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This will be my second winter keeping bees. Last year hornets nearly wiped out one hive and a sudden temperature drop in midfall (went from 40-60s to 10 degrees) and a windstorm that took the lids off the hives while I was at work did me in before I had any chance of insulating the hives.
This year I am a bit better prepared and will over winter them in the barn (three hives).
I know there are insulating wraps out there but my question is this. I have a good quantity of insulating foam board.
Has anyone used this or is it potentially detrimental to the hives?
I'd though of making slip covers and wrapping the hives with the foam board.
Despite a rough spring and a population crash in all three hives (two are strong and one is recovering still) I've gotten the hives back into decent shape.
There is no one in my immediate area that I know of (Silver Valley, North Idaho) that is keeping bees to ask advice of.
Our winters usually run in the Twenties with some periods of 10s and teens and a rare drop below zero.
I've been planting early spring shrubs and seeding dandelions for two years now to help with early spring food sources as well.
 

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Bane "I have a good quantity of insulating foam board. " --- Is it EPS, Expanded PolyStyrene, or XPS, Extruded Polystyrene? XPS is essentially water proof, closed cell foam. EPS has a lot of void that absorb water / retains water.

I now insulate all year but I am a contrarian.
 

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I've insulated in the past with rigid foam insulation. I cut the foam to fit around the hives, making cut outs for the holes in the quilt box. I tape the edges with aluminum flashing tape. In the past I've taped the foam to make a box that fits over the hive, with the telescoping lid off, then I put the telescoping lid back on. Now I just use a ratchet strap to hold on the 4 sides. I also make a rigid foam lid, that fits over the telescoping lid, I leave about a 4 inch overhang, and that protects the small top entrance. Make sure the front foam is shorter, and stays above the lower entrance. For the past 2 years I started out not using the insulation, and just taped the joints. Then a cold, windy, nasty storm came up and I ran out and slapped some insulation on the hives. I think I'm going to go back to putting insulation on the hives when the weather gets nasty. Hive insulation.jpg
 

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Crap! I had a whole thing typed up, and it was deleted when I posted the photo. Anyway, here's the photo, I've got to get going and cannot type it all up again. Hive insulation.jpg
 

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Crap! I had a whole thing typed up, and it was deleted when I posted the photo. Anyway, here's the photo, I've got to get going and cannot type it all up again. View attachment 58265
See above and you will see your "lost" post.
Often times this glitch results in duplicate postings.
 

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I saw that GregV, right when I posted 2nd post, first one popped up. Don't know how to delete 2nd post, oh well.
 

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I saw that GregV, right when I posted 2nd post, first one popped up. Don't know how to delete 2nd post, oh well.
Just edit it; delete the contents and replace them by "dup".
That's what I do.
:)
 

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Bees can deal with the cold very well, what they can't deal with is cold+wet and cold+wind. The biggest benefit you get from overwintering inside of something like a barn or the cellar is that it cuts out the wind blowing through the hives.

That being said, I am a big believer in insulation (pink rigid insulation). The only thing I have to worry about is that more insulation=more active bees in the hive=more honey consumed over the winter. Good luck this winter!
 

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This will be my second winter keeping bees. Last year hornets nearly wiped out one hive and a sudden temperature drop in midfall (went from 40-60s to 10 degrees) and a windstorm that took the lids off the hives while I was at work did me in before I had any chance of insulating the hives.
This year I am a bit better prepared and will over winter them in the barn (three hives).
I know there are insulating wraps out there but my question is this. I have a good quantity of insulating foam board.
Has anyone used this or is it potentially detrimental to the hives?
I'd though of making slip covers and wrapping the hives with the foam board.
Despite a rough spring and a population crash in all three hives (two are strong and one is recovering still) I've gotten the hives back into decent shape.
There is no one in my immediate area that I know of (Silver Valley, North Idaho) that is keeping bees to ask advice of.
Our winters usually run in the Twenties with some periods of 10s and teens and a rare drop below zero.
I've been planting early spring shrubs and seeding dandelions for two years now to help with early spring food sources as well.
I've had bees for 7 or 8 years now and wrap my hives for winter like you're proposing. I'm located in Upstate NY near the Adirondack mountains where it's not unusual to have winter temps at -25f or lower.

