A Beehive That’s Ready For Winter

This is exactly what I like to see from one of my honey bee colonies as it’s about to go into winter. The top of the hive is a big solid block of honey with the bees clustered so far below that I can’t see them when I look down through the frames.

This will be my first time going into winter with hives made from all medium supers. No deeps, no big boxes. Normally my bees would be living in hives made from at least two deep boxes, if not three, and the top deep at the very least would be packed with honey, enough to keep the bees alive over the winter.

Most of my hives this year have only three medium supers instead of two deeps. But three mediums are about the same size and three deeps, so I think we’re okay.

All the supers that aren’t yet painted black will be painted black before the snow comes. Only the hives that are out in the open being blasted by cold winter winds will get a wrap. The rest of them, nada. Just the black paint.

I need to put 6mm / quarter-inch mesh over the entrances soon because it’s so cold now that the bees are clustering most of the time, and when the bees are clustering, they can’t chase away any mice or shrews that get in, so I want to get the mesh sooner than later. (I don’t want to wait for later and inadvertently trap a rodent in the hive when I put the mesh on.)

I don’t follow a one-size-fits-all wintering programme for my bees. All of my hives will get some kind of ventilation. Some might get moisture quilts. Some might just have a piece of hard insulation over the inner cover with the notch in the inner cover providing the only upper ventilation. Some hives might have an inner cover with a ventilation rim on top and no insulation. We’ll see. I manage my hives to my specific conditions, and I have beehives in three locations, each a little different from the other. Beekeeping for me, especially in the winter, is always a work in progress.

2 thoughts on “A Beehive That’s Ready For Winter

  1. They look good Phillip, thanks for the video.
    One question, do you not use quilt boxes any more? If not, did you find them to be a problem?

    • I use a mixture of quilt boxes (or moisture quilts) and hard insulation these days, depending on the conditions.  Some do fine with just hard insulation over the inner cover, but others in different locations seem to get pretty damp, so I use moisture quilts on them.   I have made some modifications, though.  I noticed that moisture quilts allow heat to escape easily, and if it gets really cold, that’s not so good.  So last year I placed moisture quilts over the inner covers instead of directly over the top bars, if you can visualize that.  Moisture escapes through the inner cover hole, so the moisture quilts are still doing their job, but the inner cover keeps more heat in.

      The other thing I don’t like about moisture quilts is that the bees often cling to the underside of them, so that it seems that the entire cluster is holding onto the moisture quilt whenever I crack the hood, which is a pain.  Throwing the inner cover into the mix seems to prevent that.

      Something else I tried last year which I’m really happy with is, I blocked all the top entrances around the time of the fall feeding.  This seems to keep the bees in the bottom of the hive well below the honey stores so they gradually work their way up to the top of hive over the winter (like I mention in the video), which, for me, makes it much easier to judge how much honey they’ve eaten through. Sometimes the bees go into the winter at the very bottom of the hives anyway, but by blocking the top entrance (but still providing ventilation with a ventilation rim), they always cluster at the very bottom of the hive (so far anyway).  I love that.

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