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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm not sure it would help as much down here, but a comment about a hive underground already having drones made me start thinking. I'm an engineer, so thinking usually either ends in disaster or something I can at least call a success, lol.

Anyways, ignoring any obvious things like the trouble manipulating a hive in the ground or ground water, would a buried hive help them survive up north? Maybe something with wood walls where the top of the double deep comes level with the ground and any honey supers are above ground with a top entrance at ground level. I'm even thinking about a box in the ground a little larger than a hive that the deeps slide down in tight fitting?

Would this give them a head start in the spring? It might kill them if you don't feed since they couldn't come out and collect since it still cold, and it might also kill them because of lack of air flow.

I know it wouldn't work economically for a large scale operation, but maybe for a hobby person?
 

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While you may not be crazy, it could be that you were born 100 years too late. :D

You may be interested in reading "Wintering of Bees" from this 1909 publication.
http://books.google.com/books?id=8n...v=onepage&q=potato cellar bees winter&f=false
(starts on page 282)


One of the methods discussed is wintering bees in a cellar, but one of the other options is (in the fall) dig a trench in the dirt, put the hives in, cover with some straw and then put all the dirt back! :rolleyes: Dig back up in the spring.
:digging:
 

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Rader is right. 100 years ago, wintering in unheated cellars was the rage. Pick up CC Miller's book "Fifty Years Among the Bees"and learn all the ins and outs if you want--there are all sorts of observations he made related to humidity, temperature, light, etc. (Note: he also tells you the best way to stack hives on a horse-drawn carriage, if that's your thing).

There are a few potential negatives to consider: 1) the ground would be slow to heat up in the spring -- you might get a nice 50 degree day in January, but the ground might still be frozen. 2) CC Miller talked about the importance of air circulation and ventilation; his experience was that if you shut up 100 colonies in a relatively air-tight cellar for a few weeks, they will use up all the oxygen; a hole in the ground might have a similar problem. 3) All that moisture would rot your boxes in no time. 4) you would get no "solar gain" from sunny winter days. 5) Everyone says moisture, not temperature kills bees. A box that is more than 1/2 buried seems destined to have moisture and ventilation problems.

But hey, there's only one way to find out...
 

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I know of one beekeeper here in Ontario that still Winters her bees in the cellar. That's how her great-great-grandfather and the generations since have done it. Same cellar, too.
 

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Burried hives would certainly have reduced drafts, but that could be problematic for ventilation. most critters that live undergroung have two entrances at varying elevations. Our good friend Bernoulli is credited for the principle that tells us why. the difference in airspeeds, and thus pressure, create a natural draft. This could be used to provide the required ventilation, but on a blustery winter day, it could also freeze the bees.

Untreated wood in contact with soil that will be damp in the spring will likely not have a long service life, there is the issue of labor involved in checking anything below grade, and the importance of sunlight to the bees normal life. If I look at the potential downsides, i come up with a pile of dead bees. My undergrad time was spent in the civil and mechanical disciplines, so take that for what its worth. If you want a 4 wheel drive sand castle with a 500hp engine, or a track driven hydraulic retaining wall, I'm your guy. Throw live critters into the mix and it turns into somewhat of a gamble.
 

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On the other hand, lots of wild hives are underground. In southern Calif. I get bees out of underground sprinkler boxes every year and see them in rock "caves" where they can escape the heat. I agree just burying a hive would have moisture problems, but think along the lines of a root caller with an escape like an observation hive. I have also looked at earth sheltered homes for years. They have a moisture barrier built into the walls. The main benefit of the earth sheltered homes is that the underground temperature remains constant year round, so depending on the season the earth is providing geothermal heat or cooling. Just some thoughts for you engineers to ponder....
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I learned a lot from 50 Years Among the Bees. Not much I would use now, but I love learning what other people have tried. Kind of funny to think that in 50 years, we may look back and chuckle about how we "used" to keep bees.

Thanks awebber, I hadn't considered the fact that while the ground would be warmer in winter, once the air does get warm, the ground would take a few weeks to catch up. I wasn't planning on removing it during the summer, but that might mean you would have to to get maximum benefit.

JRG, it's what I do. And yeah, most of the time it's dangerous. But it leaves a good story behind usually, lol.

Peacock, I guess my question then has to do with Knight's remark. How are bees doing it now? How do they handle the problems you mentioned and other problems that I see? Maybe they have two sections that create an artificial air flow. Or maybe they just aren't thriving as well. I'm not sure if we've had enough people cut out underground hives to really know?

Knight, that's kind of what I was thinking, even though I hadn't put in the vapor barrier yet, thanks for that idea. A hole with some plastic and a wooden box that's slightly larger than two deeps. Then the hive itself would sit down in that box. It would probably work a lot better for me if I was to go to a one deep hive body like I see some people still use. Not sure if it would work as well though.

In the end it might be easier to just try to keep them in a root celler, and that's been covered pretty intensively already.

