Winter Prep New York City
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Brooklyn, NY
    Posts
    5

    Default Winter Prep New York City

    The temp dropped from 70 to 52 in Brooklyn this week. I am a first year bee keeper, and I have been feeding syrup and just insulted the outside of the hive last week. My plan has been to leave the hive top feeder on over the winder and fill it with cedar chips or something similar and to put a second inner cover on the bottom to help with ventilation. When I inserted the second inner cover today and went to add more sugar syrup, it turned out that there was as sugary coating on top of the sugar syrup that had been there, but it had not been completely used. I broke it lose so that the bees could access it again and the wood platforms float. There were quite a lot of bees milling around in the feeder and under the cover.

    I have two questions that I hoping the more experienced folks on the site can help with: (1) should I be dumping the rest of the syrup and following my plan to leave the super on with cedar chips or some other insulating material inside? and (2) If i take this approach, should i also drill a whole in the honey super or do something else for the bees to give them good ventilation, etc? That is, does is two inner cover approach an OK idea for New York? Picture attached.

    Thanks, guys.

    Insualted Hive - Oct 2015.jpg

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
    Posts
    5,536

    Default Re: Winter Prep New York City

    I recommend NOT leaving the hive top feeder on. Here's why:

    You've probably read about "quilt boxes" filled with cedar or wood chips - they sound so cozy and warm! But they really should be renamed. A quilt box is really there to be a moisture management tool and only secondarily as insulation. It has a fabric floor that allows the warm moist air given off by the cluster to rise up and through the fabric and chips, and with good ventilation above, that moisture ventilates all winter keeping the bees dry. Bees can handle being cold (they can fix that using their own body heat) but they can't handle being wet. If you leave the top feeder on, with its impermeable floor, it will act as a condensation plane and when warm moist air touches the colder under surface of the feeder it will do exactly what a cold drink does on a humid summer day: condense the moisture right out. On a can of Coke that moisture just runs down the side; in a bee hive it collects until the surface tension is overwhelmed by gravity and then it drips right on down to the bees below.

    I had a friend leave a top feeder on last winter. When I discovered the hive in March, the whole thing was soaking wet: bees, frames, bottom board. On the first day it got above freezing after nearly two months water poured out of the entrance. Someone calculated that a good-sized colony gives off nearly five gallons of water metabolizing their honey over the winter. That's a lot of water!

    You can leave a small upper entrance in a feeding rim above your upper most box but it's unlikely to be effective at removing that much water. And indeed it will exacerbate the coolness of whatever solid surface you have overhead. I think a better solution is a fabric-floored quilt box. That's what I use and they work remarkably well.

    I am north of you, north of Albany so my winters are very cold, and long. My box configuration (from the top down) looks like this:

    Telecover with 1.5" of insulation foam tucked up inside (for insulation and to raise the lid so it doesn't block the ventilation holes in the next layer down);

    Ventilation shim 1.5" high with at least one 1" diameter hole on the front end;

    Quilt box with fabric floor: a shallow -around 4.5" high - box completely filled with coarse pine shavings (Tractor Supply source) mounded up slightly into the void in the ventilation rim above;

    Feeding shim/rim 1.5" high with 1" diameter hole that is mostly kept reduced in the winter; (this is where is I can add supplemental food - sugar bricks & winter patties when it's too cold to fly and then pollen patties in March - set right on top of the frames below;

    Medium of honey;

    Deep with honey and pollen in outer frames;

    Deep with pollen, honey and some very late brood;

    Deep with honey, pollen, brood and some empty space for the early cluster in the late Fall and early winter;

    SBB with entrance reducer in, allowing only a hole about 3/4 wide, covered with mouse guard;

    Solid bottom board with the sticky board slot closed tightly (but openable as i do sticky boards all winter).

    Ratchet strap around the whole darn thing (which I see you have already done.)

    I also insulate my hives with at least 3" on foam panels held tightly to the hive sides with straps, making certain that the entrances are not closed off. I make sure the insulation extends up high enough to cover the joint between the feeding.top entrance rim and QB on all sides except the front. I read that the R-value of successful bee trees is R-10 to R-15. A full inch of pine is less than R-1, so I add enough foam to mimic a bee tree. Ordinary foam insulation is about R-5 per inch, hence three to four inches. (The larger amount is on the windward and rear of the stacks.) I'm not sure what the R-value of the insulated bubblewrap sheets, but it's not likely to be much.

