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As we roll on towards the Memorial Day weekend I am mulling over next winter's plans. (Hey, we have very short growing seasons here in northern NY!)

I have seen some references to using three deeps in very cold climates, presumably to hold more stores. But also perhaps to provide a more protected, central wintering space for the cluster.

Since having enough comb, honey, even painted-up deep boxes to supply three deeps for each colony will take some advance planning long before next October when I'm buttoning up the hives for winter, I thought I'd ask now for opinions on this.

What do you think? Have you done it? Results? Pitfalls? Does a taller hive stack create a chillier, chimney effect on ventilation?

I plan on using quilt boxes, again. And also interior and exterior foam insulation - lots of it - but probably not wrapping the hives in wool blankets as that was effective but unwieldy.

The barn wall cavities that contained my feral colonies for decades were 10-12 feet tall, though much thinner than Langs.

Thanks for you thoughts.

Enj.
 

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Curious why you go to all the extra insulation troubles? Was your barn wall insulated? Don't you want bees that can handle your climate? I have bees not too far from you and we had a long cold winter, all made it.

I left lots of honey and:
closed off bottom boards loosely with an insert.
reduced entrances to about an inch (top and bottom)
put a sugar brick on each to help control moisture
loose wrap of tar paper

I should say I wintered in all mediums for most of my hives (5 nearly full boxes);
 

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Well, last year was my first and so there wasn't a lot of honey (or at least I couldn't tell if I had enough, or not - in retrospect they may have had enough since they still had some left over in the Spring, but then I fed them, too) as these were from late June cut-outs, two of which lost their queens in the hiving. And one which later lost half its bees, due to operator error, at the end of the summer.

And they all had to be moved in early December, which was when I added the wool blankets as a "short-term" hedge against temps being too-cold to re-form the cluster. (The move went so well I probably didn't need that extra safety, but who could tell in advance?) Then, as you know, we settled into a very early, hard winter and I was reluctant to take the blankets off for the duration. But, as I mentioned, I doubt I would do that again.

I am completely happy with the QBs and my insulation plans, however. Tar paper seems worse than useless to me for various reasons, though I know it's a very common tactic in our area.

I run screened BB (with insert in as I continued to monitor all winter) over solid BB.

I fed sugar bricks, but not to control moisture; the QB takes care of that problem.

My barns aren't heated, but are double walled and the feral hives occupied the former draft horse housing area (which means it was particularly tightly-built, back when horses were essential to the farm) so despite entrance holes opening on the north and (shaded by other buildings) east sides, I think they did OK. (I always assumed, before I kept bees, that the colonies were the same over the decades, but now I believe that it was likely several successive re-swarms to the spaces, but don't know for certain.)

What I do know is that in the late winter of 2012-2013 (not a terribly bad one) all the feral bees in the barn walls perished (actually vanished w/o dead bees left behind). So my operating goal for last winter after I hived the three new swarms was to do better than my barn walls. All my colonies survived, so I am satisfied that I did the right thing for them last winter.

Since all my bees came from swarms, not brought-in packages or nucs, I am not concerned about their acclimation to our climate.

My interest now is to figure out the optimal configuration of the wintering hive stack. Since I plan on keeping only a few hives I can choose any set-up that works well, even if it would be impractical in large operations.

The idea of three deeps caught my eye because it would simplify the equipment needs (in the same way that running all-mediums does). But if I want to have three deeps of stores available in October, I need to get them to draw and fill more deep frames in June, not the medium supers I bought last year because that's what was "typical" and I didn't have a clue. Honey harvest is not my goal; healthy, thriving, bees is my aim right now. I may eventually get to honey, but only after I figure out how to care for the bees efficiently, and effectively.

IIRC, the three-deep idea is associated with Marla Spivak, who is located in MN. But I haven't been able to turn up any more info than that. Anybody have a link to it?

Enj.

Enj.
 

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Not a bad idea. But, not necessary either. Two deeps and a medium maybe, but not three deeps.
 

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Overkill. Perhaps if you really were in Northern NY (like my old home of Lake Placid, for example) it might be useful. Wasn't necessary in the hills of Western Maine where I lived for the past 7 years and is less necessary in a much more temperate area like the Hudson Valley. If you can get them to fill the top box with stores for the winter, it can't hurt.

I used either three mediums or a deep & two mediums in Maine. Had Carniolan hives overwinter there in two mediums.

Wayne
 

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Thanks for the back story. You can certainly keep your bees as you see fit, I know I do with mine :) I just wanted to let you know that all that added effort might be more for you than for the betterment of the bees.

A local beek here said he tried 3 deeps and switched back to two deeps and a medium. Can't recall why though. Maybe he will chime in when he sees this thread.

A note on tar paper that is hard to argue against. It melts the snow surrounding the immediate hive due to the solar gain. So when your bottom board gets covered in snow it helps melt it allowing bees outside access. I use top entrances so you card argue that isn't necessary. However it is necessary to allow good ventilation.

