Wintering Bees In Alaska
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2016
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    Default Wintering Bees In Alaska

    I hear about beekeepers in Alaska that throw their bees to the wind every fall. I hope this can encourage more to overwinter. Its not that hard. And yes your bees can survive Alaska cold just fine. I didn't even need to feed mine this spring,and they could of made it through the summer without me. All I did was rob honey and treat.

    I am in Western Alaska 70 miles inland from the Bering Sea on the Yukon River.
    This wintering set up has worked successfully for me in this location. I think it would work anywhere in Alaska, or northern climate.

    I start by having all of my equipment painted flat black. (I keep it black in summer as well).

    I winter in three deeps.( But two would work IMO) The one on the bottom is just mostly half drawn frames , pollen stores, or even empties. Next is the brood nest,. Then a deep of sugar syrup, fed early enough to get capped if possible. (not honey,too many solids for long winters) I also feed a pollen patty in August, to fatten the winter bees.



    Then a three inch shim for space for sugar bricks.



    Above that, a notched inner cover/upper entrance, with a screened 3" feed jar hole, (Important for ventilation.)



    Then a empty medium stuffed with dry grass /straw.



    I also put a foam 1/2" foam board inside the lid.
    And wrap with colony quilts, but leave the lower box exposed, make sure the super is wrapped.

    On a warm spring day in March/April you can put on a jar of warm syrup for the afternoon, but remove before sunset. This will encourage a cleansing flight if you pick the right day.



    I also sprinkle ashes from my woodstove around my hives to melt the snow in early spring, It helps them orientate in the bright winter sun and snow reflection. stops the death spiral some.







    Also.

    YOU MUST TREAT YOUR BEES or its all for nothing. I have used MAQS and OA
    Good luck

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    Quote Originally Posted by yukonjeff View Post
    .. Then a deep of sugar syrup, fed early enough to get capped if possible. (not honey,too many solids for long winters)
    .............
    YOU MUST TREAT YOUR BEES or its all for nothing. I have used MAQS and OA
    Good luck
    Thanks for the good review (I have seen your notes already, but this is a good condensation of it).

    Especially I like how you confirm the benefit of large empty space under the bees (largely empty super).
    Clear demonstration of what the people argue about - sufficient under-frame buffer (or empty super) is good for wintering.

    Speaking of sugar syrup for the winter..
    If possible for the bees to have light types of honey (fire weed, clovers) - those are good for wintering and work fine.
    For example, frames of early light honey can be taken off and saved for the bees (to be returned for the wintering).
    It is the dark kinds of honey that better taken off due to solids.
    If not possible to separate the honey types, might as well do the sugar than.

    Treating of course a different subject.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    Thanks Greg. I hope it helps someone save a hive. When I was starting out (not that long ago) I checked in here for wintering advice and there was none.
    As far as the empty deep under, It is a big open space, but the face of that box will attract solar heat and chimney it up to the rest of the hive. Being black helps a lot. Keeps the brood nest off the cold/wet ground/snow as well.

    I imagine the light honey like fireweed would probably be fine for winter. The pollen in it might not be good if their is any. I will be extracting any honey I get, not feeding it to bees.

    As far as treatment: Some think we don't have Varroa in Alaska. They comes in with the packages. And we need to treat. Right after the honey pull is a good time, and then OA again in November when broodless if you can.

    I am on my third year of not getting packages shipped in . So I hope to be able to clean up my mites, and be mite free, since no other bees or beekeepers here.

  4. #4
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    Campbell River, BC, CA
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    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    Quote Originally Posted by yukonjeff View Post
    I imagine the light honey like fireweed would probably be fine for winter.
    Our experience says otherwise. Leave a super of fireweed on in the fall and find a deadout in the spring has been my experience, so much so, wont leave any on anymore. Our winter is nothing like yours, we only get a couple weeks of snow typically, and we get a flight day every month, so I dont think it's to do with solids in the honey, our bees get lots of chances to get out for a flight thru the winter. But I do know our experience has been that any colonies where I have left a super of fireweed on to see if they winter better than on syrup, they died. I'm not going to do that again.
    Last edited by grozzie2; 08-15-2019 at 06:59 PM. Reason: sp

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    Quote Originally Posted by grozzie2 View Post
    Our experience says otherwise. Leave a super of fireweed on in the fall and find a deadout in the spring ..........
    Interesting case.
    Siberian beeks consider fire-weed as one of the best honeys for wintering.
    Local issues, I can only guess.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    Thanks for the heads up Grozzie2 I didn't know that. Although I never considered leaving a super of Fireweed honey for bees to eat when it sell for $20 a pint here in Alaska.

