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For optimum wintering in cold climates.

I have seen some photos of a piece of plastic sheet, canvaas, reflectix etc. floated over the dry sugar feed on frame tops. I have commonly wintered hives quite sucessfully with an inch and a half space between frame tops and the bottom surface of a quilt box. When lifting quilt box for a peek it appears that a great part of the cluster is clinging to the mesh bottom of the upper surface. Would they be better off if held down between frames by the loose plastic etc. sheet laying down on top of the feed? Am I giving them too much space that they need to "condition" to their optimum humidity level?

I believe I have seen Vance G. mention creating a moist bubble atop his colonies.

The idea seems more prevalent the last few years that we may be causing more suicide missions in winter to get water. Water that could be easily made available by a small controlled condensation area.
 

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I had put a 2 inch thick square of styrofoam insulation directly on top of my candy boards last winter and the moisture was so high the candy was wet thru, there was mold on all my frames , and, although I am not sure it was the water that killed the bees, they were soaked. A small controlled area might be good, but how to make it so it is not directly over where the bees choose to cluster is my worry.

Maybe an upper entrance combined with a cover over the feeding rim might allow some moisture to escape and some to remain. Or would a larger area of uninsulated space around the entrance allow the condensation to be on a wall instead of overhead. Ignore all my musings if they seem silly, I am just looking for a way to keep my bees alive this winter.

This year I am more confused than last.
 

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I think any deliberate condensation point should be on the front wall and also the hive tipped forward. If you go into cold weather with gallons of syrup not dried down and capped that could be hard to control condensation. Even with hives tipped and lower front entrance open ice can accumulate to block off all air exchange.

I am not understanding whether the whole hive top had 2" foam insulation or just above a smaller area of candy board. Foamboard is impermeable to moisture exchange. Did you feed late with a lot of weak syrup?

My experiments with 4 or 5 inches of loose shavings in a screened bottom medium box vented above are very much the other extreme of vapor permeability! Too much so perhaps but zero condensation. The bees were drier than wooden idols!
 

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The candy board covered the entire top frame and the foam insulation filled the entire top of the candy board, above that I had more insulation. I feed the first of Sept. but I could have fed too slowly and it did not all dry but most of it was capped.

I am running deep hives so I have a circular entrance about 3 inches from the bottom and do not have a problem with bees blocking the entrance so I have no need to tip the hive.

I believe my lack of upper entrance for ventilation, coupled with the sealed top of the candy board rather than a box of shavings was the problem. I am looking at any and all winter configurations for my cold zone and, as with most things, the methods are wide and varied, hence the confusion.
 

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I avoid anything above the bees that is non porous. Killed a couple of hives that way, too much water. No plastic, styrofoam or anything like that. I lay sugar cakes directly on top of the frames, or I have tried on top of the inner cover central hole. Both work. On top of that fiberglass batting insulation, paper side down, directly on top of the sugar and frames. Warm but allows moisture to move through. The fiberglass batting is cut to perfectly fit a medium or deep box and I use two layers in one box.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I avoid anything above the bees that is non porous. Killed a couple of hives that way, too much water. No plastic, styrofoam or anything like that. I lay sugar cakes directly on top of the frames, or I have tried on top of the inner cover central hole. Both work. On top of that fiberglass batting insulation, paper side down, directly on top of the sugar and frames. Warm but allows moisture to move through. The fiberglass batting is cut to perfectly fit a medium or deep box and I use two layers in one box.
Thanks:
I have had good success too with porous material above the bees; just was wondering if I was missing out on something that the impermeable membrane above the bees would provide. The pictures of the loose sheet of poly etc., seem so confidently portrayed. I had thought about not having the membrane full size of the frame tops so air flow around its perimeter would occur but questioned whether the cluster could get split with bad results.

Is there some real benefits here and I am merely missing the enabling details?
 

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If you go into cold weather with gallons of syrup not dried down and capped that could be hard to control condensation.
I am surprised how many beekeepers in my area/climate continue heavy feeding well into late fall. Yes, the bees take the feed but I doubt there's enough time to dry out the feed. In spring, moisture, condensation and what to do with leftover food in the frames is a common topic at the club meetings.

I use insulation boards above the inner covers. My inner covers have a 3/4 of an inch rim so the insulation board doesn't sit directly on the inner cover ( some dead air space ). I often see bees chewing little passage holes in the insulation board before winter really sets in. In spring and summer, occasionally those passages will be propolized from the inside.
Personally I think the boards help. As does the fact that I don't feed beyond October 1 to give the colonies enough time to dry out whatever feeding I do in September.
 

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Thanks:
I have had good success too with porous material above the bees; just was wondering if I was missing out on something that the impermeable membrane above the bees would provide. The pictures of the loose sheet of poly etc., seem so confidently portrayed. I had thought about not having the membrane full size of the frame tops so air flow around its perimeter would occur but questioned whether the cluster could get split with bad results.

