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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
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    bridgewater , nova scotia
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    641

    Question my first wintering of bees

    Hello all, i am heading into winter weather and i have done what i could to prepare the bees as best i could. i insulated all the top covers and made spacers for air flow to let out the moisture . it also allows me to add sugar cakes/fondant if needed. i have had some days with warm weather and the bees were out flying around, doing some housework/undertaking. my main concern is that i have seen about a handful of bees on some of my hives being drug out of the hive. Is this normal for this time of year? i hope i'm not losing my hives over something i haven't done .
    i didn't wrap my hives , because i took some info from other BKs in my general area, and they said they didn't wrap last year and they had better luck ect. so time will tell if i did wrong.

    some say to wrap with tar paper.

    Any information or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Ben

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Freeland, MI, USA
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    39

    Default Re: my first wintering of bees

    A handful of dead bees being brought out is nothing to worry about in my experience. A big old pile of dead bees in front of the hive might be...

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Belpre,Ohio, USA
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    1,094

    Default Re: my first wintering of bees

    Ben,
    When a hive is getting ready for winter it is normal to see the workers dragging out the nonessential bees, this will continue for several weeks.
    Bill...in Southeast Ohio

  4. #4

    Default Re: my first wintering of bees

    Quote Originally Posted by codeboy823 View Post
    A handful of dead bees being brought out is nothing to worry about in my experience. A big old pile of dead bees in front of the hive might be...
    They may be dispatching with drones - I am still seeing lots of drones (!?!?) on warm days here in New England, including Saturday. I can't see wrapping with tar paper being a negative, especially if you have significant wind. I didn't wrap last year and lost two hives (to mites probably - late on fall treatment of those 2), did wrap the year before and wrapped 5 of 7 this year. The top insulation (I use rigid, foil-backed foam) is probably most critical in any case. Good luck.

    Brian

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Manitoba Canada
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    5,503

    Default Re: my first wintering of bees

    The thing about wrapping with tar paper is that it also helps stop all drafts into the hive. Wind can be a real stress on the hives. I know how windy it gets in NS, but also a lot of shelter.
    If your bees are working cleaning out your hive I think you should rest easy. Thats a real good sign
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Creston bc canada
    Posts
    52

    Default Re: my first wintering of bees

    I was wondering about this also , this being my first winter.

    I find about 40 or 50 dead bees on the deck every second day or so , but just figured that because the hives are on a deck , and unlike being on grass or dirt , I just notice them more.

    From what I've read , there are 30-50,000 bees in a healthy 2 deep hive , and this one is very healthy so far.

    So even losing 50 bees a day , it would take 100 days or a little over 3 months , to lose even 5000 bees , not a big chunk of the hive yet.

    And they may still be rearing some brood as well , and I noticed a lot of the dead ones are drones.

    I'm not terribly worried at this point , only time will tell.

    I would appreciate others thoughts on this as well.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    bridgewater , nova scotia
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    641

    Default Re: my first wintering of bees

    Thanks everyone for the replies ! I know wrapping is a unsettled issue around my area , there is larger operations wintering inside a climate controlled building with around 4-500 hives , but i don't have the quid to do that yet : )

    Ian you make a good point , i think i will wrap the ones in the windier parts , just to keep the drafts down a bit .

    I was just hoping that if the bees were strong enough that they could survive the cold like any wild bees do.

    Thanks again !

    Ben

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
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    3,487

    Default Re: my first wintering of bees

    I don't believe there are any wild honeybees in Nova Scotia which tells us how they survive! A tarpaper wrapping to cut the wind is a good idea.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
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    Manitoba Canada
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    5,503

    Default Re: my first wintering of bees

    Do you see wild honey bees in the area, other than casted off swarms?
    In my area, there is no wild hives. The swarms usually dont make it past the first winter. Every year occasional barn or church or house eve hive will stick around
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Roy, Wa
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    Default Re: my first wintering of bees

    Here is how I am winterizing my hives this year. My area is pretty wet-so I needed telescoping covers for better protection. A 2" piece of rigid foam allows me to push the hives together for a clustering effect, but allows Just enough room for the overhanging tops. Insulates and cuts wind just a bit. I am not in an area that has extended cold temps. I average 40-45 degrees with periods in the 20's occasionally. There is rarely a week that goes by the bees can't come out for a cleansing flight.



    So heres the deal with the foam. Unlike last year when I cut each piece to fit, then had a messy pile of foam to store over the summer. (Luckily, I was able to use all that old foam to insulate my newly made telescoping covers)
    This year I cut the 4x8' sheets into uniform 20" x 24" pieces. 20 " so they fit flush with the front and back of the hives. Then if I want to, I can run a long half sheet (24" x 8') along the back if I want more protection in the case of a long cold snap.
    Use a filet knife, straight edge and a carpenters square. Score it, then make a few passes to cut through-hold the knife vertically to avoid a slanted cut.

    Here is a close up of the tops:


    Not all of the foam is tight to the hives, but I didn't want to break the propolis seal to straighten up the slightly crooked box. I could tape up this gap or add foam to the back if I was worried about it.
    Another bench:



    So, out of a 4x8' sheet, you will get 6 -20x24" pieces + 2-16"x24" pieces.
    or you can cut 4- 20x24" pieces and cut 2-35"x24" pieces for taller hives. Theis photo shows their uses. ( My taller hives are divided deeps for 2 colonies)




    Everything is kept at a 24" width for easy stacking later.

    At this point you could wrap the 'unit' with tar paper, if you wanted more protection. I was not interested in peppering each individual box with staples, I'd have to pull out later.

