Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Winer Prep: 2014-11-28

I'm trying a few new things to prepare the hive for Winter this year.  Ideally I would have two hives of similar strength and try something new on one hive and not the other.  Then I could compare the results in the Spring and see if it made any difference.  Not exactly a complete scientific study, but it would be a start.  Alas, I only have the combined Green/White hive to overwinter this year, so it is all or nothing. 

The first thing I am trying is adding wood shavings to the ventilation board on top of the hive. 

Vent board.  Notice the propolis on the edges and center of the screen
During the Winter, the bees generate heat to keep the cluster warm.  That warm, moist air rises in the hive and when it hits the inner cover can possible condense.  This water can eventually build up and drip back down on the bees.  Not good.  Bees don't have too much trouble handling the cold.  But if they are cold AND wet, it is a death sentence.  So, the idea is that the warm moist air rises up through the hole in the inner cover and then through the wood shavings in the ventilation board.  If it does condense at all, the wood shavings absorb the moisture and it cannot drip back down on the bees.  I think the loose wood shavings also allow for some air circulation from the bottom of the hive without creating some sort of wind tunnel.

Wood shavings added
The second thing I am trying is using a Winter wrap on the hive. 

I put velcro on the wraps to attach them
In the past I used a wind break to keep most of the wind chill off the hives.  They were big, bulky and heavy sheets of plywood that I would stake into the ground.  I would then have to put braces on them so they wouldn't blow over.  Way too much of a pain.  My thought on the Winter wrap is that it would serve the same purpose as a wind break and be much easier to use and store.  From all that I have read, the opinions really go back and forth on the benefit of using them.  They do help to block the wind for sure but they also may block the solar radiation on a nice sunny day from warming the hive.  Even though they are made of black plastic that would absorb some sun, there is a very thin layer of foam on the back side of the plastic.  I think that would prevent the warmth from actually reaching the hive.  Any heat transfer experts out there that can weigh in on this?  I know of others who staple black tar paper directly to their hives.  That may actually allow the heat to transfer into the hive enough for the bees to move around and get to other sources of honey.  I really wish I had my Arduino hive monitor running so I could see the temp difference from outside and inside the hive on a sunny day!  Maybe next year.

All tucked in for Winter
The last thing I did (which is no different than previous years) is to take the entrance reducer off and put the mouse guard on.

I have also gone out to the hive about once a week and used my J-Hook style hive tool to scoop out the dead bees from the bottom of the hive. 

Bring out yer dead!  (And look out for the 1 attack bee)
You don't want so many dead bees to build up on the bottom that they can no longer get out of the hive.  What has really amazed me is that I am still seeing drones!!  I really thought that every last drone would have been expelled from the hive two months ago!

So far, December has been mild.  Cold, but not horrible.  The end of this week is suppose to reach 40 degrees F.  I'll take it!  All I can really hope for is that this Winter isn't as bad as last Winter.  Waiting is the hardest part  =)

Until next time, thanks for reading!