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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have 10 hives in my backyard. I normally leave much honey for them in my three medium brood chambers over winter so they eat honey instead of sugar water. Instead of extracting honey in late summer or fall as I normally do, I thought about leaving one full super of honey (above a queen excluder) over the three brood chambers for this upcoming winter. My thought is to: 1) make absolutely certain they have plenty honey over winter, and 2) increase the thermal mass inside the hive to moderate daily temperature swings inside the hive over winter. I insulate my hives with both thermal and reflective (low-emissivity) insulation over winter with plenty of ventilation. I am a residential energy engineer, so I insulate the hive as I would a house. With the severely cold winter here in Ohio last year, I did not lose a hive. I also made an insulated feeder box for the top and gave the bees fresh water in shallow trays every several days over winter. They seemed to consume all the water and it seldom froze in the insulated hive.

What do some of you think about leaving the full honey super on all winter and extracting in the spring when the weather is mild and they definitely have a good nectar flow? Thanks for your thoughts.
 

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hi dulley.

having all ten hives survive winter is outstanding, especially considering that ohio beekeepers completing the survey for bee informed partnership reported a collective 58% winter loss for last year.

i'm also a believer in leaving enough honey so as to not have to feed. last fall i left an additional super of honey more than i had been leaving in previous years. i wanted to see if the bees would use the extra honey in the spring to build up on and if that would cause them to be stronger and more productive going in to our main flow.

even though we had a prolonged winter and the first blooms were several weeks late in arriving, very little of the extra honey i left was used and a lot of that honey has ended up in this year's harvest.

the water tray is an interesting concept, because the bees require water to dilute honey for winter feeding. i have only been insulating the top of my hives (to make sure water doesn't drip back down on the cluster), and i assume that they collect the water vapor that condenses out around the sides. if you have all of your sides insulated that may not happen so providing the water is a great idea.

i forgot where i read it, but somewhere around 40 degrees is the temperature at which the bees use the least amount of honey to maintain cluster temperature. have you measured the temps inside your hives?

again, congrats on your survival success.
 

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If the bees need that extra box of honey, they are going to move the cluster up into it. Your queen, however, will be left behind to freeze/starve. Remove the excluder.

Wayne
 

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Dulley

I'm very interested it how you insulated your hives. Can you give any info or pictures? Do you use a screened bottom board and if so did you leave it open or close it?

Thanks
Greg
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Wayne, That makes sense about the queen excluder. I will probably just make sure there are more than enough full frames in the three medium brood chambers. I will have to find some high thermal mass material to put above them in the super. When bees have a colony in a tree, the tree provides tons of thermal mass to moderate temperature swings. In a little wooden hive, they have to constantly try to adjust to the rapidly changing temps. It just does not sound like a natural environment for them especially in cold climates.

If the bees need that extra box of honey, they are going to move the cluster up into it. Your queen, however, will be left behind to freeze/starve. Remove the excluder.

Wayne
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
My goal with the insulation and ventilation is to minimize condensation in the hive and resultant mold and other issues. That is why I decided to give them fresh water. I used a shallow plastic dessert plate with pea gravel in it and filled it with water using a gravy baster.

hi dulley.

having all ten hives survive winter is outstanding, especially considering that ohio beekeepers completing the survey for bee informed partnership reported a collective 58% winter loss for last year.

i'm also a believer in leaving enough honey so as to not have to feed. last fall i left an additional super of honey more than i had been leaving in previous years. i wanted to see if the bees would use the extra honey in the spring to build up on and if that would cause them to be stronger and more productive going in to our main flow.

even though we had a prolonged winter and the first blooms were several weeks late in arriving, very little of the extra honey i left was used and a lot of that honey has ended up in this year's harvest.

the water tray is an interesting concept, because the bees require water to dilute honey for winter feeding. i have only been insulating the top of my hives (to make sure water doesn't drip back down on the cluster), and i assume that they collect the water vapor that condenses out around the sides. if you have all of your sides insulated that may not happen so providing the water is a great idea.

i forgot where i read it, but somewhere around 40 degrees is the temperature at which the bees use the least amount of honey to maintain cluster temperature. have you measured the temps inside your hives?

again, congrats on your survival success.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Greg,

I make all my own woodware. I use two 1/4 dia hanger bolts on the front and two on the back of each box. I use 3/4" polyurethane rigid foam insulation with a foil facing. The slot below the screen in my bottom board is 3/4" high, so I can slip a sheet of the insulation in there with the foil side up. I poke quite a few small holes in it for ventilation. I also make an inner cover with the foil facing down on the top. I poke holes in that too with a couple larger holes for the bees to use as an upper exit. I put spacers around the edges to provide vertical clearance for the bees movement. I make the exterior insulation panels with the foil side facing outward. I use foil duct tape to connect the front and side panels into one section and the back and other side to the rear section. I push this over the hanger bolts which are sticking out of the boxes, place a big fender washer over each bolt and screw wing nuts over it. It is important to secure the insulation tightly against the boxes so no air currents flow up between them. That would defeat the purpose of the insulation. I also put another hanger bolt on each side of the middle box to hold the sides tight. With the foil facing outward, its low emissivity minimizes the radiant heat loss to the outdoor air and it holds up well to the weather and UV radiation. With the foil facing upward from the bottom and down from the top, it reduced the radiant heat transfer from the bees warm bodies. Just like in a house, the room can be plenty warm, but if you are sitting near a cold wall, the radiant heat transfer from your skin make you chilly. I will try to post some photos soon on my newspaper column web site - www.dulley.com.

