Winterizing questions?

Discussion in 'Beekeeping 101' started by hlhart2001, Sep 5, 2012.

  1. hlhart2001

    hlhart2001 New Member

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    I live in eastern WA...long, cold winters(usually on the dry side with a couple big dumps that stick around all winter). We have two deeps(the 2nd very heavy, haven't torn it all apart to get to the bottom with 2 medium supers(one full and one partially because I pulled two full frames which I plan on dealing with today and stuck two empty ones back in..I know, I know I probably shouldn't have done that but it is done)I chose to not pull the supers because I wanted to leave extra stores(because a neighbor did, as well as another professional beek has done..although hers was a third deep...with no problems). I understand that extra space can cause a problem in the winter...my thought is they'll move more into the second deep and up into the 1st super. The hive sits on two cement blocks with a piece of plyboard and then the screened bottom board. I have a cork sized hole in the second hive body open right now along with an entrance reducer on the medium opening. So here are some ????:
    1) Do I keep the cork opening open all winter for cleansing flights and ventilation?
    2) I don't have an inner cover with a notch in it...do I have to put one in?
    3) Has anyone used condensation boards? Do you put them above the inner cover or below?
    4) Do you wrap your hive with anything?(our hive is in full sun facing southeasterly, somewhat buffeted by a small hill from
    northern winds(although we don't have wind in the winter)
    5) Do I stuff the back of the hive with something because of the screened bottom board or just leave it open?
    6) Do I have to fall feed if they have the supers to draw upon? I really hate feeding sugar water and now I would have to
    put a bottom feeder which will probably encourage robbing right?
    7) Mouse guard or entrance reducer...all winter? I have both..won't the entrance reducer keep the mice out or will they chew thru it? When do I put the mouse guard in?

    Okay that is it for now. This hive(a package) has performed very well and they are still bringing in pollen, nectar...just hope they make it thru the winter. Thanks Halley
     
  2. heinleinfan

    heinleinfan New Member

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    In general you want as little extra space as possible for overwintering, that's less space the cluster has to keep warm. It's a balance between population, space and stores and there's no "set in stone" answer for that. In general, though, for a long, cold winter is a minimum 90lbs of honey for a 2 deep hive with a strong population, that's 15 full deep frames of honey.

    I'd recommend waiting a few more weeks (depending on your winter onset) before making a final decision, leaving the full super on during that time. Their population should start declining a bit more in that time and the bees may move some of the honey from that super down into their deeps. You could check it in a month and possibly see a super that had no bees and no honey, and a 2 deep full of bees and honey, and have a better idea of how to overwinter them.

    As for the partially filled super, if I were in your shoes I'd likely just harvest it. Since you're dealing with one hive, any honey you harvest can be fed back to the bees at any time, just like you would sugar syrup, as long as you don't heat it during extracting. So you could harvest, set aside a quart or two for yourself, and then have the rest waiting for spring feed if they need it.


    1. All winter here in Colorado Spring my hives only have the 1inch opening an entrance reducer provides. I close up any other openings.
    2. My inner covers are not notched, it has never been a problem during overwintering.
    3. I've never used a condensation board, not even sure what that is. LOL!
    4. I do not wrap my hives. 1 hive is in constant shade and will be protected all winter from gusts and drafts and snow build up. One is on the East side of my house, right up next to the house, so gets morning/afternoon sun and is protected from overhead rain/snow by the house eaves and from most of the wind. 3rd hive is in the community garden and is the most exposed to wind and snow, but gets full sun nearly all day long, and we get a lot of sun here during the winter.
    5. I have wood bottom boards and screened, I take the screened off in winter so they're completely closed up.
    6. It doesn't sound like you need to feed, since they have a lot of honey available to them right now. Checking how much is in the deeps, though, would help you know for sure.
    7. I've never used mouse guards, only the entrance reducers, and I've not yet had one chewed through.

    When we do get enough snow to get it up over the hive entrance, I go out and clear it off to make sure they always have the opening clear. On warm days when I see a 'crowd' at that entrance doing cleanup, I turn the reducer around for the larger opening side while they're cleaning house.

