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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
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    Brainerd, MN
    Posts
    539

    Default Heating Nucs in Winter

    I have read some of the past topics about using heat in hives. There never seems to be a complete consensus but many advised against it, but what about nucs? Overwintering nucs seem to be a way to achieve a self sustaining apiary, and that's something I am striving for. I have read that Michael Bush has used heat for his nucs. Does anybody else use a heat source for overwintering your nucs? Anybody use heat tape for wintering their nucs? I have been thinking of boxing them in with solid foam insulation (would have to figure out a top entrance situation) and putting heat tape in a structure under a screened bottom board. I found one at menards that heats to 35 f. That seem to be about right.

    FYI I have thought about wintering on top of a production hive, but have decided against it.

    Also would it be stupid or wise to o this in my garage? I figure that as long as I keep it dark and only briefly turn on the lights to get to the freezer, the bees shouldn't fly much. I would have to bring them out a few times during nice days for cleansing flights, but it would probably be doable.

    Thoughts?
    Not Michael Bush. My name is Dan. Sorry for the confusion.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,593

    Default Re: Heating Nucs in Winter

    Part of the problem is they need to fly on any warm day to defecate. They WILL fly (if there is any way they can) every time they warm up enough. I would not put them in the garage. If you really want to do them inside, I would research that carefully. The old bee journals from the 1880s have a lot of advice on "cellaring" them. One of the important things was to keep them completely dark as they won't fly when it's dark and they won't rear brood when it's dark, and this keeps them from NEEDING to defecate. It's the pollen that gives them dysentery. My setup has the nucs outside with all of them free flying, limited heat and heat only on the back wall.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/images/Winteringnucs1-2007.jpg
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesnucs.htm
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    KC, MO, USA
    Posts
    1,238

    Default Re: Heating Nucs in Winter

    Last year I put reptile heat pads on two small hives above the inner cover. They both did very well.

    This year I put one in the SBB of a small hive. 7 deg last night, flying weather in the next few days will show if they made it or not.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Flora,IL
    Posts
    2,644

    Default Re: Heating Nucs in Winter

    If you check ebay there are several hive heating systems for sale.... and they look like they would work great. I have pondered it, but wonder what it does to the need for food consumption? How warm to keep the hive? where to put the heat? bottom board or??? This year I was going to try 10 and 10 experiment, but didn't get to it.

    I did do a lot of pondering about wintering inside. talked to a cpl of canucks that do it on a large scale and swear by it. they say though that absolutly no light inside or as mike pointed out you have a problem( they use red lights) and the optimum temp is 41F they also say that even in deep winter they have refers going as the bees generate heat. which is my problem how much refrigeration for say 50 hives?? they guys I talked to run close to 10,000 inside.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Hartford, CT
    Posts
    605

    Default Re: Heating Nucs in Winter

    If you wanna be real slick just bury the nucs in leaves obviously leaving an opening. The heat from composting leaves should keep them warm an insulated from the wind if you do it right.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Hudson, WI USA
    Posts
    2,242

    Default Re: Heating Nucs in Winter

    http://www.mbbeekeeping.com/index.ph...d=48&Itemid=59

    Dan, this guy goes to extremes - winters them in 2 framers North of you using a heat strip outside. I liked this link so much I bookmarked it, and I have posted it before.
    I am curious as to how small a nucleus colony can be overwintered without heat. I had success last year with the 5 over 5 configuration. If they survive this current cold snap I will consider the 5 over 5 a success.
    I just went outside, its 0 degrees F in Hudson and heard the buzz of life. This is a photo just a few minutes old.
    http://s1110.beta.photobucket.com/us...tml?sort=6&o=0
    I like the 5 over 5 configuration because it seems to have a decent margin of error, I don't think there would be a safety margin with 2 frames.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    South Jordan, Utah, USA
    Posts
    129

