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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Lake County Ill
    Posts
    436

    Default Winter Prep and Sugar Bricks

    I am using 3" thick sugar bricks and placing then in shallow supers and covering the shallow supers with an inner cover and then a cantilever cover, My question is....... there will be a considerable amount of open space in the shallow supers even if I put in 2 bricks and I am concerned the extra space will serve to create a large area of cold air. Is there any safe material i can add around the sugar bricks to fill the void. The bricks will be sitting on the top bars of the frames in the lower deep.
    Thanks

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
    Posts
    636

    Default Re: Winter Prep and Sugar Bricks

    I wouldn't worry about it, though in in my situation I would set it up differently.


    From top:

    *Cantilever (or telescoping cover) with 1.5" of pink foam insulation tucked up inside
    *1.5" shim with two 1" holes left wide open, one in front and one in back
    *Shallow super turned into a quilt box by stapling muslin on the bottom and filling with dry wood shavings
    *1.5" shim with a single hole in the front; this is the feeding space where I place home-made sugar bricks. It has a 1" hole in the front that is generally reduced by covering it with a small piece of corrugated cardboard with a finger-tip diamter hole punched through to allow for it to be used as a winter entrance, if needed.
    * Top box of whatever height you would normally use.

    This provides a feeding space which is not as tall as you are planning, so better temp wise. Also I haven't had much luck getting sugar bricks thicker than about 3/4" -1" to dry well enough to make them easy to handle. YMMV. My bees hang out around the bricks in the space of the shim. The quilt box which acts as a superb moisture control mechanism as well as insulating the feeding area, and the overall hive, nicely.

    QB are very easy to make. Just make sure the floor is stretched very, very tightly so it doesn't sag down from the weight of the wood shavings. I get my shavings at Tractor Supply ("coarse" variety works best.) Leaves and grass or hay are definitely not as good as they can introduce a lot of mold spores into the hive. The filler material (shavings, etc.) is intended to absorb the moisture rising off the bees and allow it to transition out of the hive through the wide-open holes above. It really does work.

    I am north of Albany, NY, so in a very cold winter climate, Z-4.

    Enj.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Lake County Ill
    Posts
    436

    Default Re: Winter Prep and Sugar Bricks

    I like your system much better than mine. My problem si that I purchased sugar blocks that are 3" thick. They are excellent but present a whole series of other issues in context of size, so I can't use a shim at least his year. Since I have so much empty space in the shallow super with the sugar blocks I was thinking of surrounding them with some type of hard insulating foam, but decided against it as I am concerned about moisture. I am using some winter covers from Brushy Mountain that have insulation on them. Thanks for your help.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Pittsburgh, PA, USA
    Posts
    39

    Default Re: Winter Prep and Sugar Bricks

    I'm a newbee and am just thinkin' on the fly here, so take it for what it's worth. How about putting a rim of 3/4" square wood around the inside of the shallow that will just clear your 3" sugar blocks. Screw them in so they are removable if you want to use them as honey supers again. Then staple some hardware cloth mesh to the top or bottom of the rim, cover the mesh with a piece of burlap or muslin to fit, and then fill the remainder of the shallow with wood shavings. You will have to make sure that there is good ventilation above the shavings as any moisture will condense on the colder side above the shavings. That will give you room for your sugar blocks and provide insulation in the excess space. I haven't yet figured for an available top entrance or how to provide that upper ventilation.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
    Posts
    636

    Default Re: Winter Prep and Sugar Bricks

    The not-very-tall rims your are describing are sometimes calls shims, or ekes.

    Betterbee sells ones that are 1.5" high. I personally would like one 2" tall and may make some. I know if I stack two together (so, 3" in all) some of my more comb-minded girls will start drawing out stubs of comb. they don't usually fill them with brood or nectar, but still it makes for some awkwardness.

    Betterbee's shims come with a single hole in one of the short sides. I assemble them two at a time, making one with NO holes and one with two holes. Or I drill an additional hole in one short end before assembling them. If for some reason I have a two-hole shim at hand and want only one hole I screen it (summer) or plug it up inside and out (winter.) I screen the winter holes on the inside, anyway, so I can shine a flashlight in and put my eye right up to the hole with no risk of getting stung. This allows me to check on the bees' progress on their sugar bricks w/o openeing the hive in awful weather.

