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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a newly made one-medium-super hive with queen that will probably need to be wintered over a large hive. I have another fairly small hive, doesn't even fill 2 medium supers, that I think should also go over a stronger hive.

Are double screen boards the best way to do this, and is it worthwhile to overwinter a small hive on a bigger one? Or should I just wrap the small hives really well and let them stand alone? Or just put the small hives on top of each other?
 

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I always wanted to try the double screen boards, but my mentor pointed out. What happens if you have feed the bottom hive. He uses the boards to warm the weaker hives that make it thru the winter.
 

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It's the only way to over winter nucs. I use 8 frame mediums divided in two to make two 4 frame nucs over a strong hive with a DSBB in between. They do extremely well this way getting the heat from the strong hive and also extra ventilation from two separate entrances.
 

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It's the only way to over winter nucs. I use 8 frame mediums divided in two to make two 4 frame nucs over a strong hive with a DSBB in between. They do extremely well this way getting the heat from the strong hive and also extra ventilation from two separate entrances.
I hope others that over winter Nucs will speak up as I thought many kept them as stand alones over winter. I hope to over winter a few single Nucs and had not planned to put them over larger hives. In fact I would not have enough larger hives to do this.
 

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I hope others that over winter Nucs will speak up as I thought many kept them as stand alones over winter. I hope to over winter a few single Nucs and had not planned to put them over larger hives. In fact I would not have enough larger hives to do this.
I overwinter as stand alone 5/5. Last winter (first for me w/ overwinter nucs) all 8 made it outside, no wrap, pushed together with a wind block on the NE to protect against our nor'easters. I did feed sugar in February. This winter I'll set up 15 the same way. They need to be chock full of stores with little open comb even in the brood nest. If I have to I feed the heck out of them to get them that way.
Others probably do it differently.
 

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Too much moisture and not enough stores are the main reasons most nucs and hives don't make it through winter. If you live in an area with high humidity or wet winters the double screen could cause a moisture problem for the nuc on top. In other words the nuc will get all of the condensation while the hive below stays dry. The 5/5 or even 4/4 stand alones overwinter very well. I overwinter 4 frame deep stand alones but I live in a area with a much milder winter. Use the search engine and look up overwintering nucs by Mike Palmer and you should find lots of valuable information and very excellent reading. It's not the cold that kills bees it's moisture and starvation.
 

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WBVC, last year, the consensus of our bee club was that in our climate, it would be better to overwinter a stacked nuc above a full hive with a solid board in between. It is so wet here in the Pacific Northwest, that concerns of too much moisture rising to the (top) nuc would create problems, even with upper ventilation. The idea that the moisture from the much larger lower colony would require more upper ventilation than might be good for the smaller colony. in theory, there would be enough heat transfer through a solid board, much like how the center board between two colonies in a divided hive body allows for heat transfer sideways. There are examples of people in our region that overwinter nucs. Lauri has mentioned it often, and she is two hours south of me (thus four hours from you). Her nucs tend to be bigger than some. I believe she uses eight frame equipment for at least some of her "nucs", which may be six frames plus a feeder. I built Palmer-style four frame supers to go over a divided ten frame deep, and currently have one five over five colony. It's a little uncommon around here, but I want to try one or two single deeps this winter as an experiment. I've had Carnies winter in a cluster not much bigger than a grapefruit or small melon, though they take longer to build up in the spring than larger colonies. I can't really say if anyone local has ACTUALLY tried stacking over a double screen, or just thinks solid is better.
 

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I had to overwinter (north of Albany NY) an undersized colony last year. It had scarcely three frames of brood in September and about 4-5 deep frames of (mostly) filled honey and pollen combs, even after I fed the bejabbus out of it during September. I was advised to try to winter it in a nuc, or double nuc. I was fed up with buying more equipent at that stage of my first summer so I decided to create a double nuc-sized space within two deeps by making solid wood follower boards and sliding them inwards to meet the filled combs/brood combs in two deep boxes. Outboard of the follower boards I filled the space with foam insulatin boards. I had two inches on one side and an inch and half on the other.

