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Discussion Starter #1
it looks like we're having a brief warming trend here, with 60's F over the next day or two, then back to 40's and 50's for the next week or so. I wanted to check on the status of the top feeders (ML 4 gallon) which I had added around a gallon or so just before the last cool down, and was planning, if empty to pull the top feeders and put on the shallow super quilt boxes today or tomorrow. When I took off the cover (only looked at one hive) I noticed a blue/green mold forming on the top of the inner cover-should this be a concern and require a wash off with bleach while it's still warm? It looked like they finished off about half of the last syrup load and the feeder was loaded with bees. The down side of the top feeders is that the bees are up in the top with little incentive to go back into the deeps. I was hoping they had finished it and it would be a clean pull the top feeder and drop on the quilt boxes. Also, I have wrapped the hives with 1" pink foam around the sides and with the top feeders on, just put a sheet over the top cover, planning that when I put the quilt boxes on, that would be put away. Are my hives too warm and that's why the mold is developing or are the bees making blue cheese during their off season? Any guidance on this?
 

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Discussion Starter #2
I wanted to also add in (how do you edit on this new format??) that I was told by a fellow beek that the 1" foam wrap is unnecessary here and would trap moisture over the winter potentially freezing the bees over the winter. I'd note that his winter survival record is kind of dismal and it seems almost everyone here recommends a wrapping. Winters here can get down to the single digits F usually with occasionally into the minus F numbers although most winters we have just above freezing during the day and )obiviously0 20's and low 30's at ight.
 

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I wanted to check on the status of the top feeders (ML 4 gallon) which I had added around a gallon or so just before the last cool down,
You are putting excessive moisture into your hives too late in season (not to mention you are in NJ, already a moist climate).
If anything, at this time you should not be doing this.
The bees will be trying to dry the syrup and will have hard time doing it as the RH is already high and the Temps are already low (the usual during the cold season).
So by feeding your bees the liquid this late, you help to saturate your hives with the moisture.

I imagine this is a part of the mold issue.
The mold itself is not a big deal, but it is an indicator of excessive moisture - not great to have just about now.

Pull the liquid asap.
Plug in the dry feed IF there is a need.
 

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6a 3rd yr 5 production hives 1/ 2 q resource hive
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I feed a sugar slurry in winter. Think of it like a modified mountain camp. I’m not so worried about some mold as long as I have an upper entrance and excessive moisture is not condensing on top of the cluster. Since I use a vivaldi board setup I can pull back the moisture wicking burlap to see how they are doing. Happy as clams to date. Will pour sugar through the screen and spritz with water as needed.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
I looked at the hives this morning, currently 48 F, RH 50% , and the girls are flying, bringing in white and yellow pollen. I have quilt boxes made up and am going to open them up this afternoon too see if they've finished up the syrup. I think Greg V's comment is valid but after some showers tomorrow night, we're sunny and dry, mid 50's F for the rest of the week, no overnight freezing temps for the next week or so. I would like them to finish up the syrup and toss the quilt boxes on, slide in some winter patties and call it a season. Oh, and a finial OAV in December. Still wondering if I should keep the 1" foam board insulation wrap-does it trap moisture? The quilt boxes I'm planning on using have 2 one inch vents-is that enough?

The girls were busy yesterday!

61296
 

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That seems like an awful lot of bees. You sure you are not getting any robbing with them all around the top like that?
 

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Discussion Starter #8
No, two very strong hives right next to each other, both doing the same dance during the warmth of the afternoon. Both still have very strong populations and started from nuc's in April, expanded to double deeps quickly then delivered over a hundred pounds of honey each the first year (6 months). Never had ant robbing, no kung fu fighting, just lots of dancing-happy bees.
 

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I think there is a good case for leaving the insulation on. I note that you said the beekeeper who advised you doesn't have a great overwintering record, so I'd suggest listening to locals who do.

Many people say that the bees don't need insulation on their hives, that they survive fine without it. OK, that is likely true; strictly speaking they might not need it, assuming that they are healthy, nearly mite free, have plenty of stores, etc.

But I believe a case is easily made that insulation is helpful in cold climates. They may mostly survive without, but will they survive at a higher rate when insulated? My limited experience suggests that they do.

Thinking through the moisture issue specifically, the primary source of moisture (overwhelmingly so) is from the bees. They produce the moisture from "burning" the honey to get energy, which produces copious amounts of CO2 and water. All else equal, more insulation will cause them to need to produce less heat, and results in less honey consumption, and less water production. The moisture content of the hive is thereby likely reduced by insulating, rather than increased.

Back to your original question, yes, moisture is your problem. Pull the feeders and feed dry sugar as required. The bees will clean it up in the spring.
 
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Good advise above. There are many factors that affect how we keep our bees from season to season but LOCATION is really important. Dry sugar will help control the moisture.
 

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The picture of a thriving hive. Leave them alone. Time to not over think it. Well done.
 

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PS- leave them alone after you put the quilt boxes on. Such a joy to see.
 

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View attachment 61296
[/QUOTE

I'd leave the Styrofoam on the exterior and suggest a couple of mods. There should be an upper entrance such as a hole in top brood box or a hole in a feed shim. This is back up for the bottom entrance getting blocked by dead bees or snow/ice. A 1/2 inch round hole is adequate. The top entrance also encourages cleansing flights on a good weather day. Secondly, I'd suggest a "looser" installation of the exterior foam. A slight air gap between the exterior foam and the exterior side wall allows any moisture to drain down or evaporate out the top. I run electrical tape around the perimeter near the top of the Styrofoam and a second perimeter electrical tape installation around the insulation, closer to the bottom. The styrofoam then fits "loosely" to the exterior hive wall.

I also put a black lumber wrap around the Styrofoam to seal the corners, protect the Styrofoam, and absorb some solar heat on a warm day.
 
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