    Stapling wire mesh as a support under the cloth is one option. However one of the main points of the QB is to eliminate any condensation plane where droplets could form and then drip back down on the bees. The wire strands may have enough thermal mass to do that, depending on what the temperature differential was between the two areas. That's why I rely on fabric alone to support the shavings above - and why you have to stretch the daylights out of the cloth. I mound the shavings up so that they extend into the two-holed shim above. I don't use an inner cover in the winter, just the insulated tele cover. Often in really rugged (below zero F) weather there is frost or condensation on the under surface of the insulation when I take off the telecover cover. That's OK, because it can't fall back down on the bees which are safe and snug below the shavings in the "attic".

    I'm crazy about QBs!

    Enj.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    5,498

    Default Re: Winter Prep and Sugar Bricks

    Rather than sugar bricks and empty supers and empty space, why don't you feed them the syrup they need to attain winter weight? Then they would have their feed in the comb where it belongs. You could feed them enough this coming week to last until spring.

    Yes, sugar bricks and granulated sugar on the top bars will serve in an emergency, but in my opinion, both will cause the winter cluster to be too active in winter.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Lake County Ill
    Posts
    436

    Default Re: Winter Prep and Sugar Bricks

    Michael
    I have been feeding sugar syrup and will do so until the weather gets colder. The bricks are intended for the remainder of the winter as I did not use any bricks last year and had poor results. Hopefully this may provide better results.... I really don't know. With the excellent suggestions here i have a way to fill any voids and provide additional insulation and ventilate. Our winter was very severe last year,and it is miraculous any bees survived.
    Thnaks
    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    Rather than sugar bricks and empty supers and empty space, why don't you feed them the syrup they need to attain winter weight? Then they would have their feed in the comb where it belongs. You could feed them enough this coming week to last until spring.

    Yes, sugar bricks and granulated sugar on the top bars will serve in an emergency, but in my opinion, both will cause the winter cluster to be too active in winter.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Lake County Ill
    Posts
    436

    Default Re: Winter Prep and Sugar Bricks

    Using your suggestions and others I have found a solution. Iam not able to accurately describe it but I am floating a solid insulating board on top of the blocks. When the blocks are used, the board will serve as insulation to the lower deep but have space enough for ventilation and will permit bees to enter through an upper entrance .

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
    Posts
    636

    Default Re: Winter Prep and Sugar Bricks

    Just so you know, there is some concern that allowing the bees to have direct access to foam insulation is considered risky. Foam is said to have borax added to it to prevent carpenter ant damage in its conventional use inside building walls. Borax is toxic to bees.

    I do use foam insulation along the walls of my colonies (after removing some frames in each box) in winter, but the panels are protected by solid wooden follower boards inboard of the foam panels. I had already installed this late last fall when I read of the borax issue. My bees did have physical contact with the insulation panels at the lower edge and on the top of the uppermost insulation panels. As far as I could tell they simply ignored the foam all winter. And I watched very anxiously for any evidence of chewing and carefully examined the panels in the spring. I was prepared to say that it wasn't an issue for me. However over the summer I left my quilt-boxes still, but without the shavings. One of my colonies chewed through the fabric floor which allowed access to the foam inside the telecover, which they did chew on before I noticed. I saw no direct effect, or loss of bees as a result, though I preventedit at once. (This hive is so enormous that it would be hard to tell if there were any additional deaths, so I can't say for certain.) But overall I think it is a bad idea to have unprotected foam where the bees can access it. I will be using aluminum tape on the exposed edges of the foam insulation panels I use in the hives when I pack them up for winter. I got that suggestion here from anouther BS member - thanks!

    I used Dow blue foam and Corning pink and purple foams.

    Also having anything solid directly above the cluster (including foam board with reflective coating) will act as a condensation plane, creating drips when the temperature levels and humidity levels collide. You need to move the moisture up and through a vapor-permeable barrier to a place where it can exit the hive without falling back down on the bees. Shavings place above a fabric floor in a cavity with wide-open ventilation accomplishes this handily. Moisture rises on the warm interior temps through the fabric and is absorbed by the shavings from which it is constantly shed through the vent holes. But meanwhile the shavings protect the hive interior from excessive draft and cold outside air. (Hence the "quilty-ness" in the name of what is otherwise basically a moisture management tool.)

