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Wondering what ya'll seasoned keepers use for moisture control and feeding through the winter. Have seen vented supers used with rubber stoppers to regulate moisture. We just have one hive and would like to see them through winter.

Just wondering best practice as we are in northern Idaho and it's starting to chill a bit.

Thanks in advance!
PR
 

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First of all, thanks for being wise enough to even consider moisture control in your hive. Some argue that moisture will never effect a hive, but living in a very humid climate I've seen water dripping down frames, staining and molding them - with the bees still on them.

A top entrance is considered a must for most beekeepers, it helps any moisture escape the hive and not build up on the top lid. On top of that, insulating the top of the hive keeps the top a lot warmer, keeping condensation away.

It's rather dry where you are, but here on the coast moisture is something we really have to consider. As such, I use the Mann Lake wintering inner covers and insulation (although I cut my own insulation that's the same thing, having so many hives it was far more cost effective). However, if you have a top entrance you could place any type of insulation on top. I've seen everything from cedar shavings inside an old box, fiberglass, foamboard...whatever.

When I lived in Northern Utah I would wrap my hives in tar paper, some insulate with foamboard or black chloroplast - all to keep the hive warm with the sun and hold in that heat.

Top entrance and some top insulation should solve the moisture issue - now onto the other 100 things bees have to deal with.
 

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Insulation is a big issue. A warmer hive upper surface prevents water vapor from condensing to liquid and dripping on the bees. Being warmer also reduces feed consumption thus less water produced from metabolizing honey. Win/Win. The amount of upper ventilation ranges from none or very little to considerably more. Foam board and aluminized bubble wrap from your local building supply is an easy source. Google Reflectix but similar item goes by different trade names. One sheet of 3/4 foamboard with aluminum foil facing and enough bubble wrap to circle the hive and hold the foamboard panels. Enough foamboard left over to put about 3 or 4 layers for the top. Insulation on top pays more dividends than on the sides.

Commercial keepers will use less lavish but also lower labor methods and accept a bit higher losses but easily make up for it with splits they almost have to do anyways in spring for swarm control.

One of the best guarantors of winter survival is having achieved very low mite counts from september onward and wrap them up with close to zero counts.

If your colony has an adequate supply of stores you should not have to feed them but having 5 pounds or so of sugar on top of the frames is a good hedge against them running out of stores if you get a late spring.
 

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I live and keep bees in northern Utah and the winters here can be long and cold. For moisture I use a feeding shim and a quilt box. I really think the quilt box helps especially when you see the hive and wood chips are dry. I tend to feed a sugar block before or shortly after the first the snowfall..
 

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Of the hive is light on stores, usually they aren't but if they are it's usually a first year much, I'll.oit one of Lauri's sugar bricks on it (recipe can be found on this site).

For moisture control I open top entrances on the hives that have them and close bottoms. I'll put a twig under inner cover to prop it up about an 1/8.- 1/4" to allow air flow. Seems counter productive but has been working for years. Most years I have 100% over winter survival. I had an old beekeeper tell me cold doesn't kill bees but cold and wet will for sure.

I used to insulate but I don't anymore. To many hives and I didn't really see a benefit.

Having your mites under control is the biggest determining factor for hive survival over the winter IMHO.

I'm in zone 6a on the hardiness map which I see is a big part of Idaho's zone as well.
 

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Wondering what ya'll seasoned keepers use for moisture control and feeding through the winter. Have seen vented supers used with rubber stoppers to regulate moisture. We just have one hive and would like to see them through winter.

Just wondering best practice as we are in northern Idaho and it's starting to chill a bit.

Thanks in advance!
PR
You are about at my latitude but on the warm side of the hill. Are you in a west coast wet climate? That hive moisture problem is not big if you are in a high desert like we are here. I believe in 2" epe foam top insulation and wraps of a lesser R factor so any condensation is on the side of the hive istead of the top. I use Mountain Camp sugar on top to eliminate starvation and act as a moisture sink. I have an entrance bored in the top hive body that is the only winter entrance/ vent. Bees are excellent at HVAC and one does not 'help" out your AC by opening vatrious and sundry windows.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks everyone for the great feedback. I am unsure about how exactly to feed and was hoping someone could post pictures of their setup. I was thinking sugar blocks and a protein pack on top of an inner cover, an empty super on top of that?
 

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You are about at my latitude but on the warm side of the hill. Are you in a west coast wet climate? That hive moisture problem is not big if you are in a high desert like we are here. I believe in 2" epe foam top insulation and wraps of a lesser R factor so any condensation is on the side of the hive istead of the top. I use Mountain Camp sugar on top to eliminate starvation and act as a moisture sink. I have an entrance bored in the top hive body that is the only winter entrance/ vent. Bees are excellent at HVAC and one does not 'help" out your AC by opening vatrious and sundry windows.
Vance, thanks for reply I wouldn't call us west coast wet climate though we do get rain/sleet /snow. We are as far east as you can get without climbing mountains. right in between Avondale and Hayden Lakes. Gonna try top entrance close the bottom, protein and sugar and top insulate and wrap the sides.
 

