Navigate / search

How to wrap a bee hive for cold winters

Editor’s Note: Today’s post on how to wrap a bee hive is written by Jim Withers, a six-year beekeeper who keeps 140 colonies in and around Genesee County, Michigan.

When I began blogging in January 2010, I averaged five readers per day but soon dropped to one per day in February. Still, I kept at it until one day someone named Jim Withers commented on a post I had written. I was elated! A live beekeeper with a real comment! Awesome!

But much to my horror, my husband—head of both the legal and engineering departments here at Honey Bee Suite—disagreed with Jim on some esoteric point of heat transfer and shot back a comment of his own. I was mortified: I had finally obtained a reader and now my husband was going to lose him for me!

But Jim turned out to be a worthy opponent who, with grace and intellect, defended his position and seemed not a bit offended. Best of all, he continued to follow my blog. He has been with me for four years now, and I think of him as a friend. Those who know Jim report he is just as he seems—kind, gentle, intelligent, generous, and absolutely passionate about his bees.

Btw, yesterday I asked Jim to send me a short bio; instead, he sent me a treatise. So, if you want to know more about The Life and Times of Jim Withers, just click.


How to wrap a bee hive

Is wrapping hives really necessary? I think not. Is wrapping hives helpful? I think so. A strong healthy colony with enough stores, and a home decently constructed, can survive most of the winters we have here in mid Michigan without the added protection. Then again, I’m certain that we could leave a few windows open in our home and survive the winter too. Not very energy efficient, but do-able. Shouldn’t we apply this same reasoning to our bee hives? I think adding a little protection to make the bees’ job of maintaining the cluster warmth a little easier makes sense.

Some beekeepers believe that insulation or wrapping (two different things) are bad ideas. Their position is that insulation will make it too warm in the hive causing the bees to be more active and, therefore, use up their stores more quickly. Also, because they consume more, they build up more fecal material, which may cause them to defecate in the hive. You can find much on that debate in magazine articles and books. In our mid-Michigan climate, I believe, insulation/wrapping allows them to burn less fuel (honey) to maintain cluster temperature. Additionally, it is typical to have a warm enough day every few weeks that allows for some cleansing flights. I will leave it to you to decide where you come down on that debate.

Wrapped or insulated?

A wrapped hive has a layer of black roofing felt around it which takes advantage of solar gain on sunny days.
Let me clarify, first, a wrapped hive versus an insulated hive. A wrapped hive (which is what I do with full-size colonies) has a layer of black roofing felt around it which takes advantage of solar gain on sunny days. It doesn’t do much to prevent heat loss like insulation does. On a sunny day, however, it can raise the temperature inside the hive a few degrees. This could make enough difference to allow the cluster to move closer to honey stores. I have seen plenty of dead-outs with small clusters that, apparently, starved with honey in the hive, but just out of reach. Wrapping also helps seal out harsh winds. Although the bees seal up the joints between boxes with propolis, beekeepers usually mess up their nice mortar job when we inspect.

Insulation, measured in R-value, works by slowing heat transfer. I provide insulation for my overwintering nucs. In this case, the beekeeper adds some material around the hive, typically foam-board these days, to make it easier to keep the heat generated by the cluster in the hive. To be clear, the bees in cluster are not attempting to heat the entire hive, only the cluster itself. When there is no brood in the cluster, they maintain the center at around 70 degrees. When there is brood in the cluster, the temperature is kept around 90 to 95 degrees. The outside edges of the cluster are kept around 41 degrees. Below this, the bees would go into torpor and be unable to move. Even though the bees are not trying to heat the entire hive, the colder the ambient temperature, the more it will wick away the warmth generated by the cluster. Insulation will help to slow this.