    Enj.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    5,498

    Default Re: Winter Prep and Sugar Bricks

    Quote Originally Posted by woodedareas View Post
    Michael
    I have been feeding sugar syrup and will do so until the weather gets colder. The bricks are intended for the remainder of the winter as I did not use any bricks last year and had poor results. Hopefully this may provide better results.... I really don't know. With the excellent suggestions here i have a way to fill any voids and provide additional insulation and ventilate. Our winter was very severe last year,and it is miraculous any bees survived.
    Thnaks
    Well, how are you feeding? You can feed enough in a week to hold them until spring, so why bother with bricks..."For the remainder of the winter".

    You had poor results without bricks, but I have to ask...Why did the colonies perish? Starvation, or everything else under the sun? Starvation is only one cause for colony death, and that's an easy one to overcome. Feed them enough now and be done with it.

    Yes, last winter was a long cold one. But, our European stock has been surviving winters for eons. Where are your bees coming from is one question you should be asking yourself. Stock that has the ability to winter, or stock that has never seen a winter?

    To winter successfully, a colony needs a large cluster of young bees, a hive that will vent away excess moisture, and enough feed. No gadgets or gizmos.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Washington County, Maine
    Posts
    2,955

    Default Re: Winter Prep and Sugar Bricks

    It really sounds like you are not leaving adequate bee prepared stores for winter. If you harvest, perhaps some of what you harvested wasn't surplus.

    Planning to do an emergency feed if needed is prudent. Planning to leave emergency feed on the hive seems like PPB.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    Posts
    1,347

    Default Re: Winter Prep and Sugar Bricks

    I used purple foam board in my hives with no issues...bees didn't touch it.

    Last year I insulated and quilt boxed most of my hives. Some I didn't get around to kitting out. All were offered syrup in the fall...not all took it. All were offered a thin sugar block after Xmas...some ate it, some didn't. The pampered hives did no better or worse than those left to be bees with apparently adequate feed stores. Go figure.


    Quote Originally Posted by enjambres View Post
    Just so you know, there is some concern that allowing the bees to have direct access to foam insulation is considered risky. Foam is said to have borax added to it to prevent carpenter ant damage in its conventional use inside building walls. Borax is toxic to bees.

    I do use foam insulation along the walls of my colonies (after removing some frames in each box) in winter, but the panels are protected by solid wooden follower boards inboard of the foam panels. I had already installed this late last fall when I read of the borax issue. My bees did have physical contact with the insulation panels at the lower edge and on the top of the uppermost insulation panels. As far as I could tell they simply ignored the foam all winter. And I watched very anxiously for any evidence of chewing and carefully examined the panels in the spring. I was prepared to say that it wasn't an issue for me. However over the summer I left my quilt-boxes still, but without the shavings. One of my colonies chewed through the fabric floor which allowed access to the foam inside the telecover, which they did chew on before I noticed. I saw no direct effect, or loss of bees as a result, though I preventedit at once. (This hive is so enormous that it would be hard to tell if there were any additional deaths, so I can't say for certain.) But overall I think it is a bad idea to have unprotected foam where the bees can access it. I will be using aluminum tape on the exposed edges of the foam insulation panels I use in the hives when I pack them up for winter. I got that suggestion here from anouther BS member - thanks!

    I used Dow blue foam and Corning pink and purple foams.

    Also having anything solid directly above the cluster (including foam board with reflective coating) will act as a condensation plane, creating drips when the temperature levels and humidity levels collide. You need to move the moisture up and through a vapor-permeable barrier to a place where it can exit the hive without falling back down on the bees. Shavings place above a fabric floor in a cavity with wide-open ventilation accomplishes this handily. Moisture rises on the warm interior temps through the fabric and is absorbed by the shavings from which it is constantly shed through the vent holes. But meanwhile the shavings protect the hive interior from excessive draft and cold outside air. (Hence the "quilty-ness" in the name of what is otherwise basically a moisture management tool.)