    The rachett strape were the single cheapies from Home Depot. They are 15 feet long, and as you can see, perfect for using the tail end to secure the end pieces of foam. Just tie off to the other side of the strap in front. Otherwise, I use bungie cords to secure the ends.

    I think about wrapping hives, then I see tons of photos of hives covered in snow with no wraps at all. Depends on your climate, for sure.

    When I get a few decent warmer days, I am going to add sugar to the tops of almost all the hives..some just for insurance. We had quite a long warm fall and some of the colonies ate into their stores.
    I add 3 cups of cider vinegar to 25# of sugar..+ about a 1/2 teaspoon of electrolytes. I dump this barely dampned, soft sugar mix onto the newspaper on the top bars. The bees relish this mix and eat it even when they have plenty of honey. I have good ventilation so the moisture dissipates quickly and is not a problem. I wouldn't add moist sugar in the dead of winter when temps are low, however. You can make sugar bricks with the same stuff, then apply. I dry them in my food dehydrator in that case.
    Here's some photos:

    That is dry bee pro on the top and bottom of the sugar brick




    It will harden and dry in a few days, but overnight in my Cabelas food dehydrator. I set it about 90 degrees


    Once that feeding is done, I will finish any additional winterization and leave them alone for the next few months. That's another reason I like the full 2" foam. Just pull it out and you still have enough space to easily get into the box's if you need to.
    Last edited by Lauri; 12-11-2012 at 05:41 PM.

  11. #11
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    Jan 2003
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    Manitoba Canada
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    Default Re: my first wintering of bees

    Good looking hives!
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Roy, Wa
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    Default Re: my first wintering of bees

    Take a look at this beautiful photo. This is a photo off the internet,not mine. It is obviously an experienced person's apiary. No wraps here. But seems like it may be in a protected spot with not much wind. Note the wind break type 'fence'



    Heres another one:

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Cattaraugus,New York, USA
    Posts
    299

    Default Re: my first wintering of bees

    Ben, You are a bit further north than me, but what i do may give you some reassurance.
    First i make sure that each full size hive (be it 8 frame or 10) has a minimum of 50 pounds of honey for winter food. i like to over winter in a 2 deep 1 medium configuration, but i run 8 frames, so 2 deep 10 frames is around the same. Then I flip my inner cover over so the small notch is facing down. On the back of the hive, i prop the inner cover open using two 1/4"x20 hardware nuts. This allows for moisture to escape at the top of the hive, and also any moisture that condenses on the inner cover will run to the front wall of the hive, and not drip on the winter cluster. I place the telescoping cover back on and weight it down with a brick. The notch of the inner cover then acts as a upper entrance in deep snow, and aids in ventilation. I sometimes wrap with roofing tar paper, sometimes not. Depends on how busy I am and how many hives I am going to overwinter.
    Allegany Mtn. Bee Farm
    Quality Queens and Honey from Western New York

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Oshawa, Ontario
    Posts
    198

    Default Re: my first wintering of bees

    Hi ben

    I staple reflectix insulation on the shaded sides of my hives, and use a Warre type quilt on top for improved ventilation.
    If no quilt, you should insulate the top to prevent condensation.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    bridgewater , nova scotia
    Posts
    641

    Default Re: my first wintering of bees

    Hi, thanks for all these good ideas : )
    I actually did insulate the top of the hives , i used foundation foam and wrapped it in a feed bag , like mike palmer suggested. i also use a 2" spacer with an entrance on the top , in case of deep snow and to provide ventilation, it also allows me to put emergency feed on top if i need to without squishing anything when putting the cover back on.
    if this is the wrong thing to do , i guess time will tell.

    Merry Christmas Everyone.

    Ben

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Monroe County, Pennsylvania
    Posts
    141

    Default Re: my first wintering of bees

    Quote Originally Posted by jwbee View Post
    I was wondering about this also , this being my first winter.

    I find about 40 or 50 dead bees on the deck every second day or so , but just figured that because the hives are on a deck , and unlike being on grass or dirt , I just notice them more.

    From what I've read , there are 30-50,000 bees in a healthy 2 deep hive , and this one is very healthy so far.

    So even losing 50 bees a day , it would take 100 days or a little over 3 months , to lose even 5000 bees , not a big chunk of the hive yet.

    And they may still be rearing some brood as well , and I noticed a lot of the dead ones are drones.

    I'm not terribly worried at this point , only time will tell.

    I would appreciate others thoughts on this as well.
    Keep in mind the average life expectancy of a bee. You will continue to see dead bees in and around your hives. On days over 50 degrees F, you'll see healthy bees carrying them off. The Queen isn't replacing the dead as quickly as during the summer and fall months. It is normal to see a decline in population over the winter months. Make sure you feed a sugar syrup around March to entice the Queen to start laying again.

    My 2 cents on wrapping hives with tar paper. The tar paper can play an important role in stopping wind from blowing through cracks in the hives, reducing stress on the bees. The bees are not working as hard to warm the hive, therefore reducing the amount of stores consumed by the bees. The tar paper also creates an air block between the tar paper and hive. Air is an excellent insulator. I close off my IPM bottom boards during winter. With the gap that I created (with popsicle sticks) between the hive and inner cover, the rising heat will draw enough fresh air into the bottom to the hive. With cold 20 and 30 degree F mornings, the black tar paper will absorb the morning sunlight and may give your bees those few extra degrees that they need.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Roy, Wa
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    Default Re: my first wintering of bees





    Hives face south and the front is not covered for solar gain effect. Only three sides covered, mostly for wind protection.

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