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I'm in Michigan and we just can't catch a break. Haven't had a day above freezing in months and there doesn't look to be an end in the near future. I have a top bar hive that I'm considering moving into a garage until the weather starts to thaw a bit. It was a weak hive going into the fall and I'm worried they are running out of stores trying to stay warm. They would endure only a 7 mile ride in a truck. I've read that if you move them in "too cold" a temperature and they get jostled loose from cluster they can die. Today it appears we will be inching all the way up to 24 degrees. I don't want to do more damage moving them than leaving them but I don't want to ignore a way to save a hive I can do it.

Thoguhts?
 

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I wouldn't move them warm weather is coming at the end of the week. I would insulate the top, close any gross air leaks and add emergency feed directly ontop of next to the cluster.
 

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I wouldn't move them warm weather is coming at the end of the week. I would insulate the top, close any gross air leaks and add emergency feed directly ontop of next to the cluster.
How do you open up the hive and get feed close to the cluster without exposing them to dangerous temperatures in the process?
 

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do it quickly. Pack a frame of drawn empty comb with sugar, fondant or honey and slide it in next to the cluster. I would try to gage stores before doing anything, do you know how much was left in fall? They may be fine.

I checked the weather for your area and it looks like you don't see quite the warmup we will have down in Louisville. Not this monday but the following monday (18th, 19th, 20th) looks like a good day, sunny and relatively warm 45's to do a quick look.

Accuweather - Grand Rapids
 

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A TB hive exposes more area, but I when I need to add sugar blocks to my Langs I just get very organized ahead of time (I even do a practice run through of what exactly I'm going to do so everything is precisely at hand before I crack the lid) and then just lever up the top enough to get access and slip the blocks in. If you aren't now feeding it may be easier the first time. After you've had blocks on for a awhile you have to push them togther/around a bit because you want them right over the cluster. I have done this even in temps as cold as the high 20's when more sugar was needed but the weather wasn't cooperative. I only do it when there is no wind, of course. I can get the bricks in place in 15-20 secs or less.

Could you think up some sort of partial cover that you could set on top of all but the small area you need to see to add the food?

Feeding granulated sugar Mountain Camp style may take longer to set up the first time. If you don't have sugar bricks (I recommend Laurie's Recipe from here on BS; my girls are nuts for them), perhaps you could use one of the modified Mountain Camp methods of wetting sugar in a slitted bag. There have been descriptions of various ideas recently.

I moved my bees from one place on my farm to another in early December on a day that was falling out of the 40s (and in 48 hours was down to the single digits). It was only a short move, but cluster-disturbance was my main concern. I thought about for awhile beforehand and made two plans to deal with it:

1) I have slot under my SBB where I insert sticky boards. I had some of those microwavable heating pads standing by that I planned to stick in the slot after the move to provide some gentle additional warmth while the cluster reformed if I thought it had been jostled apart. In the end, I felt the move had been accomplished so carefully (we lifted the whole hives as a unit suspended from the bucket of our tractor and drove backwards in our lowest creeper gear) that I felt the bees probably had very little, to none, in the way of swaying, G-forces or bumps. If you had an idea where your bees are in the TB you could strap the heating pads to the outside of the wall to provide some buffered warmth through it when you arrive at your destination. The risk to the cluster, at least as I understand it, is that it can take hours, or even days, for it to reform enough to become thermally intact again. And in the meantime the bees are exposed to temps that are too low, which in turn makes them less successful at reforming the cluster, etc., in vicious cycle. That's why I was prepared to add supplemental heat, even if I had to keep exchanging chilled pads for freshly warmed ones through the whole night and into the next day. Luckily, it didn't come to that! If you did move your bees to an inside area, you could get some of the same effect if you could add a little temporary heat after the move. You could perhaps rig up some sort of tent/encosure and a small box heater. But don't let it get too warm - I woldn't let it get above 40F because you don't want them try to fly when they're inside a building (and freshly moved) and when the air temps outside are too cold for that. You'll need to return them to cold temps as soon as possible. Maybe heat the space first, then install the hive, without further heat, and let the slowly cooling room prompt them to reform their cluster?

2) My other plan, which I did put in place, and still have in use, was to wrap the hives (which are also insulated with foam boards, as much as 4" thick on some sides) loosely in layers of wool blankets. You could plan to do that too. (I am the Superintendant of All Things in The Linen Closet in my household, so I didn't have to check with anyone else before making a raid on it for blankets to wrap the bees, but your situation may vary .... just sayin') The point of the blankets was to give them some added buffering from cold temps as they settled down in their new spot.

But overall, I agree with the others that it might be better to try to figure out how to add more insulation to the hive in place rather than risk a seven mile trip in the back of a truck. Is there some way you could add some foam panels all around the hive? A 2" thick panel (R-10) goes for about $15.00 aroound here. Maybe you could scrounge enough to wrap around a single TB hive. Just be sure to take the thickness of foam panel itself in account when you plan on the sizes of foam for cutting. Then put them around the whole hive (leaving vent and entrances clear) and cinch the it all together with rachet straps. Add blankets wrapped around to that if you want to. Adding insulation will moderate the effects of heat loss through the wooden walls of the hive, this will lower the energy-cost to the bees of maintaining their cluster-warmth, therefore lowering their stress.

This winter has been brutal here in northern NY, too. Exremely cold, very early and then continuously cold since then. Here's a pic of my blanket-wrapped, hive-blob - the chic decor for an anxious newbie's little apiary: Bee-Snug 3.jpg

Enj.
 
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