  7. #7
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    Lassen, California, USA
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    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    yukonjeff,
    very interesting, I knew it could be done somehow, glad you posted the photos and how you do it. Love to hear that someone up there is able, and willing to get their bees wintered. Interesting about the ashes, I'm gonna hafta do that, as a nice sunny bright winter day, I do end up with a scattering of bees on the snow.
    Some days it's not even worth chewing through the restraints.

  8. #8
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    Oct 2019
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    Wakefield, Rhode Island, USA
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    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    Hi Yukon Jeff, It amazes me at the similarities in our approaches yet I am in "southern Rhode Island, about 3-5 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. My season is longer than yours and definitely warmer averages in the summer but some pretty good cold nights in winter.

    To quote you "I winter in three deeps.( But two would work IMO) The one on the bottom is just mostly half drawn frames , pollen stores, or even empties. Next is the brood nest,. Then a deep of sugar syrup, fed early enough to get capped if possible. (not honey,too many solids for long winters) I also feed a pollen patty in August, to fatten the winter bees." After 5 years I have decided on a similar approach but using a medium + deep + medium apporach. I call the bottom medium grand central station in the summer and my moisture condenser in winter. The deep is the brood chamber year round which gets back-filled with syrup honey in the Fall. The upper medium is the honey chamber. I leave some honey frames in the Fall for Spring brood rearing and feed syrup quickly in the Fall to a specific total hive weight or about 80 lb. of total honey around mid-November. It "seems" they take the syrup honey first and save older capped honey until Spring for brood rearing. I do not feed in winter or spring as weighting the hives in the Fall is an accurate method of verifying sufficient stores until the Spring flow and then some.

    I R10 insulate the hives on top all year and add R10 to the sides in winter and early Spring. I am making 5-sided boxes out of R10 EPS Foam boards. I hope to be able to simply slip the boxes on-off when I need to inspect in the early Spring ( April 1st). The 5-sided box, 24 inches deep, will leave the entrance and a few inches of hive exposed to weather to promote condensation and moisture diffusion. I have no top vent - year round. ( Some around here think I am crazy.) I do like quilt-like or insulating boxes especially for emergency feeding a nuc or a sick hive in Spring. I even use old tee-shirts as insulating-absorbing material around feeders and sensors I use. The warm syrup bottle is also employed here especially for a nuc or a hive in trouble (intensive care units?).

    I would point out that "black surfaces radiate energy at night as well as absorb daytime sun energy. A healthy hive in my apiary maintains winter temperatures in the upper regions of the hive at 50-60 F even in -10F weather (occasional event here). Good insulating techniques promote early Spring brood rearing. When it starts in earnest you can see the numbers jump up. If the hive is sick temperature values drop - a warning!

    Best of luck and thanks for posting your setup.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    Thanks for the responses folks and always good to see other northern beekeepers wintering methods. Thanks for sharing.

    Here is a better picture of the wraps I use. This particular one has been on hives outdoors for three winters





    My Hives today 11-20-19



    My bottom entrances are buried, but look at the summer forager bees that are able to leave the hive to die. I guess I would have a hive full of my last seasons dead bees come spring. Might be a big moldy mess without a upper entrance here.


  10. #10

    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    I donīt like that pallet type of low hive stand, I have them 35 cm high, on just two 2x4s and this prevents the snow staying so close to hive structures. Later if there is much snow it does obviously not do it anymore, but the cavity under the hive helps snow to collapse and make entrances clear in time before cleansing flights.