Working in restaurants back in the day taught me how sugar is a magnet to moisture. If they eat it that is fine too - so it serves two purposes, if they did run out of honey.

edit: To waynes point, my more less carniolans came out of the winter with nearly a medium more honey than my more less italians. Local mutts (carniolan lineage) were somewhere in the middle. Cluster size reflected the general stereo types and honey consumption for the bees with carniolans looking way to small (large grapefruit), italians (large basketball) local mutts, softball sized.
 

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All I can tell you is last winter I had 6 colonies in 2 deep, 1 medium configuration, and 2 in 3 deeps. The 3 deeps did better coming out of winter. One of them is booming. Of course it could be the queen and not the 3 deeps. However I am going to try to get all of my colonies into 3 deeps for the coming winter.
 

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One of my hives in 3 deeps made it through the winter without issue. The other died out, as they migrated toward the outer frames early on, then got stuck on the outside frames when temps plunged and stayed low. It was the sunward side to which they migrated.
 

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I am sure it depends on your bee breeding and location. I went into winter with double deep 10 frames at ~125 lbs. gross hive weight. All survived with honey to spare. I have removed about 13 frames of capped honey from 8 colonies as it was crowding the brood area and new nectar was starting to fill up brood space as well. I was not over supplied with pollen though and open fed some sub till the willows bloomed.

Though I am much further north than the original poster and it seems contradictory, my late broodup may need less overall honey stores. Some locations have a pollen dearth in late summer and that could be a benefit of the third box. They can get by on just honey (or capped sugar syrup) till brooding starts then are in trouble if they dont have pollen close to the brood.

I am happy with two deeps and may not worry if they are even a bit lighter than 125 lbs this fall but I think I will see if they take some pollen sub. I think if I had to winter italians up here I would certainly consider 3 deeps.
 

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A local beek here said he tried 3 deeps and switched back to two deeps and a medium. Can't recall why though. Maybe he will chime in when he sees this thread.
since beelosopher is probably talking about me, I'll answer. I was short of deeps when expanding so stole a deep and replaced with a med. and decided to monitor them and see if there was any difference. I prefer the 3 deeps and have posted it b/4 so I will give you a link to another old thread that will have others and my opinions.

http://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?264292-OW-in-triple-deeps
 

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so when you calculate it out 5 full med = how many deep boxes?
5 full mediums calculates out to just over 3 deeps. My mediums were not all completely full, so I would put my set up in the 3 deep size.

I just made a spreadsheet with the actual frame depth (comb only) not including the wood, here is what I have noted in my bee bible excel sheet as a reference:

It isn't exact, but it is what I have used to make a comparison (can't tell you how many times I have to convert concepts for nucs, etc from deeps to mediums).

basically 5 mediums = a usable frame depth of 31.25 with 3 deeps at 27.35

since beelosopher is probably talking about me
yup I am!
 

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Three deeps is recommended management practice from the mild and sunny University of Minnesota and they pay PHD beekeepers to decide these things. Only 3 inches more box than Mr. Palmer in Vermont uses. The overhead is that you will have sixty pounds give or take of extra feed being carried over or used in an extreme winter like the one we just saw end.

I long ago gave up trying to train tropical insects to toughen up and tolerate the cold. The buildup is directly related to how much brood the bees can keep at 93 degrees. I do not handicap them with gaping holes in the bottom and yet another entrance for a wind tunnel. My tropical insects still have an insulated wrap on them that will stay on until nights are no longer in the thirties. I have some strong colonies that may need supered for the fruit bloom which is just getting underway and they may be unwrapped. Any splits or nucs will definitely stay wrapped.
 

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What do you think? Have you done it? Results? Pitfalls? Does a taller hive stack create a chillier, chimney effect on ventilation?
Hey this is beekeeping so you can do what you want. You just have to figure out what is the best way to manage bees in a three deep hive. I think the medium size box gives you more options if the bees don't cooperate and fill those three deeps like you hope. I can see a hive not doing so good where you could supplement a medium box of honey to get it through where as supplementing with a deep box would be over kill. When you have hundreds of hives you decide on a method and when that method doesn't do so well for a few colonies they parish because you don't waste your time on them doing something different. When you only have a few hives you can waste your time till the cows come home.
 

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My tropical insects still have an insulated wrap on them that will stay on until nights are no longer in the thirties. I have some strong colonies that may need supered for the fruit bloom which is just getting underway and they may be unwrapped. Any splits or nucs will definitely stay wrapped.
With bees, they don't heat the hive, they warm each other in the cluster like march of the penguins. I am not sure they generate enough heat where the insulation would help them more than hurt them.

This may be a bad analogy, but here goes:
My garage is insulated. In the summer it is cooler that it was when it used to be when it was uninsulated in the summer. (point - insulation keeps heat out as well as in)

In the winter, the insulation helps retain heat if you have a burning woodstove, but not so much with a small heat source like an electric heater. (point 2 - you need a lot of radiant heat to see the benefit of insulation in a large space).

Have you noticed a large benefit from insulating your haves? I assume you still provide ventilation, so where do you perceive the heat gain is going?
 

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What ever you do is fine by me. A warm thermal mass tends to stay warm and an insulated thermal mass stays warm longer. The heat gain is coming from both metabolic heat generated by the bees and I am sure the black wrap heats up that thermal mass. I like my results on buildup.
 
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