OK to Leave Empty Brood Boxes & Supers Outside This Winter?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Location
    Western Springs, IL
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    5

    Question OK to Leave Empty Brood Boxes & Supers Outside This Winter?

    Sadly this is the third fall in a row losing both our back yard hives (for various reasons) Past two years I brought the boxes inside to harvest what I could and then stored them in my basement. The supers seem light so I don't think we'll be harvesting, but I'm wondering if it's ok to just leave them outside for the winter? Maybe stored under our car port or garage? That would save me from having to schlep them down to my basement and wrapping them to keep out the moths. Thank you in advance for all your wisdom!

    ChefAnn
    Chicago Suburbs
    Go Hawks!

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Aylett, Virginia
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    3,712

    Default Re: OK to Leave Empty Brood Boxes & Supers Outside This Winter?

    If you leave them outside you will have moths, roaches, rodents, and what have you in those boxes. Take em downstairs and wrap them up with some paramoth crystals. Then, spend some time this winter to figure out what you need to change in order to keep your bees alive next year.

    If the hives died already, my bet would be varroa mites and the viruses they vector. You said various reasons. Please elaborate.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Location
    Western Springs, IL
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    5

    Default Re: OK to Leave Empty Brood Boxes & Supers Outside This Winter?

    Excellent points - I will get them in as soon as I can! Regarding our experience with hive loss...our first year we were total newbies and despite having gone through classes, reading books, etc. we didn't really have a handle on mite treatment until late in the season and when we went to inspect the hives in October, they were both empty. At the time, we didn't consider it was just die off due to mites, but in hindsight clearly it was. Last year we were much more aggressive with the mite treatments (OAV) and as of Thanksgiving, both hives seemed to be doing ok and hunkering down for the winter. Then in December, Chicago had a icy storm followed by a severe cold snap and that was all she wrote. I think condensation was to blame. This season, we backed off on the OAV a bit, which in hindsight was not the proper course) plus one of the two hives was weak from the start. We weren't surprised that one did not survive. The stronger hive lasted a bit longer, but I would bet anything that the mites got the best of them as well. I will say that this forum, which I just discovered this year, has been VERY helpful, so I will keep reading and researching and next year maybe we can make it work!

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Aylett, Virginia
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    3,712

    Default Re: OK to Leave Empty Brood Boxes & Supers Outside This Winter?

    I admire perserverence and learning from one's mistakes. I let mites kill 3 of my 6 hives last year. Two were dead by Thanksgiving. This year all are healthy but two nucs are weak. Next to adequate food stores and varroa control, proper ventilation/moisture control is critical for winter survival. All hives must breathe. A good quilt box on top with an insulation wrap should get you through the worst cold snap, assuming there are a good number of healthy bees in the hive. Nancy, (enjambres), has really good tips on how to insulate hives in colder climates like yours.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Clackamas Oregon
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    1,347

    Default Re: OK to Leave Empty Brood Boxes & Supers Outside This Winter?

    I leave mine outside but you have to tip them up so they can get light and air through them. I place the hive body top to top (so the frames do not fall out) and face the bottom to the south for max sun shine. I put rat and mouse bait stations around it. If you have extra covers place the covers on that to prevent the weather damage. The rodents will move in and destroy everything if you leave them in a nice normal stack. In the past the mice chew through the corners at the frame rests and set up shop if you have the entry blocked.
    “Why do we fall, sir? So that we might learn to pick ourselves up” Alfred Pennyworth Batman Begins (2005)

  7. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Gloucester County, New Jersey
    Posts
    385

    Default Re: OK to Leave Empty Brood Boxes & Supers Outside This Winter?

    I leave mine out and make sure the boxes and frames are exposed to sunlight: The moths leave them alone. Once the cold is here to stay, I just stack and mouse proof them but they still stay outside.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    Geauga, Ohio
    Posts
    429

    Default Re: OK to Leave Empty Brood Boxes & Supers Outside This Winter?

    In Chi-town, I would expect any moth eggs and SHB to die. It gets cold there! You do need to protect the combs from mice, 1/4 in hardware cloth or a mouse guard - and then you can just use Mother Nature's freezer.

    I would encourage anyone who is evaluating their deadout to 1) look for mites in the dead adult bees - just take the dead bees, 1/2 c if possible, and add water - or alcohol - mites will separate out. Then pour water/alcohol through 1/16 screen - not window screen. 2) Look for mite frass, which is mite poop that is ONLY released when the mites successfully reproduce. Mite frass is on the ceiling of the brood cell, looks like a tiny dot of powdered sugar. If you see more than 3 cells in a 7x7 grid (that's 49 cells) with mite frass, that is at least 6% of the brood infested, which is a moderate infection.

    Another possibility is that there is a brood disease, either EFB (did you see shot-gun brood pattern, can google it, bees never growing past about 10-15 frames covered?) or nosema (failure to thrive, not getting past 10 frames covered). Occasionally there can be very virulent strains of each. Nosema info: http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/files/147621.pdf EFB info: https://beeinformed.org/2013/04/05/e...dentification/ That one has some of the best pictures.

    And finally, the most irritating possibility of all: Minimal varroa pressure, no brood disease... but the bees swarmed without you realizing it! Or the queen was superceded. I have had that happen too, losing a hive in winter because I didn't realize they had swarmed. Healthy hives swarm, and sometimes the bees supercede a new queen... and sometimes the virgin queen doesn't make it back. You won't notice a big drop in population, unless you inspect the day or 2 after they depart. That's because for 2 weeks past the swarm departure, the number of bees is still pretty high - because the old queen kindly left a lot of capped brood that will emerge over this period.

    Those are the 3 common classes of late fall/early winter killers for our hives: varroa, brood disease, and late swarming/supercedure with the queen not making it back. With adequate notes (for each inspection, was there capped brood? larvae? How many frames covered with bees?) and inspecting every 10 days until about mid-July, you can sometimes either confirm a diagnosis or rule one out.

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