Frost in hive
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Thread: Frost in hive

  1. #1

    Default Frost in hive

    I need some help with frost inside my hive. I tried searching google, this forum and other forums, cant seem to find anything concerning frost inside hives. I have 1 hive located in Western MA, which is "winterized". It's has 3 deeps and a medium on top. This is my first winter so i opted to not harvest any honey. All frames were pretty solid with honey going into winter. Been below freezing since November, recently reaching -30 at night in past weeks.

    Today temps finally rose above freezing closing in on 50 so decided to take a peek. First thing I noticed was the mouse guard blocked with dead bees so I took it off. Behind the mouse guard was a packed layer of dead bees so I began scooping them out. Looking inside I could see the bottom board was completely packed with dead bees so i decided to lift the hive body and put it on a clean bottom board. Before I did this I lifted the top and found the inside walls of the top medium to have a layer of frost reaching the closest frames on both sides. The inner cover is also frosted over. Huge die off but still have large cluster in the top deep box. When I moved the hive body to a new bottom board the hive is heavy so I believe there to be a good amount of honey still in there.

    So despite my attempt at winterizing there's a ton of moisture trapped inside the hive for some reason. I think the -30 temps, die off and mouse guard blocked any air flow into the hive. I'm just trying to figure out what I should do at this point on. I have plenty more hive boxes. I was thinking i should transfer the bees and frames into new hive boxes. Tomorrow and Tuesday supposed to be in mid 50's.

    So anybody deal with frost? Should I disturb the hive and put the frames into fresh boxes?

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  3. #2
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Frost in hive

    No need to worry it happens. On warmer days it will start to melt and the bees will use it to water down honey for the brood.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Frost in hive

    I would be concerned if I saw evidence of that much water in the hive. Do you have an upper entrance, quilt box or any other means to absorb water? Did you insulate the inner cover? Some beeks think that freezing temperatures kill off the bees but it is moisture in the hive dripping down on the cluster that kills them.

  5. #4

    Default Re: Frost in hive

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  6. #5
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    Default Re: Frost in hive

    Moving the bees now will give them more injury than doing what you need to do to get an upper entrance on that hive.

    A quilt box is the answer and you can make one and install w/o disturbing them at all. In the meantime, just make sure the notch in your inner cover is not closed up by the overhang on the telecover.

    The bees no doubt feel much relieved to not be living over that layer of dead bees. You can usually just fish them put from the open entrance using a flat stick such as extra long paint stirrer (Home Depot, three for 99 cents in the paint dept.) or a wooden yard stick or a bent metal rod. Be sure to put the entrance reducer back in, small notch facing upward, and replace the mouse guard. I usually scrape the dead 'uns out two or three times per winter. I last did it in late December so I am due to take a look in them tomorrow. Finding lots of dead bees doesn't mean the hive is invariably doomed. Often when there is really cold weather the bees let their chores wait until it's safe to go out.

    If you want to give the bees some protection from cold, you can cut pieces of foam insulation and tie it around the hive. I am north of Albany, NY and my hives are surrounded by 3" of foam (R-15). But the most critical piece of insulation is a panel tucked up inside the telecover. I use 1.5", but you can buy a "project piece: that 24 X 24 of 1" material at any big box store if you only have a single hive.

    Insulation in the roof assembly is what really saves the day, so if you do buy some more to put around the sides, think about adding another piece on top of the telecover. I use upper entrances, quilt boxes, the 1.5" of insulation inside the telecover and 2" more on top, on the outside. All of that is in aid of keeping the moisture that the bees give off in (about 5 gallons over the course of a winter) from condensing and dripping back down on them. Dry bees can stand a lot of cold, wet bees - like humans - are much more vulnerable to cold stress.

    If you need info about how to make a quilt box, post back and I'll explain. Despite it's cozy name, it is not intended to keep the bees warm, but instead to manage all that moisture. It has a built-in upper entrance, too.

    You're doing pretty well, as a first-year beekeeper, to have heavy hives with lives bees in early Feb.

    Where do you live in Western MA? I went to school in Amherst and lived for many years in the Berkshires.

