Beesource Beekeeping Forums banner
1 - 8 of 8 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
92 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm seeing bits and pieces on this topic all over the place. I'm hoping to get a concise answer on what I should be doing at this point.

I'm a first year beekeeper, in central Michigan. I've got three hives, all doing pretty well. I finally pulled the supers off my hive last night, 24 hours after our first hard frost. The question I have is, now what? How do I maximize the chances of them making it through the winter?

1) All three hives are packed to the gills with honey. Should I be feeding them sugar syrup at this point? What is the point of this, I don't see any place for them to stick it. Is this just so that they don't start eating their winter stores until absolutely necessary?

2) I've been told they need a windbreak. I'm planning on putting up two layers of snowfence around the hives. How about wrapping? Is that really necessary?

3) I assume reducing the entrance to the smallest size is important. How about an upper entrance and hardware cloth over the entrance? Necessary?

4) Anything I missed?

Thanks for the help.

Edit: Slightly related note - how long can I safely keep unextracted but capped frames around? They are in my basement, protected from insects and animals, except potentially from the occasional indoor ants and flys.

[This message has been edited by ScottS (edited October 07, 2004).]
 

·
Vendor
Local feral survivors in eight frame medium boxes.
Joined
·
54,171 Posts
>I'm hoping to get a concise answer on what I should be doing at this point.

Unfortunately every beekeeper has their method and I don't think there is a concise answer. It differs by climate, beekeeper, strength of colony etc.

>I'm a first year beekeeper, in central Michigan. I've got three hives, all doing pretty well.

Like two deeps full of bees? One deep full of bees?

>I finally pulled the supers off my hive last night, 24 hours after our first hard frost.

Sounds good, although there may still be some goldenrod blooming until you get a really hard freeze. Keep an eye out and watch to see if anything is blooming.

>The question I have is, now what? How do I maximize the chances of them making it through the winter?

The best way, I know of, to get any hive through winter is to have a strong hive with plenty of stores. In my climate that's a queenright hive in three medium boxes full of bees and stores or two deep boxes full of bees and stores. When I've started with that, and a mouse gaurd on, and no significant amount of varroa I've always made it through the winter.

>1) All three hives are packed to the gills with honey. Should I be feeding them sugar syrup at this point? What is the point of this, I don't see any place for them to stick it.

I think you already answered this question. If they have lot's of stores there is probably no point in feeding them. One use for feeding late into the year is to keep them raising young bees to get through the winter with. This really only works as long as there is pollen. But we are to the point now (here anyway) that probably the bees we have are the ones that will overwinter and not much more brood will get raised even if we feed.

>Is this just so that they don't start eating their winter stores until absolutely necessary?

I would keep an eye on things. If the weather gets warm and they raise some brood they may put a good dent in those stores. If it gets cold and they stop raising brood, they may not use much at all.

>2) I've been told they need a windbreak. I'm planning on putting up two layers of snowfence around the hives.

A windbreak won't hurt. I've never put one up though. It probably helps, but it's not necessary.

>How about wrapping? Is that really necessary?

I've never wrapped hives, but the consensus of Northern beekeepers who have experimented with wrapping and not is that they come through the winter better wrapped. No, it's not necessary.

>3) I assume reducing the entrance to the smallest size is important.

How small it is, I don't think is nearly so important as the mousegaurd. But if you don't use a mousegaurd it's more important. I reduce the entrance more to keep out pests and robbers than to keep out the cold.

>How about an upper entrance

I think an upper entrance is essential to good overwintering both to let out the moist air to prevent condensation and to allow an exit when the snow is too high or too many dead bees have blocked the bottom enrance. On warm days (even with snow on the ground) the bees need to be able to take cleansing flights.

>and hardware cloth over the entrance? Necessary?

1/4 hardware cloth is what I like for a mouse gaurd. A mouse gaurd will save some colonies. I lose a few to mice anytime I don't use mouse gaurds. Necessary? Not if you're willing to lose one out of ten colonies to the mice.

>4) Anything I missed?

Make sure you don't have a queen excluder on over winter. The queen will get trapped below it when the cluster moves up. I try to minimize empty space. There's no point in a lot of extra space for them to take care of.

>Edit: Slightly related note - how long can I safely keep unextracted but capped frames around? They are in my basement, protected from insects and animals, except potentially from the occasional indoor ants and flys.

The honey won't keep that long in the basement once the wax moths hatch. They will keep much longer outside as long as there is freezing weather. When it freezes it kills the moths, if you have them beeproofed (closed up tightly enough the bees can't get to it, it will keep better outside for the winter. Right now I still have too many moths here. They are thick in the feeders. We've had a frost, but not a hard enough freeze to kill the moths.

