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For a Finn almost unbelievable: artificial cold storage of bees:

https://phys.org/news/2020-06-honey-bees-winter-early-cold.html

(What makes it interesting personally is that I have been lecturing this same all these decades: bees need cold in winter, they move, consume and wear themselves less. Warmth is needed in spring. This is not my idea: Brother Adam made an experiment with maximum protection and no protection hives. Result: maximum protection hives made a lousy start in spring.)
 

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I have seen the same thing here. Tried insulating the hives a couple of years and they didn't do as well as un-insulated hives
 

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Stable and moderate cold is, of course, good - as-in "refrigeration".

So really one should try to approach the controlled refrigeration however possible.
The most ideal case - winter in the controlled cool storage (which is not possible for the most).

Unstable extreme cold/extreme thaw swinging is rather not good.
To mitigate when you winter *outside* you, indeed, need to insulate to shave the temp swings.

The controlled refrigeration works both ways - it keeps cool (when the weather is too warm) and yet it also keeps warm (when the weather is too cold). This provides for the most efficient wintering then - keeping the cluster at stable near-freezing temp.
 

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DO you have a reference providing data for Brother Adams experiment. It is the opposite of my experience. It also conflicts with the USDA cold weather testing data and conclusions performed in Minnesota.

The article noted, for which I need more details, is a form on insulation or controlled external environment with a notable reduction in wind effects. It is interesting that numbers like 40F external to a hive box are mentioned and show up in my crude testing approach.

I do agree it is nice to have a cold spell to provide a brood break for treating mites but that does not mean inside the hive. I am also looking for the real test data on whether tight clustering is better than a loose winter cluster.
 

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You might find some information from here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=386qWGnt_CU

This BK's contact info is available on the page I believe. I found myself with a lot of questions watching the video. It is a commercial operation.

One question I have is; what are the effects on bees that don't take Winter cleansing flights? We typically see a mid-January thaw that can reach 50 F and I see bees flying a bit. Recent years have been far more cyclical temperature wise, with more thawing and freezing. It seems logical that a sudden shift downward in temperature could catch a lot of bees out of the hives and kill them. Unlike the 70's where we had community ice skating rinks that lasted for several months, recent times don't allow this.

Lots of questions.
 

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You might find some information from here.
That is Ian, a member on here. I have borrowed quite a bit of his methods this year. A few old timers around me put their bees in dark trailers for the winter but I don't believe anyone refrigerates like Ian.
 

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Brother Adam - along with another beekeeper - put hives in heavy insulated cases for winter and compared performance vs unpacked hives. The unpacked hives got a few winter flights when the weather moderated for a few hours. Heavily packed hives did not take winter flights. Spring buildup began on time in the unpacked hives but was delayed in the heavily packed hives. The results were that packed hives failed miserably coming into spring.

There is quite a bit of other information including from Bernhard Mobus in ABJ July and August 1998. His conclusion was that heavily packed bees become water deficient in winter with overwhelming negative consequences to the wintering colony.

There has been quite a bit of uptake on recent work by Derek Mitchell in favor of highly insulated hives. I still have not seen proof that a highly insulated hive can get around water deficiency.
 

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Brother Adam - along with another beekeeper - put hives in heavy insulated cases for winter and compared performance vs unpacked hives. The unpacked hives got a few winter flights when the weather moderated for a few hours. Heavily packed hives did not take winter flights. Spring buildup began on time in the unpacked hives but was delayed in the heavily packed hives. The results were that packed hives failed miserably coming into spring.

There is quite a bit of other information including from Bernhard Mobus in ABJ July and August 1998. His conclusion was that heavily packed bees become water deficient in winter with overwhelming negative consequences to the wintering colony.

There has been quite a bit of uptake on recent work by Derek Mitchell in favor of highly insulated hives. I still have not seen proof that a highly insulated hive can get around water deficiency.
I am coming to agree with Fusion_Power's concern with water provision. I insulate heavily especially the top but provide a cold area for condensation on the front of the hive.

I think the insulation, ventilation, and provision for internal free water for diluting honey is a highly interdependent equation.

Heavy insulation will dampen short term temperature swings and may cause a hive to miss out on short opportunities to do a cleansing flight. The need for cleansing flights is quite dependent on how much solids are in the particular honey stored. (that is a variable as well as Nosema counts)

Insulation does reduce the amount of stores consumed; maintaining essential minimum cluster temperatures burns more honey per degree day in a non insulated hive; that is not debateable, BUT if your insulation totally prevents any condensation of free water being available to the bees, you have cured one problem and created another. Ventilation would be the third leg of this issue. Too much ventilation can work against heat conservation and deplete free water.

My solution is to insulate well and provide very small upper winter entrance in an uninsulated upper front area of the hive. That small uninsulated area lets the bees know what the outside temperature is, and creates a condensation area to make water available, but that area is frontal, not overhead, to melt and drip on the bees which is a potential killer with uninsulated tops.
 

