Winter bees

The blog was off line for a few days while we worked to update the database. Sorry about that! To celebrate our return (and hard-won triumph over WP2011) here’s a post about bees. It’s also a convenient way to get back to everyone who has commented and emailed lately about suggestions for hives to survive the Maine winter in good shape.

hive wrapHive wrap is great stuff, but I can’t give you much real data to back that up. It’s possible that any black covering would suffice to keep in as much heat as possible. Many Maine beekeepers still swear by tar paper but I find it tough to work with and I hate driving nails into my hivewear. Commercial hive wrap has a layer of insulation on the inner side and is dotted with tiny holes to keep moisture from building up against the wood. It’s easy to handle, fastens securely with a little duct tape, and will last 5 seasons or more if you don’t let the mice get to where you store it in the summer. I do know someone who slaps a coat of black latex paint on his hives once the bees are fairly dormant and paints them over white again in the spring. That seems like a lot of work to me. Increasing the hives ability to absorb and (possibly) store heat is the big idea – let me know if you have something that works for you?

shim and entrance reducer

There’s a nice steady stream of bee traffic into the upper entrance of the second hive in this photo!

Ventilation is important, particularly at the very end of fall and late spring, when daytime temps spike and then drop precipitously at night. They say that dampness caused by condensation in the hive is deadlier than frigid temperatures. I use a screened bottom board (all year round) and a top entrance shim to allow air movement. The hives are also tilted forward just a little bit so moisture that collects on the inner cover runs forward and down the front hive wall instead of dripping on the colony. Note the metal entrance reducer on the front hive in the photo to discourage mice from invading a weaker colony.

newspaper insulation

I didn’t chose this article on purpose, really.

 I wrap the hives, then remove the Beemax feeder (I leave this on all year as well) and add a layer of newsprint in the space formed by the top shim. Don’t extend it all the way to the edges, so that the bees can easily move around it when you’re feeding liquid sugar. It absorbs moisture and provides a little draft-proofing. I find it is generally wet through when I take it off in the spring. The bees will chew on it but it doesn’t hurt them – newspapers use soy inks these days. Put the feeder back on and lap the hive wrap over the edge, put the inner cover and telescoping outer cover on top, weight the whole thing down with a cinder block on top, and your done! Until it’s time to feed the colony on that warm day in early March. . .

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