Ventilation and overhead insulation

Two final points before I describe my simple technique for wrapping: ventilation and overhead insulation. Too much moisture in a wintering hive is certainly a danger. Be sure to include an upper entrance for your bees to help ventilate some of the moisture out of the hive and to use for cleansing flights when the lower entrance becomes blocked with snow and ice. I also am a strong believer in insulating the very top of the hive. Think of a glass of ice water on a summer day. The very cold water inside
the glass causes the moisture in the surrounding air to condense on it. The same can happen on the underside of your inner cover. The relatively warmer moist air inside the hive can collect on the underside of your telescoping cover because of the very cold temperature outside. It could conceivably collect, freeze in layers over their heads, then rain down on them when a sunny day warms the lid. Now, think of an insulated mug. Same cold water inside, same warm moist air outside, but no
condensation on the mug. I highly recommend putting some type of insulation between your outer cover and your bees. A simple 1/2″ – 3/4″ piece of Styrofoam on the underside of your telescoping cover should suffice. I would use the stuff with a plastic coating to discourage the bees from tearing off little pieces and dragging them out when the weather warms a little in the spring. I would also take it out for the summer because ants like to tunnel into and make their home in it.

A list of steps

Here is my simple technique for wrapping. I will add pictures to clear up the confusion my description is sure to cause.

  • Cut a piece of 15# roofing felt into a piece about 80″ long (I am assuming a standard Langstroth hive). Its height should match whatever number of boxes you have between your bottom board and telescoping cover. I leave the option available to pop open the top of my hives to peek in on the girls during the winter. I use candy plates as an emergency feed measure and want to be able to add more if need be.
  • You will need a 1/2″ pan-head screw, or some other short screw with a washer, and a 3/4″ X 3/4″ piece of wood nearly the same length as the height of your roofing felt. I start a few 1-1/4″ drywall screws into this piece of wood to make the job easier. It’s also a good idea to drill holes where these screws are going to go to prevent splitting the wood.
  • I start by screwing the pan head screw through one end of the felt near the top and side of the hive to hold it in position while I wrap the felt around.
  • Once wrapped around, the felt should overlap a few inches. I then place the 3/4″ piece of wood along this overlap and screw it into position.
  • That’s it! It takes only a minute or two. The nice thing about this technique vs stapling is the ability to recover your wrapping to use again next year. It’s also much quicker and easier than tearing the felt off in pieces the following spring. Trust me on this one. I learned it the hard way.
  • I have included a couple of pictures of my hive top set-up, which is a candy board with solid top, a piece of 3/4″ styrofoam, my inner cover on top just for a spacer, and the telescoping cover. Note the upper entrance is part of the candy board. This gets a lot of use throughout the winter. It is also a good idea to place a nice rock or something heavy on your lid to prevent it from blowing off—another unfortunate incident my bees have endured.

Good luck to all this winter.

Jim Withers
Withers Mountain Honey Farm

How to wrap a bee hive
Here are all the supplies and tools you need: 1 pan head screw, one piece of wood with 3 1-1/4″ screws, 1 piece of 15# roofing felt about 80″ long and, in this case, about 19″ tall, and, finally, something to drive in the screws.
IMG_360
I’ve put in the 1/2″ pan head screw to hold the felt while I wrap it around the hive.
Wrap a bee hive with felt
Upon wrapping the felt around the hive with a little overlap, place your piece of wood near the end of the flap.
IMG_244
Drive home the screws and you’re done.
IMG_917
This solid top has a 1″ rim around it to make room for the hard candy plates I place on top of the frames as an emergency source of fuel (feed). Note the upper entrance for ventilation and cleansing flights.
IMG_798
I place a piece of 3/4″ foam on top of the candy board for insulation over their heads.
IMG_352
Telescoping cover in place and done. Don’t forget to either put something heavy on the lid or secure it in some fashion.
IMG_289
I forgot to mention a great place to store the inner cover is between the foam and the telescoping cover.

Comments

Danielle
Reply

This is very helpful, but I have a question. At the first check mark instruction you say you use “candy plates,” and then at the last one you say “candy board.” Are these the same or different? I’m confused.

