Pushing multiple hives together for overwintering?
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  1. #1
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    Apr 2019
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    Default Pushing multiple hives together for overwintering?

    Our winters tend to last from November through the beginning of April. High winds are very common, and wind chills can be very, very low. Last year we had -30F+ wind chills.

    The price (and effort involved with) of putting the 2 inch insulation foam around all 4 sides of the hive, or wrapping each hive with the insulation material and covering it with black bags risks getting the insulation wet and having the insulation material fall apart.

    What I'm thinking is to figure out some sort of configuration where the hives are all pushed next to eachother, and the entire block of them wrapped together.

    The idea is to push all the hives right next to eachother to the point that they're all directly touching. Currently I have a row of 4 hives separated by 3+ feet each.

    Questions:

    1. If I push 4 hives all next to eachother, directly touching, in a line. Is that going to confuse the bees trying to find their way back to their parent hive in the winter?

    2. The plan is to just wrap the block of hives in tar paper as a whole, rather than individually, to make it one large block (to help with wind and maybe this will help with heat loss from the sides?)??

    3. I think if 8 hives were all pushed next to each-other in one giant block 2 hives thick, front row facing one direction, back row facing another - it would be best. But that's a lot of work and a lot of hives (the back row) would change their entrance directions, which could cause more trouble than its worth?

    Currently all the hives are separate by 3 or 4 feet, and I'm just trying to think of ways to avoid having to wrap all the hives with thick 2 inch insulation foam, and not needing to individually wrap every hive with tar paper.
    Last edited by username00101; 08-06-2019 at 01:02 PM.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
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    Derry, New Hampshire
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    Default Re: Pushing multiple hives together for overwintering?

    if you have telescoping covers they will get in the way. I leave the boxes after the first frost alone and they glue them together. any gaps i might put tape over the cracks. I don't wrap or insulate except for a quilt box.
    imo the black paper might add some thermal warmth. it has to be tight and have holes cut for bees to fly in winter good days. Try setting them with the backs of the hives towards the prevailing winds. ratchet strap each one down to the base. I also was going to do what you are talking about when i started and then priced out the cost of insulation as well as the pita factor of storing it the rest of the year.

    oh and you can move them to the arrangement now or at least start creeping them closer every week by a few inches. You can have hives literally inches from each other all year and no issues. If you spin some around do it at night and put branches in front of the hive so the re-orient themselves.
    Terrence

  4. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Algoma District Northern Ontario, Canada
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    Default Re: Pushing multiple hives together for overwintering?

    There certainly are advantages in gang wrapping boxes. I believe that is Enjambres method. I have used it and know several others who do, BUT.... there is a potential problem maintaining access individually for inspection of any top feed and confirmation of live queen in the spring. Vance G. says the wraps should stay on till corn planting time! If it is not quick and easy to get in and out and replace, we tend to get lazy and leave it off. It is third week in May here before the queen will start to lay beyond the center third of the middle frames in the box. The ends are too cold to cover brood if the hives wraps are off. Slows down build up.

    I plan to make a joint in the insulation where the feed lift ring starts so that can be removed separately from the insulation on the brood boxes below.
    Frank

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
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    Default Re: Pushing multiple hives together for overwintering?

    How many hives are pushed together in a row for this method?

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Pushing multiple hives together for overwintering?

    Quote Originally Posted by username00101 View Post
    How many hives are pushed together in a row for this method?
    Four hives will allow some insulation between and still be spanned by one slice off an 8 foot sheet of styrofoam front and back. Works best if all hives have similar height componets all the way and sit on common rails. I have also used a sheet of corrugated roofing to top the group, but that is not good for individual access if you value that.
    Frank

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
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    Default Re: Pushing multiple hives together for overwintering?

    A hundred years ago there were two principle methods of over-wintering in Northern States and Canada - one being underground, either in cellars or purpose-made outdoor structures (essentially pits with straw coverings).

    The other method was to group hives together in fours or sixes and surround them with a wooden packing case. These crates were then filled with chaff (straw, dried leaves etc) and a single slab roof placed on top.

    I can post some pictures if this would help.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
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    Default Re: Pushing multiple hives together for overwintering?

    I have all of my hives pushed together for the winter and then common-insulated with long slabs of XPS.

    Two, !" pieces of XPS between each hive to accommodate the overhang of the telecovers. (A two-inch thick slab is not the same thickness as the two, 1" slabs for some reason, and it isn't thick-enough to fill the space between two colonies and their covers. Go figure.)

    Five 10-frame Langs, pushed together as above, plus 3" of end insulation ( 2" layer, plus a 1" layer) on each end is almost perfectly 8 feet, so minimal cutting involved.

    Aside from the intra-hive layers, all of my haves have 3" of insulation on all four sides.

    My stacks are tall enough so ,that I use two 24" wide panels of 2" thick XPS run lengthwise along the back, which extends up from the bottom of the hive and over the first few inches of the quilt boxes I use on top of every colony. I cover the two-inch tick layer with a 4' x 8' layer of one-inch XPS to give it wind-tightness.

    Along the front I use one 24" piece - with a tongue and groove edge - plus a piece wide enough to reach to just under the top entrance opening in the 2" high upper shim on top of the uppermost box. Same 1" thick outer layer on top of the inner layer as in the backs.