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We love water threads like no other in winter. I use a vivaldi board set up. I'm inserting a picture here. Mine isn't near as nice as this. I gerry rigged something similar. The idea is to keep moisture from condensing and raining down on the cluster. This also uses an upper entrance. The feeding shim is great for auxiliary feed. I cover this with burlap and it wicks moisture away. Vivaldi Board.jpg
 

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I too am rethinking what I want to do this Winter (1st).
I was thinking of inner cover, dry sugar then quilt box. Then obviously wrap hive since I am in New England and I have a sneaky feeling it will be a bad Winter since we seemed to have Missed it last year 😒

Anyone does this and it worked in Cold climate ?
 

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I too am rethinking what I want to do this Winter (1st).
I was thinking of inner cover, dry sugar then quilt box. Then obviously wrap hive since I am in New England and I have a sneaky feeling it will be a bad Winter since we seemed to have Missed it last year 😒

Anyone does this and it worked in Cold climate ?
Linda, I'm not sure what you mean by inner cover but my winter set up here in Montana is 2 deeps, a feeding shim with either Mountain Camp sugar or sugar bricks, then a cover that floats on top of the sugar and a quilt box on top of that. I reduce my lower entrance to 2 bee widths and in my upper brood box a normal 1 inch entrance is reduced to a piece of cardboard with a pencil poked through it. The bees can chew it to what works for them, or propolize it closed, whatever they want. My hives face south and three sides are insulated, then wrapped with a black material. It works well for the bees here.
 

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Oh, and don't use dry sugar, the bees will haul it out as trash on flight days, it needs to be solidified into brick form.
Lee
 

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Oh, and don't use dry sugar, the bees will haul it out as trash on flight days, it needs to be solidified into brick form.
Lee
Inner cover is the board with the middle oval opening and small entrance hole on one end. It usually goes on under the top cover.
 

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In whatever setup you decide its comforting to see quilt boxes in action. My hives have been wrapped for about a week now with the setup that will take me through winter. The only thing left is the wooden palette stacked behind as a wind break and the ratchet straps on the hives themselves. We’ve had a few single digit nights and to see them navigate that easily is a big deal. Ventilation combined with insulation done well can be a great thing. I actually pull the Bee Cozy away in the front to be sure its venting properly.

As far as dry sugar, I like spritzing water on sugar to create a slurry.
 

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There is no need for an inner cover above a Vivaldi Board. I abandoned the inner cover you describe early on in favor of a piece of canvas. Popping an inner cover loose for inspections is disruptive to bees, peeling back a canvas inner cover is far less alarming to the bees. Here's a video from U of G, they have a lot of great videos, give yourself some time here.
Lee
 

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Not above the quilt box, under it so I can put the sugar and have an upper entrance for Winter.
Top super- inner cover with dry sugar on top - quilt box- top cover
This allows me to have an upper entrance due to the amount of snow we get here. We may have a few feet of snow in front of hives Plus a place to put sugar.

I am familiar with UofG and also use burlap cover inside hive
 

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Not above the quilt box, under it so I can put the sugar and have an upper entrance for Winter.
Top super- inner cover with dry sugar on top - quilt box- top cover
This allows me to have an upper entrance due to the amount of snow we get here. We may have a few feet of snow in front of hives Plus a place to put sugar.

I am familiar with UofG and also use burlap cover inside hive
So your upper entrance is a notch in the inner cover, right? I think it would a mistake to put the sugar on top of the inner cover. Bees will cluster at the uppermost place in the hive during the winter, it is warmer there. Using the configuration you outlined would create a cavity above the inner cover and the bees would stay there, they do better in the frames and that is why standard practice is to put Mountain Camp directly on the frames and why I suggested a floating cover directly on the sugar to minimize the cavity as the bees eat the sugar.
My upper entrance is a 1 inch hole drilled just below the handhold in the upper brood box. I staple a piece of cardboard over it in the winter and jam a pencil through it to create a hole for the bees, they can chew it open or propolize it shut, they know what they're doing.
I would suggest you provide a different upper entrance and follow standard practice for Mountain Camp in a 2 inch shim, a floating cover on the sugar, then either a Vivaldi Board or quilt box on top of that. Michael Palmer overwinters a hive or two in Vermont where the snow can pile up and suffocation is not a problem for him.
Remember though, it is your hive and you should do what you feel will work the best. Good luck,
Lee
 

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There is no need for an inner cover above a Vivaldi Board. I abandoned the inner cover you describe early on in favor of a piece of canvas. Popping an inner cover loose for inspections is disruptive to bees, peeling back a canvas inner cover is far less alarming to the bees. Here's a video from U of G, they have a lot of great videos, give yourself some time here.
Lee
Grins - I am heading for two pieces of canvass with a lapped joint; easier to peel, tear avoidance, check on 1/2 or less for quick peak.
 

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Grins - I am heading for two pieces of canvass with a lapped joint; easier to peel, tear avoidance, check on 1/2 or less for quick peak.
Not sure if you've already done one piece, but the bees don't really care during Spring-early Fall if you rip the whole thing off.
I won't be peeking during the Winter as here we have a true Winter in New England.

Grins, I don't have a shim so can't do that. I do have front entry holes but didn't want to have an opening in the middle of the super box. Maybe I'll do paper, thin layer of sugar, inner cover because I need the hole, more sugar, quilt box.
 
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