Jim Withers
Reply

Sorry for the confusion, Danielle. They are the same substance with different methods of delivery. I used to pour the sugar candy into the upturned candy board to set up, then, put that on top of the hive. The problem with that for me was that the bees usually don’t use it all up. Sometimes, very little of it. When I took them off in the spring, and had to store them, it became a battle with keeping the ants out of them in my barn throughout the summer. If I just had a few it wouldn’t be such an issue; just put them in a garbage bag or something. With so many hives now, I find it easier to pour the sugar mix into oiled paper plates, let them set up, then pop them out. I can put two at a time on the hives if I want to and it’s easy to just add more through the winter if they use them up. When spring comes I just collect the left over plates of sugar and store them in buckets with lids. I still use the old candy board covers to put the plates under. Hope that clears it up for you.

Harold Meinster
Reply

I like your post on wrapping the bees. I do the same, but I add another tar paper wrap loosely around the hive and a tar paper cover on top.

On Long Island, NY the NW winds are a factor, so the extra wrap acts as a wind breaker protecting the hives even further.

Our winters are moist with rain and a wet snow. The tar paper roof keeps the hive dryer, not letting water penetrate to the hive. I allow for airflow so that the internal environment does not build up with condensation.

So far that has been working. They have access to leave the hive if the daytime temperature increases to allow the bees to do a cleansing flight.

Jim Withers
Reply

That sounds like a good idea to me, Harold. I’m with you on making our girls more comfortable through the winter. You know, I installed an observation hive at a local nature preserve last year. It was made up of 6 deep frames, so you know it was pretty small going into winter. The bees were inside the heated building for viewing with a tube leading to the outside. Anyway, these bees had to be fed syrup through much of the winter because, obviously, they couldn’t put up much in the way of stores. By the time spring rolled around there was barely a cup of bees left in that hive. I thought they were goners, and was preparing to make up a split to re-install there. But they held on. Long story short, those girls bounced back and even swarmed twice this summer. I am pretty certain there is no way that little bunch could have came back without the warmth and protection they received by being in that building.

cgrey8
Reply

It makes perfect sense that either wrapping or foam-plate insulating a hive in harsh winters is a good idea particularly up north. However I’m in the south (Atlanta area). While it is much more temperate here, we still get freezing temps, in fact we have a freeze potential in a few days. But most of our winters never see much below the teens at night and usually warm back into the 30s in the day. Very rarely does it stay below freezing for multiple days in a row. But we can get rain, fog, and generally humid conditions even in the cold. So “raining” in the hives I’d think is a real concern. Insulating at the very least the top cover to prevent ice sheeting seems like a GREAT idea. And while screwing some of that 2″ thick foam to the sides of the hives would be amazingly easy, I’m confused whether it would cause more harm than good. If the sheets are pink, like the stuff I have downstairs, it certainly wouldn’t be aesthetically improving.

Anyway, my point is to get thoughts on what people in southern areas typically find works best. And what’s over-reacting to the point of being more harmful than helpful?

Audrey
Reply

The prevailing wisdom from the beekeepers in my central Ohio beekeeping club is NOT to wrap. This is my 3rd season of beekeeping. The first winter I slapped a piece of styrofoam insulation on the top of each hive. I lost all three of my colonies. Last winter, along with the styrofoam, I provided bricks of candy on top of the inner covers within a spacer. The one colony that ate the candy survived. The other two colonies starved with plenty of stored honey and untouched sugar blocks. Apparently, they didn’t read the same books I did. Coming into fall, I also have a 2-story nuc. I have been feeding all the bees, as I have always done, to prepare for winter.

Ask a question to three beekeepers, get six answers. These uncertainties about what are the right things to do always make me uncomfortable. I have no idea what the nuc should look like, inside and out, for the winter.

Emily
Reply

Perhaps there could be other factors causing the loss of the hives Audrey, for instance what varroa treatments did you do during the year?

Rusty
Reply

Audrey,

Emily is spot on. I think you should start my examining your varroa mite management protocol; it may have to be changed. Varroa-ravaged colonies have a difficult time surviving the winter, and that may be the real source of your problem.

