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This single-layer OH has a shallow over three deeps. It is in mid-MD. Yesterday Feb 16, 2020 was overcast and 43 degrees. Bottom two deeps are filled on both sides with capped brood! Top deep has brood in all stages. Queen present and laying. Top shallow comb completely empty, but bees are keeping SHB confined to the cells in the shallow frame. Hive is very populous. But yesterday, a large cluster formed on the outside wall despite it being pretty chilly. Also, the bees would gather in a beard on the tip of the right-angle PVC (the elbow prevents prevailing winds from blasting straight into the observation hive entrance. Some photos show it removed because I was doing my inspection) and then the blob of bees became too heavy and dropped to the ground. I picked up a handful of bees that appeared dead but were only in torpor. They started walking around inside my cupped hands once they had warmed up. No signs of DWV. No twitching or other signs of Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus. No smell of dead bees on the ground. They were only in torpor but not dead. After a while most of the bees returned to the hive. Many, though, remained clinging to the outside wall where they are stuck until it warms up. Hopefully later on today.

Do you know what might have caused such a large number of bees to leave the hive on a cold, overcast day and cling to the outside wall?
 

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An inspection? Nothing to do on the inside? First signs of overcrowding even though the shallow is there, since they are not using it? Perhaps they see it as there SHB jail:D
 

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An inspection? Nothing to do on the inside? First signs of overcrowding even though the shallow is there, since they are not using it? Perhaps they see it as there SHB jail:D
Yes, there will be over crowding. Especially after four sides of those already-capped deeps emerge. We will get in there but only after temps are consistently in the 60s. I have cautioned them to watch for the development of queen cups and then queen cells. But for now there is nothing we can do until warmer weather arrives.
 

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As a wild guess, perhaps it was getting too warm in the hive?

Bees do a lot of odd things. That is half of the fun.

I have had bees bearding during a steady rain, getting totally drenched and cold, some drowning. But they would not go back into the hive.

Maybe a few bees were outside, and they clustered together because they were cold. As more bees came out, they joined in because it seemed the thing to do. However, the outside cluster never got big enough to maintain temperature. It is hard to say.
 

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At 43F, that is short shirtsleeve weather in North Dakota (or nearly so), and many cleansing flights occur at 35F-38F (it is warmer inside the hive and it seemed like a good thing to do, says the impatient bee). Many of those bees do not make it back, achieve torpor status, and die. Some reach the front entrance, but cannot maintain sufficient temperature level to enter the hive, and I have seen them attempting to cluster outside on the landing board. Perhaps your observations are also consistent with impatient, but optimistic bees?
 

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I may be crazy but in pic #1 I think I see a lot of ventilation ports, Then I see an OH in some sort of building, a dry building. You have lots of brood consuming water. So I offer up an idea - feed water. Dehydration kills hives.
 

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I may be crazy but in pic #1 I think I see a lot of ventilation ports, Then I see an OH in some sort of building, a dry building. You have lots of brood consuming water. So I offer up an idea - feed water. Dehydration kills hives.
Good point, Robert Holcombe. We keep a fresh supply of 1:1 on them. Maybe that contains sufficient water? I manage two of these at two different locations. The bees often propolize those vent holes to reduce venting - especially in the location where the HVAC system pulls a strong vacuum on the room so draws lots more cold air in the entrance and through the hive! I never thought that HVAC strength could have such an impact on the wintering bees. The entrance is at the center bottom, and on cold days, the outside air is drawn up the middle of the frames. Consequently, bees pull back to the left and right, leaving an column of exposed comb up the middle. We block off some of the overhead returns with cardboard. Not sure that helps much. But the bees seem to do well, regardless. When it warms up, they move around and take feed from below.
 

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At 43F, that is short shirtsleeve weather in North Dakota (or nearly so), and many cleansing flights occur at 35F-38F (it is warmer inside the hive and it seemed like a good thing to do, says the impatient bee). Many of those bees do not make it back, achieve torpor status, and die. Some reach the front entrance, but cannot maintain sufficient temperature level to enter the hive, and I have seen them attempting to cluster outside on the landing board. Perhaps your observations are also consistent with impatient, but optimistic bees?
Makes perfect sense. A Novice mentioned this as well. I think I agree with you.
 

