Wintering Bees In Alaska
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2016
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    Mountain Village,Alaska
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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

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
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    Dane County, WI, USA
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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.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    May 2016
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    Mountain Village,Alaska
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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.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    Campbell River, BC, CA
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    1,652

    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

  6. #5
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    Dec 2017
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    Dane County, WI, USA
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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.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    May 2016
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    Mountain Village,Alaska
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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.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
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    Great Falls Montana
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    7,800

    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    You have a sound plan. Not exactly as I do it, but if it works, it works.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    May 2016
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    Mountain Village,Alaska
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    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    Thanks Vance. I hope I didn't jinx it now and lose them all this winter, and delete this post in the spring. lol

    I want to also mention that with the three deeps you need to get into the hive early in the spring, like the day they are doing their cleansing flight, and clean out the dead bees and pull the bottom empty deep, since they cant all get out to die, and alot fall down between the frames, and will mold in the hive.

    Also( I keep my entrance reducer on the large opening and turned down with the wood up, so the water can run out of the hive when the ice on the walls melts.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    May 2016
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    Mountain Village,Alaska
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    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    My three hives and a nuc going into winter 2019-2020 They were treated with two rounds of OAV got a mite drop of about 50 both times. Might do another round yet, the Alaska fall has been mild so far. I have sugar bricks on, and quilt boxes with a upper entrance.





    I will report back in the spring what makes it, and what don't.

  11. #10

    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    The use of upper entrances and consumption of food:
    https://www.beeculture.com/winter-management/

    "E.B. Wedmore calculated the amount of honey required to overwinter a measured population of bees in his influential 1947 book, The Ventilation of Bee-Hives. Wedmore converted the caloric content of honey to watts and then using wattage he calculated that the basic needs are about three lbs. per month between mid-October and mid-April. Therefore, if Wedmore is correct, and the primary Winter honey requirements of an average population of bees are in the range of ~21 lbs., it seems like our need to provision Winter stores at four times that amount, may indicate something about the burden on bees to generate additional heat beyond their basic needs. One obvious reason is the loss of heat by an abundance of added ventilation."

    The figures of consumption are pretty much what I have measured, although I have always said that everything above 1,5 kg /winter month is a sign of troubles or too much ventilation.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    West Bath, Maine, United States
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    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    What is the insulation/black cover?
    It is not true that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.
    They can learn them, they just can't do them.

  13. #12
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    Oct 2013
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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.

  14. #13
    Join Date
    May 2016
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    Mountain Village,Alaska
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    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    Quote Originally Posted by Juhani Lunden View Post
    The use of upper entrances and consumption of food:
    https://www.beeculture.com/winter-management/

    "E.B. Wedmore calculated the amount of honey required to overwinter a measured population of bees in his influential 1947 book, The Ventilation of Bee-Hives. Wedmore converted the caloric content of honey to watts and then using wattage he calculated that the basic needs are about three lbs. per month between mid-October and mid-April. Therefore, if Wedmore is correct, and the primary Winter honey requirements of an average population of bees are in the range of ~21 lbs., it seems like our need to provision Winter stores at four times that amount, may indicate something about the burden on bees to generate additional heat beyond their basic needs. One obvious reason is the loss of heat by an abundance of added ventilation."

    The figures of consumption are pretty much what I have measured, although I have always said that everything above 1,5 kg /winter month is a sign of troubles or too much ventilation.
    That could very well be true. But without a upper entrance, my bees would not get in their cleansing flight, because the bottom entrance is buried in the snow.

    Saltybee the wraps are called Colony Quilts. I like them a lot. (Search online)

    Thanks Hogback. I hope we can come up with a reliable system for us extreme northern beekeepers.

  15. #14

    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    Quote Originally Posted by yukonjeff View Post
    That could very well be true. But without a upper entrance, my bees would not get in their cleansing flight, because the bottom entrance is buried in the snow.
    It is amazing how the bees which overwinter the best come out last in spring, they donīt have a hurry, and can pick up a good day. Sometimes I need to do snow shoveling, but usually sun melts just right before the actual NEED to come out, at latest late April. Many times snow is right up to the entrance (about 35 cm, + 1 ft, from ground).

    I take the queen excluder away from the hive bottom, shut the rear entrance (has been open all winter) and turn the landing board open. Spring can start.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    Quote Originally Posted by yukonjeff View Post
    Saltybee the wraps are called Colony Quilts. I like them a lot. (Search online)
    https://www.bbhoneyfarms.com/store/p...wo-deep-colony

    Reminds me of sound dampening found in dishwashers.
    It is not true that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.
    They can learn them, they just can't do them.

  17. #16
    Join Date
    May 2016
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    Mountain Village,Alaska
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    163

    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    Quote Originally Posted by Juhani Lunden View Post
    It is amazing how the bees which overwinter the best come out last in spring, they donīt have a hurry, and can pick up a good day. Sometimes I need to do snow shoveling, but usually sun melts just right before the actual NEED to come out, at latest late April. Many times snow is right up to the entrance (about 35 cm, + 1 ft, from ground).

    I take the queen excluder away from the hive bottom, shut the rear entrance (has been open all winter) and turn the landing board open. Spring can start.
    By April my bees have been in the box for six months, so my bees ARE in a hurry for a cleansing flight. If its working for you there don't change a thing.

    This spring my big hives had about 5-6 frames of honey left in April ,so I guess it really don't matter if I give them a upper entrance, when it gets really cold it about frost shut anyway.

    Salty bee. They probably are some kind of industrial insulation. They are made of materials that don't rot, so they look like brand new after a few years even. And easy to store.
    I use push pins to attach them, so its easy to get in and out to put on sugar bricks without dealing with big foam boards.

  18. #17
    Join Date
    May 2015
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    Vauxhall, Alberta, Canada
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    Default Re: Wintering Bees In Alaska

    Yukonjeff, thank you for the hint with the ashes, sometimes one is to ignorant to think about the simplest things.

    This is how I winter my hives now in southern Alberta. Our problem is the Chinook warm wind, sometimes in Dec., Jan. or Feb. changing the temperature from -20or 30°C (-4 to -22°F) to +15 or +20°C (59 to 68°F) in hours. I have jar feeders under EPS blocks all winter and noticed that the hives that need feed take it, others don't.

    The second from the right was leftover EPS, but it is not enough insulation, the 12" cube with a 4" hole works great.
    IMG_6973.JPG
    Summ Summ Bienchen summ herum

  19. #18
    Join Date
    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.

  20. #19
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Mountain Village,Alaska
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    163

    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.


  21. #20

    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.)

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