    The ends have two-layers, too, with stepped joints to reduce drafts.

    I used to try and strap these panels in place. Now I just lean wood pallets along all four sides. The ends extend beyond the row, but on the front and the back I have lines of pallets with a few inches between them. I climb the pallets like ladders when I want to check on the insulation on top, or check on or feed the hives during the winter.

    I have 1.5 inches of insulation inside each telecover, as well as 2" x 24" slab laid along all the tops (weighted down with bricks.) Occasionally small differences in heights require 1/2' or 3/4' fillers of XPS on top of a particular hive to keep the top slab level and tight.

    The pallets make management fast and easy - I just lay them down and pull of the front panels when I want to clean out the bottom boards, or do an OAV. I can reset them myself, which is important as I work alone.

    My bees are snug as bugs during the winter. They winter very reliably in my z4b/z5a climate.

    If you need pictures, I can post some.

    Nancy

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
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    Default Re: Pushing multiple hives together for overwintering?

    Quote Originally Posted by enjambres View Post
    I have all of my hives pushed together for the winter and then common-insulated with long slabs of XPS.

    Two, !" pieces of XPS between each hive to accommodate the overhang of the telecovers. (A two-inch thick slab is not the same thickness as the two, 1" slabs for some reason, and it isn't thick-enough to fill the space between two colonies and their covers. Go figure.)

    Five 10-frame Langs, pushed together as above, plus 3" of end insulation ( 2" layer, plus a 1" layer) on each end is almost perfectly 8 feet, so minimal cutting involved.

    Aside from the intra-hive layers, all of my haves have 3" of insulation on all four sides.

    My stacks are tall enough so ,that I use two 24" wide panels of 2" thick XPS run lengthwise along the back, which extends up from the bottom of the hive and over the first few inches of the quilt boxes I use on top of every colony. I cover the two-inch tick layer with a 4' x 8' layer of one-inch XPS to give it wind-tightness.

    Along the front I use one 24" piece - with a tongue and groove edge - plus a piece wide enough to reach to just under the top entrance opening in the 2" high upper shim on top of the uppermost box. Same 1" thick outer layer on top of the inner layer as in the backs.

    The ends have two-layers, too, with stepped joints to reduce drafts.

    I used to try and strap these panels in place. Now I just lean wood pallets along all four sides. The ends extend beyond the row, but on the front and the back I have lines of pallets with a few inches between them. I climb the pallets like ladders when I want to check on the insulation on top, or check on or feed the hives during the winter.

    I have 1.5 inches of insulation inside each telecover, as well as 2" x 24" slab laid along all the tops (weighted down with bricks.) Occasionally small differences in heights require 1/2' or 3/4' fillers of XPS on top of a particular hive to keep the top slab level and tight.

    The pallets make management fast and easy - I just lay them down and pull of the front panels when I want to clean out the bottom boards, or do an OAV. I can reset them myself, which is important as I work alone.

    My bees are snug as bugs during the winter. They winter very reliably in my z4b/z5a climate.

    If you need pictures, I can post some.

    Nancy
    Thank you for posting.

    Can you please post some pictures? You have the same agricultural zone as myself.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Pushing multiple hives together for overwintering?

    Here are some pics from various years:

    Hives (with front panels dropped down during winter maintenance visit) showing the panels between stacks. This is an old pic when I was still trying to hold them together using ratchet straps. I no longer do that.green stick 044.jpg

    Here's a more recent one showing the wood pallets holding the panels up against the front of the hives:nancy's pics 059.jpg

    Here's me climbing up to tend the bees with the panels all in place:nancy's pics 074.jpg

    Working on an open hive while standing on the pallet slats:nancy's pics 077.jpg

    Any other detail you want to see?

    Nancy

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
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    Northeast PA
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    Default Re: Pushing multiple hives together for overwintering?

    Wow that's very interesting.

    If you wouldn't mind answering a couple of questions:

    1. How do the bees orient back towards the hives in a setup like that? My concern was moving hives from their original location would confuse the bees and cause them to lose track of their entrance location?

    2. Looks like you stack them on top of eachother? Some are 5 boxes high.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Pushing multiple hives together for overwintering?

    1) I move hives all the time, distances of a couple of feet up to 1000 feet, or more. I strap them together with two pairs of ratchet straps and lift them with the bucket of our tractor. I use a modified method built on Michael Bush's insights about moving hives, deploying a left-behind box at the old site, as needed. (Not needed for short moves, the bees can figure it out.)

    2) No, those are not stacked hives. Each is only a single colony. I winter with three 10-frame deeps, plus a medium underneath them used as a pollen box and a shallow box on top (not accessible to the bees) used as a quilt box. Plus two, 2" high shims (one under all the boxes and another as the top exit one) That's why I need two, 24" wide (or a 48" wide) pieces on the back, and two (smaller) pieces for the fronts. Fronts are a bit more than 39" inches high from the top of the forward facing edges of the entrance board to just under the top entrance. I winter all my colonies in the same number of boxes, though the smaller colonies are matched with smaller interiors using follower boards to reduce the interior widths. Look closely at the pictures where you see the little cardboard thingies is where the upper entrance is. Those are wind baffles over the entrance hole.

    Nancy

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