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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,
WINTER IS COMING!

After getting through the first year in what I think is a fairly successful manner (see recent post on FA treatment) I am hoping to see if I can make a plan for getting through the winter. I have two hives, both have 10 frame double deeps that from my FA posts, are every part of a 100 LBS plus currently. I'm in central NJ, right on the line for 6A-6B and our average first frost, is mid November, last is mid March. We do get an occasional snow and it can stay below freezing for a couple/few weeks at a time-it's also not that unusual to see thaws in January and February of 70 F. for a few days a month. My hives are on a purpose built pressure treated stand that puts the landing board a foot off the ground. I have one hive with a Mann Lake ScBB and one with the regular Solid BB. The hives are in my back yard on a small "city lot" protected by the house 20 feet north and a 6 foot cedar fence 5 feet east. The hive is shaded by mid day sun by a 100 foot tall poplar which will loose its leave by December here so they will be in somewhat direct sun almost all day over the winter. I have some questions:

1. What is a moisture "board" or "quilt"? How do they work and are they necessary?
2. I plan on heavy feeding with the medium super sized top feeder on each from Mann Lake, probably using their Profeed as soon as I pull the honey super at the end of this month to do OAV. When should I remove these feeders and when should the go back on?
3. In this climate, should I wrap the hives? What do you recommend?
4. The ScBB is open to the ground. I'm planning on putting a 1" ridged foam board under it to seal it. Changing the BB is out of the question with the weight of the two deeps

Thanks in advance.
 

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Your hives seem well off, you want a very heavy hive going into winter. To answer some of your questions with some of my experience:

1. A moisture board is a box that has a screen on the bottom of it that has straw or cedar wood shavings in it. Sometimes it can just be a piece of low density fiber board. You put it under your inner cover for during the winter. The idea is that it can absorb excess moisture the bees produce in the hive. Also, any condensation that forms on the bottom of the inner cover will be caught by the board when it eventually drips off. Bees can deal with being cold very well, but that can not tolerate being cold AND wet at all. I use very large quilt boards (size of a medium super filled with cedar shavings like animal bedding) and I regard them as essential equipment in my apiary since I always seem to have interior moisture issues (along with my 16 lb candy boards :p).

2. You don't have to spend the money on Profeed, the bees will overwinter on sugar syrup just fine, but you can do what you want. You want to avoid overfeeding as the bees will back fill the brood nest and the queen will have no where to lay. you need to keep up with your inspections to see if they need food or not. I like the Heft Test, where I try to lift up the back of the hive with one hand. If attempting further feels like it will put me in the hospital, then they have enough food.

3. I live south of you and I insulate my hives, but not really for the cold. Again, bees can handle the cold with no problems. However, I live in an area where it can be below freezing one day and 70F the next in February and January quite freqently. Insulating the hives slows down these temperature shocks to the bees and gives them more time to form and break cluster. Most people believe insulating hives is not necessary. If you keep the hives warmer, they will consume more food since they will be more active. Side insulation has also been shown to not really do a lot as far as increasing overwintering success, but insulating the TOP of the hive (I use my giant quilt boards) with something as simple as that rigid pink insulation foam seems to increase my overwintering success.

4. I like leaving my bottom boards open as it provides a good amount of ventilation. I board up my hive stand to prevent the wind from blowing under and into the hive.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you Akademee!

I'm going to have to work a little harder to get my head wrapped around building the moisture quit but know it's probably necessary. I'm wondering if someone has a link to some thing graphic that I can look at. I'm able to buy the Profeed from my beek supplier for about $40 for a 5 gallon bucket. He's a commercial guy and gets it in 200-300 gallon (not sure) totes. I just have to catch him at his shop and bring the buckets and he fills them up. I really don't have the time to get sugar, mix stuff and from what I'm seeing on sugar prices right now, the price difference, its worth the dollar difference. think we have very similar weather with the temp swings, your blooms are probably a week or so ahead of here in the spring. I'm definitely on board with insulation but I am a little concerned about the open bottom board. Perhaps a loose piece of foam under it for some insulation/wind break? I'd be a little concerned about skirting the hive stand if I'm understanding that right-does it create a mouse issue? Thank you so much for the advice-more to plan out.
 