    Default Re: Heating Nucs in Winter

    I put my hives in the chicken coop to overwinter. We had two coldsnaps for over 10 days and I lost one hive during the first one. I decided to turn on my heat lamp in there during the 2nd cold snap. The heat lamp plugs into a thermostat and then into the extension cord. The thermostat turns on around 35 degrees and off at 40-ish degrees. It was 52 degrees there today so I took a picture of them with my new camcorder and posted on my blog. Lowest temp I saw in there during the cold snap was 25 degrees. I may try this again next year because I'm going to overwinter more nucs.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Brainerd, MN
    Posts
    539

    Default Re: Heating Nucs in Winter

    Quote Originally Posted by gmcharlie View Post
    If you check ebay there are several hive heating systems for sale.... and they look like they would work great. I have pondered it, but wonder what it does to the need for food consumption? How warm to keep the hive? where to put the heat? bottom board or??? This year I was going to try 10 and 10 experiment, but didn't get to it.

    I did do a lot of pondering about wintering inside. talked to a cpl of canucks that do it on a large scale and swear by it. they say though that absolutly no light inside or as mike pointed out you have a problem( they use red lights) and the optimum temp is 41F they also say that even in deep winter they have refers going as the bees generate heat. which is my problem how much refrigeration for say 50 hives?? they guys I talked to run close to 10,000 inside.
    Ya most say that cold is good for bees but I truly wonder if temps below 20 are truly good for bees. Sure a strong hive can survive very very cold temps, but that doesn't mean they are good for them. It would be healthy for me to go on a diet, but would it be healthy for me to not eat for three days? No.

    As far as place,ent of heating element....not sure. I wouldn't put it above. Heat rises so you would be wasting a good amount of heat. If the temps outside of the cluster really drop of quickly, then I would say that putting it under the cluster would be good. As long as it has a thermostat, overheating shouldn't be an issue. I do think that heating and indoor wintering would be overkill. One or another.

    A local beek here I know winters all of his colonies. He is a local old timer. He does well for himself, but haven't had a chance to pick his brain.

    How much of that heat tape per nuc? As in how long of a thing do I need to buy?

    Edit- I just read on another forum that heat tape under the hive messes with cluster formation and was suggested to put between hives. Seems to make sense.
    Last edited by Bush_84; 02-02-2013 at 03:18 AM.
    Not Michael Bush. My name is Dan. Sorry for the confusion.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA
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    2,901

    Default Re: Heating Nucs in Winter

    I went into this winter with 11 nucs, 5 over 5, and discovered the other day that I had lost 5 of them already. When inspecting the dead ones I found that they were all small clusters that had died on empty cells with honey only inches away, the latest cold snap did them in when they couldn't move to new food. So, not wanting to lose any more with additional cold coming I moved them into my shed. I just build this 10x20 shed and plan to use it for a honey house, so it is sealed good with quality windows and doors. I took the six nucs and put them tight together in a row on a stand about 3 ft. off the floor. I screened the entrances so they can't fly out because they will be getting light during the day in the shed. I put 2" foam on top and bottom, for heat I put four 75 watt bulbs under the nucs towards the front entrances so the heat can rise up and hopefully help somewhat. I have a thermometer in the shed and it seems to stay about 8-10 degrees warmer than outside day and night. This is not the ideal indoor wintering situation I would like, but I felt it was better than leaving them outside the rest of the winter and risk losing more to the cold.

    I think shed wintering for nucs is something I have to look at for the future, as I don't want to winter them over production colonies like MP does, although I'm sure that is a very good way to do it. I do believe that bees should have the opportunity to fly every chance they get in the winter, so with nucs in a shed I would want to locate the entrances close to the outside wall so I could provide them with a short tube or something to access the outside to fly. I think if you could prevent the nucs from getting much below 32 degrees with the use of heat lamps, heat tape, heat mats, insulation, or any combination of these, would really help them get through the worst winter scenario. This will take alot of experimentation to get it right, so getting feedback from others who have done it is valuable information. I consider ventilation, temperature regulation, and the ability to fly freely as prerequisites to successful nuc indoor wintering. John

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Sandy Ridge,NC
    Posts
    110

