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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I goofed big time!

After several years of success using pine shavings-filled quilt boxes to combat moisture issues on my Langstroth hives, I made a modification to them this year I believe backfired this winter. In preparation to feed sugar this winter, I added a 3/4" by 3/4" shim around the bottom perimeter of the quilt box, with a 3/8" x 2" notch cut out of the front for a top entrance.

The problem was pretty obvious when I went to inspect one of my distant yards yesterday. The notch apparently negated the purpose of the quilt box. Back in February I had fed a few pounds of sugar placed on newspaper across the top bars (aka Mountaincamp.) When I inspected the dead-outs, there was plenty of honey but the newspaper was dripping wet along with all the frames. The shavings were bone dry where usually the top inch or so, is damp, the way it's suppose to be. From the best I can figure, I think the newspaper formed a warm/cold interface between the warm cluster below and the cold outside air entering the top entrance. This yard has mix of screened and solid bottom boards, yet the results were the same. Of special note, the colonies that had the unmodified quilt boxes are doing fine.

Any other thoughts on this?

The humbled beekeeper, yet again....
 

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If you had the newspaper completly covering the frames I could see it freezing and making a vapor barrier so to speak, especially considering the nasty winter we've had. Personally I use suger blocks and use pieces of paint sticks for shims so the air can circulate up and around.
 

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i use 3" shim boxes with 1/4" mesh on the bottom side. above this, a layer of newspaper and then 25# of dampened sugar. I havent noticed any moisture problems and 4 of 6 hives were still alive a few days ago.
 

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I am in northern NY (east end of state, near VT border). I have QB with pine shavings, too. My hives stayed dry as toast, despite being overwrapped (on every side except the front) with blankets and a plastic tarp (to keep the blankets dry.) And I have ventilation openings both below and above my QBs.

My assembly above the upper box is this (from lower to higher):

2" shim, with 1.25" hole, reduced by a "panel" of corrugated cardboard to an opening scarcely 1/2" in diameter. This is my upper stack ventilation hole or, in the case of one hive, its upper entrance hole.

QB (approx 5" high) with pine shavings and a fabric floor.

2" shim with TWO 1.25" holes completely open (though back one was obstructed outside by over-wrappings of blankets/tarp)

Telecover with 1.5" of foam panels tucked inside.

I fed during the winter with sugarbricks laid directly on the top bars. Almost always when I lifted the QB to restock the bricks I had great gobs of bees hanging off the bottom of the fabric and filling the space around the remainders of the blocks. When I used a penlight to peer in through the (temporarily) unblocked hole in the shim below the QB on extremely cold nights (well below zero F) the bees often (but not always) had retreated down into the supers, presumably because it was warmer there. I was worried when the first really cold nights hit that I might have "lured" them up to the sugar blocks and inadvertently cause them to freeze. They were smart enough to know where it was safe to stay up there, and to remove themselves when necessary. The air temp within the "feeding chamber space" (i.e. above top bars, below QB) was often 90+F, and even with the bees down in the supers was in the 60's whenever I happened to stick a temp probe in.

May I suggest next that year you make taller shims (at least 2") and use sugar blocks instead of the newspaper. I use the recipe known on BS as Lauri's Sugar Blocks and my girls are crazy for them. I also think they are easier to manage than Mountain Camp arrangements, since you can slip in new supplies without having to completely expose the top of your hives in cold weather. (Though I do choose my days carefully for this chore, trying not to have to do it below freezing.)

Also, I would suggest that you add larger vent holes in a shim above the QB to allow the moisture to pass through and out of the hive stack. I started the season with only one hole open in the upper shim (in the front), but during the first round of below zero temps in December, found that the material within the QB had gotten slightly damp. So I opened the second hole in the back. That has kept the QB material dry since then, despite the fact that back hole is completely under the blanket/tarp overwrapping. In the front, during the extremely cold period I also hung a folded blanket down as a loose curtain in front of both of the vent holes (i.e. the small feeding chamber one as well as the larger, unobstructed one in the upper shim) on the front surface, but it was otherwise open to the air. On sunny, calm days I lifted the front blanket curtain for better air-exchange. I'm not sure what the front curtain did, other than comfort me inside in my own snug hive when it went well below zero outsisde.

I've added details of my set-up not to make you feel badly, but because if I was in your position I would want to know precisely what others - especially in similar climates - have made work so I could make some changes. I'm not recommending blankets, BTW, just adding all the details in case they made a difference in my other, more similar to yours, practices.

