Insecure re: moisture build-up prevention for winter
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    Pitt, NC, USA
    Posts
    807

    Question Insecure re: moisture build-up prevention for winter

    My former mentor (last year) was big on using a shallow filled with burlap-containing wood chips to soak up extra wetness in his hives over winter. His hives "sorta" survived winter but all died out this year except for one in the country [where a bear destroyed it].

    A few locals who had success the last 2 years told me at the meeting this week that they used nothing at all to control hive moisture. SO ... I'm wondering: should I do nothing (that is, if my 2 hives make it to fall/winter)?

    If action is needed, would it be adequate to cover the inner cover with wood chips? I had placed mesh over the cover openings this summer, and the bees propolized the meshes totally shut.

    Any ideas, suggestions, warnings would be appreciated.

    Mitch

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

    Default Re: Insecure re: moisture build-up prevention for winter

    I use quilt boxes with great wintering success. (But I also have well-treated hives and lots of chow, the two other factors that often kill bees in winter.) I am in a very cold climate, with a long winter.

    Shavings on top of an inner cover are a misunderstanding of the purpose and the function of a QB.

    And even a shavings-filled QB with a fabric floor but without a way above it for accumulating moisture to leave the stack won't work either.

    So do it the "conventional way" with an inner cover with no shavings or QB, or make a proper QB with a fabric floor, shavings and a vent shim above. But don't try to sort of do it both ways.

    In all cases, a 1.5" or 2" slab of foam tucked up into your telecover will be appreciated by your bees.

    I have written repeatedly about how to make a QB, and my stack order. Search my user name for these posts.

    Nancy

  4. #3
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Champaign, Illinois
    Posts
    2,461

    Default Re: Insecure re: moisture build-up prevention for winter

    My winter vent setup is to put a 1.5" shim on top that has a .75" hole bored in it.
    Above the shim goes a piece of 1" builder's foam then the cover on top.
    If the bees didn't like it they'd propolis up the hole and they rarely do.
    In spring the minute I see burr comb in the shim it's time to put supers on.
    Internet credibility is an oxymoron

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Mtn. View, Arkansas, USA
    Posts
    2,760

    Default Re: Insecure re: moisture build-up prevention for winter

    The old saying "All beekeeping is local" applies to how moisture is handled just as it does so many other things about beekeeping.

    In my area of Arkansas moisture control is simple. If using solid bottom boards place a strip of 3/4 inch wood under the rear of the bottom board to elevate the colony so the moisture that forms on the interior walls will run out of the entrance. If using open mesh bottom boards just leave the sticky board insert out. Here, there is no need for upper entrances to allow moisture to escape, but I do believe it is helpful to have an inch of insulation on top of the inner cover. The insulation helps maintain the warmth that collects in the upper portion of the hive and any moisture that forms, forms on the side walls of the hive.
    42 + years - 24 colonies - IPM disciple - Naturally Skeptic

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Aylett, Virginia
    Posts
    4,281

    Default Re: Insecure re: moisture build-up prevention for winter

    I see all the advice, while good, is coming from areas that are much farther north than eastern NC. Keep this in mind. We just had this discussion last night at the Ashland (VA) Beekeepers Assn meeting. Winter prep here is making sure the hive is healthy and has adequate stores. This means treating for varroa and weighing the hives to make sure there is enough honey for them. Hives that are light, less than 60 lbs for a double 10 frame deep, should be fed heavily with 2:1 syrup. After that, make sure the hives are sheltered from wind. Temporary fences, stacked bales of straw, etc. Mouse guards to keep rodents out. We have voles here and they make a mess. Some of the experienced bks use a small rock to lift the top off the inner cover about 1/2" for improved ventilation. I will be using a shim as the rock idea seems just a bit too country for me.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    Pitt, NC, USA
    Posts
    807

    Default Re: Insecure re: moisture build-up prevention for winter

    Thx much, JW, Aunt B, Nancy and Arkansas -- terrific feedback, and food for thought. Last year, the hives from the 2 nucs I got in April were dead-and-gone a month before now, so I see this year as a sort of success (despite the 1 split's colony absconding last week). I managed to harvest a quart of honey from the defunct split, too, so .... another silver lining to the cloud.