    It sounds like you've had a very good year, and that your hive is in great shape for this time of year.
     

  3. Omie

    Omie Active Member

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    1) Do I keep the cork opening open all winter for cleansing flights and ventilation?
    2) I don't have an inner cover with a notch in it...do I have to put one in?

    I recommend some sort of opening near the top front of hive- prevents winter condensation of warm 'bee air' forming moisture and dripping down onto the bees.

    3) Has anyone used condensation boards? Do you put them above the inner cover or below?

    A 2" piece of foam insulation is great under the top cover to help prevent winter condensation.
    Don't put it where the bees are crawling. Above inner cover, under outer cover.

    4) Do you wrap your hive with anything?(our hive is in full sun facing southeasterly, somewhat buffeted by a small hill from
    northern winds(although we don't have wind in the winter)

    I usually wrap with a single layer of tarpaper around the sides for wind. Staple gun, not excessively.

    5) Do I stuff the back of the hive with something because of the screened bottom board or just leave it open?

    My hives all have screen BBs which I leave wide open all year.

    6) Do I have to fall feed if they have the supers to draw upon? I really hate feeding sugar water and now I would have to
    put a bottom feeder which will probably encourage robbing right?

    Forget
    feeding if you have that much honey right now. Feeding sugar is inferior to leaving them honey. People shoudlnt be feeding their bees 12 months of the year- they are not pets- they usually know how to find more nutritious food themselves.


    7) Mouse guard or entrance reducer...all winter? I have both..won't the entrance reducer keep the mice out or will they chew thru it? When do I put the mouse guard in?

    I use a metal mouse guard, put it in early Oct...BEFORE mice start looking for warm winter homes. Mice can chew through wood pretty easily, and can squeeze through pretty small openings. We have lots of mice around here.
     
  4. hlhart2001

    hlhart2001 New Member

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    I am still considering taking one of the supers off(probably the top one), so I'll check in another couple weeks...The bees are still bringing in lots of pollen and nectar. And because we have alfalfa/clover fields close by that just got cut for the second time there is a chance that that they will irrigate again until October for a 3rd harvest which would keep feeding the bees. My neighbor has success leaving 2 supers on top of two deeps...his hive is strong and appears to be very healthy. He never feeds because they have so much extra food.
    "In general you want as little extra space as possible for overwintering, that's less space the cluster has to keep warm. It's a balance between population, space and stores and there's no "set in stone" answer for that. In general, though, for a long, cold winter is a minimum 90lbs of honey for a 2 deep hive with a strong population, that's 15 full deep frames of honey."
     
  5. hlhart2001

    hlhart2001 New Member

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    I hear you, Omie...If I pull a super off I may take a few more frames for ourselves and save the rest for spring feeding. I really hate feeding refined white sugar. My neighbor never feeds...believes their own food is the best and that makes sense to me.

    "Forget
    feeding if you have that much honey right now. Feeding sugar is inferior to leaving them honey. People shoudlnt be feeding their bees 12 months of the year- they are not pets- they usually know how to find more nutritious food themselves."
     
  6. hlhart2001

    hlhart2001 New Member

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    I ordered the condensation board from Mann Lake...(One of those new beek compulsive buys)...I really need to investigate this a bit more.
     
  7. Omie

    Omie Active Member

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    hlhart,
    the cluster does not have to heat the whole hive box- the bee cluster only heats itself, not the frames or the space around it. But empty frames or excessive air space serves no purpose, and present warm sheltered places where invaders can hide out and where bees cannot defend...mice, snakes, beetles, moths, etc.
    In non-winter, bees can run a mouse out of the hive. In winter, the bees are forced by cold temps to remain tightly in a cluster, and a mouse can live inside the hive freely if given lots of space.
    Last winter my friend put his mouse guard on in November but didn't realize there was already a mouse nesting inside the hive. In the Spring the bees lived but there was a nasty mess of mouse nest, lots of eaten comb, poop, dead mouse, to clean up at the bottom of the hive.
    The general rule is that in times of stress (winter, drought, low bee population, robbing) it's better to not give bees too much empty space to have to defend. Empty space includes bare foundation frames. :)