    Nancy

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Frost in hive

    jdjr & Nancy,

    When I read "Huge die off but still have large cluster in the top deep box." , my first question was "is that cluster alive or is it a dead out? Especially when you indicate that the bottom board is bottom board was completely packed with dead bees." So idir, next time you are back in the hive confirm that the bees are alive. One easy way to do this without even removing your upper super is to blow down from above the cluster and between the frames. If the bees roar in response, then you know they are alive. Alternatively, of course, you can make a visual check but you must be careful not to disturb them or chill them, so do whatever you do, do it quickly.

    Is there food (honey) in the super above the cluster? As spring approaches the cluster will move upward and you may have to add food there for them.

    Follow Nancy's recommendations, especially the "upper entrances, quilt boxes, the 1.5" of insulation inside the telecover and 2" more on top, on the outside." I do exactly the same here in cold Colorado.

    Cheers,
    Steve

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Frost in hive

    While it is noble to leave the bees their honey; 3 deeps and a medium is quite a substantial volume particularly for western MA. I think this could potentially contribute to the amount of moisture in your hive. 2 Deeps and possibly a medium would be adequate.
    7 years; 3 colonies.

  9. #8

    Default Re: Frost in hive

    Today I made a quilt box and insulated the inner cover. Ty all for the help. Prior I just had the hive wrapped with insulation and nothing to wick up moisture.

    Bear Creek Steve: There's definitely a live cluster in there, they're directly below the 8 frame medium which is solid honey.

    NAncy: I'm in Dalton which is right outside Pittsfield. Ty, today I did as you suggested.

    Beerz: Okay, I'll plan for that next winter.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Frost in hive

    Lots of good advice above. I just wanted to add that there are plenty of us up here near the Canadian border who overwinter double nucs without extra insulation, just a 2" piece of foam inside the outer cover with a circulation channel and the bees come out of the winter just fine. I am more and more convinced that the amount of honey is only relevant to the size of the whole colony. In other words, if you are going to have 3 deeps and a medium you are going to need to have most of that honey going into November. If you have an entire colony that is only 8 frames total (one side of a double nuc) it also needs to be mostly honey. There is no clear evidence that larger colonies do better over winter. Actually there is a commercial beekeeper in Quebec who downsizes ALL his colonies to ONE deep and has very good overwintering success. Another in Vermont discovered his double nucs over winter better than his production colonies so he also has downsized most of his colonies to nucs.
    I do think making sure the ability of the bees to circulate the moisture out all winter long is important. Without insulation on the top the moisture rises up cools and rains down on the bees.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Frost in hive

    While it probably will not hurt a thing, quilt box or pillow boxes are a bit overkill.....like JJapple said, all that is really needed is a 2" piece of foam under the top cover above your inner cover and a small vent hole which is commonly notched in any inner cover. put some duct tape over your innercover center hole as the bees love to chew the foam insulation....all you are doing is reducing the thermal shock so the moisture from the hive does not condense directly over the cluster of bees from coming in contact with the cold top cover.......condensation on the sides is fine...and in fact bees will use it for their water intake during winter months. Michael Palmer who is up in the NE like you just uses foam insulation on top and he has his hives wrapped in tar paper...that's it...with an inner cover vent hole...
    Help is here to never misplace that hive tool again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvwlSiOzgOU

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Frost in hive

    For every 12 lbs of honey (and/or syrup or sugar) your bees eat they will exhale a gallon of water as water vapor. Over the course of a winter this can be four to five gallons of water, and this has to escape as vapor or it will condense and run down into the hive, or worse, rain cold water on the bees, and as you found out, in extreme cold it will freeze on the walls of the hive where it condensed.

    The chemistry here is fairly basic. Bees "burn" sugar for calories of energy, just like we humans do. The calories come from the sugar in the honey in a process called cellular respiration.

    The chemical formula for the cellular respiration process is 6O2 + C6H12O6 → 6CO2 + 6H20.

    What this formula tells us that that for every molecule of sugar a bee "burns" to make calories for heat and energy it will exhale 6 molecules of carbon dioxide and six molecules of water. By adding up the atomic weights and allowing for the 18% of water in honey we get that for each pound of sugar the bees eat, they exhale .67 pounds of water. A gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. 12 lbs of honey *.67 = 8 lbs, or one gallon of water.