Is there some real benefits here and I am merely missing the enabling details?
Frank are they up there harvesting moisture?
or blocking air flow.

Have you discovered the why on the bees against the quilt box?
maybe try plastic on 1/2 and then see where they cluster.

when mine are against the quilt box they are out of honey, they normally are several inches down when I open them.

how often do you open in the winter, Maybe Mine are the same I often do not open at all.

GG
 

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GG; there would be moisture to harvest at the front of the box around the small entrance so I am beginning to think they might be using their bodies to limit upward air flow through the screen, single layer burlap and 4 or 5 inches of coarse shavings. Only in the corners of the shavings box will there be any perceptible moisture. I dont lift the quilt box in winter since there will be several pounds of bees clinging to the underside and hard to lower the box with bees all over upper and lower edges. One of the suppose virtues of vivaldi styles is that a portion of the quilt/shavings box can be lifted to expose the bees beneath and sugar or pollen patties added with a minimum of cold air allowed in or breaking propolis seals between boxes.

Some posters have mentioned being able to view the bees through a clear plastic sheet where this is incorporated. Space above the frames of a well insulated hive seems to encourage bees to come up out of the honey frames. They really are not in the heat generating mode that requires the heater bees in cells doing their isometric heat generation with locked wing muscles.

With copious air exchange the state of of high CO2 induced low metabolism probably does not occur. The bees dont seem dependent on staying in close contact with the stores. The tight cluster partially on top of cells of honey and shivering to generate heat control for core temperature does not seem to be the reality. Question is, are we doing them a favor or not?

It will be interesting to see how your double shell insulated hive colonies operate this winter. It sure would be nice to have them on a scale to monitor consumption and all the other parameters and compare with similarly monitored conventional setups. Etienne Tardif and Robert Holcombe were doing a lot along that line but I need the dumbed down version of Etienne's work for it to be digestible by me.

I would like to feel that I could set the bees up with a ball park humidity environment which they could fine tune to their most favorable.
 

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I would like to feel that I could set the bees up with a ball park humidity environment which they could fine tune to their most favorable.
Crofter, I have used a experimental 3mil clear poly plastic sheet over the broodnest to observe whether the bees utilized the moisture collecting on the underside during the winter and spring months and if it appeared keep bees in the combs. I used it on 100 colonies last winter configured loosely (shown in the attached eary March picture) as in your previous post by leaving space along all sides, and covered by my standard 1/2" homasote insulation board with a 2"deep x 1" wide notch cut out of the front side for ventilation and upper entry.
The bees were clearly observed taking the condensation off of the underside of the poly sheet and no visible excess water collected in the hive or ran out on the bottom board. The bees stayed in the comb or on the top bars under the poly sheet and did not congregate on top of the poly sheet. This even with 2" feed rims on some of the top boxes.
None of the winter loses in this group were due to starvation, excess water or any issue I could directly attribute to the use of the poly sheet. Overall winter loses approx. 5%.
The benefits I believe are in ease of obtaining water available as droplets as opposed to leaving the hive when conditions permit or obtaining it by removing absorbed moisture from the homasote board, keeping the bees in the combs, and offering what appeared to be more suitable hive environment judging by the behavior of the bees under the poly sheet compared to the 100 colonies wintered without the poly sheet and just the homasote board in my normal configuration.
Although not observed this time around, the real benefit may come in the spring as water is easily available for brooding, patties stay moist and easily consumed and increased activity under the poly sheet may indicate more agreeable in-hive environmental conditions to start the new season.
This experiment was done on wintered colonies of deep box over medium box with homasote board, mouse guard some with feed shims some without, some telescoping covers with inner covers, some migratory covers with and without innercovers. The hives without poly sheet were of the same mish mash of accessories. Both colonies with poly and without were located in the same yards.
This a ONE year trial only and a small test to see first hand what our fellow German beekeepers see in using a hard plastic sheet over the brood nest during winter.
I so think I've seen enough to invest in thicker poly sheets or similar for longevity as the 3mil poly was chosen for economy and proof of concept.

65334
 

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GG; there would be moisture to harvest at the front of the box around the small entrance so I am beginning to think they might be using their bodies to limit upward air flow through the screen, single layer burlap and 4 or 5 inches of coarse shavings. Only in the corners of the shavings box will there be any perceptible moisture. I dont lift the quilt box in winter since there will be several pounds of bees clinging to the underside and hard to lower the box with bees all over upper and lower edges. One of the suppose virtues of vivaldi styles is that a portion of the quilt/shavings box can be lifted to expose the bees beneath and sugar or pollen patties added with a minimum of cold air allowed in or breaking propolis seals between boxes.

Some posters have mentioned being able to view the bees through a clear plastic sheet where this is incorporated. Space above the frames of a well insulated hive seems to encourage bees to come up out of the honey frames. They really are not in the heat generating mode that requires the heater bees in cells doing their isometric heat generation with locked wing muscles.

