I'm keeping bees in eastern Germany and stumbled over "hive wrapping" by chance. I've never heard of hives beeing wrapped over here. Traditionally hives were well insulated with old sheets of cloth inside of bee-houses or bee-trailors. Nearby in Poland traditional hives are still well insulated.
Nowadays most german beekeepers use either styrofoam hives (not allowed in organic beekeeping) or wooden hives that are basicly langstroth hives ... the difference in insulation tends to be a debated topic.
In my opinion the situation in our climate seems to be as follows: Early winter months have been showing the tendency to be less cold during the last years. Some beekeepers report that their colonies tend to keep brooding longer or even restart brooding in Decembre or January. That can lead to stronger reproduction of varroa mits that can damage colonies and incease energy need for heating when temperatures drop while brood is being cared for. So removing insulation can be advantageous.
During late January untill early March we tend to get a few very cold weeks that can be followed by a rapid start of springtime in March and April. Colonies that aren't insulated are put under more stress and need more energy for heating during that period (while restarting brooding to be ready for spring). Insulated hives are reported to have slightly lower overall food-consumption (less risk for shortages) and start into the spring season slightly stronger. That's why my idea was to adapt "wrapping" to our circumstances and only insulate the hives during the cold months and early brooding as an experiment to blend the advantages of insulated and uninsulated hives.
Did anyone of you already try something like this in a similar climate or has any recomendations?
Second question: I quite dislike the idea of using tarpaper, styrofoam or plastic-based wraps. Firstly because of sustanability and environmental issues, secondly because of the lacking permeability (water vapor). Has anyone ever tried alternatives? I'm tending towards coconut mats (water-repellant, allow breathing, biodegradeable) My hives are wooden, with removeable bottom boards and insulated roofs that allow water vapor to exit the hive. They are placed on stands and have never been buried by snow so far.
I'm concearned about wetness though. The coconut fibres are water repellant but I'm unsure if they would keep the wood surface from drying when water gets through them... In that case they could damage hive and colony. What do you think?