In late fall I will remove the roof and inner cover. I will put a shim on top of the body and then set a quilt box on top of that. The quilt boxes I build have at least 6 inches of pine shavings in them, sometimes more if I have the ability to make them deeper. I set the quilt box on top of the shim.

I cut the foam board insulation so it can cover an entire side of the hive from the bottom to the top of the quilt box, leaving about an inch of the quilt box showing on the top. I fasten the foam boards to the outside of the hive using drywall screws and washers. Three or four screws per side is enough to hold the foam board on. Cut each side so that it is wide enough to cover the thickness of the foam board on the adjoining side. Simply push the screws with a washer through the foam board and screw into the wooden hive underneath. Tighten until the washer snugs down on the foam board. Do not drive any screws into the quilt box.

Put a roof over the both the hive and foam boards. Make sure there's enough room between the top of the quilt box and bottom of the roof so any moisture laden air coming up through the pine shavings can vent to atmosphere. I leave no other ventilation holes other than the quilt on the top of the hive. Keep the bottom entrance with mouse guards and reduce it. I use underfloor entrances so I don't need mouse guards and don't need to reduce the entrance size. The design of the underfloor entrance keeps out mice and wind.

During the winter as the bees respire, they release warm moist carbon dioxide. The warm moist air will rise to the top of the hive and slowly diffuse upwards through the shavings pack. As the air moves up through the shavings it cools down, and eventually the temperature reaches the dew point and the water vapor will condense. However, even though the vapor is condensing, the shavings will absorb the liquid water, preventing it from falling back and wetting the bees. Further, because the shavings are a better insulator than the wood and foam combination on the sides (ceiling ~ R-15 vs. sides ~ R-6.5) the side walls will always be colder than the ceiling. This means that if any condensation occurs inside the hive, water will condense on the side walls and run down the walls versus drip onto the bees. The combination of the quilt and the differing insulation values gives excellent passive control of both heat and condensation inside the hive. At some point I'll post more information on how heat transfers throughout the hive and the effect outside temperature has on the inside hive humidity. Although I haven't yet tried it, heat transfer calculations show that if the hive's insulation is properly designed, the quilt would not be necessary at all and an equilibrium can be reached inside the hive where no condensation would occur above the bees, a high humidity level will exist along with elevated carbon dioxide levels, and liquid water would be available inside the hive for the bees. There's a number of research studies that indicate elevated humidity and carbon dioxide levels inside a hive significantly retard the ability of Varroa to breed and shorten their life span.

There are a few other advantages to this method, including:

The ability to monitor hive activity without disturbing the bees. You can remove the roof and put your ear near the top of the quilt and hear the bees buzzing below. I use a cheap stethoscope to listen. Additionally, you can turn on the sound recorder on an i-Phone, push it down into the shavings, and record the the bees buzzing. It works surprisingly well.

Periodically throughout the winter put your hands into the shavings and see if they feel damp or have ice crystals in them. Some dampness and ice formation is a sign that water vapor is exiting the hive correctly, but if the shavings get too damp you can simply scoop out the damp ones and replace with fresh dry shavings. You could take the damp ones inside and dry them for re-use, but I don't usually bother.

All of the above lets you monitor the bees without disturbing them. You should no longer need to knock on the hive to see if the bees inside are active. Some studies indicate that knocking on a bee hive in winter will temporarily increase the bee's metabolism and cause a 4 or 5 hour spike in honey consumption.

If the situation arises where you need to put a sugar block or pollen patty into the hive, you can remove the roof and grab the top of the quilt box and lift it off the shim (this is why you don't put a screw into the quilt box). Do your thing with sugar and pollen, and then set the quilt box back down on top of the shim. The shim holds the quilt box above the frame tops which leaves room for the sugar and gives the bees room on top of the frames.