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..... I still have not seen proof that a highly insulated hive can get around water deficiency.
Eastern Euro folk simply winter under the plastic film - problem solved.
In fact, they winter in rigid foam hives under the film (hard to be more "packed" than that - the walls/cover are R5-R10).

Quick example (start watching at 4:00)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIqRClanY5s
 

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I run heavy insulation with no top vent or exits - still on but covering supers now. I have not seen any backing off on cleansing flights due to insulation. Intuition / observation tells me it is sunlight driven plus the bigger and warmer the internal hive temperature supports earlier cleansing flights. I have see bees out in 42F and sunny days often. This past winter had lots of warming and sunny days - very clean hives come Spring. Earliest pollen foraging this year - March 2 by one hive ( Witch Hazel?).
 

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My first year keeping bees I had a hive in the front yard not completely protected from prevailing winds. Open bottom screen, box feeder with central side to side #8 screen covered access for bees, No insulation other than taping some side bottom board holes shut. Figured out the dead wet bees being hauled out the front door were from the rain inside the hive so I made an aluminum V shaped cover over the box feeder vent so water would condensate and run into the box.

Sure lots of mistakes but the bees survived well.

I know that there are some products for an internal absorbent pad I'm guessing is placed over the inner cover.

Would it make sense to replace the outside frames with an absorbent material so that it provides a source of water during the winter with any excess running down the sides? I'm thinking tree cavity here.
 

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Hi Frank
your statement:

Heavy insulation will dampen short term temperature swings and may cause a hive to miss out on short opportunities to do a cleansing flight. The need for cleansing flights is quite dependent on how much solids are in the particular honey stored. (that is a variable as well as Nosema counts)

Another variable to keep in mind is Heavy insulation, requires less shivering of wing muscles for heat generation, and less consumption of food ergo less waste to need to dump.
Ian Steppler in Canada comes to mind, he winters indoors at a fixed temp around 40, requiring less stores and less heat generation from the bees, I do not think his bees do a cleansing flight in the building, so there is an interesting example of no cleansing flight, with little heat generation needed.
I recall Ian stating he removes heat as the bees generate too much, Via mixing in outside air, which in winter is very dry so Moisture added to compensate.

GG
 

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A colony of bees will produce about 4 gallons of water over winter from the process of metabolizing their stores of honey. Some of that will be used to dilute the honey. Really we dont want to store that water but have it dissipated from the hive in a controlled fashion. Dissipation through the walls and upper surfaces or air borne seem to be the only options.

Beekeeping spans a huge range of variation in temperature degree days, typical relative humidity, wind, and snow accumulation. Lower entrance and air exchange only, is not dependably adequate in my location. Heavy snow accumulations and often a month or more with no opportunity to fly from a lower entrance of a double deep colony. It would be quite a trip from an upper cluster down through a lower box to exit and go for a whizz or fetch water and retrace the route. We commonly have a month or more with no flying opportunitys and daytime high temps well below zero.

My hives will have a small upper entrance and vent hole, thank you!
 

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Missed your post GG;

Ian winters in singles and I believe on mainly sugar syrup based stores. I agree with the controlled temperature reducing consumption~and need for disposal of byproducts. I have seen the math done on the BTU output from bees activity. Collectively a thousand hives can produce more than the buildings heat loss. Ian did mention some years back having to put the bees out as an emergency when weather turned warm in March because inside temperatures was breaking the bees dormancy. Sounds like he may now have refrigeration to get rid of excess heat.

In places where there is a lot of canola or winter honey tends to golden rod, bees locally need more cleansing flights. Local conditions color local beliefs and sometimes the true cause and effect on strict terms of physics creates paradoxical explanations.
 

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Water is a vastly underrated but important topic. My colonies pounced on water in December during the cold gray stretches of days. GG suggested sponges at the entrance which has become a staple in my winter setup. I credit feeding back water at least partially to having 100% over wintering success.

It gave me a special appreciation on the importance of spritzing sugar to create a slurry or spritzing bricks that harden and become impossible to metabolize.
 

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I will take highly insulated hives any day of the week...no top ventilation either, nothing worse than a through draft.
 

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I have two top bar hives near Denver Colorado, with Carniolans in both. Last year I lost one Italian hive, but not the Carnis. In Colorado we have three or four temperature drops of 40 F in 24 hours every winter. I know the bees can take cold, but our bees really suffer from the sudden temperature drop. Thomas Seeley has been studying the relative temperature drop in tree trunks versus top bar and Warré hives wrapped in a Bee Hive Cozy, coming to the conclusion that the Cozy provides a buffer from the sudden changes in temperature. I now have a Warré hive with a small swarm (June 24th) and I am hoping to see the results vis à vis the top bars, as Warré wrote in his book that the bees benefit from the cold by consuming less. Let's compare notes in the spring of 2021. Are you near Helsinki or more north? My relatives live in and around Helsinki and I have a beekeeping cousin with whom I occasionally share bee keeping notes. He says he never allows his bees to swarm.

Oh goodness! I must go back and read all of the posts. i didn't catch up before I wrote this!
 
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