Beesource Beekeeping Forums banner

1 - 15 of 15 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
247 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Every year I try new configurations of wintering my bees here in Central WI. Since all beekeeping is local, each keeper of the bees has to figure for themselves what works best FOR THEM.

I have experimented with multiple configurations each year. Double 10 frame boxes, Double5 frame boxes, single 10 frame, triple 5 frame, Double 4/4 configurations, single 10 frame with frame feeder, pushing hives together, separated, wrapped in tar paper, wrapped in reflectix, no wrap, upper entrance, entrance reducer, full open entrance, wood chips, solid foam board.
Slowly I'm dialing in what works.
First and foremost I have learned that a weak colony has almost zero chance of survival, so a waste of my time and resources to try.
Second, the colony must have a low mite count starting in August when honey comes off and winter bees are starting to be produced.
Third, the colonies need to be full up to weight starting directly after honey supers are removed. By October, bees will not take feed very well and have little time to cure it.
Fourth, a strain of bee that slow plays its resources during winter months and can survive without supplemental feeding.

Those four items are a necessity before hive configuration even comes into play.
For me, I've started dialing it in a bit. My last year, I had my best survival rate with the following configurations.
Single 10 frame brood box with 2 frame feeder (leaves 8 frames), wide open bottom entrance (with hardware cloth mouseguard). Reflectix inner cover, 2" ridgid foam board under the lid. No wrap.
For nucleus colonies, a double 5/5 configuration with a wide open bottom entrance (hardware cloth), reflectix inner cover with 2" ridgid insulation under the lid. No wrap.
Upper venting on all hives consisted of a feeder shim with a 5/8" hole for upper entrance/upper vent.
Sugar was placed later in the season to stop the bees from moving up too quickly and passing up honey stores.
I saw no advantage of having the hives sandwiched together...in fact most of the inner colonies perished while the outside hives survived. Was the extra warmth keeping them more active and then blew through their stores? was it just a poor strain of bees? Unknown.

This year my experimenting continues. Based on a Dave Cushman article from years ago, I am eliminating the upper vents. Although his weather differs from my own, his reasoning made sense about the chimney effect. He postulated that while it seems reasonable to believe that an upper vent will help eliminate moisture, the reality was a bit different on how the bees manipulate their cluster space.
I realize this is a gamble, but this is how I learn.
I've had real good success with a couple types of bees, not so much for another.
My Minnesota hygeinic Carniolans, were my most prolific honey producers and survived winter well. They are also my most defensive colonies.....
My New River Honey Bee Carniolans that I had open mated in my yard were also some of my best hives. They survive winter well...they produce less honey as they tend to put more honey in brood nest than other strains which may be why I produce less disposable honey in the supers. Very gentle bees.
My Italians I have acquired from various sources including many captured swarms from commercial beekeepers tend to build up huge, swarm easily, produce good honey, but due to such active brood productions and large colonies, they blow through their stores quickly in winter and require monitoring or they will starver out.
These are just my own observations.
Where I get my queens, matters. I've been doing my own grafting this year, but this program is just starting.
Where I get my queens matters.....I've had poor success getting queens out of California. Bought 4 New World Carni's from Strachian Apiaries this year.....all were accepted, but all started very shotgun patterns.....3 disappeared over 2 months without the colony successfully superceding. One was given the hive tool test and replaced after 2 months.
I bought some Palmer queens in 2019, they also never laid very well and disappeared in their colonies heading into winter. Mike had said he had a difficult queen rearing year, so that may have been the issue.
New River queens were from a club breeder queen that was acquired. The club grafted and I acquired 4 virgins I had open mated in my yard....they are all entering their 2nd winter. I have been using these queens to graft from.
Minnesota Hygeinics are really a hardy breed...but they are not fun without smoke...and are the type to chase you back to your truck from my experience.
Anyway, it's another winter to experiment until I nail down a system I'm fully happy with.

This fall I had my worst post honey flow swarm issue ever. The year prior I took shook swarms off, but this year I did not have the normal time to do it. I lost my best MNH queen I had to a post honey flow swarm.....but I did manage to create 4 late splits from her swarm cells. Crossing my fingers that they had enough time to brood up heading into winter....took them a long time to start laying.
Next year all my production hives will get split into 5/5 nucs and added to grafted queens. I had enough of bees in trees.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
358 Posts
Great post Kevin, thanks for sharing.
I saw no advantage of having the hives sandwiched together...in fact most of the inner colonies died while the outside
I had similar experience with trying to over winter nucs in Chicagoland area. When I pressed nucs together for winter, the center ones would die more often than not. Some groupings of 4 nucs together were wrapped in tar paper and some were not. The center hives in the wrapped groupings would develop moisture issues. I mostly stopped grouping them together ( at most I do 2 nucs now ) and winter them as individual units in either 4x4x4 o4 5x5x5 configuration. But I do insulate overwhelming majority of the nucs.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
247 Posts
Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
I cannot discount the advantage of running hives (in my region) without wrapping of some form. I know I did not wrap last year and had my highest overwinter success.....
That would be poor extrapolation on my part....mite control, large healthy colonies and lots of stores as well as a good strain of winter bee are things I've paid more attention to attaining than wrapping or venting.
I went with no upper vents this year.... It may be a mistake in double stacked boxes to have no upper vent. Studies have shown the closer the access to cleanse, the stronger the brood buildup in spring. Singles, I can see no upper vent as the advantage as there is no long travel to exit the hive box.
 

·
Registered
5 ,8 ,10 frame, and long Lang
Joined
·
2,207 Posts
Kevin
you could try 1/2 with out vents to ease into it and compare.
or if your "theory" is true then change the 5/8 hole to a 3/8 hole , it should improve, as there would be less chimney effect.

How do your bees get the water they need in winter?

