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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Tried to upload photos, but it wouldn't work. Bleh.

I took the 2 top supers of a deadout Italian hive off and into the house for inspection. They were still pretty heavy with honey.

First of all, the cluster was covered in shavings from the quilt box. Almost to the point where it looked like the cluster could have suffocated. They must have been climbing up into the quilt box, in order to knock those shavings down on top of themselves. Why would they do that? Next winter I will encase the shavings in a pillow case.

Secondly, they were scooched way over in the last 3 frames of the super. The rest of the super had plenty of honey, but in those 3 edge frames, the honey was gone.

I'm thinking they starved, but why would they not be more centered in the hive?
 

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Hi, I had some like that too aside from the quilt box part. They seem to get stuck. They were probably on the warmer side of the box. They were probably looking for food in the quilt box I'm not sure. I had some where bees went straight up and got separated away from the cluster and froze. I am still learning this wintering thing the hard way myself.

Next year I will put sugar over the top of the upmost deep on a shallow box over newspaper. Mountain camp. like this

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4WGQ_haP58

It seems to keep them alive. In ones that I didn't do that with they died but the ones with the sugar over them did okay. If the winter wasn't so harsh it may have turned out better. I insulated every year but this year and this year was the coldest... go figure. I am learning that it isn't the weight necessarily but placement of the stores is critical. I am thinking of laying some comb honey on newspaper above them next year and see how that goes. I haven't tried that yet but it may be better than granulated sugar. I'm not sure. Sorry you lost your bees. If you get bees this year they will have a nice home to occupy. That is a positive note for lots of beekeepers this year. You aren't alone. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I did have the sugar cakes like his, only not as large as his, and if I had checked more frequently and added more cakes, maybe they would have made it. Altho really it was so cold, it would've been hard to open them up to slip the cake in, but still it probably would have turned out better.

What kind of bees do you have? My Russian hive did make it through, and I've heard they are more efficient with food stores than the Italians are, so I'm sticking with Russians from now on. I have another Russian package on order, and hope to do some splits this summer.
 

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You can restock sugar bricks in pretty cold temps. I'm in northern NY and I had to do it in the mid/high-20s once or twice this winter. Because the bricks are stiff (unlike pouring in a bag of sugar, etc., Mountain Camp style), all you need to do is choose a NON-windy, sunny day, have the bricks close at hand (I usually have both whole bricks and some chunks to choose from as you can't waste time fiddling around to get the right fit and placement at those temps.), and just tip the front of the box up, locate the open space and pop a piece in. You can do it in just seconds, and generally the bees stay quiet and let you do it. Sometimes I even had to gently push aside hanging festoons of bees to make room for the refills.

I prefer to do it in temperatures when any escaping bees might have chance to survive for the few minutes to re-enter the hive through their entrance, but if the choice is that they all starve, I'll let a few take the hit. The biggest difficulty I had with it was removing the outer layers of insulation to make it possible to tip the quilt box up. Next year my insulation plans will keep that in mind. (I removed the heavy wood tele cover before doing the tipping, relying on the shavings in the QB to keep everyone warm for a few minutes. If you aren't using a QB, then I'd leave the inner and outer cover on and just tip them up and plop in the bricks on the bars.)

I used the sugar brick recipe here on BS from Lauri. I must say my bees were flat out nuts for those bricks.


I found that having a fabric floor on the QB not only kept all the mess from the shavings out of the hive but also apparently made a cozy surface for the bees to cluster on during the day. When I opened the boxes to check or restock the bricks I had tons of bees hanging from the fabric. The space inside the feeding rim was always quite warm and I think the bees liked that. The fabric worked very well at allowing any moisture to pass through and on in to the shavings (and eventually out of the hive). Since I am a new beekeeper, and was using the QBs for the first time, I often opened the tele cover and and burrowed down through the shavings with my bare hands to check on whether they were getting too wet (never happened). It was also fun to touch the top surface of the fabric and "tickle" the feet of the festooning bees below. I only did this AFTER I'd finished up restocking. The bottom layers of the shavings were often in the high 80F. Very cozy! I suspect that in the cold your bees may have tried to get into the shavings, perhaps creating an avalanche, as you described it. One issue about using a pillow case is that it may allow the shavings to be narrower (less thick) at the box margins creating cold spots because pillow cases are flat-constructed, not box-constructed. A fabric floor is easy to install; the hardest part is the need to get it to be very taut because the weight of the shavings will cause it to belly down a bit. I lost some bees because of this when I was using thicker than usual bricks and they got squashed on the top of the bricks. I plan to increase the height of the feeding rims by 3/4 of an inch or so next year to avoid this issue..

Enj.
 