    Enj.
    Janne....first hives April 2013, 19 hives, treat, plant zone 8b, at sea level, latitude 49.13, longitude 123.06

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Lake County Ill
    Posts
    436

    Default Re: Winter Prep and Sugar Bricks

    I am not expert in bee survival. But it appears that starvation and excessive moisture were the primary causes. This year I am trying to overcome these issue. I am certain there are numerous other factors involved but these 2 factors and the weather appear to be th primary causes.I am feeding a lot right know and will do so until the weather gets to cold for them to take the syrup. Then I will use my sugar bricks, and with the hides from the Forum and hours of testing different configurations, I feel I am ready. Mu hives that did the worst last year were 3 hives on which I left a super partially full of honey. It was in these hives that moisture was readily apparent. I have now a better method for ventilation.
    Thanks

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Bayfield, Colorado, USA
    Posts
    156

    Default Re: Winter Prep and Sugar Bricks

    Quote Originally Posted by woodedareas View Post
    I like your system much better than mine. My problem si that I purchased sugar blocks that are 3" thick. They are excellent but present a whole series of other issues in context of size, so I can't use a shim at least his year. Since I have so much empty space in the shallow super with the sugar blocks I was thinking of surrounding them with some type of hard insulating foam, but decided against it as I am concerned about moisture. I am using some winter covers from Brushy Mountain that have insulation on them. Thanks for your help.
    I make quilt/feeding boxes for mine. so the empty space is filled with fleece or bedding of some sort, which works like a wick to absorb winter moisture. Worked great on my hives last winter.
    "Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever." year 3, 14 langs and 2 top bars
    www.4cornersbeekeepers.com

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Greenville, TX, USA
    Posts
    4,397

    Default Re: Winter Prep and Sugar Bricks

    It's hard to beat the Mountain Camp method of winter feeding for both the insurance against starving and moisture control.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Cordova, TN, USA
    Posts
    197

    Default Re: Winter Prep and Sugar Bricks

    Michael Palmer...

    This comment intrigues me. "You can feed enough in a week to hold them until spring, so why bother with bricks..."For the remainder of the winter".

    I've been feeding my nucs that I got in June (after our main flows here). I stopped when the crops here bloomed, and now have started back. For some reason even last year no goldenrod was gathered, either pollen or nectar. I *was* planning to feed until it got cold here (probably another month or two).

    My question is one I haven't really seen answered and I really am clueless. How much feed turns into a frame of drawn comb? If already drawn, how much turns into a frame of stores? I'm using 5:3.75 to be exact (25 lb sugar in 2 gallons). At least I think I did that math right.

    Based on your comment I would believe I'm feeding too much but I'm still new to this (4 years with hives). Can you give any guidelines or rules of thumb? I'd love to be able to calculate to get close, and then inspect to fine-tune how much to feed to get them through winter.

    I inspect occasionally to be sure they're not nectar-bound that would induce a swarm. I open up the broodnest if they're close. It's still in the 80's here.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    5,498

    Default Re: Winter Prep and Sugar Bricks

    I really haven't got an answer to your question. I've never tried to figure out the relation of the amount of 2:1 fed to the number of combs filled. I weigh my hives and feed to a target weight, figuring that for every 10 pounds below the target weight I feed one gallon of 2:1.

    I've read too many times of beekeepers feeding syrup slowly find the hive gains no significant weight. I believe the problem is that when fed slowly, the bees use the syrup and don't store it. Hence my advice to feed syrup fast.

    I weigh my hives and feed all the syrup they require, all at once, to achieve target weight. If they need 50 pounds I feed them 5 gallons. They'll take it down in less than a week. It comes in so fast that they can't use it, will store it, ripen it, and even cap it as they would when gathering nectar and storing it as capped honey.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Shickshinny, Pennsylvania
    Posts
    883

    Default Re: Winter Prep and Sugar Bricks

    Michael , What kind of feeder are using that you can feed so much at one time .

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    5,498

    Default Re: Winter Prep and Sugar Bricks

    I use gallon cans on the top bars...on 3/8" shims to maintain bee space, with an empty hive body around the cans...covers on top. You can place up to 5 cans on the hive at one time.



  20. #20
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Shickshinny, Pennsylvania
    Posts
    883

    Default Re: Winter Prep and Sugar Bricks

    Thanks , I'll give it a try .

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