GG
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
247 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Kevin
you could try 1/2 with out vents to ease into it and compare.
or if your "theory" is true then change the 5/8 hole to a 3/8 hole , it should improve, as there would be less chimney effect.

How do your bees get the water they need in winter?

GG
40lbs of honey will produce a gallon of water which will be expelled by the bees. With higher humidity within the hive box due to no upper vent, there should be MORE moisture available to the winter bees theoretically, right?
 

·
Registered
5 ,8 ,10 frame, and long Lang
Joined
·
2,207 Posts
40lbs of honey will produce a gallon of water which will be expelled by the bees. With higher humidity within the hive box due to no upper vent, there should be MORE moisture available to the winter bees theoretically, right?
If the upper vent is the only way the moisture can escape, then yes more
I think some can get out any entrance, VIA venturi effect and equilibrium.
But I would agree with your theory less chimney effect more moisture.
I think the fear of moisture in the hive is poorly founded.
They need a micro clim of some sort. If you can figure a plan that helps,, then good , if you unwittingly make it worse then I would think your survival rate would tip off the poor choice.
However with Varroa the impact of the Varroa can and does offset any climate adjustments, so progress is often slow and fleeting.

GG
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
247 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
People tend to misunderstand or confuse humidity and moisture. Moisture is BAD....Humidity is GOOD for a hive. Bees THRIVE in warm humid conditions.
Humid air in a hive condenses as it reaches its Dew Point when it comes into contact with a cold surface or exhausts out into the cold outside air.
If there is adequate UPPER insulation to prevent condensation directly above them, there is no issue...Moisture forming on colder walls is less of an issue and may even be a source for bees to access moisture when needed.
The issue, as it comes to upper venting is location and configuration. Bees may get less opportunities for cleansing the further they have to travel on that rare warm winter day.
I would love to experiment and see if single box configurations have less need for upper entrance and double boxes more as it provides bees with shorter distance to the entrance for a quick cleansing flight since bees tend to settle in the upper portion of the hive to rear early spring brood.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
294 Posts
I also think that fear of moisture in the hive is poorly founded. The natural beehive configuration has insulation on the ceiling moisture and condensation on the cooler sidewalls. It also has an entrance somewhere towards the bottom which is only large enough for them to be able to protect it and allow natural ventilation by passing air.
My configuration is med.- deep.- med. With the entrance in the bottom of the deep (brood box). Insulation on top all year. So far all 33 are wintering fine. Spring will tell.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
247 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
I installed broodminders on somel of mine. I have the humidity sensor on my top brood box on a 5/5 nuc. Currently my bees are in the lower box. The upper box, with no upper vent is holding at 37.5°F and around 82% humidity...outside is at 87% humidity and 18°F.
Lower box holding around 68°F

Honestly the temp and humidity in the upper box shocked me...was expecting way more given that heat rises.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
294 Posts
Very interested in your temp and humidity readings through the year. Hope you keep posting them. Sounds like your methods are similar to mine. Although I have no upper entrances
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
247 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
61690

I installed a new Temp % humidity sensor in my 10 frame single box winter hive. This hive does have an upper shim with sugar, reflectix and 2" foam board insulation under the lid with no upper venting. Solid bottom board, wide open lower entrance.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,965 Posts
Great detailed post, Kevin. I am curious as to why you left the frame feeders in instead of honey frames or follower boards. Was that by design or necessity? J
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
247 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
Great detailed post, Kevin. I am curious as to why you left the frame feeders in instead of honey frames or follower boards. Was that by design or necessity? J
Honestly I want the bee cluster always in contact with honey during the winter. Especially in early spring ,I would not like to see the cluster separate to go after other honey and get trapped when it cools thus condemning the entire colony to freeze for lack of warmth...the outside frames are rarely used in a 10 frame box from what I've ever noticed...even in starved deadouts...so confining the cluster more to 8 frames seems logical. Worked for me last winter....I'm always tweaking and experimenting for best configurations. I don't have it down to a science, believe me!
btw...the feeder essentially acts as a follower board and air barrier to one cold side...no need for added equipment.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
294 Posts
Honestly I want the bee cluster always in contact with honey during the winter. Especially in early spring ,I would not like to see the cluster separate to go after other honey and get trapped when it cools thus condemning the entire colony to freeze for lack of warmth...the outside frames are rarely used in a 10 frame box from what I've ever noticed...even in starved deadouts...so confining the cluster more to 8 frames seems logical. Worked for me last winter....I'm always tweaking and experimenting for best configurations. I don't have it down to a science, believe me!
btw...the feeder essentially acts as a follower board and air barrier to one cold side...no need for added equipment.
Hi Kevin- Hope your weather across the river has been as nice as here! This year I'm going to utilize the outside frames of the deep brood box differently than I ever have. I'm going to put drone comb on the outsides. They can make drones out there instead of all over the place and I can either leave the drones hatch(depending on which queen they're from) or I can destroy drones and mites. This way the feeder won't have to be left in in the winter. The outside drone frames would be filled with honey in the Fall and there would be no air flow restrictions on the sidewalls for natural winter air circulation. Got to see where I can get some drone foundation bought. I'm going be putting together drone colonies for all my yards - so there shouldn't be of shortage of drones for mating. I'll be using the best queens from my production yard for the drone colonies. Ambitious projects. My wife keeps reminding me I'm retired.;) Have a great day!
ps- I'm from the Oshkosh area. I have two sons that live up that way.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
247 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
61968

February 1st and the bees got their first minor ability for a cleansing flight...


but ..... here is what a broodminder can do for you..... In real time I can see when the bees moved from the lower box to the uppper box in this 5/5 nuc....
This is pretty cool IMO. (January 24th).

61969
 
1 - 15 of 15 Posts
Top