One negative to be aware of; don't wait too long in the spring to take the quilt box off. Ants love quilt boxes and will quickly multiply inside them. And when you're ready to take the foam board off, just back out the screws and washers and save them for next season. If you're consistent with how many boxes you winter with you won't even have to cut the foam board for the next winter as the dimensions stay the same year over year.

I've been developing and using this method of overwintering for nearly 8 years and have had excellent success, even when temperatures drop well below zero for a week or two at a time.

Good luck to you and your bees!!

Thanks
 

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obottomee " Although I haven't yet tried it, heat transfer calculations show that if the hive's insulation is properly designed, the quilt would not be necessary at all and an equilibrium can be reached inside the hive where no condensation would occur above the bees, a high humidity level will exist along with elevated carbon dioxide levels,"

You are where i was two years ago - quilt boxes effective and I even screwed my XPS foam on. I have moved to a XPS 5-sided boxes with glued joints. I have no top vent, inner cover is canvass, i have a 1 1/2 inch shim on top to allow a temperatures and humidity sensor to perform without the bees propolizing up the sensor. I now keep the insulation on all year and will improve the design for the coming year. My biggest problem is quantity and and quality of sensors and making the decision to add CO2 sensors. All my work is exploratory and I have been changing yearly in response to some un-situ data and acquired knowledge. The behavior and survival rates of my hives have changed - for the better. I also need to run some control units, non-insualted, somehow.

Akademee: "The only thing I have to worry about is that more insulation=more active bees in the hive=more honey consumed over the winter." That comment is the normal dogma. It is not what I have seen by weight measurement. I temper this with the fact it is difficult to measure weight accurately and had to use visual observations as well as weight measurements to confirm effects. Looking at data, month over month, I saw nothing unusual in consumption rates. I did find the weight went up in late winter (early brood rearing). My hypothesis is this was a result of moisture absorption by the pine box and wooden frames. Wood provides a moisture buffer and gives back moisture if loses to the external environment are prevented. Please note that I did not feed after Nov. 2, 2019 and have not fed yet but soon to a winter hive weight.

In summary I am simply trying to prove that if you give the bees a chance, a proper enclosure, the bees will regulate their internal environment as they have the sensors to regulate - more than the cluster's internal environment.
 

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I did find the weight went up in late winter (early brood rearing). My hypothesis is this was a result of moisture absorption by the pine box and wooden frames. Wood provides a moisture buffer and gives back moisture if loses to the external environment are prevented.
If they gained weight, they must have been out foraging, or something external (water?) got into the hive. Or sensor error.
 

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Lobottomee;

1. What is the height of the shim under the shavings box?

2. What do you use for bottom of shavings box?

I use effectively the same system with a medium super for the shavings and a separate thin screen board to hold the shavings but that system makes access difficult.

It would be hard to convince me not to provide some emergency top exit/slash vent since I am convinced I lost a bunch of colonies to suffocation when unusual winter conditions totally blocked my bottom only opening. That was the first trial of zero upper openings.
 

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bushpilot "If they gained weight, they must have been out foraging, or something external (water?) got into the hive. Or sensor error."

My hives are fairly resistant to water loss with no top vent, XPS envelope and pinat outside on wood and heavy propolis inside. A proposed source of water: 40 lb. of honey when eaten by the bees or metabolized generates 3.5 gallons of water. Where does it go?

The primary way out of the hive for water molecules, in winter, is by diffusion of water vapor out the entrance and a secondary method is ebb and flow of air currents created by wind effects. There can be condensation on the walls and even on empty honey comb down low but it has to get out - bees drink it up? Finally bees can carry water out via pooping but they have to fly out as a minimum. By Spring all weight became normal. Meaning they should a reasonable total consumption form Nov 2. to April.

A third method which helps control relative humidity is inside the hive box by absorption. It can absorb or releases water vapor depending on the Relative Humidity (RH) around the wood ( or honey). Propolis is permeable to water vapor, pine absorbs water, 2-inch XPS is has very high resistance and even exposed honey will absorb water. Try it by submerging a piece of pine in water for a day or two and measure the weight change. It is my only explanation and I will repeat the process this winter.