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I think 1:1 is a good choice to supply water too. We, couple of other beekeepers, put out water close buy the hives to minimize flight distance and cooling affects. I am a bit of a newbie Contrarian. I have been experimenting with hive design, no top vents, well insulated, mindful of wind - convection effects and humidity. Humidity control via temperature control by the bees inside the hive plays a lot bigger role than I had previously thought. The path of one molecule of water in and out of the hive can be mind boggling. Outside ambient versus inside ambient temperature conditions play a huge role in regulating internal humidity. My bigger hives, even with my wet conditions, have been foraging for water on sunny days whenever temperatures get above 40F.
 

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I think 1:1 is a good choice to supply water too. We, couple of other beekeepers, put out water close buy the hives to minimize flight distance and cooling affects. I am a bit of a newbie Contrarian. I have been experimenting with hive design, no top vents, well insulated, mindful of wind - convection effects and humidity. Humidity control via temperature control by the bees inside the hive plays a lot bigger role than I had previously thought. The path of one molecule of water in and out of the hive can be mind boggling. Outside ambient versus inside ambient temperature conditions play a huge role in regulating internal humidity. My bigger hives, even with my wet conditions, have been foraging for water on sunny days whenever temperatures get above 40F.
There was an excellent article in the recent ABJ regarding the "ventilating" hive vs. the "condensing" hive. Agrees with your points. We were always taught to put sticks under the inner cover during winter to help with moisture buildup (ventilating hive). Don't do that. Close upper entrance (unless big snow coming, I suppose) as it messes up the bees' own attempt at thermo regulation and humidity control. Stresses the bees. They need moisture. Insulate the top. Close top entrance. (condensing hive).
 

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I put popcical sticks on top of the inner cover, under the telescoping cover on the two rear corners only, for the Winter. This gives a little slope to the inner cover coupled with the tilted forward hive causes any condensation that collects on the underside of the telescoping to roll forward instead of dripping into the hole in the inner cover.

Alex
 

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My hives are different to say the least but Hesbach's comments and my hive approach seem to match up. Funny thing is, as I evolve, I am having trouble finding condensation. In fact given a chance today with sun and 40s temp. I may go searching for moisture after yesterdays rains / fog. I think I have reached the tipping point via a progression of changes, at least for cold conditions; 15F to 40F, High RH and low RH. I define "Tipping point" as when bees gain control the internal ambient conditions with slow changes. Time will tell as I need to apply to both really cold conditions and warm summer conditions. This past winter has been "warm and wet" and I have just made significant changes in January. Observing summer insulated hives will be interesting - especially for honey capping abilities.

BTW, there are hive design solutions to be buried under snow. Now to identify a practical one for backyard hives :)
 

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"I put popcical sticks on top of the inner cover," - Many people tilt the hive slightly with no popsicle sticks to help control dripping. If you have popsicle sticks and a front top vent and,or a bottom vent also you can create a pretty good pulsing draft based on wind effects. A top, cross-vented quilt box shows this effect very well by creating very wet stuff on top and around edges, even frost or ice. Being cold on top, the shavings or "stuff" dries slowly especially when brood rearing starts up.

Now that I have gotten rid of all top leaks, including Nor'eastern driven rain going in, I have trouble finding condensation. Things like wood or a cotton tee shirt will absorp moisture and give it back if the hive gets dry. A cluster including brood nest is typically maintained at 50-60% RH typically.

Technical point: The highest differential air-vapor pressures between the inner top volume of the hive when not vented at the top occurs in the winter. Like a tea pot, the difference in pressure from inside to outside forces air/moisture in that direction - high to low, top of hive to bottom entrance / exit. If your hive top gets too cold, below the dew point, you get condensation. If the hive losses too much moisture bees die of dehydration, especially in winter. I am mixing what I have read with my own applied hive testing and observations.
 
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