    If you use SI units, the same proportions hold. For every kilogram of honey the bees eat they exhale .67 kilograms of water, or .67 liters of water.

    So you need to give all that water a means of escaping from the hive. An upper entrance, a quilt box, or a Vivaldi board are all options.

    Last fall I built three Vivaldi boards to try out along side my quilt boxes. I think they work equally as well as a quilt box, but they have two big advantages over a quilt. 1)I can add dry sugar without opening the hive chamber just by pouring it though the screen of the insert box. 2)I can lift the burlap and look through the screen and ascertain how they are doing in a matter of seconds without disturbing them. This summer I will be converting all my quilt boxes to Vivaldi boards. The conversion is easy - cut 1/2" plywood to fit the inside of the box, drill pocket screw holes, drill a 2-1/2" hole in the middle of the plywood and then pocket screw it into the box with a 3/8" spacer below it. If I ever want to convert them back all I have to do is remove the pocket screws and plywood. The insert is just a frame of 1" x 3/4" sticks with hardware cloth stapled over it. I insulated the plywood area outside the frame insert with 2" foam. I plan on putting a plexi-glass insert in one Vivaldi board and try it out as I've seen that some beekeepers in Finland are using clear inner covers so they can check on the hive in the winter.
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  13. #12
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    Default Re: Frost in hive

    Quote Originally Posted by JConnolly View Post
    For every 12 lbs of honey (and/or syrup or sugar) your bees eat they will exhale a gallon of water as water vapor. Over the course of a winter this can be four to five gallons of water, and this has to escape as vapor or it will condense and run down into the hive, or worse, rain cold water on the bees, and as you found out, in extreme cold it will freeze on the walls of the hive where it condensed.

    The chemistry here is fairly basic. Bees "burn" sugar for calories of energy, just like we humans do. The calories come from the sugar in the honey in a process called cellular respiration.

    The chemical formula for the cellular respiration process is 6O2 + C6H12O6 → 6CO2 + 6H20.

    What this formula tells us that that for every molecule of sugar a bee "burns" to make calories for heat and energy it will exhale 6 molecules of carbon dioxide and six molecules of water. By adding up the atomic weights and allowing for the 18% of water in honey we get that for each pound of sugar the bees eat, they exhale .67 pounds of water. A gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. 12 lbs of honey *.67 = 8 lbs, or one gallon of water.

    If you use SI units, the same proportions hold. For every kilogram of honey the bees eat they exhale .67 kilograms of water, or .67 liters of water.

    So you need to give all that water a means of escaping from the hive. An upper entrance, a quilt box, or a Vivaldi board are all options.

    Last fall I built three Vivaldi boards to try out along side my quilt boxes. I think they work equally as well as a quilt box, but they have two big advantages over a quilt. 1)I can add dry sugar without opening the hive chamber just by pouring it though the screen of the insert box. 2)I can lift the burlap and look through the screen and ascertain how they are doing in a matter of seconds without disturbing them. This summer I will be converting all my quilt boxes to Vivaldi boards. The conversion is easy - cut 1/2" plywood to fit the inside of the box, drill pocket screw holes, drill a 2-1/2" hole in the middle of the plywood and then pocket screw it into the box with a 3/8" spacer below it. If I ever want to convert them back all I have to do is remove the pocket screws and plywood. The insert is just a frame of 1" x 3/4" sticks with hardware cloth stapled over it. I insulated the plywood area outside the frame insert with 2" foam. I plan on putting a plexi-glass insert in one Vivaldi board and try it out as I've seen that some beekeepers in Finland are using clear inner covers so they can check on the hive in the winter.
    hmmmm....math isn't quite adding up. Honey has a moisture content of 15-18%.
    12lbs of honey would carry a maximum of 2.1lbs of h2o...1/6 gallon.

    unless i'm missing something?
    Last edited by KevinWI; 02-06-2019 at 09:01 PM.
    Help is here to never misplace that hive tool again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvwlSiOzgOU

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Frost in hive

    Yes, you are missing the chemical reaction that happens when sugar is metabolized in the bee's body to make energy.

