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It looks like one of my hives will be in a single deep when things get cold around here in a few weeks. Here in SE PA, two deeps is what's recommended to get a hive through the winter. For a number of reasons, I've already decided not to do a combine with my strong hive.

I wondered if anyone has had success with heating a hive to help get it through the winter? I'm thinking a 25 to 40 watt bulb wrapped in foil might be just the ticket.

Thoughts?

-Pete
 

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Not sure what really happens when you warm the hive?
I think warming up is not all that good, especially up far north where I'm at.
The bees would get too active and will often go to a suicide mission.[flying into the cold]
Also burning more sugar.

Some guys winter nuc's up here, so a single deep should work too.

Konrad
 

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You could feed them sugar syrup to help them build up enough stores to get through the winter. It would also get the queen to keep laying for awhile, thus building up bee population as well.

peggjam
 

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The problem with that idea is that the weaker hive then has all the co2 and humidity to deal with, which can kill them pretty fast if left unchecked. If you do that make sure you have a good ventilation, and a top entrance.

peggjam
 

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here's some talk about people useing terrium heaters in the real cold area's, and by heating a hive will not cause a bee to fly out in to the cold, the are like you and feel the temp when close to the exit. they say a heated hive gets a head start on not heated hive's, the terrium heater is electric use for snake rocks. there a few on the site below.


http://www.beemaster.com/beebbs/viewtopic.php?t=3141&highlight=terrium+heaters
 

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>You could also take the strongest hive and place a mesh screen on top where the inner cover goes and than place your weaker hive on top. The heat from the stronger hive will keep the weaker hive alive during winter.

I've not had good luck with this here due to condensation. It seems to work for some people in some climates, but I haven't had any luck with it. If I tried it again, I'd use a solid piece of 1/4" laun between them with no screen to let the humidiy up there.

If you really want to add some heat, maybe a 40 watt appliance bulb (made to take suddenly geting hot when turning on when the filimant is freezing) underneath would work. They are cool enough I don't think they will start a fire. You could just turn it on, on those really nasty nights and leave it off the rest of the time. Or you could try leaving it on all the time. Another possibility is those tapes for wrapping pipes to keep them from freezing.

For a strong hive I think it's a bad idea. For a weak one, maybe it will help. I'd be tempted to only use it on the really nasty cold spells, though.
 

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The terrarium heater is more for helping the small clusters to rapidly expand the brood nest when there aren't enough bees to cover all the brood. It lets them spread out and on cold nights, keeps them from losing so much chilled brood. Not sure it would be a good idea for the whole winter.
 

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the guys in that post above swear by them for all winter use, I will never need one but they live with long, cold winters and love them. here's the post with the cable heater.

quote: I got the cable type that finsky described. It's 12 feet long, and water resistant, so I just pushed a loop into each box. Since the weather here has been very unsettled, (snowed Monday June 6) I'm sure it has helped these packages expand. Several of them are about to get there 3rd box.

http://www.reptiledirect.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=899
 

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My view is that overtly heating a hive is a very
good way to end up with a dead hive.

Cold keeps bees consuming minimal feed.
If you put a hive on a scale, a warm spell
makes the hive lose significant weight,
even though the bees do not fly.

Also, bees in a cluster live longer than bees
that are active, so a warmed hive without a
laying queen will lose population as compared
to a cold hive in a cluster.

Better to let the hive be, and admit that you
need to heft the hive, check weight, and perhaps
even (gasp!) open the hive to get some fondant
near the cluster if they run low on stores.
It has to be REALLY cold for a brief opening
of the hive to be harmful to the cluster,
despite all the fears harbored by beekeepers.

I'm slapping pollen patties in and hive-top
feeders on my hives as early as I can every
year, so I do just as much beekeeping in a
parka as I do in a tee-shirt. I can assure
you that I have never killed a hive by opening
it in winter, but I work fast, and do not
attempt to do more than tilt a hive body up
and toss a pollen patty in. No frames get
pulled, no "inspection" is done beyond a
glance at what I can see on top bars and
between bottom bars.

You are not that far from Philly, so it is
not like you are facing a winter without
days warm enough for the cluster to break
up. As I recall (and you can check with
historical temperature data) the longest
period one can expect below-freezing
temps is about 50 days.
 

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keep in mind that Pete bees don't heat the hive, just the cluster. The bees on the outside acutally provide a layer of insulation to contain heat. I would focus on as much wind protection as possible and as Jim mentioned feed, feed, feed. I would use some of the expanded insulation inside the top cover, an entrance reducer and a hive wrap. Small clusters in you region (and much colder) can winter. Heating the hive itself may cause you to loose bees on cold days that leave the warmth of the hive for a cleansing flight only to find it is 10 degrees outside and they die within a few seconds.
 

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Pete,
Wrap the hives with roofing paper. The black paper helps warm the hive during the sunny days, and allows the cluster to loosen and get stores or use a feeders.
Place an empty box on the top of the hive. This allows you to place feeder jars on the top bars.
When the daily temps stay in the low 20's or below for a high, remove the feeder jars and place a sheet of newspaper on the top bars and then place granulated sugar on that. This helps with moisture and emergancy feed.
Put the inner over on top of the empty box, then the outer cover.
This will allow you to open the hive up and access the status and condition of the hive during the winter - without disturbing them.
You can add feeders or more granulated sugar as needed.
I have done this for years and it works well.
There are some pictures on my website: www.mountaincampfarm.com/wst_page4.php?ID2=JlnW6d&RowIdx=&idx=24&file=images/DSCF0354.jpg
 

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MountainCamp,

How early do you have to get the feeders and empty box off the top so that the bees don't build comb up there?

How much sugar do you put up there to get moisture control?

I'm thinking about skipping the feeders and building a very shallow, maybe 2 inch, rim on top with sugar in it just for moisture control and emergency food source. From your experience, would this be enough space for sugar?
 

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They've never built any burr comb in the boxes at this time of year. They are just stocking away as much food stores as they can. They start back filling the empty comb and moving down in the hive.

I would feed them syrup as long as you can. They will store the syrup and use it much better and it is easier for them to use the stored syrup, then to use granulated sugar. To use the granulated sugar, they need to disolve it with water collected in the hive.

In the sping that are just trying to build up the population, so agian their focus is not in expanding the size of the comb area.

When I put the sugar on the paper I place it in the center of the hive body, so that the sides are all free for air movement. The bees will chew through the paper if they want at the sugar.

I put a few pounds of sugar on the paper, and check them to see how the hive is doing. Each hive and cluster is different when it comes to producing mositure.
 

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IMO a strong hive is best left alone. They know how to deal with winter. They've been doing it for many millineau. I don't wrap, but maybe it helps some.

I am going to try a small amount of help for the nucs and see if it helps, but I'm not sure of the outcome yet. I'm basing it on the fact that I do get observation hives through the winter so manybe I can get a nuc through using the same kind of system.
 

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My perspective is that wrapping a strong hive will not do any harm, but it may very well help a colony survive during a late cold snap with brood.

Wrapping allows for later and longer feeding in the fall and earlier and longer feeding in the spring.

Young bees are what gets a colony through the winter and gives a hive a head start in the spring.
 

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It is a very bad idea to heat a hive with a light bulb. 25w is a lot of heat in a very small space. I use a light bulb, with a metal diffuser to warm 120lbs of honey to 100F, and that is with a temperature controller to prevent meltdown.

Don't do it !
 
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