I made sure the follower boards were the full depth of the box, with no beespace allowance between the follower boards in the two boxes. They had ears like frames to rest on the frame rest. I made sure that the follower boards were perfectly lined up vertically within the boxes. From the outside it looked like a standard deep stack, and very usefully it also used all my other standard-sized 10 frame Lang equipment: bases, varroa sticky board/sbb, tops, vent shims etc.

In addition to the inside-the-box insulation I also had foam insulation along the exterior surfaces (2-4" depending on the side.) I had a feeding rim above the uppermost box where I fed Lauri's Recipe sugar bricks from Christmas on. I added pollen patties at the end of March. I had a quilt box on top of the whole shebang and 1.75" of insulation tucked up in the wooden telecover, as well. (And, as I've reported, before I also had my hives wrapped in wool blankets which was probably overkill, but it eased my mind during the Polar Vortex. I'm sure sure I'd do that again!)

This little nuc was the end (western, windy side) one in a group of three that was snugged up together on a stand.

It was my first winter of beekeeping and I was determined that my hives would fare better than they might have if I'd left them living within the uninsulated barn walls.

All three of my colonies survived and came out of the winter strong, even this little colony. Over this spring and summer this colony, all by itself, has already drawn out (and filled with stores or brood) 30 deep frames so whatever efforts I made last winter to keep it going were paid back in full. I anticipate that it may wind up as 37-38 deep frames in four unbelievably heavy deeps. (I will be "harvesting" some of those capped honey and pollen frames to give to a couple of my 2014 splits which could use the extra stores.)

My one constant worry all last winter about this set-up was whether I would be able to easily reverse it in the Spring to give them back the full interior space within the deep boxes before they got crowded and swarmy. That part turned out to be a piece of cake. I just pulled out insulation panels as needed (and sometimes replaced them with thinner ones) when they started to build up their brood areas in the Spring. I left the follower boards in for last. Since I was using the anti-swarming technique of opening the sides of the brood nest, it dovetailed nicely with gradually removing the insulation panels/follower boards as the colony built up.

Some here on BS have expressed concern that bees with access to foam insulaltion would chew at it. I kept my sticky boards in all winter partly to be able to monitor that. I never saw any sign of chewing or crumbs on the boards. They only had access to it at the lowest edge of the panels in the bottom box and on top. The top area (within the feeding rim and under the quilt box) was where the most of the bees seemed to hang out all day, but even with that opportunity to get into mischief, I saw NO evidence of chewing, even though in most other areas my bees are good housekeepers: they chew up and remove any anti-mite treatment debris, stray shavings that get into the hives from quilt box fillings and wax paper from the patties, etc. But they completely ignored the foam. I used Corning pink and purple, and Dow pale blue foam panels, depending on the thickness.

Perhaps you could contain your bees (four frames of brood and an equal number of honey/pollen frames) in two boxes, but stacked vertically with follower board sides like I did.

My experience is only based on three hives over a single winter, but I plan to arrange my hives - even the big ones - in the same laterally compressed, more vertical arrangements this winter, too.

Hope my explanation is clear. If not, please ask questions.

Enj.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
enjambres - I take it follower boards are solid dividers in the hive (made out of what?). So you reduced the interior space using styrofoam boards outside of the dividers you put in on each side to compact the full sized deep into a nuc, basically? You styrofoamed both the interior of the deep, and then wrapped them on the exterior? Then a quilt box, then a styrofoam board under the lid? And kept sugar patty in all winter.

Did you allow a top and a bottom entrance for ventilation?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Too much moisture and not enough stores are the main reasons most nucs and hives don't make it through winter. If you live in an area with high humidity or wet winters the double screen could cause a moisture problem for the nuc on top. In other words the nuc will get all of the condensation while the hive below stays dry.
What if you used a quilt box on top to absorb moisture?
 