Dulley

I'm very interested it how you insulated your hives. Can you give any info or pictures? Do you use a screened bottom board and if so did you leave it open or close it?

Thanks
Greg
 

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My goal with the insulation and ventilation is to minimize condensation in the hive and resultant mold and other issues. That is why I decided to give them fresh water. I used a shallow plastic dessert plate with pea gravel in it and filled it with water using a gravy baster.
Hi Dulley,
do you any pictures or can you describe your winterization technique. I am very interested in seeing how you set them up.
thanks
 

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Greg,

I make all my own woodware. I use two 1/4 dia hanger bolts on the front and two on the back of each box. I use 3/4" polyurethane rigid foam insulation with a foil facing. The slot below the screen in my bottom board is 3/4" high, so I can slip a sheet of the insulation in there with the foil side up. I poke quite a few small holes in it for ventilation. I also make an inner cover with the foil facing down on the top. I poke holes in that too with a couple larger holes for the bees to use as an upper exit. I put spacers around the edges to provide vertical clearance for the bees movement. I make the exterior insulation panels with the foil side facing outward. I use foil duct tape to connect the front and side panels into one section and the back and other side to the rear section. I push this over the hanger bolts which are sticking out of the boxes, place a big fender washer over each bolt and screw wing nuts over it. It is important to secure the insulation tightly against the boxes so no air currents flow up between them. That would defeat the purpose of the insulation. I also put another hanger bolt on each side of the middle box to hold the sides tight. With the foil facing outward, its low emissivity minimizes the radiant heat loss to the outdoor air and it holds up well to the weather and UV radiation. With the foil facing upward from the bottom and down from the top, it reduced the radiant heat transfer from the bees warm bodies. Just like in a house, the room can be plenty warm, but if you are sitting near a cold wall, the radiant heat transfer from your skin make you chilly. I will try to post some photos soon on my newspaper column web site - www.dulley.com.
Dulley

Looking forward to the pictures. I like this and will be doing it myself this winter. With the cost of 1 dead hive you could insulate a lot of hives. I thought at first you were using insulated duct board. I have seen the bubble wrap insulation you talk about but where can you buy it?

Thanks
Greg
 

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After rereading your post I don't know where I got the bubble wrap idea. Sorry

Greg
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Greg,

It is not bubble wrap insulation. I use rigid 3/4-inch urethane foam board with foil facing. I buy the 4x8 ft. sheets at Home Depot or Lowes.

Dulley

Looking forward to the pictures. I like this and will be doing it myself this winter. With the cost of 1 dead hive you could insulate a lot of hives. I thought at first you were using insulated duct board. I have seen the bubble wrap insulation you talk about but where can you buy it?

Thanks
Greg
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Those photos on my web site are about six years old. I don't use the bubble wrap method anymore. Sorry about the confusion.

Dulley

Looking forward to the pictures. I like this and will be doing it myself this winter. With the cost of 1 dead hive you could insulate a lot of hives. I thought at first you were using insulated duct board. I have seen the bubble wrap insulation you talk about but where can you buy it?

Thanks
Greg
 

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I can't imagine there is much difference between an insulated hive and a non insulated hive for a Cincinnati winter. Sealing up a hive with foil faced foam and adding water would do a hive in where I live. If you ventilate enough to take care of the moisture problem the insulation will be useless.
 

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Wayne, That makes sense about the queen excluder. I will probably just make sure there are more than enough full frames in the three medium brood chambers.
You will want to take Wayne's advice and remove that excluder. I know you don't want the queen up there but those bees will move up and leave the queen behind. If your going to leave the honey for them to use, make sure you remove the excluder so that the bees can use the entire hive as their wintering unit.
 

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Interesting thread.

I left on large quantities of honey on my two hives last year and they did fine until things got cold -- here it was in the low 20's for about a week. I know that isn't cold compared to some areas but the hives ended up dying out very quickly after the cold snap. This year I was thinking about leaving much less honey.

Did the supers of honey get cold to nearly frozen and just act like a big block of ice in an ice box -- just keeping the bees so cold they eventually couldn't recover?
 

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you sure it was the cold that killed the bees and not condensation. I had condensation issues for two winters until i got smart.

G.
 

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Could have been; however, there was ventilation -- and that also could have added to the problem. We went through a cold period, then it warmed up and I checked them -- then it got real cold and they were goners after that.

What are you doing about the condensation?
 

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First Year.
My experience was with plywood nucs.
I painted them twice to keep them protected from the elements, i had an upper entrance where i thought the heat my go. but no. total devastation.
Second Year.
I decided to put sugar granules on top of paper inside the same nucs. to soak up the moisture. this worked out okay. but i wanted to fix the problem.

Third Year.
Doing the Mr Palmer double splits on Screened bottom boards.

I am no expert, but if bees can live winters in Canada, they sure can in Cali.
Hey i just noticed your location. perhaps they all left for a pot smokers conference some place. lol.

G.
 
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