We wintered approximately 120 hives as single story
hives last winter (2003/2004). The hives were wintered in an alley
of an old hog barn. The alley measures approximately 15 feet x
60 feet, running east to west. The barn has a concrete floor with
wood walls and wood ceiling about 7 feet high. The barn in uninsulated.
The barn is old and by no means air tight, allowing for some ventilation.
There are no fans or other ventilation in the barn. The hives
were moved into the barn in early November, once the high temperatures
were below 45 degrees. The east end of the alley was left open
all winter. It was possible to open the west end of the alley,
which we did in March when it began to warm up. The hives were
placed on wood pallets 8 inches off the floor. The hives were
stacked in three rows, two or three hives high.
HIVE PREPARATION: Entrance reducers were also used
on all the hives. A one-inch piece of Styrofoam insulation was
placed between the inner cover and the telescoping lid. No hive
wraps were used. Since all the honey supers were removed from
the hives to be wintered as singles, it was necessary to feed
almost all them. Most hives took 2-3 gallons of syrup, others
took up to 5-6 gallons.
OBSERVATIONS: When we moved the hives into the barn
we made sure to put the lightest hives on top so we could check
their feed supply over the winter. Feeding once in the barn was
mixed at best. We experimented with feeding dry sugar, marshmallows
and cotton candy. Some ate the feed, some didn’t. Interestingly,
the cotton candy was eaten most readily.
- One problem encountered during the winter was
that the upper entrances in the inner covers would sometimes freeze
over with ice. To solve this we placed very thin shims between
the inner cover and hive body with seemed to provide enough extra
ventilation to stop the entrances from freezing.
- Hives with ten good frames of drawn comb had a
much higher survival rate than those with marginal comb. We also
wintered some 9 frame single story hives but these had a lower
survival rate than the 10 frame hives The extra frame of bees
and or honey going into winter seemed to make a big difference
in winter survival.
- Very little if any flight was seen all winter,
regardless of the temps, even though the building was never completely
dark, due to the east end of the alley being open all winter.
I was a little surprised by this lack of flight. Bees were observed
walking around the lower entrances from time to time, carrying
out debris and dead bees. Dead bees were swept off the concrete
floor every 3-4 weeks.
The hives were moved out of the barn about March
1, 2004. Most of the hives came out with a fair amount of honey
weight left in them. By April 1, 2004, several of them were light,
and we had to feed them syrup. The hives wintered in the barn
built up much faster than the hives wintered outdoors. The quick
build up makes early honey super placement pretty critical in
my opinion, to give the bees some extra room. On some of the stronger
single hives, I placed a second deep with drawn comb to give them
more room. Once they moved into the second deep, I split them
and ran them as two singles.
We had 120 hives in the barn. 12 of those came from
a yard that had been sprayed. All of them died during the winter.
There were 10-12 that were light going in that we tried feeding.
I think 10 of those died. We didn’t make any attempt to
cull weak hives or combine anything. We kind of wanted to see
what would happen to all the hives, regardless of their condition.
According to my records, we took 93 hives out alive in March.
65 of these were able to be split in the spring.
In my opinion, the main advantage of wintering the
bees with this kind of system is that the hives are kept dry and
out of the wind all winter long. The main disadvantage was that
most of the hives had to be fed in fall and spring.
Submitted by Chris Taylor
The Beeyard Report
It's Oct 16 at about 1:00 AM. Alex and Adam are both here and
the extractors are humming. They are on Barrel #58. The end is
in sight. The total barrel count will be somewhere in the low
60's. I still have 25 supers to bring home but they don't have
much honey in them. I started taking the last of the boxes off
a couple of days ago but the day turned really windy and cold
in the afternoon. When the rain started, I finally gave up.
All of the colonies that we ran as a single brood
box have had the second box given underneath or they have been
combined with another single. We used to give the second box on
top but after the bees have been in the bottom all summer, they
will stay there. Most of the feed goes to the bottom and you wind
up with a mostly empty box on the top. Be sure to read Chris Taylor's
article about how to winter in singles. It doesn't work for us
but I have seen him have success with it.
Our colonies are in pairs on pallets that have been
cut in half. I tilt the singles off the pallet and lay them on
the back. Then I pop off the bottom board and look at the bottom
bars. I want to see bees hanging on at least six frames. The good
colonies will have bees clear across the bottom bars. If there
aren't enough bees, I combine that box with another single. We
just smoke both boxes and set them together. Usually, we feed
right away when we do this. Combining the boxes doesn't seem to
bother the bees any.
I used to evaluate the bees by looking at the top
bars but found this can be very misleading. The bees can be spread
out clear across the top of the box but may not go clear to the
bottom of the frames. All of the singles that we winter will get
from 4 to 6 gallons of syrup. We try to feed everything we winter
up to 120#. This cuts the need for spring feeding way down. If
the spring weather is wet, I don't have to worry about trying
to get into the yards.
I thought my syrup feeding was right on schedule
but today I discovered I had a problem. I bought some feeder buckets
that have the feeder screen incorporated into the fill plug. I
have a 7/8" hole drilled in the lids on the colonies. I set
the buckets right on the lids and the bees come up through the
holes in the lids.. My older buckets have the feeder screen fastened
directly to the bucket lids and I have a separate hole to fill
the buckets. They work great. The bees empty them out in a few
days. Today I was making my rounds to pick up empty buckets when
I discovered most of the new buckets were almost full. I found
the plug with the built in screen stuck out too far on the bucket
lid. The bees couldn't get underneath it to get the syrup .I cut
out some cardboard rings to set the bucket on so they would be
higher and the bees could get under the screen to the syrup. I
had put out 100 of these buckets and I had no idea what yards
they were in. I burned up a lot of fuel before I found them all.
Now, I'm a round behind with my feeding.
As we go through the yards with syrup, we put in
the entrance blocks. I use the L-shaped ones like Stanleys used
to have. We used to use narrow entrances and leave them open all
winter. Two years ago I went back to wide entrances so I could
put in sticky boards during the summer to monitor natural mite
fall. When I changed the entrances, I started switching to spring
treatment for Varroa. Now, we don't seem to have many mites during
the summer but I am stuck with the additional job of putting in
the entrance blocks. I still haven't had time to look at my tracheal
samples. That is on the program for next week.
As we go out with the last round of syrup, we will
put insulation boards under the lids. If the hives are exposed
to the wind or if the boxes are full of holes, we wrap them with
colony quilt. This stuff is expensive--around $3/colony--but it
lasts for years and it goes on quickly.
See you at the annual meeting.
Submitted by Phil Ebert