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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Boonville, Indiana,USA
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    101

    Default When is it too cold to open a hive

    I would like to open a hive just long enough to slip in some fondant and a pollen cake. The temps here for the rest of the week are forcasted in the mid to upper 30s. Would I do any damage to have the lid and inner cover open for no longer than 1 minute?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Wake County, NC
    Posts
    103

    Default Re: When is it too cold to open a hive

    Do it as quick as possible. Better a few seconds of cold than starvation.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    4,172

    Default Re: When is it too cold to open a hive

    Unless it is raining and a howling wind, I doubt the bees even stir. Just do it quickly. The pollen pattie needs to be right on top of the brood. just lay it down gently and slowly to give the bees a chance to move. I did seven colonies the other day suitless and gloveless in similiar conditions and never got stung.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Thousand Oaks, CA
    Posts
    34

    Default Re: When is it too cold to open a hive

    In general if it isn't 50+ we don't open hives here in California, and we refuse to work the bees unless its 60+. Even if you work fast it only takes a matter of seconds to freeze brood to death, assuming the cold air hits them...but if you are risking starvation taking a chance at wiping out the hive is always better than a sure thing they will die.

  5. #5

    Default Re: When is it too cold to open a hive

    I have this argument with my beekeeping partner all the time. She is from Tennessee, and like Verrick, doesn't like to open the hive unless it is 60+ or even 65+. She say's we'll chill the brood.
    I say listen here now, we're in MAINE and it wont be 65 degrees in the daytime until May. no kidding.
    so yes, you can open your hive now, in the winter, on a warm day (ie 35 degrees or so and sunny) smoke the bees very lightlyfrom the top as you open the hive, to keep them from flying if they are at the top, crack the covers, do your feeding, and get out asap.
    do it at the beginning of the warm part of the day (1pm?) to let the bees reorganize with the majority of the warm part of your day after your visit. Some of the most important feeding for northern bees is done wearing your parka.

    Best to you and your bees,
    -Erin
    Erin Forbes, EAS Master Beekeeper
    overlandhoney.com

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    5,558

    Default Re: When is it too cold to open a hive

    Quote Originally Posted by Maine_Beekeeper View Post
    I say listen here now, we're in MAINE and it wont be 65 degrees in the daytime until May. no kidding.
    -Erin
    Ha! Flatlanders! It won't be 65 here until June.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Litchfield, CT, USA
    Posts
    430

    Default Re: When is it too cold to open a hive

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    Ha! Flatlanders! It won't be 65 here until June.
    Some years there is still ice on Great Averill Lake in Norton VT in June! Can't wait to start some hives there this spring. Not on the lake.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    28,086

    Default Re: When is it too cold to open a hive

    Do what you have to do when you can, not when you want to. As long as you aren't pulling frames you won't hurt anything by removing the lid for a while.
    Mark Berninghausen
    Squeak Creek Apiaries



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Thousand Oaks, CA
    Posts
    34

    Default Re: When is it too cold to open a hive

    Maine_Beekeeper is right. It really depends on your bees. One example is here in Cali some people keep Russian bees. At 70 degrees the poor things are baking, and they thrive while working in temperatures that would freeze most normal bees.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    28,086

    Default Re: When is it too cold to open a hive

    Quote Originally Posted by Verick369 View Post
    and they thrive while working in temperatures that would freeze most normal bees.
    Which temperatures are those? I would wager that as long asthere is plenty of feed and you could keep a colony dry you could Winter bees w/out a lid here in the extreme northern part of NY.
    Mark Berninghausen
    Squeak Creek Apiaries