    (Main reason to dislike pallets as hive stands is the fact that I cannot get close enough hive when working. Stuck my feet to the pallet, in my structure my feet fit under it.)

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    Rabbit tracks? Hardly ever see those anymore.
    It is not true that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.
    They can learn them, they just can't do them.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    Quote Originally Posted by Saltybee View Post
    Rabbit tracks? Hardly ever see those anymore.
    ???

    Plenty of rabbits here.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    Quote Originally Posted by Saltybee View Post
    Rabbit tracks? Hardly ever see those anymore.
    These are Arctic Hare tracks. They are huge white rabbit about the size of a fox. the Snowshoe hares are much smaller. Google them , they are pretty interesting.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    Quote Originally Posted by Juhani Lunden View Post
    I donīt like that pallet type of low hive stand, I have them 35 cm high, on just two 2x4s and this prevents the snow staying so close to hive structures. Later if there is much snow it does obviously not do it anymore, but the cavity under the hive helps snow to collapse and make entrances clear in time before cleansing flights.

    (Main reason to dislike pallets as hive stands is the fact that I cannot get close enough hive when working. Stuck my feet to the pallet, in my structure my feet fit under it.)
    Its very windy here, I have to ratchet strap my hives or they will blow away. Pallets work great for that. 2x4s not so much.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    Quote Originally Posted by yukonjeff View Post
    Its very windy here, I have to ratchet strap my hives or they will blow away. Pallets work great for that. 2x4s not so much.
    IMG_3546.jpg

    Strapping possible here too, but usually I donīt strap with the hive stand, just the hive parts.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    Thanks for posting this thread, YukonJeff. I am planning to help my sister get started beekeeping in the coldest part of the lower 48 (North and west of International Falls, MN). This gives me lots of good ideas. It should be easy there...

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    Quote Originally Posted by A Novice View Post
    Thanks for posting this thread, YukonJeff. I am planning to help my sister get started beekeeping in the coldest part of the lower 48 (North and west of International Falls, MN). This gives me lots of good ideas. It should be easy there...
    Your welcome. I hope you found some it useful.
    Good Luck !

  18. #18

    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Holcombe View Post
    ...

    I would point out that "black surfaces radiate energy at night as well as absorb daytime sun energy. ...
    While it is true that black surfaces radiate heat at night, it is also true that white painted surfaces radiate heat at night just as efficiently.
    The reason is that The emissivity of white surfaces in the infrared part of the spectrum is about .95, while the emissivity of black surfaces in the infrared part of the spectrum is about .95. In the visible part of the spectrum, the white surface has an emissivity of maybe .05, while the black surface has an emissivity of about .95. This is the reason a white car is cooler than a black car on a sunny day. It reflects the visible light from the sun, while radiating in the infrared to lose heat just as effectively as the black car. The chrome trim on both is burning hot because while it reflects most of the visible light from the sun, it is an even better reflector in the infrared part of the spectrum, and as a result cannot re-radiate the heat it gains from the fraction of visible light it absorbs, as it does not radiate in the infra red much at all.

    So in a cold climate there is no downside to painting a hive black. It will always be as warm as or warmer than a white hive.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    Quote Originally Posted by A Novice View Post
    While it is true that black surfaces radiate heat at night, it is also true that white painted surfaces radiate heat at night just as efficiently.
    The reason is that The emissivity of white surfaces in the infrared part of the spectrum is about .95, while the emissivity of black surfaces in the infrared part of the spectrum is about .95. In the visible part of the spectrum, the white surface has an emissivity of maybe .05, while the black surface has an emissivity of about .95. This is the reason a white car is cooler than a black car on a sunny day. It reflects the visible light from the sun, while radiating in the infrared to lose heat just as effectively as the black car. The chrome trim on both is burning hot because while it reflects most of the visible light from the sun, it is an even better reflector in the infrared part of the spectrum, and as a result cannot re-radiate the heat it gains from the fraction of visible light it absorbs, as it does not radiate in the infra red much at all.

    So in a cold climate there is no downside to painting a hive black. It will always be as warm as or warmer than a white hive.
    Interesting. Thank you for that.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    My bee yard in summer.


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