Jim Withers
Reply

I agree with Emily and Rusty here, Audrey. I mentioned early in the article that a strong, healthy colony can survive without any help. I’ve seen strong colonies come through the winter in boxes that looked like Swiss cheese, and I’ve seen mediocre colonies die out that were protected from inclement weather like Fort Knox. The added protection that we provide is by no means a guarantee, but it may make the difference in a marginal hive surviving, and a strong hive coming through the winter in even better shape than it might have otherwise.

There are so many survival factors going into winter. Varroa mites, in my opinion, are chief among them because they not only weaken the bees parasitically, but act as viral vectors among the bees as well. What about your queen? Was she still laying well going into late fall? That last big batch of brood she lays before shutting down going into winter is vital! Why? Because it is mainly those young bees that weren’t exposed to raising a lot of brood that will survive the winter. Those young bees consume lots of pollen by the age of about 5 days. If they aren’t exposed to brood pheromone, they build up and store a glycolipoprotien called vetellogenin in their fat cells that prolongs their life by performing things such as free radical scavenging, aiding in cellular repair, and boosting immune response. When they are exposed to brood pheromone, vetellogenin gets used up by being converted to food (royal and worker jelly) to feed the brood, queen, and foragers. Yes, nurse bees feed foragers too. Indeed, its the only protein the foragers consume because they no longer eat pollen, have no vetellogenin left, and have a short time stamp put on their life because of it.

You look at your bees, say, early October and think, ‘Wow, what a nice big bunch of bees!’. A week or two later you look in there and think, “What the heck happened to all those bees?’. Well, most likely, the foragers died off, and the queen had shut down, or severely curtailed, laying more brood. Was there a nice late nectar and pollen source. Around here it’s usually goldenrod. This year it was very dry and our goldenrod was short lived and not very productive. To add to that we had a dry summer as well. I anticipate small clusters going into winter and more winter losses because of it.

I could go on and on, but who wants another ‘treatise’ from me? I think this may serve to address another point you made, Audrey, about asking questions and getting so many different answers. The factors that led to the situation in question are often so many, and varied, that one has to become an accomplished sleuth to get at the truth.

Finally, regarding your nuc. If your winters in Ohio are similar to ours, I would provide some insulation for them. You could, for example, pack it in some straw leaving only the front of the nuc with a southern exposure. Be sure there is a bottom and upper entrance to provide air flow/ventilation, and provide a candy board for them because nucs quite often run out of food mid winter.

This probably hasn’t helped a lot with your frustration, but, the fact is, being a beekeeper is a life long learning process for all of us that stick with it. The longer you stick with it the better you will be able to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to advice. I’m still learning to do that too, Audrey.

Jim

Rusty
Reply

Jim,

That is an elegant and eloquent answer . . . well worth a treatise or two. Nice job.

Ken
Reply

Nice post. Last year I overwintered a hive feeding it sugar patties, insulating the top with 1″ pink foam, and wrapping with thin packing foam sheets (about 3/16 thick). These came at a very good price, FREE. (You see, I drive a rural trash truck and salvaged them from some large packing boxes). It worked, but I was wondering if I should color the sheets of foam dark so as to absorb heat from the sun. Maybe it wouldn’t make any difference, but I was looking for another’s opinion other than mine. (They are opaque/white.) Nice thing about it is that they are waterproof and windproof. Nice touch with the wood strip and the screws over stapling. I stapled last year and had to throw away the torn wrapping.

Jim Withers
Reply

Ken,

I think it would depend on the R-value of the insulation on whether painting them black would make any difference. The higher the R-value the less likely that you would gain the solar warmth. In your case I think it likely that you would gain solar warmth with such thin insulation. Just guessing, though.

Jim

Stephanie
Reply

I live in Yakima Wa. We can have 0° days here. I planned on using bales of hay for insulation, should I leave some space between my hive for ventilation? If so how much?