    Note there is no inner cover in my stack as I don't want any place for moisture to condense above the bees. I am unwilling to drill holes in my supers and I find the shallow feeding rim is much more convenient (I keep them on all summer as permanent top entrances - I just removed the small winter entrance reducer from the hole.) If you're done feeding for the year, you could dump the syrup. It's unlikely that you have tons of it with just a single hive and the inconvenience of keeping it from spoiling until feeding weather resumes next spring would make me dump it. (But you may have some more feeding days, if needed. I am colder than you and still feeding, when I can.

    My winter preps are likely overkill, but I would rather do that than kick myself next spring because I didn't do enough.

    It looks to me like you are using 8 frame equipment - right? How much does your hive weigh? That's one of the most important things to consider, IMO. The number of boxes is less relevant, it's the gross weight of the hive that makes or breaks it. In your first year it's not a signal failure on your part if they not quite up to where you want them. They have to do two things: draw the comb, and fill it, so it's a tough summer. If your hives need supplemental food I recommend Lauri's Recipe for homemade sugar bricks, or winter patty from Betterbee if you have the time to make your own. (Note this is winter patty not pollen sub patty, so it's safe for winter feeding, if needed. But sugar bricks are even safer.)

    Hope that helps - I was really anxious my first winter (small colonies, lots of really bonehead newbie mistakes, etc.) but luckily I stumbled upon information about quilt boxes, Lauri's sugar brick recipe and I insulated like mad. I have not lost hive to winter, yet. Hope you have the same good outcome.

    Enjambres

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Fairfield County, Connecticut, USA
    Posts
    4,265

    Default Re: Winter Prep New York City

    I would remove the feeder.

    In general, I have my inner covers notch-down year round. In the winter I place a piece of Homasote on top of the inner cover. My Homasote pieces are cut slightly undersized to provide more of a gap around the edges for moisture to migrate out of the hive if needed.

    I'm not far from you and I don't have any issues with moisture.

    I use 5:3 syrup whenever I need syrup. It won't crystallize as easily as 2:1 and it's easier to make.

    I prefer having an upper entrance in my top box. I drill them at an upward angle. I would drill the hole sooner than later.

    I don't wrap my hives, and I think you could skip that too. It's better to have the top insulated; moisture will condense on the side walls and be available for the bee's use.
    BeeCurious
    Trying to think inside the box...

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Louisville, KY
    Posts
    3,291

    Default Re: Winter Prep New York City

    something doesn't look right around the top. Not sure what you are doing there

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Utica, NY
    Posts
    13,203

    Default Re: Winter Prep New York City

    Just saying, I lost my first hive by leaving the hive top feeder on through winter. Whatever you are feeding will spoil and then it just adds moisture in the hive. You do not need insulation at all in Brooklyn NY.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Brooklyn, NY
    Posts
    5

    Default Re: Winter Prep New York City

    Thanks all. Enjambres - I am using 8 frames. There was a good amount of honey when I finished my winter inspection a few weeks ago - my rough estimate was that it weighed more than 60 lbs +. Burns 375- I think you are seeing the two inner covers surrounding the hive top feeder. I have now removed the hive top feeder, and I suppose I need to drill a hole for ventilation in the super that I am leaving on and consider buying a quilt box. I held back on drilling the hole today, because I noticed a number of yellow jackets around and didn't want to make defending a bigger problem for the hive. I have two small super boxes around, which I may be able to repurpose for the quilt box.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Suffolk Co, NY, USA
    Posts
    3,771

    Default Re: Winter Prep New York City

    I am on eastern Long Island and winter my bees the same as BeeCurious post #3.
    There is no need for anything more except a mouse guard which you have on.
    60+lbs is a good weight but a warm winter will have them use it up so look in the hive
    come a nice day in middle to late February and supplement with sugar or fondant until
    pollen and nectar begins coming in from soft maples.

    I winterize approaching Thanksgiving.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Utica, NY
    Posts
    13,203

    Default Re: Winter Prep New York City

    Quote Originally Posted by BrooklynBuzz View Post
    I suppose I need to drill a hole for ventilation in the super that I am leaving on and consider buying a quilt box.
    Don't drill your boxes. Notch your inner cover or incorporate the vent / entrance in your quilt box set up.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

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