Once spring gets here then you have to worry about moths and ants etc. and I'd either extract or put them on the hives so they can guard them.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
92 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Exactly what I wanted. Thanks very much for the info.

The hives are two deeps. Granted I don't know what a normal bee population looks like this time of year, but there were plenty of them in there as of last night.

I haven't seen anything blooming. The clover bloomed right up to frost but is wilting now. The goldenrod was pretty much done before the frost, it's really done now. So basically I should just feed if it gets warm later in the fall. I can do that.

Would it do any harm to put some sugar water out there to see if they take it?

Whats the best way to make an upper entrance?

Just staple the hardware cloth onto the hives?
 

·
Vendor
Local feral survivors in eight frame medium boxes.
Joined
·
54,171 Posts
>The hives are two deeps. Granted I don't know what a normal bee population looks like this time of year, but there were plenty of them in there as of last night.

Two deeps pretty much packed with bees is a good population to go into winter with.

>Would it do any harm to put some sugar water out there to see if they take it?

Probably not, but they will almost always keep taking it and packing it in somewhere. You'll probably get more burr comb if you keep feeding, but that's not really a problem, IMO.

>Whats the best way to make an upper entrance?

The simplest, if you have inner covers and telescopic covers, is to put a notch in the inner cover. This can be done with a dado blade on a table saw set the depth of the inset of the edge of the inner cover, or with a hand saw and a chisel or any other way you can figure out to cut the notch. Most are about an inch wide and the depth of the deep side of the inner cover. Most are in the center, but that's not necesarry put the notch up and slide the migratory cover forward and you have an upper entrance. The bees go through the hole in middle of the inner cover, across the top of the inner cover and out the notch and down the gap in the front of the telescopic cover. Many inner covers come with the notch in them already.

There are other versions of this, but that's probably the simplest. Another is simply drill a hole (between 1/2" and 1" in diameter) in the top box above the hand hold or even off center (so you don't run into it when lifting the box off).

>Just staple the hardware cloth onto the hives?

For the upper entrance? No. For the mouse gaurd? Yes, just staple 1/4" hardware cloth over the entrance. You can cut a piece three or four sections wide and bend it on a wire to make an "L" shape and staple it on the entrance. As I said, I do reduce mine too, to cut down on robbing problems. I put in the reducer and then put on the hardware cloth.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
520 Posts
Won't the reducer effectively keep the mice from getting in? Mine fit pretty snug so they probably couldn't push it out of the way.
Thanks,
Ken
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
764 Posts
Hi Scott

You are right there is hardly anthiong blooming.I am south of you and all is done but a few Asters and they dont look good.I do not feed unless there is not enough honey.Sounds like yours a full of honey so i would not get to worried about feeding them.I would cut in the top entrance tho.this is one thing i need to do on some of my hives yet.Remember the cold will not kill your bees but moisture will.I think venalation in the winter is one of the the mistakes i have made in the past.
Good luck over winter.
Bob
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
92 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
One question: what's a migratory cover? I've got two covers on my hives, the reversible inner cover with the hole in the middle, and a telescopic cover.

Other than that, great tips. Thanks a bunch.
 

·
Vendor
Local feral survivors in eight frame medium boxes.
Joined
·
54,171 Posts
>Won't the reducer effectively keep the mice from getting in? Mine fit pretty snug so they probably couldn't push it out of the way.

Usually if it's 3/8" or less it works at keeping out mice. But sometimes a mouse gets into a hole that size (3/8"). If it's 1/4" then sometimes the mice chew through it. But usually it will keep them out if it's snug and they can't move it. The 1/4" hardware cloth has never failed me.

>One question: what's a migratory cover?

The two most common lids for a hive in the US are a telescopic cover (with an inner cover under it) and a migratory cover. The migratory cover is a flat cover that is flush on the sides and is used without an inner cover. Here are pictures of both:
http://www.mannlakeltd.com/catalog/page12.htm

>I've got two covers on my hives, the reversible inner cover with the hole in the middle, and a telescopic cover.

That's a typical setup. But so is the migratory cover.

I have some upper entrances that are a migratory cover with a tapered cedar shingle shim on each end to prop one side open and the hive turned 90 degrees. I will probably make a reducer soon or these for the winter.
http://incolor.inetnebr.com/bush/images/MigratoryTopEntrance1.JPG http://incolor.inetnebr.com/bush/images/MigratoryTopEntrance2.JPG
 
1 - 8 of 8 Posts
Top