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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I winter with a screened bottom board and top and bottom entrance open. Most also have an empty super above the top entrance. I noticed 2 hives are propolizing shut the top entrance. They went into winter with enough stores and bees. Does this mean anything?
 

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bees are going to do what they want to. and they don't want the top entrance. or its a bee shovel ready job just to put out of work bees to work.
 

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I have bees for 55 years now and most of those years with hives that have top entrances! In my parts of the woods the top entrance is a must.
Only twice had I noticed that bees were propolizing the top opening. When I first noticed this, this was at a new location, where I now keep them, I ofcourse took a pocket knife and cut the stuff off/out. Bees being bees, and knowing best, they went right back and covered the top entrance - leaving only a round pencil-sized hole.
I than looked at other factors, that prompted them to do that?
I soon discovered that some kind of animal went and chewed a good sized hole in to the "bottom-slide", the drawer part of the floor under the screen. The animal had to bee small cause it did not get through the screen and into the hive.

(I must add that in my location even in the hottest summer there is never a need to open the bottom more than one inch wide!)
The only time I completely open it when I once a week check the bottom for - whatever falls through!

This, ofcourse, created a hole under the screen and in our climate it is a NO-NO! Bees are acclimatized and knew ahead of time that the winter was going to be a cold one. (it was. Went down to 50 below for almost 4 weeks!)

That was the last time they did this.

So, in your case, friend, I don't know how cold it gets at your place?
One thing to consider is also the fact that we arrange our hives all in the same manner, to our liking, especialy when preparing them for winter.
(I am talking real winter here)
But all hives are not the same: They have bees with diferent dispositions, diferent strength, (number of bees) and most importantly; they are each on diferent location - which means that have it's own place - with it's own "microclimate," if you will?
So, not all hives have the same air currents. Some have none, others have more or less.
To us, most of this is unknown, unless one is overly observant and trained to live in the bush to boot. But, trained to be a mountain man or a bushman is not a prerequisite to be a good observer and consequently a good beekeeper - but it helps.

So friend, if you have the screen open year round, close it! For at least the winter time. (This will benefit the colony in many a way: Faster spring build up, less burned stores, (to keep warm) will build comb sooner, and most importantly:
It is a well documented fact that varroa prefers colder conditions - that's why they dont like SC, with higher mass and higher temps, etc. They will go to the edges of the nest and in the drone cells where they belong.
With open screen, they will be all over the nest, cause it is colder/cooler than the bees would like it to be...

Well, got a bit long winded again?
Those two hives of yours are most likely experiencing a colder draft through the hive and it bothers them - they don't like it and are closing the top entrance to prevent the draft through their cluster or nest. (If it gets to cold and the condensation may start dripping on them they will be gonners?)

The hive is properly set up (for winter - also Summer for that matter) with bottom and top entrance on the same side. This creates the chimney effect - along the inner front wall and don't blow across the cluster or their nest which is a bad thing at any time of the year!
Another important thing is to place a piece of Styrofoam on top of Homasote piece on inner cover. This warms up the top of the hive and prevents the warm air from the hive to come in contact with colder air under the top cover and condensate there which eventually leads to dripping water on the cluster/nest.
Idea is to have the coldest parts of the hive on the sides so water - condensation will drain down and out without harming/wetting the bees.

It could be, that at this yard, conditions are at this time colder than it normally is?
It could be that they suspect colder than normal winter?
It could be that your screen is open?
That bottom entrance is too wide and maybe even too high. (I hope not on top of open screen?) 1/4" high is plenty - and one don't have to worry about mice. Mice guards are nice, but they let in too much air in winter, in our parts anyway.
Could be that on that location is a steady stream of air that blows, or just simply draws around things and afects those two hives, but does not bother the others.
Those two could be in a depression, depression in the land contour, slight hole and such?

Problems are there and bees are only adjusting the situation to alleviate the problem that our inattention has caused?

Just let them be, if pinpointing the cause is beyond your capability?
In other words, they are experiencing a cold draft and they don't like it. . .

Sorry, for being a blabbermouth, but problems with bees are complex and can be many and multifaceted? So, I simply stated some of them, to give you a chance to better assess the situation. . .
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks France. The SBB's are open, but that is common around here-to leave them open all year on a strong hive and only put the sticky board on it when checking mite drop. The temperature is supposed to get into the high teens for 2 weeks with highs in the mid 30's. That is unusual for us to be that cold for that long. Usually, we sometimes get into the teens for a few nights but then it warms back up to not get below freezing for a week or so. It is unusual for us not to get above freezing in thte day time.