BTW, I watched for foraging - too cold, no-flying. I solved the wind driven water leakage problem via the top cover - all foam glued sealed joints with an air gap between the XPS walls and wood walls, including the top area. Snow is removed when weighing -not much this year. I used two different scales , fish sale type and a bottom scale, they agreed with each other. Finally I am not talking about a 10 lb. or less change. I am improving my method of weighing - I think.
 

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crofter- "It would be hard to convince me not to provide some emergency top exit/slash vent since I am convinced I lost a bunch of colonies to suffocation when unusual winter conditions totally blocked my bottom only opening. That was the first trial of zero upper openings."

I know a BK who went looking for his hives. Couldn't see them but realized he was standing on top them. They survived. Same guy also lost hives in a different kind of snow. Another BK from Quebec said he puts a vent pipe in, under the hives and a vent stack up to beat deep snow. It is the one issue I have to address with my approach thus my desire to measure CO2. I may have to import snow as we seem to be getting milder winter weather and freezing rain (not good).
 

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I know a BK who went looking for his hives. Couldn't see them but realized he was standing on top them. They survived. Same guy also lost hives in a different kind of snow. Another BK from Quebec said he puts a vent pipe in, under the hives and a vent stack up to beat deep snow. It is the one issue I have to address with my approach thus my desire to measure CO2. I may have to import snow as we seem to be getting milder winter weather and freezing rain (not good).
Really? Wow.
 

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Lobottomee;

1. What is the height of the shim under the shavings box?

2. What do you use for bottom of shavings box?

I use effectively the same system with a medium super for the shavings and a separate thin screen board to hold the shavings but that system makes access difficult.

It would be hard to convince me not to provide some emergency top exit/slash vent since I am convinced I lost a bunch of colonies to suffocation when unusual winter conditions totally blocked my bottom only opening. That was the first trial of zero upper openings.
The shim height in my hives is 1-1/2". I like to make use of standard dimensional lumber. The bottom of my quilt box is made of burlap or cotton cloth (i.e. old bed sheet or pillow case). Be careful if using burlap as most of what you can buy has been chemically treated to prevent insect damage. I will staple cotton cloth across the bottom of the quilt box, and then stretch a wire tight across in a cross-wise configuration in order to keep the the cloth from sagging. Electric fence wire works great for this; it can be stretched tight and is cheap.

I've never had an experience where I thought colony loss was caused by suffocation. Bees have a tolerance for high carbon dioxide levels, and even with snow completely covering the entrance area there is still enough air movement through the hive. The biggest risk from snow covering the entrance is that it blocks the bees from being able to exit the hive for cleansing and not suffocating the colony. However, ymmv, so nothing is an absolute and I'll be on the alert for signs of oxygen starvation.
 

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Lobottome;

Heavy wet snow turned to heavy rain and then quick temperature drop. Not the usual breathable snow. Thanks for info on shavings box bottoms. With 1/8 hardware cloth only, shavings rained down a fair bit of fines into the frames. Cotton like Tee shirt got chewed. I have a bunch of ex sand bag burlap. The criss cross wire would be easy and not permanent so the box is still useable as honey super.
Equipment creep and storage can get out of hand!
 

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Lobottome;

Heavy wet snow turned to heavy rain and then quick temperature drop. Not the usual breathable snow. Thanks for info on shavings box bottoms. With 1/8 hardware cloth only, shavings rained down a fair bit of fines into the frames. Cotton like Tee shirt got chewed. I have a bunch of ex sand bag burlap. The criss cross wire would be easy and not permanent so the box is still useable as honey super.
Equipment creep and storage can get out of hand!
Have you tried the sand bag burlap yet? Sounds like the same material flexible intermediate bulk containers (AKA Super Sacks) are made of. Have a bunch over in the barn I drug home years ago intending to cut flat and use under gravel in the driveway.

I plan to soon test polyester felt filter bag material on my one Warre hive. The natural fibre canvas that was on it was full of holes. I think from wax moths but not sure. The filter felt is quite strong so should hold up well.
 
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