees? Thanks. John

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Sauk, WI, USA
    Posts
    144

    Default Re: TBH wintering questions

    Hi John--My first year with topbars (or any hives), too. I started with 2, now have a very small third colony.

    I hope we get answers to all these questions. The only one I can answer regards the follower board. If there is any unused hive body space, it should get closed off the the follower board to give them less hive space to regulate for temp and humidity.

    I'm assuming once brood production has slowed and honey production ended that they will cluster around remaining brood in the nest area, which probably is at one end of your hive. Then, they will make their way through the honey and probably end at the back of the hive. Hopefully they will not run out of honey before spring. This is also the area of the hive that I feed in. I have a follower board with a notch cut out for a Boardman feeder so that the bees can access it from in front of the follower board and I can slide the cover off only enough to access it for refilling. Does that make sense?

    As for heat/humidity, I keep reading that humidity is more of a concern than cold. The hive will be warm inside, very cold outside, so condensation forming at the top and dripping down on the bees is the worst fear. I plan to insultate the inside of my topbar cover to help prevent condensation at the top of the hive. My hives are tilted a tiny bit forward, so any consensation should drip out the entrance.

    Regarding entrances, I plan to have mine spaced at a minimum. Still thinking of what to do to protect from mice.... I will probably prop the lid somewhere a bit to give them another entrance in case dead bees are blocking the bottom one...

    Good luck! It will be so interesting to see how the bees overwinter.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Hudson, WI USA
    Posts
    2,238

    Default Re: TBH wintering questions

    My one TBH overwintered here last year in Wisconsin in what was a long cold winter. It had a lid which contained a 1 inch piece of insulation rested on top of the top bars. I used a follower board which was just about 3 or 4 inches from the back. The hive had a single upper entrance which I closed down to about an inch or so.
    I wouldn't worry about rearranging bars - the bees will put pollen where they want it. I read that one key was to leave the hive heavy with honey and then to leave them alone until spring, thats what I did. Don't go poking around in there - let them be. On the coldest days frozen condensation will be seen. On the milder days I would see condensation dripping from the bottom around my imperfect box making. In the spring they were alive and I put them into a Langstroth as I wanted to try that this year. Good luck, Adrian.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Battle Ground , Washington, USA
    Posts
    763

    Default Re: TBH wintering questions

    The really dont heat the inside, I've got a graf of imaging from the inside of a standard hive when it was 14 degrees outside, the cluste was like 94 degrees in the center cooling off to like 84 on the outside, the cluster was a few inches from the top of the hive, the top inside was about 74 degrees.

    That part didnt suprise me but what did was that the lower box in the corners was at 17 degrees . They really don't heat the box only the cluster, the heat that raises from the cluster makes all that condensation.

    maybe look up thermal images for bee hive , I don't have the link.
    I'm not tense, Just terribly, terribly alert!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Sauk, WI, USA
    Posts
    144

    Default Re: TBH wintering questions

    Oh--that's good to know! In a way, that should help. At least there wouldn't be condensation dripping from the entire hive. On the other hand, where there is condensation, it will be dripping directly onto the cluster below.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Hudson, WI USA
    Posts
    2,238

    Default Re: TBH wintering questions

    The condensation might not drip directly onto the cluster. An old Beek at a meeting I went to had pictures of condensation on the clear plastic inner cover he had. You could clearly see the bees in the center, apparantly condensation free, and then condensation around the cluster on the lid. His contention was that the condensation worries were overblown
    He was an old science teacher, and showed the chemical formula for the conversion of honey to carbo's as the bees eat. If I remember correctly it produced an enormous amount of CO2. He believed that bees dying because the hive was sealed too tightly were suffocated - not chilled by condensation.
    Food for thought. Adrian.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,553

    Default Re: TBH wintering questions

    >do the bees begin the late fall/winter period clustering in the front part of the hive near the entrance and work their way back towards the rear of the hive as winter progresses?

    They should start at one end of the other. They may need your help to place them there.

    > Do I need to do any insulating of the hive on the outside?

    Some styrofoam on the lid is nice or anything else that's handy that will cut down on condensation on the top.

    > Should I provide some type of small top entrance somewhere on the hive?

    That would be my only entrance, but yes, you need somewhere for the moist air to go out the top.

    > Should I make sure that they have bars of pollen reserves located towards the rear of the hive if that is where the cluster will be in late winter/early spring?

    I don't worry about that, but I guess you can put it at the opposite end from where they start.

    > Can I limit the hive's interior space available to the bees by inserting a solid divider board behind the last bar occupied by the bees?

    You can. Better to get them to fill it with stores. But if it's empty that's fine.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Dalkeith, Ont, Canada
    Posts
    206

    Default Re: TBH wintering questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Quiney WI View Post
    His contention was that the condensation worries were overblown
    He was an old science teacher, and showed the chemical formula for the conversion of honey to carbo's as the bees eat. If I remember correctly it produced an enormous amount of CO2. He believed that bees dying because the hive was sealed too tightly were suffocated - not chilled by condensation.
    Food for thought. Adrian.
    This is very interesting, I have read that insulation beyond the hive wood itself is unneeded and the guy that was writing about this was observing the bees actually drinking the water when it got warm enough for it to be liquid he found that without this condensation he had to feed them with water "dry climate"
    Makes sense since bees have been found in almost anything, I found a very healthy colony behind a brick wall, in a larger space but they still had all the "air space" between the bricks and the inner wall, so they obviously don't keep the whole hive warm just the cluster.
    Interesting about the co2. There is so much "traditional" information it can be aggravating sometimes.


    luvin honey: If you mean keeping the mice out of the entrance you can staple some 1/4" hardware cloth over the hole, big enough for bees but to small for mice.


    Sam.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Sauk, WI, USA
    Posts
    144

    Default Re: TBH wintering questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Quiney WI View Post
    ...and I put them into a Langstroth as I wanted to try that this year. Good luck, Adrian.
    If I might digress, how did you like that? I'm interested in trying different hive types also.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Sauk, WI, USA
    Posts
    144

    Default Re: TBH wintering questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam-Smith View Post
    luvin honey: If you mean keeping the mice out of the entrance you can staple some 1/4" hardware cloth over the hole, big enough for bees but to small for mice.
    Yep--that's what I meant I saw the 1/4" hardware cloth and was thinking maybe even mice could squeeze through it, but I guess they won't.

    I have my hives on 2 x 4 mounted on cedar posts. The front end entrances are about 2.5 feet off the ground. The back ends are about 1.5 feet off the ground. Do you think mice would climb the posts for a great condo to live in?

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