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I hope others that over winter Nucs will speak up as I thought many kept them as stand alones over winter.
I winter 400+ 4 over 4 nucs on stands in double nuc boxes, but some, for whatever reasons, have only one side populated. Some years, they go without cleansing flights from early December to the first of April. They winter just fine.

But, they are 4 over 4. If I were attempting to winter single story nuclei, in my climate with deep snow, I would winter them on top of another colony to keep them from being buried. I wouldn't use a screen bottom board in my climate, as I don't want all the extra moisture in the nucs.
 

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>How successful are double screen boards for overwintering a small hive on a big one?

In my experience it was a total failure and moisture was the cause. If you want to put a small hive over a large one, I suggest a thin sheet of plywood with NO vents between the two whatsoever. I even reduced it down to a double screened hole in an inner cover and that amount of moisture still overwhelmed the colony on top and killed them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I would rather see the moisture vented away via an upper entrance, and not absorbed by the top insulation. Wet insulation is no insulation.
One more scenario. Bottom large hive, both top (Imirie shim) and bottom entrances. On top of that, double screen board. Then one-medium box hive with top entrance (Imirie shim). Then vented (on both sides, with screens) quilt box.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
In my experience it was a total failure and moisture was the cause.
How would you, then, overwinter a small, single medium nuc/hive? Just wrap it really well and let it stand on its own?

Or how about just stacking it on top of a strong hive, bottom board and all?

Then it might look like: strong hive with quilt box on top, then bottom board and single medium with quilt box on top? Might be hard to check feed in that bottom hive tho.
 

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Here's the insulation/ventilation stack set-up I used in addition to my internally-reduced hive boxes.

(from the top of Hive)

Wooden telescoping cover w/ 1.75 inches of foam tucked up inside. (No inner cover used in winter.)

2" tall shim (eke) with two 1" round holes; one each on both the front and back of hive; both holes left wide open all winter (except for bee and mouse proof screening). I started with only one open, but after a week found that wasn't enough, so I popped the plug out of the other and left it open permanently as well.

4.5" recycled comb-honey depth super with stapled-on fabric floor and piled high (into space of shim above) with pine shavings; aka the "Quilt Box".

2" shim with a single 1" hole in the front, that was further reduced during most of the winter with piece of corrugated cardboard as a wind barrier. In the most severely cold period the opening was about 1/2", I made it larger at the end of the winter when it was warming up again; once Spring truly arrived the cardboard evolved in to a flap just tacked to the windward side of the hole as draft barrier - they're still on my hhives at the moment. This is the upper entrance (open for all the colonies during the winter, and for my one strongly top-entrance oriented hive, its main year-round entrance). This shim also functioned as the feeding rim where I placed sugar blocks, and later, patties as well. It also had a 1" hole in back, but I kept it closed with a plastic plug all winter except when I wanted peek in at the bees.

(Various) stack of deeps and mediums containing bees and stores and internally insulated depending on size of colony, etc.

2" shim with NO holes as a wind baffle under the lowest brood box. Similar purpose and effect to a slatted bottom board but w/o the slats which can interfere with mite drop counts. Bees, do not in my (admittedly short) experience draw comb below the bottom of the lower frames. I keep these wind baffle shims on year-round, so it's not just a winter thing. My bees draw and fill and have brood all the way down to the lower edge of the lowest frames.

Screened bottom board with ordinary wooden front entrance reducer that varied in opening size depending on how cold it was; the smallest opening was about 3/4" square; reinforced with mouse guard.

Solid bottom board underneath to contain varroa sticky board; closed at back with wooden piece wrapped in sheet of packing foam to reduce drafts.

My hives sit on Metro-style shelving run from front to back of the hive above a plywood base under the shelving. Plywood is on raised pallets @ 20" above the ground to discourage skunk and porcupine pestering in the late winter.

