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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
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    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
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    Default Ideal configuration within wintering hives in a very cold climate

    This isn't a question of how many boxes or deeps v mediums, but more about what's the best arrangement within the hive of the various components: capped honey frames, frames mostly of pollen, open nectar, late or final brood rounds etc.

    I think the bees will adapt, with more or less success, to all kinds and sizes of cavities. I had feral honey bees living in the uninsulated walls of a timberframe barn where the max cavity depth was perhaps 6 inches deep in stud bays 12 feet tall. When we did the cut-out there was solid comb from sill to girt. Those colonies survived for two decades, though undoubtedly they sometimes were replaced by new swarms if the previous colony perished.

    What I'm trying to get a fix on is what would be the best order of frames within a wintering hive.

    Something like: capped honey/ capped honey/ honey & pollen/ brood space, perhaps backfilled with open nectar at the tail end)/ honey & pollen/ capped Honey/ capped Honey

    And should this pattern be in the lower box(es) with solid capped honey in boxes above that? I noticed that last year all my bees started their earliest brood in the second from the top box, no matter what size it was, and no matter how tall the hive was, and no matter where they still had capped honey and pollen stores. (I fed Lauri's sugar bricks on the top bars of the uppermost box.)

    I am interested to hear what people think is the ideal, and what they do to get that, and especially what, if any, research has been done on different systems.

    Thanks.

    Enj.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Bozeman Montana
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    119

    Default Re: Ideal configuration within wintering hives in a very cold climate

    Bump-good question

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
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    Bellflower, Montgomery,Mo,USA
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    137

    Default Re: Ideal configuration within wintering hives in a very cold climate

    enj

    Since no one has replied yet I'll say what I was thinking. The order you described is what we see during the spring and summer. I was under the impression that the bees would move the honey around after they started to get the hive ready for winter. That's only an assumption and you know what they say about those. Hopefully someone else will respond that has more definitive info.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Menomonee Falls, Wis.
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    2,729

    Default Re: Ideal configuration within wintering hives in a very cold climate

    I do not think they care too much. One deep, with them fed until full, is good. They will put the pollen where they want.

    Crazy Roland

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
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    Manitoba Canada
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    Default Re: Ideal configuration within wintering hives in a very cold climate

    ideally you want the cluster centered, with pollen surrounding the outer edges, and back fill that single late in the season. Wintering in doubles, the same except for more food overtop.

    The biggest factor in successfully wintering is good bees. And give those good bees lots of food for winter. If you cover those two basics, your hive will survive guaranteed
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
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    5,459

    Default Re: Ideal configuration within wintering hives in a very cold climate

    I like to use the drawing in the HHB to illustrate how the bees set up their winter broodnest.

    For my bees, here in Vermont, I would want a medium super of honey on top.




  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Barrie, Ontario, Canada
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    566

    Default Re: Ideal configuration within wintering hives in a very cold climate

    The only case I can think of where you need to do something is in a horizontal hive like a top bar or long lang. Then I think you want to position the cluster at one end so they eat their way towards the other. If the start in the center, there's a chance of them going in one direction and starving when it is too cold to break cluster. They are almost always going to start to raise brood in the top in the spring because it's easiest to keep that area warm. You'll often find the queen on the inner cover that time of year.
    Adam - Zone 5A
    www.adamshoney.com

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Ideal configuration within wintering hives in a very cold climate

    Thanks to all who have replied, this exactly what I was hoping to learn.

    I will have to study that HHB diagram on a bigger screen!

    Any more thoughts?

    Thanks,
    Enj.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Ideal configuration within wintering hives in a very cold climate

    Quote Originally Posted by Roland View Post
    I do not think they care too much. One deep, with them fed until full, is good. They will put the pollen where they want.

    Crazy Roland
    Roland...when you look at a 1 deep hive that is ready for winter, do you have any frames in the middle that are empty or partially empty for the bees to cluster on?
    Or is that box clear full of feed?
    Thanks!
    Mike
    Bee a blessing to God and others.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Menomonee Falls, Wis.
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    Default Re: Ideal configuration within wintering hives in a very cold climate

    Don't know. When the feed pails go on, we are done looking. We might "tip" a few, but try to leave them alone until spring.
    Would you like me to look?

    Crazy Roland

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Auburn, New Hampshire
    Posts
    8

    Default Re: Ideal configuration within wintering hives in a very cold climate

    I also use this diagram from HHB that Michael Palmer posted. It is the best for teaching at bee schools and for anyone reading this forum. Here in New Hampshire I also keep a medium of honey over a double deep going into winter. Without it, the bees are under the inner cover by Feb.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Ideal configuration within wintering hives in a very cold climate

    Quote Originally Posted by Roland View Post
    Don't know. When the feed pails go on, we are done looking. We might "tip" a few, but try to leave them alone until spring.
    Would you like me to look?

