View Poll Results: upper vents in winter: Y/N? consequences?

Voters
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  • don't use them, lower openings only

    7 17.50%
  • have always used them

    22 55.00%
  • didn't use them at least once, had problems (condensation or mold), use them now

    11 27.50%
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
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    Auburn, NY
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    Default upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    This poll grew out of another thread about inner cover material (http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...cover-material). Obviously not using upper vents would help with heat retention in winter, but dogma is that it risks condensation. However, people using plexi inner covers do not observe this. So what have you experienced?
    thanks!
    Last edited by zippelk; 09-07-2011 at 10:38 AM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    Unfortunately, this type of poll might skew results as it groups all beeks into one large category and does not allow for different environments.

    For example, I live in a very dry climate where condensation is not typically an issue as could be compared to other areas. What works in this region will not necessarily work in another.
    Jim Andersen
    Desert Viking Ranch

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
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    Clifford Township, PA
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    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    Quote Originally Posted by zippelk View Post
    However, people using plexi inner covers do not observe this.
    I think if you look at the photos that are still available in that old thread, you will see some vent holes, either in the plexiglass or in the frames. As Jim said above, and as Dennis Murrell said in a page that you linked to, folks a dry climate may have no problem. Auburn NY is not that type of climate.

    Wayne

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
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    Fort Worth, TX, USA
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    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    Fort Worth Texas is not usually that type of climate. It typically starts raining in October, and stops in February. last year was atypical. I pulled my top screened vent to prevent brood chilling for the last couple of nights. Will be painting it, adding a bit of caulk along the screen to better protect against moths getting into the hive itself. I had not planned on leaving it on this winter, or I was going to put some corks in the drilled openings and pop in some styrofoam insulation. But condensation?

    This thread needs posts from wet climates.
    Time to be a gypsy again, 2014 will be my prep year, my bees want a better area with actual rainfall.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Auburn, NY
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    112

    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    @Jim - that is exactly the sort of info I hope to record here in the comment section. What is the interaction of location/climate, do you use insulation over the IC, do you wrap, etc. Too many variables for the survey itself, but great fodder for discussion below. Regarding location/climate, the plexi users are reporting no problems with condensation raining down in WY, AK, VA, TN, CA, and the UK. see http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...material/page3

    @Wayne - Some of them have vents, but many do not. The WY/AK guy experimented with and without and found no difference. The UK guys in that post are adamantly against the upper vents. It sure works in some places, maybe not all, and the plexi IC is a cool way to see.

    cheers

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Mtn. View, Arkansas, USA
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    1,270

    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    When I started beekeeping I used upper entrances make by drilling holes in the supers. I did this because that is what all of the books recommended. After about 4 years I noticed that the colonies that went into winter with no upper entrance survived just as well as those that had upper entrances. This was before open mesh bottom boards came into use and the entrance was full width and 3/8 inches high. I later read Elbert Jaycox's book on beekeeping and how the U of ILL at Champaign used only lower entrances on their uninsulated colonies when he was teaching there. Their overwintering success was very good and they had no moisture problems.

    I never had evidence of moisture problems such as moldy combs until tracheal mites arrived here in Arkansas. Those bees that died overwinter dwindled to very small adult populations and had a lot of mold in the hive. I have seen mold when there was a lot of unripened sugar syrup left in deadouts. It is my opinion much of what is blamed on moisture is actually caused by going into winter with insufficient adult bee population caused by queens not laying enough brood in Aug.- October. Heavy varroa populations causes shortned life spans of adults also.

    When the open mesh bottom board was described in the bee magazines I started using it instead of a solid bottom board. Overwintering success is the same as with the solid bottom board I used before. I over winter 20 to 25 colonies and 32 nucs that usually have grown to 8 or 10 frames. I have not lost a colony in 3 years but I usually lose 3 to 5 nucs, mostly to queen failure. I have never lost more than 1 out of each 12 colonies overwintered.

    The winter climate here in north Arkansas is mild compared to up north. January till March is our worst months. The nights are in the 20's or upper teens and the days are low to mid 40's. We seldom have more than a 2 week period when the bees can't fly to take a dump. Our snows seldom get over 1 foot and last a week or two. A snow in March or early April is common.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
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    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    I ventilate by default since I need an upper entrance. I have 4 beeyards now and don't have the luxury of running out to the backyard and cleaning snow away from a bottom entrance. I snowshoe out and sometimes have to clear snow away from the top entrance.

    I'm not going to muck around with what works for the supposed benefits of a piece of plexiglas sealing the top of the hive. The bees do not need to retain all that heat along with the accumulated moisture in the hive. At least here in Maine, where it has been known to get chilly in the winter, the bees can survive the cold. I see it. I've also seen them not tolerate built-up moisture.

    Dennis also mentioned that he tried pexiglas and no longer uses it. I see no need for it either. If you are opening your hive in conditions that require plexiglas to be effective in protecting your bees, then you are opening your hive at the wrong time. Opening in winter should be a quick affair, on a relatively warm, sunny day and lasting, perhaps. a minute at most, and that short period of time should not chill the cluster.

    Wait for spring to spend a lingering afternoon gazing longingly at the bees. I vote for ventilation because that is what works in my beeyards.