I think the essential points you might extract take from my (very eccentric) winter arrangements would be:

Taller shim below QB, to allow for feeding blocks;

Smaller opening in that shim, just enough for emergency top entrance and placed as high as possible to avoid drafts directly on the bees when they are feeding;

And a second shim above the QB, with larger, or multiple, ventilation openings, to move the moisture out more effectively. Just make sure the holes are not covered by the lips of the cover. I found adding some foam insulation panels did the trick there, but it reduced the overlap making it imperative that you strap the top down to avoid losing it in high winds.

And as everybody alway says: now you have lots of drawn comb - which I suppose is a (small) comfort.

Enj.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you all for your input.

rwlaw - The newspaper had about a 2" gap of exposed top bars around the edges. I like you sugar block/paint stick idea. Do you use a top entrance with this setup? Open or solid BB's?

KPeacock - That amount of sugar should absorb a lot of moisture. Does it clump well enough to be able to remove the excess sugar come spring to reuse? Do you use top entrances? Open or solid BB's?

enj - Your details are very helpful. A smaller top entrance and more ventilation above the QB sounds like a good idea. Are your blankets wool? Sounds like a nice cozy setup!

Thank you all again for taking the time to help me, Steve
 

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I tried a screened bb's for a bit but didn't like them. I install a 2 1/2 " feeder ring in november and seal with duct tape, has a 1" entrance hole and most of the time there's a half cork installed. The larger hole is nice, like enjambres mentioned, you can look in there and see most of the top bar area, don't have to pull the top off to see if the bees are up and in need of feed. This year I dado'ed 1/8" of material out of the inner cover and was pleased to see frost in that area on cold mornings
 

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If you had the newspaper completly covering the frames I could see it freezing and making a vapor barrier so to speak, especially considering the nasty winter we've had. Personally I use suger blocks and use pieces of paint sticks for shims so the air can circulate up and around.
rwlaw, do you do this in place of a quilt box? Do you place the paint sticks on top of the frames, then the sugar blocks on top?

I am wondering if Steve might have had too deep a pile of whatever shavings or material, which did not allow the moisture to escape from just above the bees. I don't imagine that the 3/8 X 2 inch slot was the cause. In my setup, I had a 4 inch tall frame with 1/4 inch hardware cloth between the top box and the quilt box, on which I placed pieces of sugar bricks. This frame had a 3/4 inch upper entrance in the front, which is similar area-wise to Steve's 3/8 X 2 inch slot. The quilt box had about 2 inches of cedar chips.
 

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I used homemade quilt boxes. The have a riser to keep about 2" above the frames. I have holes on all sides of the shimmed bit including a front entrance hole. I used sugar blocks...covered over most but not all of the frame area. So far dry quilts and dry frames. Perhaps the newspaper started acting as the "roof" of your hive by blocking air flow. Or..perhaps driving rain go in via the notch but that seems unlikely.
 

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I made up some quilt boxes out of scrap t-111 siding, they were 11" high and I probably had 10" of cedar chips in em, put three 2" holes in the bottom. Had really good success with them. But it was a pain to feed.
Winter before last I made some outer cover that went over the outer covers. I cut 2" foam pieces, glued 1" pc's on the sides so it wouldn't slide off, I have yet to look under them and have a frost or ice buildup. I think they work great.
As far as the upper entrance, I don't think that it was too big, look at the hole in a bee tree, those are a couple inches in diameter sometimes bigger. Bees are tough little suckers, give em enough fuel, they can take the cold, they can't handle moisture.
 

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Thank you all for your input.


KPeacock - That amount of sugar should absorb a lot of moisture. Does it clump well enough to be able to remove the excess sugar come spring to reuse? Do you use top entrances? Open or solid BB's?
Yes, I would venture a guess that the sugar could absorb some moisture, but above it I had a quilt box of my own making with plenty of ventilation via 10 1" holes. I did ensure that there was a sugar free area about 4"x3" or so. this allowed the bees to get up into the shim box and out the top entrance hole (about 3/8") that i drilled into the shim box. I'm much happier drilling a shim box than my normal boxes. I have solid bottom boards and haven't found myself wanting for the screened versions. The olny thing I can see "necessary" about the screened bottom board is the ease of counting mites, which i think is important. By itself, I'm not convinced that a screened bottom board is going to have a significant impact on the mites, and trees don't have them, so they clearly aren't a requirement. These conclusions are made having never tried them, so don't put too much faith in my convictions here.

As for clumping, yes, the stuff is solid! I mix it at about 1.5oz water per pound of sugar. I'm not a fanatical measurer, so a 10 pound bag of sugar gets itself a pint of water. A 25# bag gets 2 and a half quarts. Close is close enough, eh? I usually just measure via weight as opposed to by volume. It's easy to do when mixing in a 5 gallon bucket and weighing with either a large game scale, or a luggage scale, both of which can be affordably purchased via ebay, or any one of many online retailers. once mixed, just pack it into whatever shape you want it in and it'll be hard the next day. I've also used this same mixture and molded it into cupcake pans for smaller sugar blocks that can be easily added to nucs. My preference is for the 25# capacity shim boxes becasue the sugar is cheaper in 25# bags, its less measuring, and if they need the feed, I'd rather not have to provide it every few weeks. I don't like to bother them much in the winter.
 

