Notes from “ABC and XYZ”

I’m copying out the following for future reference from page 686 of The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture (1947 edition). It’s from the “Wintering” section. I will likely update this post many times as I continue to read from the book. These are notes for myself. They’re not meant to be comprehensive.

“Tests have shown that pollen supplements fed to unprotected wintered-over colonies beginning late in February to advance brood-rearing will yield one to two packages of bees [30 to 40 thousand bees?] about April 20… This control over brood-rearing based on the pollen factor makes it possible for the colony to develop in spite of unfavourable climatic or seasonal conditions… Forty pounds [18kg] of honey stored in dark brood combs should be present in the top hive body when 10-frame standard equipment is used.” The total should be at least 60 pounds of honey for a 2-storey wintering Langstroth hive.

How much wrap or insulation is used for wintering hives is determined largely by local weather conditions. Except for ventilation through an upper entrance, there is no universally correct way to winter hives. From page 694: “…beginners and those who have some doubt, [should] follow methods that have given good results… in their own immediate locality… It will bear repeating that localities differ so that what will work well in one may not in another. Specifically where there is excess moisture, packing [i.e., insulation] may do more harm than good, especially if it freezes.”

NOTE: The 1910 edition of this book (and probably the 1947 edition) are in the public domain. It can be downloaded in various formats or read online at

From page 687: “The winter cluster will form in the upper hive body provided the stores are contained in dark brood combs and there is a small open center free of honey. Under these conditions the cluster will cover combs of sealed honey or if they have not been used in brood-rearing, the bees will cluster lower down in the hive.”

The mortality rate of a healthy wintering colony is about 15%.

I could read this book all day. I need to quit my job so I can study beekeeping full-time instead of once in a while.

I considered switching to medium supers for both brood chambers and honey supers since I got interested in beekeeping. I probably would have done it from the start if my nuc boxes were set in medium frames instead of standard deep frames. Mediums are lighter and easier to handle and all the hives parts are interchangeable. Apparently it’s better for wintering bees, too. From page 689:

“It is very necessary that there should be inner communication between the combs [in the winter]. When they are deep and all in one story, the bees must pass at the top or bottom to get into another position in the cluster… One can readily see that where there are shallow chambers [e.g., in medium supers] there would be two spaces which would allow the bees to pass back and forth… Where shallow chambers are used during the winter, the bees are able to circulate all through the cluster moving to where the stores have been consumed.”

The “two spaces” = the space between the medium supers, or the vertical space between the frames. Basically, the smaller frames make it easier for the bees to move from one side of the frame to the other. And they can move quick enough so they don’t freeze to death. The bees are more likely to starve on larger frames in the winter because the cluster can’t move to the other side as readily. If they can’t make it to the other side of the frame without freezing, they stay put — where they may eventually starve.

PHOTOS NOTE (OCTOBER 2015): The photos in this post may not display properly because they were uploaded through Google’s Picasa online photo album service, a service I no longer use because certain updates create more work for me instead of streamlining the process. I will eventually replace the photos with ones hosted on the Mud Songs server. This note will disappear when (or if) that happens.