Wintering Bees In Alaska
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Mountain Village,Alaska
    Posts
    152

    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
    Location
    Dane County, WI, USA
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    3,076

    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
    Location
    Mountain Village,Alaska
    Posts
    152

    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
    Location
    Campbell River, BC, CA
    Posts
    1,642

    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
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Dane County, WI, USA
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    3,076

    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
    Location
    Mountain Village,Alaska
    Posts
    152

    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
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    7,797

    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
    Location
    Mountain Village,Alaska
    Posts
    152

    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
    Location
    Mountain Village,Alaska
    Posts
    152

    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
    Location
    West Bath, Maine, United States
    Posts
    2,380

    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
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Location
    Lassen, California, USA
    Posts
    660

    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.

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