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Philip, yes I put the sticks on the frames and bricks on that. My way of thinking, the sticks provide air movement, and the flow of the clustered bees frame to frame is right away instead of them hogging tunnels out.
 

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Howdy Steve10, I see there's more spring weather on it's way out to you...:(
This is the winter that wont quit- and the spring that won't start....

I was just wondering about the hives that DID make it. I assume there's a single bottom opening
and no top entrance, with the quilt box above that.
It looks to me like all the humidity generated
by the bees condensed on the paper and rained back down on them. The only difference being
the top entrance, which allowed untempered outside air, to enter the hive and cool off the top
side of the paper. I might add that there could have been frost and or ice also, that has
since thawed...I am becoming a student of winter hive dynamics, and I'm just thinking out loud,
It's hard to believe that the life of a hive could come down to a piece of paper and a hole
3/8 by 2 inch ...Thanks for sharing :)

==McBee7==
 

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I use a piece of plastic corrugated sign stock hinged in the middle and bend out to form a tent over the upper entrance then tack it over the entrance for a wind deflector
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Again, thank you all for your input. One "little" thing I did remember (isn't it always the little things that get you!) Where I used QB without the 3/4" feeding shim, there was no newspaper there and all those hives are thriving. I can only slip a pollen patty in there because there is not enough flex in the screening to make rook for the newspaper/sugar. I'm suspicious now that the newspaper, being directly above the cluster and insulated by the sugar, acted like an un-insulated inner cover. Also, two pounds of sugar was not enough to absorb the moisture generated by the bee's metabolism. Ultimately newspaper's evaporation would then chill the cluster even more.

For fun, I pulled up weather underground to compare average temperature, average humidity, average dewpoint, and average temperature-dewpoint spread. Bottom line is I live in a "frozen" tropical rain forest thanks to Lake Ontario compared to all of you. So, I think I need to work on solar/battery powered heaters and ventilation fans for each hive. Or loading them all up on a semi and heading south for the winter is looking like more viable option.
 

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I've made up some quilt boxes for next winter (post facto for my dead bees) that has extra
room (1 1/2inches) on the bottom side, to give additional space for feeding...It will be problem-
atic for crazy comb, but hopefully a small price to pay for live bees. (this may be revised )
I also didn't bore holes in the sides of the QB, but instead screwed 1/4 inch nuts to the top
edge to lift the lid about 1/8 of an inch all the way around, which I hope will give a more
defined temperature striation of the wood chips, I'm not sure if this is necessary but it was
easier to make, and may be modified with additional thought..SPRING IS A COMMING..:)

==McBee7==
 

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So, looks like when using the mountaincamp method, maybe newspaper is a poor choice. Would wax paper be a better medium, as it would likely absorb little or no water?
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Not sure about the wax paper. I could almost see how water may drip off the bottom. Wonder if a piece of window screen would work. Sounds like a good idea for an experiment next year.
 

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Wax paper would be a very poor choice. As it can absorb no moisture, any condensation, if this is what happened will drip throughout hive and the cluster will get damp/cold and die.

P1010233.jpg

I run a 2.5 inch feeder rim with a 3/4 round hole. I used candy blocks and placed them directly on top of the frames. Made them by putting parchment paper in a cereal bowl and poured the candy in. 3/4 round hole becomes the back up inlet if the bottom entrance gets blocked by snow or dead bees.

P1010231.jpg

Next I use an inner cover with a 3 1/2 round hole in the center and a 1.75 inch notch on up side and to front. Wood absorbs some moisture and 1.75 notch provides circulation on top side of inner cover.

Then have a 3 1/2 inch quilt box with two 1.25 in screened holes on each side. Have 1/4 screen in the bottom of the quilt box and a piece of burlap to hold the wood chips. As an aside, remove the chips and burlap and these become summer vent boxes.

I have 2 x 1/2 by 3/8 openings in bottom entrance reducer as inlet for air. Yo may need more, as your air humidty is higher than the Cdn Prairies. I didn't pick up what your bottom entrance was, but you will need some.

P1010229.jpg

Have 2 inch of styrofoam in the outer cover to keep top warm and steer condensation to side walls. Also 2 inch styrofoam and black paper as exterior insulation.
 

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This just seems like another good reason to use sugar " blocks " if feeding is necessary. They are easy to make ( no cooking required ) very fast to install ( helpful in freezing weather) and because you can set them directly on the top bars , easy for the bees to use.
 
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