Explain the Styrofoam thing again. What is Hemasote? Around here we are taught to leave the hole and the slot in the inner cover open in the winter to allow moisture to escape.
 

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Not at all, heaflaw. I aim to help if I can.

I had a feeling that for the bees to do that, had to be a reason. I also felt that perhaps in your part of the woods, the weather had turned ugly and bees are like people in many ways. (Many nations in Europe believe that bees are our sisters)
So, they simply worked fast to cut down on excess cold.

If in your region is customary to have screens open year round, one can help the bees if one closes the screen for such inclement weather.
I, even on my hives, close the one inch opening in the screen in midle of Summer, when it rains and wind is blowing.
This doing, helps bees a lot - for they don't have to waste energy by heating the hive or redirecting thee flow of air. One must remember, that wide open screen lets the air right through the whole nest and I bet that bees don't need that, except when is really hot - like it probably is at your place?
Bee nest must be at all times at and about 95 to 97 degrees, or there abouts? So, when temperature outside is below that, bees must cover the brood with their bodies and keep it warm. (For this job - drones are very important - they warm the brood!)



Explain the Styrofoam thing again. What is Hemasote? Around here we are taught to leave the hole and the slot in the inner cover open in the winter to allow moisture to escape.

Homasote is a construction sheathing used to cover outside walls of a house. Only get the one that is not treated with tar.
This Homasote is about half inch thick sheating made from pressed sawdust and recycled paper. Don't get the stuf which is made from rock or glass, or fiberglass? has to be made of scrap wood/sawdust mostly.
They used to make ceiling tiles from this stuff. Here, in Canada, this is hard to get but one can still find it. The last batch I got from the office supply store. (was expansive, but cost less than a dead colony?)
It is used for a "cork board". Schools use it for "note board" - the board on which they pin the notes with thumb-tacks. . .
This homasote board is cut to the same size as is the hive, inner board and is put on top of the inner board. This prevents the bees to go under the top cover. prevents the wax-moth and other creatures, like spiders and ants to hide there and munch on your bees. This board allows just a bee-space-room above the inner cover and gives bees a chance to patrol the area and defend it.
If you will use it - don't carve a groove in it to make a hole to the outside - like some mistakenly do - thinking that it will channel out the moisture.
To give bees the upper entrance and to went out the moisture - cut has to be made in the rim of the inner-cover. This used to be already done when one bought the thing, but like everything else - it is not done anymore. (to save the cost)

Now, on top of this homasote one can put a piece of Styrofoam. (one inch thick is OK for you) This keeps the top of the hive warm and prevents the formation of water on the underside of the inner cover - where warm and cold meet!
I bet that, if you have snow on your hives, this snow melts on the lid ???!
That tels you that heat is escaping under the lid/cover - which must not!

If it does, when it gets colder it will even freeze - but it will most certainly drip on the bees and kill them. If it drips down the combs it will also kill the brood!
Humid air (bee breath, respiration and gases from bees burning their stores as food) that has to go out under the inner cover - through the front rim.
This top entrance should be the size of the rim - about 1/4" X 2.5 to 3".
The reason for this hole in the rim (not the center hole like they teach you) is that the updraft (chimney effect) is along the front wall of the hive.
If the moisture goes through the center hole - than you have a "cross draft" which goes through the nest, all the time, and through the winter cluster. The bees have no place to hide from such cold draft and it will kill them especialy if they are a bit damp. Such damp bees also CAN'T warm themselves up to move after the food. Such bees will often die only half inch away from food!
Not even God can help them if they are wet and is water/condensation dripping on them.

I hope that I was clear enough about the whole thing?

Good luck...

Regards,
France
 

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France: Good read!!!! I do not know how the critters can exist in your climate, but the blood SUCKERS sure do!!

Thanks raosmun.

It is hard on bees in our parts and for the longest time beeks were simply killing off the bees, after the honey harvest and started anew in the spring.
I was perhaps the first who realized that the importation of bees will one day stop and in order to have bees in our parts, one will have to became self sufficient.
Also, imported bees from warm climates are not the answer. It is only a quick fix!? For bees to do well and overwinter well, they must be acclimatized to the region where they are kept. In nature, creature are all adapted to their surroundings and same animals - only 100 miles away, can often have a totally diferent behaviour than the one we are familiar with.