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If the mice are outside the hive, I couldn't care less. Leaving the bottom open or closed is up to you. I live in a valley so moisture is always a problem near me, your location might be different.

Quilt Box:
quilt_box4_2048x.jpg

There is window screen or canvas stapled to the bottom to hold in the wood shavings, placed right over the top bars of the frame (or above the candy board if you use one).
 

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I use very large quilt boards (size of a medium super filled with cedar shavings like animal bedding) and I regard them as essential equipment in my apiary
I like this idea, I just made one up with a two inch spacer, but I think I will add a super and fill it also. We also get the up and down temps.
 

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Last winter I put a medium or deep on top of the hives, stuffed with fiberglass insulation, the kind you buy in rolls to insulate walls. I was afraid the bees would get stuck in it, but they didn't. It worked very well. To feed I just pulled the top cover off and pulled out the roll of insulation and put sugar blocks on top of the frames. Close it back up and the insulation was right against the blocks. The bees clustered right under the sugar blocks all winter and made it through Okay. In the spring the fiberglass was damp, so I suppose it worked to absorb excess moisture and prevent dripping. The sides were bare 1" wood, with solid bottoms and small entrances.

Last year was a problem because of the poor weather all year, none of the hives (4) had any honey stored, so all they had to eat from Nov-March was sugar.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Akadamee;
I like your quilt box. Are the 2 x 4 used because that's what you had or does the thickness add some R value? I have an assortment of pine 1 x 4's, 1 x 6's, 1 x 10's and plenty of 2 x 4's and 2 x 6's-whole pile of wood from an epic gut rehab of a 130 year old house and a wife who has an excess of architectural magazines (way too many). I also have almost every type of wood working tools because I'm way too cheap to hire someone who knows what they're doing. Also, what do you think about drilling in a couple of 2" round louvered soffit vents on opposing sides? Too much cooling draft? and am I over thinking this?
 

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Akadamee;
I like your quilt box. Are the 2 x 4 used because that's what you had or does the thickness add some R value? I have an assortment of pine 1 x 4's, 1 x 6's, 1 x 10's and plenty of 2 x 4's and 2 x 6's-whole pile of wood from an epic gut rehab of a 130 year old house and a wife who has an excess of architectural magazines (way too many). I also have almost every type of wood working tools because I'm way too cheap to hire someone who knows what they're doing. Also, what do you think about drilling in a couple of 2" round louvered soffit vents on opposing sides? Too much cooling draft? and am I over thinking this?
I do agree with much said here but that's OK. I run a canvass inner cover with a 2 inch spacer on top to mount my sensor. I use old cotton tee shirts as test material to absorb moisture - I can recycle them - and to protect the sensor. ( I am trying to get relative data. along with visual observatons. I use the sensors to verify the temperature and relative humidity sensor above the cluster and with slow transitions times It seems reasonably accurate. I also do not feed all winter but feed in the fall so the bees can make syrup honey - capped. Not sure what Profeed is but comapre the label with honey's composition - bees turn sugar syrup into a honey composition. I make 2:1 syrup costing about 30 cents per lb.

I have no top vents and heavily insulate all year now. My approach is to give the bees a chance to manage their own home - conservation of energy is the focal point. Moisture control is a big part of the equation and not the way most people think.

I suggest a quilt box as a good start - far better than none unless proeprly insualted. Pine wood, pine shavings are good absorber of moisture for storing water but with no vents ( heat loss and ice) - pine boards are pretty darn good. I doubt cedar is of much value / abosrbing capability, homosote is dumb in my opinion. I have to compare pine per cubic inch with cotton tees shirts some time. Pine frames add to the water buffering ability all year, year after year. Learn to insulate - tops should have greater R values than the sides and use simpel thermometers to learn - multiple points to avoid fooling yourself like a famous beekeeping writer did. I sense one pint all the time and verify other points using thermocouples and probes with stem extensions. It is fairly simple that way and cheap.

I get up on a freezing cold morning now with snow falling. I look at my sensor receiver on the mantel and I know my bees are OK. This year I will try to remotely monitor all 10 colonies, some with two temp + RH sensors and one temp sensor. Some will just have temperature sensors and one temp + RH sensor. It should be interesting - especially summer time in August. ( sorry for being wordy but I review what I am doing this way.)
 
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