    Wayne

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    46,100

    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    When I was in Western Nebraska condensation never seemed to be an issue. I'm sure there was some, but it was low enough that the bees just used it as a water source. When I moved to Eastern Nebraska I found I had an issue. The ice would build up in the middle of the inner cover over the bees and then melt on a moderate day and then a plunging temperature at night would kill the bees. A lot of the difference in observation is locality. Differences in HOW cold it gets and what the humidity is and how windy it is etc. etc. etc.

    That and you have to take into account that some people are just not observers. They are not paying attention to the details.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Menomonee Falls, Wis.
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    2,690

    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    You forgot a category in you poll. "Previously used upper entrances and switched to none". We would fit in that category.

    Crazy Roland

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
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    Fort Worth, TX, USA
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    1,774

    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    Quote Originally Posted by Roland View Post
    You forgot a category in you poll. "Previously used upper entrances and switched to none". We would fit in that category.

    Crazy Roland
    Do you fully close the hive for the winter?
    Time to be a gypsy again, 2014 will be my prep year, my bees want a better area with actual rainfall.

  11. #11
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    Dec 2008
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    Menomonee Falls, Wis.
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    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    My bad, I was referring to upper entrances only. We used upper entrances many years ago, but stopped. The bottom has always had a mouse guard with about a 3" wide opening(wire mesh covered)

    Crazy Roland

  12. #12
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    Mar 2011
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    Fort Worth, TX, USA
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    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    I am not voting in that poll, as it will be my first winter. Every experienced beek please vote!
    Time to be a gypsy again, 2014 will be my prep year, my bees want a better area with actual rainfall.

  13. #13
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    Mar 2011
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    Fort Worth, TX, USA
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    1,774

    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    Sounds like I'll be building a mouse-guard too.
    Time to be a gypsy again, 2014 will be my prep year, my bees want a better area with actual rainfall.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Auburn, NY
    Posts
    112

    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    Thanks everybody, for the great info rolling in so far!

    @Wayne - the plexi isn't for heat retention, it's a research tool to allow observation of winter condensation patterns with minimal disturbance to the colony, and not for use outside of that specific experiment.

    @Michael - when you moved east and noticed the problems, were you using insulation over the IC? were you wrapping? using SBBs?

    @Roland - why did you stop using upper vents? with your current vent-less setup, do you now use insulation over the IC? do you wrap? do you use a SBB?

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Clarksville, Michigan, USA
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    216

    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    I am more confused now than ever. I just spent days researching to make sure venting was the way I should go. Now I have doubts. Is anyone from Michigan able to help clear things up a little. I am now thinking jut my usual mouse guards and adding black wrap and insulation above the inner cover but skipping the vents.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    46,100

    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    "I had a neighbor who used the common box hive; he had a two inch hole in the top which he left open all winter; the hives setting on top of hemlock stumps without any protection, summer or winter, except something to keep the rain out and snow from beating into the top of the hive. he plastered up tight all around the bottom of the hive for winter. his bees wintered well, and would every season swarm from two to three weeks earlier than mine; scarcely any of them would come out on the snow until the weather was warm enough for them to get back into the hive.

    "Since then I have observed that whenever I have found a swarm in the woods where the hollow was below the entrance, the comb was always bright and clean, and the bees were always in the best condition; no dead bees in the bottom of the log; and on the contrary when I have found a tree where the entrance was below the hollow, there was always more or less mouldy comb, dead bees &c.

    "Again if you see a box hive with a crack in it from top to bottom large enough to put your fingers in, the bees are all right in nine cases out of ten. The conclusion I have come to is this, that with upward ventilation without any current of air from the bottom of the hive, your bees will winter well without any cobs."--Elishia Gallup, The American Bee Journal 1867, Volume 3, Number 8 pg 153
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  17. #17
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    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    Well, does that mean I should insulate my upper screened vent but not cork the side openings?
    Time to be a gypsy again, 2014 will be my prep year, my bees want a better area with actual rainfall.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    >Well, does that mean I should insulate my upper screened vent but not cork the side openings?

    Well, it's just a quote of an observation on top entrances. If it was me, I would close all the side openings permanently and have a top entrances...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
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    Fort Worth, TX, USA
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    1,774

    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    I should take a pic of my upper screened vent. After I propped open the telescoping cover and let in a few moths and shb while giving my bees relief from the 110 degree heat;
    I took a 1x4, cut it to appropriate dimensions, screwed it together, stapled screen to the bottom, drilled a 3/4 inch hole in each side, and put it between my top deep and the telescoping lid.

    Greatly reduced the visiting moth count, almost eliminated shb visitors, lowered the hive temp, and protected from robber bees. The top openings attracted all of the above like well, honey, but they couldn't get into my hive.

    I find the bottom opening easier to defend with a robber guard, which I built after viewing your site. I may not have flow until spring, and to be honest, if the la nina current is an indicator, I may not have much rain for this winter. A severe Texas drought can last several years. So the best robber defense is also the best way for me to go. Is fiberglass insulation above screen harmful to the bees? If I am not corking the openings, I don't want anything that will rot in case a little of that rare rain comes in. It's window screen.

    Gypsi
    Time to be a gypsy again, 2014 will be my prep year, my bees want a better area with actual rainfall.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
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    3,946

    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    Fiberglass insuation is fine, it doesn't bother the bees at all.just leave them a way out thru it AND I like top entrances myself and let the bees have both in the summer, just the top in the winter.

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