With copious air exchange the state of of high CO2 induced low metabolism probably does not occur. The bees dont seem dependent on staying in close contact with the stores. The tight cluster partially on top of cells of honey and shivering to generate heat control for core temperature does not seem to be the reality. Question is, are we doing them a favor or not?

It will be interesting to see how your double shell insulated hive colonies operate this winter. It sure would be nice to have them on a scale to monitor consumption and all the other parameters and compare with similarly monitored conventional setups. Etienne Tardif and Robert Holcombe were doing a lot along that line but I need the dumbed down version of Etienne's work for it to be digestible by me.

I would like to feel that I could set the bees up with a ball park humidity environment which they could fine tune to their most favorable.
i use a finer paint drop cloth, they protolyze it fairly heavy if I place it early enough.

I would suggest put it on sooner like now , to get time to propolize it, or try a denser weave. IMO they would be up there to either collect water or slow air flow and resultant heat and moisture loss and help to insure a lower CO2 environment.
I want to try plastic over frames, on some this year, seen the Vids Greg offers of the over seas folks and it seems odd to us but we may be odd to them.

Also thanks clyderoad for the feed back.

In spring one time I felt the bees were sucking the moisture out of the wood chips thru the cloth, so I had a moment where I was somewhat convince they survived "despite" what I had done. (during early spring check for stores)
Rather it be a boost.

GG
 

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Would they be better off if held down between frames by the loose plastic etc. sheet laying down on top of the feed?
Start watching 12:50.
There are several variations for you if you roll forward and observe - all have been tested and work fine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Start watching 12:50.
There are several variations for you if you roll forward and observe - all have been tested and work fine.
I notice he closes the film tight on sides and one end of frames and leaves one end open and is a bit selective with the insulation pillow to selectively control where the under neath condensation can occur.

Interesting. By comparison I have been creating much much drier conditions. Pause for thought for sure!
 

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I am in mid-MD. In winter I use an insulated inner cover (a sandwich of moisture-absorbing Homasote attached to 1" solid foam insulation). I place it on top of my winter feeding shim which I use to feed sugar should need be. The feeding shim has a wire bottom and is placed directly on top of the top-most hive body.

One of the attached pics shows four of the Homasote boards with moisture staining pattern. As expected, the warm center has no moisture to absorb (thus no staining) from the uprising thermal column since at the center the bottom of the Homasote is the same as the temp of the uprising metabolic moisture. But as the thermal column spreads out and approaches the edges of the brood box, it encounters colder surfaces at which point the moisture condenses out and staining results.

It is also along the edges where the subsequent downflowing thermal column encounters the outermost frames which are filled with capped honey. This capped honey is also cold, and this is the area I find often has condensation for the bees to drink.

Another pic shows an example of a nuc making use of the insulated inner cover sandwich. (I use newspaper when feeding if using mountain camp method with loose sugar, but more often, I make up a mixture of sugar with vinegar added. Has the consistency of moist sand. For that method, I just set it on top of the screen bottom of the feeding shim without the use of newspaper. Works great.)

The third pic is of a 10 frame box when I was using a piece of black duck to hold warmth in and around the cluster area. I am not sure that is of much help here in mid-MD. Sometimes the bees climbed on top of the duck and became separated from the cluster. They survived, but it is not the best scenario, so I stopped using it as it was not helping with anything that I could tell.

The fourth photo shows the bees clinging to the bottom of the Homasote. This commonly occurs in large hives, but not always.
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What a great thread, thanks to all contributors. Hopefully more will chime in. I've seen these kinds of techniques in Europe but never really understood them (or why they didn't end up with soaked bees)....I'm beginning to understand now, despite the language barrier;). Thanks.
 

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never really understood them (or why they didn't end up with soaked bees).
One of the built-in Lang hive issues - that inner-cover thing (hardly used in East Euro - people don't know what that plywood piece is and why is it needed).

The Europeans use non-permeable soft cover (e.g. plastics) all over the place.
But understand that 1)cover is positioned immediately above the bees and 2)there is insulation above the cover.
The cluster keeps the cover warm (and thus prevents the condensation above itself; the condensation may or may not occur on the perimeter - depends).

Thus this "condensation" deal is typical to North American beeks, but nowhere else.
 

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After over 2 decades of keeping bees one cannot dispute that there's new stuff to learn all the time, in this case, not having to make, repair or replace inner covers any more. I'll be attempting this technique this week as I close up our colonies for the Winter. Many thanks to all contributors! This is exactly why we keep bees....the always changing and adapting and keeping us in the moment.
 

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While in his 1850s book Langstroth recognized the need for the bees to have moisture even in the winter, he did not understand the ongoing condensation. As a result, he recommended periodically adding water-soaked sponges to the colony during winter months.

Also, when using Homasote boards, it is best to keep the edges of the board exposed to the elements so that any moisture that is absorbed can more easily evaporate and not remain in the material where it might be the source of mold.
 
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