Jim Withers
Reply

Stephanie,

When it comes to ventilation, my objective is to allow for a slight air flow from the bottom of the hive to the top. For me this is accomplished by simply making sure there is an upper entrance in addition to the lower entrance. Insulation is used to slow heat loss. So if one wants to insulate a hive, the component used should be right up against the hive body to slow the heat transfer. Otherwise, the exterior of the hive is exposed to the cold air and it is all the insulation there is.

Jim

kc
Reply

Good post. Maybe you can help answer a question I have … and is shown in the pics … about the upper entrance location. The pic shows the upper entrance on underside of the candy board/opening into the hive cavity directly.

I place my upper entrance notches (on the inner covers) in the “up” position … allowing me to close it off with the outer cover if I need by pulling the outer cover all the way back. What say you?

Is this upper entrance supposed to be directly opening into the hive cavity (i.e. notch down) or indirectly, (notch up). In up position, I would expect heat to escape, but bees aren’t directly exposed to the outside elements thru this upper entrance as they could be if in the down position, similar to what’s in the pics.

Rusty
Reply

kc,

If I may chime in here, the Langstroth hive works like a chimney with a fire inside. The colony is the “fire” providing the heat. Since heat rises, and the ambient temperature is colder than the air near the colony, the air flow is always going to “up and out” as long as the colony is alive and producing heat. The air won’t move in through the hole and down into the hive unless the colony is dead (or nearly so). Think of it this way, cold air doesn’t come down your chimney as long as there is a fire burning. Put out the fire (the source of heat) and then the airflow can reverse.

Jim Withers
Reply

kc,

In my case, kc, this system began years ago by making a candy board with a solid top that I could just pour a batch of candy into. I removed the inner cover and just put the candy board right over their heads so they could still be in cluster and reach the candy. Also, I wanted to insulate right over their heads. That’s how the notch came to be as it is. I suspect you are correct that it would cause a little more direct exposure. It hasn’t seemed to by a factor that I can tell. e.g. when doing a quick peek in the winter I haven’t seen evidence of wetness on top of the frames near that upper entrance. Last year I went into the winter with 123 colonies and lost 10. The year before I went in with 88 and lost 1.

I do the same as you described during the summer months. However, I’ve never felt the need to close the upper entrance in the winter.

I say if what you’re doing is working, keep doing it. Sounds to me like you have good reasons for doing things the way you do, which, is the best reason for doing them.

Cheers
Jim

Gerry G
Reply

Jim,

Does water get between the paper and the hive? It rains a lot where I live, not so much snow.

harold meinster
Reply

Water can get between the paper and the hive. There is the possibility of condensation. I use the tar paper wrap and another loose layer wrapped outside with a tar paper roof, keeping the elements from getting to the hive and allowing air flow to not let moisture condensation build up. On Long Island the mid-winter temps swing within days of below freezing and above freezing. The air is moist and the snow is heavy.

I am aggressively treating for Varroa. I weekly cull the drone brood, sugar dust and I have made a paper towel in a baggie with a formic acid and water mixture. Every day I routinely check the bottom board under the screen, check, clean and re-crisco, replacing the board back.

I am not commercial only a hobbyist, I have more time to putter with the bees than those with a hundred hives.

Jim Withers
Reply

Hi, Harold,

Sounds to me like you have a great system working. Like you said, I don’t have the time to be as elaborate as you do, but I certainly take my hat off to those that are doing everything they can to be successful beekeepers.

Jim

Jim Withers
Reply

Hey, Gerry.

Yes water does get in between the felt and the hive since I am not concerned with making it water tight. I do pull it fairly snug around the hive body to get as much of the felt as I can directly against the boxes. Remember, I am mostly putting this stuff on to get some solar heat transferring onto the wood during sunny days so I don’t worry about rain getting between there on rainy days. Besides, gravity will take care of most, if not all, of that particular problem. I suppose it could happen where a thin sheet of ice could occur between the felt and the box, but, I have to say, I haven’t seen it.

