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last year we lost one to mold and excess moisture, we figured that the plastic boxes warmed in the cold and let in rain, but now im wondering if it wasnt the absence of a vent hole. In beekeeping for dummies the author mentions how a hive can reach 92 degrees in the winter. We already have condensation on the inside of the outer cover. Winters are more damp than cold here in the pacific northwest, the temp rarely drops to freezing. As of right now we dont have any vent holes in our hives.
Anythoughts on this...before I get busy the power dril?
 

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No idea where you are but I can assure you that I have to use winter ventilation to avoid molded combs and dead colonies. I've found that a small crack across the top of the hive or a small hole 1/2 inch diameter or larger will pretty much take care of the problem. If you don't ventilate as appropriate for your conditions, the bees will suffer.

Fusion
 

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I don't like holes in my boxes much. I'd cut a notch in the inner cover to make a top vent and a top entrance. If the dead bees or the snow block the bottom one, a top entrance can be a life saver. If not, the ventilation can still be a life saver.
 

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--last year we lost one to mold and excess moisture, we figured that the plastic boxes warmed in the cold and let in rain, but now im wondering if it wasnt the absence of a vent hole.

In general, a single stress such as a little excess moisture isn’t enough to kill a colony, it’s the compounding effects of more than one stress that can cause winter failure. So excess moisture plus another stress may equal big problems. If an upper vent is provided, healthy colonies can keep mold from acclimating. Also, mold will not cause the death to a colony and therefore should not be associated with the cause of death, but instead associated with a symptom of the colony being weaker do to some other factor that caused them to be unable to tend to their own stores properly.

--We already have condensation on the inside of the outer cover.

This condensation can occur with or without an upper vent, beekeepers in cooler climates sometimes don’t notice this condensation because they generally visit hives later during the day after the water has evaporated or bees clean it off. In cooler areas, if one opens any hive in the early morning, they will likely see this condensation at the under side of the roof (it tends to evaporate and bees may clean it off as the day warms). This is caused by moist air rising from the colony condensing on a colder surface and may or may not be related to lack of ventilation.

The simplest way to solve this is to notch your inner cover for to vent the brood boxes and place a piece of ½ in Styrofoam insulation between the roof and the inner cover, making sure it does not block the upper vent. I generally place the insulation in to prevent condensation around the time of the first frost or a bit earlier.
 

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On the subject of notches in the inner cover... when used with a telescoping cover, how much should the telescoping cover be shimmed? I mean, when you look at the hive horizontally from the front, should you be able to see the opening in the IC, or should the bees have to crawl out the opening and down to clear the rim of the telescoping cover?
 

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I have two bee escapes in one of my inner covers.
Not sure if they allow any bees thru since propolized but may provide some ventilation.
Is the general consensus to not close the upper entrance? One cover has a 1/2 x 2 inch entrance the other a 1x6 inch entrance. I noticed that a piece of weatherstripping used in sliding door assemblies matches the size of the larger entrance and is easy to adjust on site with a knife.

I am planning to sandwich some wool carpet between the inner and outer cover and will now probably leave the upper entrance open, thanks.

Might also be a good time to check that removable bottom boards are in place so as not to forget like I did once eh.
 

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The hives should lean to the front a bit--the front should be about an inch lower than the back. That way, any condensation that does form on the inner cover will flow to the front and down the front wall as opposed to dropping on the bees. I also have a notch in my inner cover that the bees use as a top entrance. Hobie, you can't see the notch with the outer cover on; the bees do have to exit and then walk down the box past the rim of the outer cover. Another way to provide ventilation is to slide the top box back just a hair--not even a bee space. If the rain gets in, it just goes down the edge of the box and out. If the bees don't like it, they can propolize it. But my bees usually leave it open all winter.
 

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I put holes about 1" bellow the top in all by supers. The size is that of by favorite wine bottle corks. I plug with corks all but the last one up. It's cold in Michigan and I didn't loose any hives last winter. I like to be able to plug the holes to make it easier for them to protect against robbing. One open hole on top is always guarded by 4-5 bees while they are chatting in fresh air.
 

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I have used plastic boxes 18 years. It has different problems like wooden box. Wood absorb water in and the insulation capacity becomes worse.

In plastic box condensation water flows on bottom board.

What ever the box is condensation happens when moist respiration air meets cold surfaces and corners. If condensation point is in the middle of frames they will be wetty.

Small upper entrance is very essential that warm moist air flows outside and carry water wapour off.

Mold generates if box room is too bigger compared to winterball. The frames against sidewalls get mold easily and the lowest frames. It is more vain room issue than ventilation. If you ut foundations against box wall you get riff of mould. If wall side frame has polle it will be very moldy.

In Finland it is usefull that lower entrance is wide open but blowing wind is harmfull.

When it is much snow and hive is inside snow, it makes bees suffer and poor ventilation generates nosema.

Professionals prefer to over winter hives in one box and then whole box is warm and dry. The loose space means than dew point is inside hive and not outside like in tight space.

When it is frost outside -8C you may see ice stick hanging in lower parts of frames and ice crystals near bee ball.

When I have not upper entrance bees get bad nosema. Same happens when you put hives inside the house where is standing air. Hive need some wind or small fan that it takes away moisture inside beebox.
 

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I have over wintered two frame colonies with 3 W electrict heater. It has succeeded well in 3 years. It means that added warm keeps hive dry and they have not got nosema. But however there were big ice sticks on bottom board after winter and condensation has happened.

Of course that nucs have only the value of queens but it suceeded.
 
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