    All the best in your bee efforts!

    Mitch

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Rockford, IL
    Posts
    152

    Default Re: Insecure re: moisture build-up prevention for winter

    I'm in northern IL. I place the inner cover with the opening(notch) face down to allow the bees a top entrance for cleansing flights. I place a piece of screen over the center hole in the cover. Then I cut a piece of foam (recycled packing foam from work) over the inner cover and the telescoping cover above that. The lower entrance is reduced and the screened bottom board left open. With the foam above the inner cover, the moisture from the bees respiration does not condense on a cold inner cover. Therefore, it does not drip off the cover onto the cluster. Instead, it condenses on the inside walls and drains down the sides away from the cluster. The top entrance seems to provide sufficient ventilation as well. I only have 4 hives, but all of them made it thru last winter. Of course, they also have to have plenty of stores. I check them around the first of the year to assess how much food is left and supplement with dry sugar on newspaper if needed. I have had mice chew through the entrance reducer, so this year I am going to place a piece of 1/2" hardware cloth instead of a reducer.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Grand Rapids MI USA
    Posts
    1,593

    Default Re: Insecure re: moisture build-up prevention for winter

    i did away with the quilt boxes long ago. IMO foam board is the way to go above or below the outer cover (I just put mine on top). Easy to store, cheap enough, and no fussing with chips every year.
    The other important thing is venting, once I started dadoeing a 1/8" slot across the front of the inner cover and a hole in the feeder ring, condensation issues were confined to the sides of the boxes where it causes the least harm.
    Rod

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Sawyer County,WI USA
    Posts
    370

    Default Re: Insecure re: moisture build-up prevention for winter

    Quote Originally Posted by enjambres View Post
    I use quilt boxes with great wintering success. (But I also have well-treated hives and lots of chow, the two other factors that often kill bees in winter.) I am in a very cold climate, with a long winter.

    Shavings on top of an inner cover are a misunderstanding of the purpose and the function of a QB.

    And even a shavings-filled QB with a fabric floor but without a way above it for accumulating moisture to leave the stack won't work either.

    So do it the "conventional way" with an inner cover with no shavings or QB, or make a proper QB with a fabric floor, shavings and a vent shim above. But don't try to sort of do it both ways.

    In all cases, a 1.5" or 2" slab of foam tucked up into your telecover will be appreciated by your bees.

    I have written repeatedly about how to make a QB, and my stack order. Search my user name for these posts.

    Nancy
    Agreed.....Shavings 'can' become soggy from months of bee respiration as Spring approaches, after a long winter, and start dripping onto the cluster just when bees don't need the moisture.

    Foam Board, perhaps with shavings 'on top' (?) would be OK, but Winter is relative to where you and your bees are. Do you have Winter...or is it just a long dearth?

    Have you considered using a small Top Entrance for moisture to escape?

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Sawyer County,WI USA
    Posts
    370

    Default Re: Insecure re: moisture build-up prevention for winter

    Quote Originally Posted by rwlaw View Post
    i did away with the quilt boxes long ago. IMO foam board is the way to go above or below the outer cover (I just put mine on top). Easy to store, cheap enough, and no fussing with chips every year.
    The other important thing is venting, once I started dadoeing a 1/8" slot across the front of the inner cover and a hole in the feeder ring, condensation issues were confined to the sides of the boxes where it causes the least harm.
    Right On!

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    8,173

    Default Re: Insecure re: moisture build-up prevention for winter

    Quote Originally Posted by rwlaw View Post
    i did away with the quilt boxes long ago.
    I gave up using shavings 40 years ago. Foam on the inner cover and an upper entrance with the inner cover notch open, has worked well for me. Never a moisture issue in my hives.

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