Jim

Rusty
Reply

So, Jim, water trapped under there doesn’t cause the wood to rot?

Jim Withers
Reply

I haven’t seen any water get trapped, Rusty. The felt paper is just up against the hive body. Any water which may run down between it and the hive would just respond to gravity and keep on running down and out the bottom. I guess I can’t say it’s impossible, I just haven’t seen it happen.

Judith
Reply

I may be mistaken but it looks like you also have a homasote/moisture board between the candy board and foam. For those of us wintering bees in coastal Maine that’s the #1 piece of equipment.

Jim Withers
Reply

Hi, Judith,

Actually, it is simple (read cheap) OSB. I figure since I insulate above it, I don’t have to worry about moisture building up on the underside of the board. I sure hope that is correct. Anyway it has been working so far. The homasote/moisture board is probably a good idea though. Isn’t this stuff fun!?

Jim

Lindy
Reply

This post is just in time for me because I am about to make the wrappings, so what Jim described with the wooden lathe is perfectly easy to understand and obviously saves the roofing felt for another year, thank you. I do have a problem though. On top of my brood boxes I have an empty box which I use for feeding. On top of that a moisture quilt with wood chips as recommended by Rusty last year. The bees cannot pass that because of the canvas. So if I have to put an above entrance/exit for them that means that the wrapping will not be able to go as high as the telescoping roof. I feel as though I have missed an important bit of information here. My bees can only get in and out at the bottom by the landing board which is narrowed already. Do you people with the higher entrances not use the moisture quilt system by any chance?

Rusty
Reply

Lindy,

Like everything else in beekeeping, this doesn’t have a simple yes-or-no answer. Upper entrances are often used in areas where snow and ice routinely block the lower entrance, leaving the bees no way out. So that is a primary consideration. Upper entrances are also used to provide ventilation from bottom to top of the hive—in through the bottom entrance out through the top. However, if your moisture quilt has ventilation ports, you don’t need the top entrance for ventilation.

If you do have a quilt and you have snow that covers the bottom entrance, then you can add an upper entrance in several different ways. You can drill a hole near the top of the upper brood chamber; you can drill a hole through your feeder rim, or you can add an Imirie shim just under the quilt or under the feeder rim. It doesn’t have to be a large opening, just big enough for bees to come and go for cleaning flights.

Lindy
Reply

Hallo Rusty, thanks for the very quick reply. I think it is clear now I just can cut a little hole in the black roofing felt if I make an upper entrance for instance just under the moisture quilt. It has to be like an “emergency exit” for the bees and must not be covered with roofing felt. This little hole will not affect the effect of the ventilation and absorbtion of moisture by quilt due to hole…. will it? Where I live there is much snow in winter, easily reaching height of landing board and temperatures for many days around 20 degrees fahrenheit. I’m still considering myself a newbee because last year I lost two hives (1 strong 1 less strong) This, my 3rd year of being involved with bees, I feel like I made a new good start in May and June and I really am scared of losing them again but also hopeful of keeping them okay.

Rusty
Reply

Lindy,

The moisture quilt will perform just fine with the little hole.

Jim Withers
Reply

Hi, Lindy,

Like Rusty said…. 🙂

Jim

Deane
Reply

This is my second year of beekeeping and my bees left about this time last year. So far so good this year. My question is, do you put a board in the bottom of a screened bottom board or would that restrict the air flow you want too much?

Rusty
Reply

Deane,

As with everything else in beekeeping, it depends. It depends on your local climate and weather patterns mostly. Here on the Pacific Northwest coast, I leave them out year round because moisture, not cold, is my biggest problem. If it gets in the low 20s F for a few days, I slide them in, but I take them out soon after.