Bees are even more so, dependant on their own "microclimates" and flora indigenous to their place. Even flowers don't bloom at the same time, mere 100 miles away?
To produce nectar - that can be boom or bust!
So, I started to overwinter, so did others. Like my mentor, who kept bees in Ukraine and Germany and than here in Canada. He had almost 70 years of experience and just quit last year for health reasons. Together we made it work, only everything has to be done right. Any, even a slight variation will surely kill the bees.
That is why I get sometimes a bit upset, when I read about bees dying in places that are nicer in w their winter - than our place in Summer.
Another important thing about overwintering is peace! Bees need to be alone and kept quiet. Mine are in forest, miles away from people and when I come around in the winter, on snowshoes, they are waiting for me at the upper entrance. That is bad, because those bees don't make it back to the cluster. disturb them more and their numbers diminish and by the time Spring comes around - there is nothing left but a quin and a handful of bees - surely all frozen!? (Then we start yelling CCD?)
They are super-sensitive to vibrations and they **** well know that I am up and about.
About knocking on hives and God forbid: Lifting the lid and take a look-see, that is just not done.
Beeks responsibility to them is to prepare them for winter, but good and if done so - there is no need to bother them. They will make much better if we do not interfere... When is cold and they don't, can't move - there is nothing to be done anyway. Is best to let them be. . .

But, in the upper writings, there is over 120 years of experience and that is hard to find in the books.

Also, beekeeping is highly regional experience, but, the basics which have been put through the ringer in the harshest environment there is - will also work well in milder climates.

Regards,
France
 

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About knocking on hives and God forbid: Lifting the lid and take a look-see, that is just not done.

Allen Dick at www.honeybeeworld.com has some hives setting on a platform scale, and he is measuring winter honey consumption. As an experiment the other day, he lifted the lids and pillows and peeked into the hives (not removing any frames). When he replaced the pillows and lids, he thumped the top of each hive twice with one of the bricks he uses to hold down the lids to disturb the cluster.

Honey consumption spiked for the day. Each hive consumed about 3/4 pound of honey, which is 2-3 times the normal daily consumption.
 

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France: I am somewhat confussed about your upper-cover, homeasote, styrofoam set-up. Am I to understand; an inner-cover (without a center hole) is placed on the top body with the vent notch down or on the mating bodys top edge, then the homeasote, then the styrofoam, all under the top cover?? Your explainnation on air flow makes a lot of sence, as does the top entrance in your neck of the woods. :scratch: Why use the homeasote in the first place? Why not just use the foam?
 

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France: I am somewhat confussed about your upper-cover, homeasote, styrofoam set-up. Am I to understand; an inner-cover (without a center hole) is placed on the top body with the vent notch down or on the mating bodys top edge, then the homeasote, then the styrofoam, all under the top cover?? Your explainnation on air flow makes a lot of sence, as does the top entrance in your neck of the woods. :scratch: Why use the homeasote in the first place? Why not just use the foam?

All inner covers should have the center hole, as this is meant for feeding - inverting the bucket, or a jar, over this hole. So keep the inner cover with centre hole.
Over this inner cover, lay a piece of homasote. This creates the dead air space and gives the bees a chance to get up there, under the homasote and clean up. It also prevents a bit of condensation problem - but not all, or not enough - depending on coldness of your area. That is why Styrofoam is needed to be on top of this homasote. This set up keeps homasote and inner cover warm, so that condensation does not form.

When warm air from the hive (under the inner cover) comes in contact with cold surface (inner cover without homasote and Styrofoam) than the warm air condenses and turns to water (ice) and this than drips on the bees and kills them!

You got it right, as you said it in your writing; Notch down, on top of hive, or what have you? Than homasote, than Styrofoam and than your telescopic cover, with a brick to keep it from blowing off in the wind...

You don't want to use just Styrofoam, cause bees will chew it all up...
Homasote, under the Styrofoam, acts also as a kind of a blotter, a sponge? It absorbs excess moisture which can escape through the centre hole and then dissipates through its edges to the outside.
It is kind of hard to describe and paint a mental picture? But it is wital and what is important - it works and works well.
Keep this homasote on year round. Styrofoam only in cold weather/Winter.
 

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France: Thanks for clearing things up! I now have a good mental picture. I'll give it a try if things warm up (a lot).:thumbsup:
 

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And what to do with Western covered wet hives? I assume homasote with the edges exposed to the weather might add moisture. I found a soaking wet nuc with Western cover yesterday in a shady wet spot.
 
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