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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Greetings,

This is my first year of beekeeping, and my first post ever in a beekeeping forum - so please be patient with me ^.^

In a nutshell, my biggest question is: Can my hive survive on nothing but fondant for 12 more weeks of winter? the rest of the details follow...

I am in a region with a solid 4 month winter. We're about 6 weeks into sub freezing temps, 3 ft of snow on the ground, 8 degrees F at night, 20 degrees in the day is typical right now. I dont expect vegetation or early blossoming until late April.

I moved my 2 hives into a barn for the winter to keep them out of some extreme weather.

I have several questions, and I think I have an emergency that might cost me the desolation of one out of my two hives. :(

My hive that I'm concerned about - I started them from a local Nuc this past spring. It has one super only (previously had 2 but they never put anything in the top super before end of the season). The remaining one super was heavy but I did not have a way to take the actual weight, guesstimate was 50-60 lbs when I relocated it to the barn.

Question 1:
The hive is tilted forward and I propped the insulated inner cover up about 3/8 inch to allow for ventilation and prevent condensation. This is so counter-intuitive to me when I can look in and see bees, and it's only 10 degrees in the temperature around them. Can anyone put me at ease that keeping that insulated cover propped is the right decision? Seems like it would defeat the functionality of the insulation.

Question 2:
Here we are, only 6 weeks into an 18 week winter, and I peeked in the top opening where the inner cover is propped open, and I see the bees are at the top of the frames. From what I've read, this indicates that they are running out of food already, for them to be at the top. Is that correct?

Question 3:
So, thinking they are low in food, I scrambled to supply them with fondant. One day later (which was yesterday) I took two decently large pieces of fondant out to them. I opened the outer cover and removed the inner cover, the bees would not go down into the hive with smoke. With a lot of bees on the top of the frames, I had to set the fondant on top of them - there was no other choice I could see in the moment. I did it gently, and I'm hoping it distributed the weight of the fondant and didn't kill them all :s
So the two part question is:
- Did I do wrong with the fondant, crushing the bees?
- Can my hive survive off of nothing but fondant for the next 12 weeks of winter? Of course I will keep feeding it to them as they go through their current supply.

Question 4:
I have noticed - what I assume is normal - dead bees on the ground around the hive. But yesterday I found two larger clumps of dead bees from this hive the size of racquetballs. Can anyone help me understand if that is normal, or does it indicate a larger problem?

Thank you so much and very sincerely in advance!
 

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Yes, your bees can live on only fondant for 12 weeks. Adult bees can live off of sugar only because their bodies do not repair themselves the same way yours does. Your body would use protein to make the repairs but since their bodies do not repair themselves, no protein is needed. You will see lots of people here that add sugar bricks and fondant to their hives every year so you need not worry about this. As for the rest of your questions, I will let others answer them for you.
 

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About half of my hives always want to start the winter at the top center of the hive. Then they follow honey for the rest of the winter. So you have to lift the hive or the back of the hive to get a sense of the weight.

Oh, and dead bees on the ground in the front of the hive is a good sign. It means that the hive is strong enough to clean out the dead bees. Weak hives just leave the dead bees on the bottom board.
 

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You could have taken a feather and gently brushed the bees out of the way to put the fondant down. I always keep a feather in my pocket when I'm in a hive, comes in handy sometime.
 

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Can they? Yes. Will they? Maybe. Certainly you don't have as many options as you did before the cold set in. But keeping them supplied with fondant won't hurt. I'll make a comment on the barn though. While moving them sort of inside will help with icy winds, if it's like my barn, it's sometimes colder inside than out, especially if the sun is shining. I prefer hives in the sun, sheltered from wind and with easy and certain access to early pollen sources.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
About half of my hives always want to start the winter at the top center of the hive. Then they follow honey for the rest of the winter. So you have to lift the hive or the back of the hive to get a sense of the weight.

Oh, and dead bees on the ground in the front of the hive is a good sign. It means that the hive is strong enough to clean out the dead bees. Weak hives just leave the dead bees on the bottom board.
Thank you! That is extremely encouraging that maybe they started up top, and are not about to run out of food right this minute...
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Can they? Yes. Will they? Maybe. Certainly you don't have as many options as you did before the cold set in. But keeping them supplied with fondant won't hurt. I'll make a comment on the barn though. While moving them sort of inside will help with icy winds, if it's like my barn, it's sometimes colder inside than out, especially if the sun is shining. I prefer hives in the sun, sheltered from wind and with easy and certain access to early pollen sources.
I was on the fence, and had even wrapped them in black roof wrap to help absorb the sun, planning to keep them out. Then we got word that a nasty windstorm was coming and decided to move them to the barn. It was a good thing, there wasn't much left standing where they were previously. I completely understand though and would have preferred to leave them out - maybe next year I'll build a 3 sided shelter for them to give protection from those things.
 

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I drive garden stakes in the ground around my hives and then wrap burlap around them. It's a quick and easy solution that cuts wind. BTW, I meant to mention that nearly all my hives have bees up top early in the winter. Even the heavy ones. I don't sweat it.
 

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Ditto to all answers.

The reason I have failed hives during winter is either 1. starving, or 2. they get wet due to condensation on the bottom of the cover(s).

It is amazing what low temperatures bees can handle, so long as they are kept dry.
 

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I'm surprised nobody said anything about the lid propped open so much in temperature's that low ????
I had a hive knocked over by a dear during hunting season. It had snow and ice while it was open. Thought for sure they were dead. The buggers tried to sting when I was picking them up. They took a licking and they are still ticking.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I'm surprised nobody said anything about the lid propped open so much in temperature's that low ????
Thank you - I'm still curious about that. And the last 4 days it has been -10 degrees below 0 Fahrenheit. Any concerns keeping that lid propped right now?
 

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No need, IMO to be propped open 3/8 of an inch, I've seen posts where people use a Popsicle stick or a penny to keep it open. Any small crack will allow the warm moist air to escape. Only other time I've seen the 3/8 reference to ventilation was a notch cut into the box 3/8 inch high.
 

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I use three 1/2" diameter holes drilled in the insulated lid, that's a far smaller opening than a full length 3/8" gap. Our winters are very moist but not as cold so I would think you need no more than a penny or popsicle stick to prop up the lid.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
No need, IMO to be propped open 3/8 of an inch, I've seen posts where people use a Popsicle stick or a penny to keep it open. Any small crack will allow the warm moist air to escape. Only other time I've seen the 3/8 reference to ventilation was a notch cut into the box 3/8 inch high.
Awesome, time to get some Popsicle sticks then, right now I'm using pencils, which is hard to balance the cover on anyhow - thank you!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thank you EVERYONE for your advice and replies to my wintering questions.

Great news - BOTH of my hives survived the winter! :D

They did go through a good deal of fondant, and I'm not sure how strong/healthy they are yet. On that related note, I'm off to do some research about my early spring inspection results and pictures I need help interpreting.

Cheers,
Chris
 

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Thanks Chris. Your update is very much appreciated. We're very grateful that your bees came through OK. Keep us in the loop!
 
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