    Crazy Roland
    No, I was just curious. Thank you for the reply.
    Bee a blessing to God and others.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    27,584

    Default Re: Ideal configuration within wintering hives in a very cold climate

    The ideal configuration is the one the bees set up themselves.
    Mark Berninghausen #youmatter

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
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    4,063

    Default Re: Ideal configuration within wintering hives in a very cold climate

    I like two deeps weighing 125 to 140 pounds that the bees have arranged as they like it. I top that with a feeder rim with ten pounds of dry sugar on newspaper on the top bars. This gives the bees something to do besides starve to death when they chimney thru their stores and end end up starving under the lid. This insurance policy allows them to survive til the next break in the weather when they can relocate stores. I wish I lived in a balmy paradise like Mr. Roland where bees can make the winter in a single box.

  15. #15
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    Jan 2003
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    Manitoba Canada
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    Default Re: Ideal configuration within wintering hives in a very cold climate

    Quote Originally Posted by Vance G View Post
    I wish I lived in a balmy paradise like Mr. Roland where bees can make the winter in a single box.
    I winter inside, but my neighbour winters his singles outdoors with good results. It ain't balmy here! lol
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Ideal configuration within wintering hives in a very cold climate

    Quote Originally Posted by Vance G View Post
    I top that with a feeder rim with ten pounds of dry sugar on newspaper on the top bars.
    Im not commenting to criticize. I know many beekeepers do this. Please provide me with some feedback.

    Why would a beekeeper spend the money providing the sugar ontop of the frames, when its just as easy to have the bees process it into the hives frames? The impression I get from this is that not only will it waste in the spring as you scrape it off the top bars, but also the mess it would make as the grains fall onto the bottom board.
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  17. #17
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    Jan 2011
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    Great Falls Montana
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    Default Re: Ideal configuration within wintering hives in a very cold climate

    You assume the sugar goes to waste and little does. The metabolic moisture from the bees is absorbed by the loose sugar and it turns into a big sugar cube. This absorption of moisture is a decided benefit of the sugar. Most of this is also consumed by strong colonies and supplemented with sugar bricks in late February. I start putting on global patties in February and watch the bees expand. I suppose I am replacing Mr. Palmers super of honey on top of the brood boxes. The sugar from any dead outs is brought up to candy making temperatures and poured into molds for sugarbricks. When it is warm enough for syrup, the sugar lumps are picked off when I start pulling frames and reliquified and fed back. If I could winter inside like you I probably would and forgo all this extra labor. It would certainly be an unwelcome sideshow to someone calving or getting ready to.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Algoma dr. Ontario, Canada
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    Default Re: Ideal configuration within wintering hives in a very cold climate

    Vance G; I use a bit different insulating and venting system than you so my sugar does not tend to cake into a lump. My hives were around 130 # gross going into winter last year and only one hive of 8 used any amount of sugar I put in the top feeder lift. The winter before I had one hive that went into winter a bit light and they were up into the sugar early and used a lot. I am sure it saved them. I wonder whether different conditions and feeding at season closeout leads to some hives clustering high and others low in the brood boxes. Some conditions of breed, feed, population or I dunno what, seem to lead to chimneying to the top and the sugar up top seems a clear benefit.

    I have wondered if feeding most of the winter feed in the form of sugar syrup leaves them shy of pollen to get brooding early. I have been getting them through winter with good success but their numbers dont seem to get up to make a good haul off the early flow. I need educating on this. Pretty marginal conditions here both weather and forage wise.
    Frank

  19. #19
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    Jan 2003
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    Manitoba Canada
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    Default Re: Ideal configuration within wintering hives in a very cold climate

    Quote Originally Posted by Vance G View Post
    If I could winter inside like you I probably would and forgo all this extra labor. It would certainly be an unwelcome sideshow to someone calving or getting ready to.
    So I still dont understand the advantage of feeding the dry sugar over the nest as compared to having the bees store it away in the frames as syrup.
    Is it you cant get enough feed into the hive body for the hive to make winter successfully?
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Ideal configuration within wintering hives in a very cold climate

    Quote Originally Posted by crofter View Post

    I have wondered if feeding most of the winter feed in the form of sugar syrup leaves them shy of pollen to get brooding early.
    But winter feeding is usually done late summer and fall. The pollen stores in your hives should already be set unless your looking for a late fall pollen flow to increase your pollen reserves.
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

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