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Hi, I have a mix of bees. My survivors were all open mated somewhere between Russians, Italians, Carniolans and perhaps Germans. It was difficult too find a warm enough day to want to open them up. You can slip frames of honey next to the cluster on a warm day but it was so cold that I kind of threw my hands up. I'm trying to not let the losses bum me out but rather focus on the upcoming season and then just do a better job of wrapping them, mountain camping them, and provide better windbreak before winter. I think that my new location was gustier than normal and that didn't help matters. I am thinking of putting bed rolls under the hives like for camping after this winter:) Many of the local beekeepers here lost bees more than usual. I'm surprised any bees lived on some of those cold nights. It was the coldest that I ever remembered. Cars wouldn't start, pipes froze, water meter froze and cracked. It was cold. How a 3/4 inch piece of wood is enough to keep bees warm enough even with a bunch of bees is remarkable. I have seen that the Russian bees cluster smaller and kicked more bees out before winter. If you like them then that is cool. I tend to build off what I have success with so if you can get genetics that you like that seems like a good thing. Your splits is a good idea too. Raising your own queens is one of my favorite parts of beekeeping. All my survivors were queens that I raised last spring. Hopefully the end of May temperatures will stay mild for queen raising and nice drone flying weather. Then next year hopefully winter into 2015 won't be so harsh but if it is again I will have my bees readied more appropriately for a potential Arctic Blast. Living and learning:thumbsup:
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I've heard old timers say that the bees will go to the quilt boxes for drinking water in the winter, it's either that or warmth that mine were after, I think avalanche is a good name. I have hardware cloth already on the bottoms of my QB so I think I'll try a thick 100% cotton sheet material (developed holes so it's available) lining right above the hardware cloth to prevent sag.

Mixed breeds are probably the best of all worlds, especially if they are proven survivors.

Do you think mice might nest in the bedroll under the hive? Some old timers also said to put your cement block holes facing out and not up under there, because if the holes are facing up, mice might nest in there, and the sound of the mice scratching alone will cause the bees much nervousness. Don't ask me how they figured that one out. :) They don't like hay wind barriers for that reason. I wrapped 3 sides of my hives with styrofoam and left the south facing side open for solar heat, but I think next year I might wrap all 4 sides, since my bees were so crammed to one edge.
 

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I started out with leaving my south sides uninsulated, but when it got so cold in January I added a 2" foam (R-10) slab that spanned all three hives' fronts (painted to match the individual colors of the hives because I am a perfectionist!) And then once I knew they had brood in mid-February I added a second foam layer in the front made up from scraps. I am now taking that piece off most days and soon will leave it off all the time, I think.

My notion was to leave the fronts open for solar gain, but that resulted in bees flying out in temps they couldn't survive in, so I decided to avoid big daytime/night time temperature swings and opt for more steadiness. I also found from looking at the debris on my mite sticky boards that they were cramming towards the back of the hive, but after I insulated the front the pattern was more centralized.

In the end I had 3" of foam on the back, 3 to 4.5" on the outer sides, 2" between the hives which were pushed tightly together (and varying additional amounts within the hives) and 2" and an additional cobbed together panel on the front. All sides, back and top well-wrapped in a thick layer of wool blankets, except the front, where only the coldest, well-below zero nights got a wool blanket front curtain.

They had more insulation than I do in my house! (Which, in truth, wouldn't be hard as I have none in my walls.)

Enj.
 

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Having more insulation on your bees than on your house reminds me of how I hadn't eaten but I was feeding bees:)

In the dead of winter I kept imagining being a bee in a box out in that cold and all I could think was that they needed as much insulation as possible. That is what made me think of using a bed roll. I had one for camping in my van like this

http://www.amazon.com/StanSport-Sta...N2E/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?showViewpoints=1

and I was imagining all sorts of ways to insulate a hive. Since it is foam I don't think it would attract mice.


With the help of a friend I found some insulation that is reasonable in price.
I may try some of this for next year. Putting some thick insulation panels on the sides plus this wrap would probably be even better but apparently this alone works well as far as insulation. I use a piece of homasote board above the mountain camp feeder to absorb moisture.

https://images.search.yahoo.com/ima...ign=10mba20tr&.crumb=X1q/B7Uemxj&fr=yfp-t-745

http://www.bbhoneyfarms.com/store/c-58-beehive-winter-packing

Each year teaches me a new thing for next year:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Interesting hive wrap! Looks very easy.

Yes, next winter I will wrap all 4 sides of my hives, and not just 3. I guess there isn't enough solar gain in mid winter to make it worthwhile.

I brought in 3 of my deadout supers and am cleaning them up, scraping propolis, etc. I am finding a LOT of honey in these supers. A lot of bees also head first dived into cells. I don't know if that's for cold protection or from starvation.

But mites may have had a lot to do with my Italian deadout too, and in combo with cold, tight cluster, and not being able to move to food, along with an avalanche of shavings everywhere... I don't like chemicals, and I hypothesize that moving to Russians is going to make a big difference in the mite department.
 

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My winter approach has been rigid 2" foam all 4 sides plus top outside, tar paper wrapped outside and a loose fitting snow/rain shield on top. Wood shaving filled ventilated QB above IC and below OC. SBB year round partially blocked with rags to prevent winter gusts, lower entrance, and upper entrance on lower side of IC. Winter losses: 2012-13, 12%; 2013-14, 20% (so far). TF, so losses were likely V-mites. Picture is several years old, gallon cans filled with sand on top are dead weights.

Sorry, can't seem to upload the pix.

Steve
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Wow. The old timers in the bee club kept saying: It's not the cold that kills them, it's the dampness.

I'm thinking it's the cold too.

Guess I'll wrap them better for next winter.
 

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I have tried them all , what I found what worked for( me) was, large bubble wrap an then tar paper. The cold doesn't travel thru so fast. The bubble wrap seems to provide a dead space of air. When the suns out the air pockets hold the heat as the sun warms up the black paper. I attached the bubble wrap to the inside of the tar paper an reuse each year.
 

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I put shavings in burlap bags on my quilt boxes. Contained the shavings, absorbed moisture and insulated. Very easy to lift a corner to check on stores.
 
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