****************

The quilt box with its fabric floor, pine filling and two wide open ventilation holes allows the substantial moisture given off by the bees to pass constantly and completely up through and out of the hive stack while moderating the air flow outward and retaining plenty of the bees' warmth below it. Even on bitter days, the temps under the QB in the feeding shim were seldom below 70 F and often @ 90F when the cluster was close underneath. Masses of bees hung out in feeding rim, festooning down in the open space below the QB fabric. I saw no evidence of moisture accumulation or staining within the QB or the hive proper. Some condensation appeared on the lower surface of the insulation under the telecover but it could not fall down on the bees because it was above the shavings in the QB. The bees stayed on the dry side and the condensation vented naturally out through the holes whenever outside temps and relative humidity in the air permitted.

The hives were packed together, side by side, with insulation panels outside and between them. Insulation panels needed between them to take up space required by the overhang and thickness of the telecovers. A 1.25" thick panel is what's needed, but I choose to use 2" because that's what I had on hand. Two hives of perfectly matching heights would probably require 2.75" or 3" to handle the double overhangs. None of my hives was the same height so the packed together better.

I had foam panels on the outside sides, back, and finally when it got really cold on the front, as well. I did not wrap the hives with tar paper or plastic and held the panels on the hives by using ratchet straps. (Which turned into a big PITA whenever I had reason to remove the panels for one reason or another as it is a five-handed job to get them all installed again around such a large blob, even though it was ony three colonies. Am working on a better plan for that this winter.)

I also leaned recycled plastic political signs across the front of the hives (top end ends tucked under the ratchet straps) as temporary wind baffles because I moved my hives late last year (early Dec.) to a new location and misjudged the actual direction of the local winds. This year I will install a better wind barrier in that quarter before frost gets in the ground.

And over all, I had many wool blankets wrapped around the hive, which I think didn't make much of a difference un the end. They did keep the hives warmer underneath and did not (despite being overwrapped loosely with a plastic tarp) trap moisture, but I think it was overkill. I don't plan to do that again this winter but perhaps I'll change my mind. For now, though, it's not part of the plan for 2014-2015.

@NewBeein NH:

You can't insert a quilt box between the two hives as you suggest because: a) the quilt box requires ventilation spacers above and b) the quilt box and its cold-side ventilation mechanism will obviate any warmth benefit rising from the stronger hive to the weaker one above. I think the QB effect really requires a good temperature and humidity differential between outside and in to work correctly. You'd have the difficulties of accessing (for feeding, for instance) the lower box with no practical warmth gain to the upper colony.

In answer to your question: the follower boards were cut from nominal 1" pine boards I had on hand. In practice they are about 3/4" thick. They have "ears" cut on the top edge to park on the frame rests and were very carefully cut to fit closely to the box sides. I even have to plane one or two down a bit to slide them in. Perhaps I was making too much of it, but my goal was to make them into well-fitting interior walls and deny the bees access to the sides of the insulation panels. The (bored during the long winter?) bees decorated them with propolis and wavy wax lines, just as they do the sides of the boxes.

Hope that helps.

Enj.
 

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>How would you, then, overwinter a small, single medium nuc/hive?

>> If you want to put a small hive over a large one, I suggest a thin sheet of plywood with NO vents between the two whatsoever.


>Just wrap it really well and let it stand on its own?

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesnucs.htm#overwinternucs

>Or how about just stacking it on top of a strong hive, bottom board and all?

It's nice to get HEAT from the hive below. So, as I said in reply #13: I suggest a thin sheet of plywood with NO vents between the two whatsoever.

> Then it might look like: strong hive with quilt box on top

A vent would be better.

> then bottom board and single medium with quilt box on top?

Lose the quilt box.

>Might be hard to check feed in that bottom hive tho.

Try this and you can feed any of them without moving anything:
http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfeeding.htm#BottomBoardFeeder

But you can't really feed syrup in the winter without causing moisture problems again.
 

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I am now talking about 10 frame deeps.

Last year I had 2 weak hives. By winter they had 2 empty frames on each side. I use frame feeders when first setting up packages so had a few lying around. I removed the ladders, filled them with paper from a shredder and used them against the walls. They filled the space and likely provided some insulation. I put. Dad ant of honey above and they wintered well.
 
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