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    5,558

    Default Re: When is it too cold to open a hive

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    Which temperatures are those? I would wager that as long asthere is plenty of feed and you could keep a colony dry you could Winter bees w/out a lid here in the extreme northern part of NY.
    And then there's the wintering colony of bees in Wisconsin that Hoopingarner told me about. It was set up by his professor...Farrar. The colony was in a hive with no sides, only a top, but surrounded by wire mesh to keep predators out. Farrar was trying to show that wintering is about population. He built a populous colony and it wintered well, with no enclosure to protect them. Hoop told me there is a photo of the hive in The Hive and the Honeybee from the 1950 edition. I haven't seen the photo.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA
    Posts
    2,901

    Default Re: When is it too cold to open a hive

    Now that would be a colony to breed from. John

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    28,086

    Default Re: When is it too cold to open a hive

    Maybe John, if it had other characteristics you want.
    Mark Berninghausen
    Squeak Creek Apiaries



  14. #14
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Salem, Indiana, USA
    Posts
    61

    Default Re: When is it too cold to open a hive

    I'm in southern Indiana too and today is sunny and forecasted high in the thirties. The bright sun should help out today. I would pop them open and put on the sugar if your concerned. Just do it quick.

    I too have Russians and they are bringing in a bright red pollen whenever the temps warm above 40 or so with sun. They have been active all winter and I have kept sugar cakes and grease patties on them all winter. So far 100% of my hives have made it thru. One hive has a large number of dead bees in front of it, but the hive is still very active and thriving.
    I would try to build up your existing hive using sugar and later syrup and split them. They sound like good survivors. Good Luck, John

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,593

    Default Re: When is it too cold to open a hive

    If I have a reason (and I seldom do) I might pop the hive open when it's sub freezing (not sub zero). Typically my rule is I don't open the top unless the bees are flying. But I did learn a bit about what they are doing by peeking in now and then in winter. I don't think it helped the bees...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Volga, SD
    Posts
    2,790

    Default Re: When is it too cold to open a hive

    Farrar was trying to show that wintering is about population. He built a populous colony and it wintered well, with no enclosure to protect them. -Michael Palmer
    Farrar has also been quoted as saying, "Poorly reared queens from productive stock will be inferior to well reared queens from less productive stock." Seems that he believed management is more critical in these situations than genetics.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,593

    Default Re: When is it too cold to open a hive

    >He built a populous colony and it wintered well, with no enclosure to protect them.

    There must not be any wind there. Yesterday wasn't that cold, but the wind was horrible. I almost froze with my coat and long underwear and I was only going to the car...

    I've had hives blow over here and if it's sub-zero, they are all dead by the time you find them... but if it's warm weather they are fine.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Marysville, WA
    Posts
    477

    Default Re: When is it too cold to open a hive

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    Do what you have to do when you can, not when you want to. As long as you aren't pulling frames you won't hurt anything by removing the lid for a while.
    Agreed!
    Beekeeper? Shoot, my bees keep me!
    100 hives in Western Wa State

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Volga, SD
    Posts
    2,790

    Default Re: When is it too cold to open a hive

    Hoop told me there is a photo of the hive in The Hive and the Honeybee from the 1950 edition. -Michael Palmer
    It seems two colonies survived, but not well. Michael Bush hit the nail on the head -- protection from wind is significant. The article and photos can be found right here on Beesource. (Nice work, Barry, for having it posted here.)

    http://www.beesource.com/resources/u...-bee-colonies/

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Erin, NY /Florence SC
    Posts
    3,361

    Default Re: When is it too cold to open a hive

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    Which temperatures are those? I would wager that as long asthere is plenty of feed and you could keep a colony dry you could Winter bees w/out a lid here in the extreme northern part of NY.
    Many years ago Clint Fudge and I headed out on a cross country ski adventure on a January day that was -9F when we left his house. Skied up to his yard about a mile away and found a hive with the lid off, bare frames full of honey in the top super. Assumed the hive was dead and the lid was buried in the snow somewhere. To our suprise the hive was alive and well. We dug and found the lid, it was covered with leaves which indicated it had blown off before leaf fall was done. Replaced the lid (did not find the inner cover that day) and the bees wintered well. Not a reccommended practice but certainly a suprising result.

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