    Default Re: Heating Nucs in Winter

    I am thinking of doing this. i have a problem in my hives in nc. it was 70* 3 weeks ago. then we had a week long cold snap with temps in the teens. i lost some huge hives, there was 4 to 5 frames of capped brood. all had a super of honey on them and alot of bees. It was like they eat all the honey and pollen around the brood but would not leave the brood to get to the honey above them. seems like to me if the hives where warm they could of went up the honey and fed the brood. most of the time its warm so my bees brood up early but then it gets cold for a week it takes them out. also it was mid 70s wensday 60* that night then yesterday it was 30* and 18* last night. if it stay cold like this i will lose hive quick be cause they have huge amounts of brood.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Flora,IL
    Posts
    2,644

    Default Re: Heating Nucs in Winter

    Quote Originally Posted by ashb82 View Post
    I am thinking of doing this. i have a problem in my hives in nc. it was 70* 3 weeks ago. then we had a week long cold snap with temps in the teens. i lost some huge hives, there was 4 to 5 frames of capped brood. all had a super of honey on them and alot of bees. It was like they eat all the honey and pollen around the brood but would not leave the brood to get to the honey above them. seems like to me if the hives where warm they could of went up the honey and fed the brood. most of the time its warm so my bees brood up early but then it gets cold for a week it takes them out. also it was mid 70s wensday 60* that night then yesterday it was 30* and 18* last night. if it stay cold like this i will lose hive quick be cause they have huge amounts of brood.

    Here in lies the problem. useing a heating pad of sorts(the ones on ebay you can set for any temp) what is the right temp? if your too warm you do instill brood which will kill a wintering hive in my pat of the country. what is the right temp in the hive to allow the cluster to move but inhibit brood rearing, and more importantly how do you maintain it with a heating element?
    I think this is where indoor climate control comes in and you keep the building 40 degrees. this would allow the hive to continue to thermo-regulate without the temp swings.

    The problem with heat lamps and leaves and such seems to me to be control.
    I am currently planning on a hay bale shelter for next winter.... great wind control and a tarped style dome....

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Erin, NY /Florence SC
    Posts
    3,361

    Default Re: Heating Nucs in Winter

    We did extensive work and research on wintering nucs and of everything we did we think Mike Palmer's is at the definitive work in this area. He has a good amount of other educational material out there as well and although I have a good bit of experiance raising queens I am uping my education with his video's for queen raising as well this year. Here's a link to some of his work on wintering nucs. One of the things I like about his stuff it is a beekeeper teaching beekeepers and he talks at my level of understanding. He is a beesource member and regular contributor as well. I know he is on the demand list as a speaker just about everywhere which speaks a great deal to me.

    http://vimeo.com/23178333

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Vernon,New York,USA
    Posts
    240

    Default Re: Heating Nucs in Winter

    Quote Originally Posted by TheBuzz View Post
    If you wanna be real slick just bury the nucs in leaves obviously leaving an opening. The heat from composting leaves should keep them warm an insulated from the wind if you do it right.
    the problem i see with this is the composting leaves also create miosture wich is whats deadly to the bees more then the cold in the winter
    Dwayne.S
    Westmoreland N.Y.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Millbury, MA, USA
    Posts
    1,887

    Default Re: Heating Nucs in Winter

    2 winters ago I wintered several nucs over a heat tape and the nucs insulated with styrofoam, very much like post #6's link [where i got the idea too]. All the nucs survived the winter in good shape and several went on to be great hives. Last winter I had too many to winter this way. I still got great survival using Mike Palmer's ideas. This winter it is too early to determine survival but right now I'm running about 80% survival.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Ft. Collins, Colorado
    Posts
    578

    Default Re: Heating Nucs in Winter

    This topic has been pretty important to me and I've tried a lot of different ideas from others and tried to adapt for my area.