    A sugar molecule has 6 carbon atoms, 12 hydrogen atoms, and 6 oxygen atoms. When a cell uses sugar it will react the sugar molecules with oxygen that the bee breathes in. The six carbon atoms in sugar molecule will be reacted with oxygen from the air to make six molecules of carbon dioxide, leaving six molecules of water left over from the 12 hydrogen and 6 oxygen atoms in the sugar, as shown in the chemical formula above. This reaction also releases heat that the bee uses for energy. The bee will exhale the carbon dioxide and the water as water vapor. The same process happens inside your own body, that is where the water vapor that you see when you breathe out on a very cold day comes from.

    A pound of honey with 18% water in it consists of .18 pounds of water and .82 pounds of sugar (plus a few trace compounds but they are a small enough weight that we can ignore them for now). By adding up the atomic weights of the atoms in sugar we can determine that the water from the sugar makes up 60% of the weight of sugar. So 60% of the .82 pounds of sugar is .49 pounds of water. Add .49 pounds of water from the metabolized sugar to the .18 pounds of free water that is in honey and there is where the .67 figure comes from.

    I hope that helped it make more sense.
    Last edited by JConnolly; 02-06-2019 at 09:39 PM.
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  15. #14
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    Default Re: Frost in hive

    Quote Originally Posted by JConnolly View Post
    A sugar molecule has 6 carbon atoms, 12 hydrogen atoms, and 6 oxygen atoms.
    Now I'm curious and I suspect you will have an answer. Fructose is C6H12O6, but Sucrose is C12H22O11. How does the reaction change with Sucrose as the input ? Thinking specifically of the case where dry sugar is left over the top bars.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Frost in hive

    Sucrose is a fructose and glucose stuck together. Both fructose and glucose have the same chemical formula, they are just arranged a little differently. Sucrose isn't usable as is for cellular respiration so digestive enzymes split sucrose into fructose and glucose. Somewhere in that reaction the enzyme must add another water molecule so the chemical formula balances. Nectar has sucrose, fructose, and glucose in it so the bee's digestive system can handle breaking down sucrose. When they store honey it is fructose and glucose.

    Edit, had to check with my Chem-Eng student son and he checked one of his books. Apparently weak acids help snap the fructose-glucose bond in sucrose. I guess that's why you need to add a small amount of vinegar in order to cook up fondant for your bees.
    Last edited by JConnolly; 02-06-2019 at 10:28 PM.
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  17. #16
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    Default Re: Frost in hive

    Quote Originally Posted by JConnolly View Post
    Sucrose is a fructose and glucose stuck together. Sucrose isn't usable as is for cellular respiration so digestive enzymes split sucrose into fructose and glucose. Somewhere in that reaction the enzyme adds another water molecule.
    hmm, now you have me digging on wiki, but it says both glucose and fructose are C6H1206. sucrose is C12H22O11, seems to be missing an O and a couple H. Now I'm guessing that means they are shared between the two when joined. So to break sucrose into the two constituent parts one needs to add in one molecule of dihydrogen monoxide to get the full tally. Not a chemist, but, for some reason this actually seems to make sense because I do know to 'invert' sugar, one needs to add a small amount of water and some heat.

    The reason I'm curious goes to our methods for wintering the mini nucs. We've tried numerous variations, one colony on 10 frames, mostly honey. 2 colonies on 5 frames each, full of honey, and 2 colonies on 5 frames each, with dry sugar above. Winter survival rates on the minis that have a 1 inch shim and 2 pounds of damp sugar filling the shim winter by far better than the other two variations. the kind of surprising part, put the sugar on in October, then open them in March, they have hardly touched the honey.

    Now, we are in an extremely wet winter climate here. Pondering if that missing H20 in the sucrose may be part of the answer....

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Frost in hive

    I added some detail to my previous post after talking with my kid that is studying Chem E and he looked it up.

    I think that another thing the dry sugar does is absorb condensation, which is part of the problem the OP was having. That is also why after trying this winter I'm sold on Vivaldi boards over quilt boxes because it makes putting sugar on really simple and neat and tidy.
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