Radar, I'll have to check out that publication some time, sounds like it might give some good insights. And I know I'm crazy. That's why my name is senilking, king of the seniles, even though I forgot the "e"...
 

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Indoor is trickier than most people think. But the concept has been around. I've been thinking of doing it for nucs. Out in the panhandle they make potato cellars that are a trench with straw in the bottom, potatos on top of that, straw on top of that, a tarp on top of that and dirt on top of that. I was contemplating something similar, but I want some air (so they don't suffocate and so they don't get too hot) and a thermostat controled fan to blow enough air to keep it freezing (28 F or so) so the ground will keep it cool on warm days and the bees will stay inactive. That should mitigate both the 60 F days when they get wound up and the -20 F days when they tend to die...
 

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I don;t know how, or IF, they do it now. I know of folks removing bees from underground lcoations, but i don;t nkow if the bees were there as current year swarms, or if they managed to overwinter. Thats a pretty big unknown as overwintering is soemthing I consider to be pretty imnportant. I don;t have a good data source, personal experience, or even second hand knowledge of how well the bees do in the type of situation were talking about. I'm trying for some significant increases this year and I will do what i can do overwinter them successfully, but maybe winter of 2015/16 I'll give this a try. I've got a large 10'x14' root cellar that can be used, and a backhoe to try direct burry. I'll wait tuill I have "extra" bees to test this on. Who knows, they might do just fine. It seems like it would be rather challenging to add emergency feed if needed. Then again, how would you know it was needed?
 

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>How do you keep the hole from filling up with water after it rains?

I haven't seen any rain since last fall... but you would need to take that into account either by a drain trench that goes to lower ground or by digging a drain pit for the water to run into and soak into the ground. Of course soaking in doesn't work well if it's below freezing...
 

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I couldn't resist giving you a hard time, glad you didn't take offense, I'm usually the jokester around beesource but it's lost on most people. I can see it working for the arid hotter south regions but it's a lot of work and I've seen people use more efficient methods (like building an insulated containment around multiple hives lined up). It's good to tinker and dabble in it, keep us updated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Michael, do we know at what exact (within ±5) temp bees will keep in a cluster and will break cluster, or is it more of a the colder it gets the more dormant and contracted they get? Do we know how warm it has to get to let them move a little to a new frame with honey and what temp they do their cleansing flight and how often they have to do all this. It would be like making little robots and I doubt they'd like it much, but I've always wondered if you could try to perfect the pattern if you tried hard enough of if someone has?

Peacock, you could still check the boxes if you didn't direct bury them, I think. It would probably be some work, but you probably could. Good point about not knowing if a hive is a swarm or overwintered. I think the original comment that started all this was a hive someone was trying to get out of a tree, and it was found this year and had drones, so I assumed it was overwintered. But, they still don't know it was in the ground.

Weaver, I was thinking about first having some moisture barrier so water can not filter in. Also having it come up and then possible taped or slipped under another super to keep it above any water that could flow in? I would probably try to have the hive on a slight mound too.

JRG, no problem, I like messing with people too. Who knows, this whole thread could be a joke on us all, lol. And who are you calling arid, surely you mean the mid south and not my part of the south. I can't plant trees here until June because of all the wet soil, and the humidity, while not as bad as North MS was, is still pretty good until august. And yeah, there are probably many more ways that are much more efficient, lol. I need to go back and read why insulating them doesn't seem to work that well. Seems like it had something to do with the moisture freezing and then soaking them when it thaws. Probably would be a problem with this too.
 

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Regarding water infiltration in the burial trench, the article I linked in post #2 suggested digging a trench on a hill, oriented so one end of the trench is lower down the hill. Then put the hives at the upper end of the trench (leaving the lower end of the trench with no hives) before refilling said trench.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Wow, a cellar for 300 hives. That's getting intense, lol. It also talks about avoiding late fall honey for use for their stores over winter? Is this something people don't think is a big deal these days, or just a general rule that I missed?

The trench idea sounds interesting. Unfortunately, I have the wet clayey soil he talked so bad about, lol.
 

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It also talks about avoiding late fall honey for use for their stores over winter? Is this something people don't think is a big deal these days, or just a general rule that I missed?
Lots of late Fall honey crystallizes rather readily so the bees need water to make use of it. Stored in a cellar or buried in a trench, water might not be accessible. Hence the rule. Sort of like some of the farmers around where I grew up that would advise, "You can't grow alfalfa if you haven't got rocks!" Well, THEY couldn't grow alfalfa if THEY did not have rocks. It was far from a universal rule.
 

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Here is something to think about. How about a long metal shipping container buried in the ground on a hill side.
Of course still need all the modern gadgets to control the temp., humidity, air, lights (red), etc. on solar battery backup.
If all nucs, how many will a shipping container hold?
 

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Way too much rain around here, since December 2012 my below ground water meter has been covered with mud and sometimes rain. The bees would have to learn to swim at my house.
 
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