    I've used both a small heater and no heat at all in the enclosed Nuc Box structure. I've used a tar paper wrap, blue board, different configurations etc.. With a inside thermometer I can see how much the bees are heating the space compared to the outside temp. And then, here's this years configuration.

    http://s1353.beta.photobucket.com/us...0Nucleus%20Box

    For me, here in CO "I" feel the most important orientation is south. The most effective use of materials however is a 4'X?' structure, but I don't think either the east or west configuration is as good as full south. So, this year I double stacked them south, with the heater heating a 3' X 40' length. I've got 81 nucs double stacked from 3 frame med., 5 frame deeps, and a couple 8 frame deeps on the ends. The goal was to maintain a 40 degree inside temperature. But when it got down to 0 or minus the inside did register in the 30's.

    So far, so good. But for me in addition to the cold, robbing and starving are just as important. So, I use a lot of robbing screens since the nucs are in the same yard as my production hives. And they all have candy boards in addition to hopefully good stores. I "think" I've lost more to starving with the smaller clusters with honey one cell over. With the candy boards right over head they are never far from emergency stores just in case we get a longer than normal cold spell. But, I'm always looking for any other ideas to help these smaller nucs that otherwise wouldn't make it.

    I would love to create a type of European Bee house to house these nucs in overwinter, but so far this is the best I've been able to create.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA
    Posts
    2,901

    Default Re: Heating Nucs in Winter

    Brandy, thanks for the great pictures of your setup this year, you've got quite a bunch of nucs going, hope this system works out for you. Do you have any idea how much that space heater has to run when it gets real cold? How about the nucs on the far end from the heater, do you think they get much help from it? Have you ever checked the temperature of the tunnel at the far end on a cold night? Thanks, John,

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Ft. Collins, Colorado
    Posts
    578

    Default Re: Heating Nucs in Winter

    Thanks jmgi,
    Yes the thermometer is at the very end and it's been staying about 20-25 degrees above the outside temperatures. I also put the stronger, larger nucs on the end, just to give them a little protection and buffer the smaller nucs. And the heater doesn't run much at all, just when it really gets cold, for a minute or two every hour or so. I've got the nucs pretty well stacked against each other so I'm not heating my subdivision. The bees themselves keep it pretty much at the 40 degree range and it will get up into the 50-60's on a nice winter, sunny day. I feel like the electric cost is about 1-2 nuc's over the entire winter which is worth it to me. I just wanted to take the very extreme's out of the temp. equation. I've left it unplugged for several weeks to really see what kind of heat the bees themselves were generating. Very interesting. Good luck if you try.

    What I don't know is how much heat "I" lose out the south unprotected side during the night. Is it a waste to insulate on three sides to lose it out the one side. This is where some might say it doesn't make sense to go this route. I just know my survival is higher this way than leaving a three frame medium nuc in a snowdrift over winter. For a long period I did block up the south facing side each evening. Mostly during the worst of some of our storms. Not sure if it helped but it made me feel better.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Hudson, WI USA
    Posts
    2,242

    Default Re: Heating Nucs in Winter

    Brandy, interesting set up. What are the props doing in the snowy photo? The ones that are leaning against the nucs. 81 nucs ready to go in the spring is a lot of potential. What do you plan to do with them?

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA
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    2,901

    Default Re: Heating Nucs in Winter

    Brandy, I choose to insulate all but the south side also, so that they can get the winter sun's warmth. I know that heat loss is high on the south especially at night, but with your heater going, at least the back side is absorbing the heat and hopefully transferring it to the cluster somewhat and keeping them warmer than if there was no supplemental heat at all, so I think the cost of running the heater is well worth it, even if it runs 50% of the time. John

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Ft. Collins, Colorado
    Posts
    578

    Default Re: Heating Nucs in Winter

    Adrian, the props were just early on and temporary as I was making sure I liked how the roof was lining up and getting everyone level before I stapled them shut for winter. And as always, there's a little incentive when snow is on the way!!

    As far as what I will do with them, duh, do you ever have enough?????!!! I generally lose from 10-15%, the best will become production hives, breeder candidates, cell builders, mating nuc's for next year, some queen exchanges. I used 6-8 different breeder queens last year so it will be interesting to see which group are the most..... on and on etc...........Too much work, effort and resources go into raising queens, that "I've" had to figure out a way to help bring these smaller units through our winters. Right now they're still looking good!

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