Jim Withers
Reply

Deane,

Again, I agree with Rusty. In my neck of the woods, mid Michigan, most of us tend to close off the screened bottom. In my first 3 years of beekeeping I left them out. Year 1, I had 8 for 8 colony survival. Year 2, I had 28 of 29 survive. Year 3, was a colder, longer winter and I lost 40 out of 50. I’m sure the dry summer before it was a large contributor, and I had never, to that point, treated for varroa mites. I have since started treating and closing them up and had much better success. So, was it closing them up, or treating for varroa, or the better weather the summer and fall before that led to a better success ratio? I suspect a mix of all of the above, but there you go. It’s stuff like this that make beekeeping questions so darned complicated.

Best to You
Jim

Bernie
Reply

I hope you are still responding to this old post. I want to raising bees next year. I live in central Alaska and am concerned about over wintering the colonies. Many in my area just let the bees die and start fresh each year. I would prefer not to have the hive die. What are your thoughts on wrapping/insulating hives through an Alaskan winter with two weeks or so down to minus 20 degrees with little direct sunshine for 2 months. Thank you for comments / suggestions.

Rusty
Reply

Bernie,

You might consider wintering the colonies inside. The book called “Beekeeping in Western Canada” published by Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development has a lot of good information for cold-climate beekeeping, including wintering strategies.

Pam
Reply

Hello, I’m not familiar with “sugar boards”. Can someone explain those to me? I’m in the Denver Metro area and we’re getting our first snow tonight:)

Thea
Reply

Hi Rusty,

I am in Pemberton BC.
Avg temp/ precip:
December: 27°F, 124mm
January: 26°F 128mm
February: 32°F 73mm
March: 40°C 69mm

We do tend to have the odd cold snap down to -13°F during these months.

I am in a valley right under a mountain so from Nov 20th to Jan 20th the bees get NO direct sunlight. Should I wrap the hives after the sun returns on January 20th? I have a couple of weakly-populated hives that I want to give the best chances of keeping warm enough to access their stores.

I already have candy boards, quilt boxes, and insulation under the top cover to help with condensation. But I’ve also read that wrapping can give the bees those few degrees that allow them to move that crucial half inch to the honey stores when the sun is shining. Do you think tar paper would cause more harm than good? Or maybe insulation is the way to go? I’ve read too many opposite opinions and I’m going crazy trying to decide what the smartest option is for my colonies (I’m a newbee obviously). I know you can’t guarantee anything without being here and seeing my hives, but I really respect your opinion. Thanks a bunch.
-Thea

Rusty
Reply

Thea,

As you surmised, this is difficult for me to answer. As a general rule, I am not a fan of wrapping with tar paper, but in difficult environments it can add a few degrees. Still, I think anything you can do to assure the bees are well fed and dry should be a priority over wrapping. Wrapping has to be done properly to assure ventilation is not compromised. Without sufficient ventilation you run the risk of moisture build up. And, of course, wet bees have little cold tolerance.

If it were me I would probably keep supplemental feed right above the cluster (the candy board is good) and use the quilt and not wrap. But if the area is windy, I might build a buffer with hay bales against the prevailing direction.

But if you think the tar paper is advantageous, just make sure your ventilation ports are not covered. A lot depends on the winter temperatures in this particular year and on the individual site. And a lot is judgement. Certainly there is nothing wrong with trying the wrap and seeing how it works for you. There is no right or wrong answer.

Thea
Reply

Hi Rusty,
Thank you so much for your feedback. After reading it I’ve decided that it would be best to not warp the hives. I will just make sure they have stores as close as possible and install a windbreak. Thank you!

Ray
Reply

Well done Jim going to do the same here in western mass . Rusty your site is a home run the best by far thank u

Shelly
Reply

Along the lines of installing windbreaks, I have a situation I’d like to run by you. I’m in northern Idaho. We have a south-facing slope that looks down the valley. My problem is that during the winter we get winds that come up the valley and hit straight on. I was thinking of doing a straw or hay bail windbreak blocking that wind from my hives but it will also block any potential sun, not that we get that much though. Would you advise using a windbreak on a south-facing side like I have?

Rusty
Reply

Shelly,

Can you erect straw bales in fall and take them down in the spring?

Shelly
Reply

Yes. That was my thought. Take it down once spring arrives or the worst of winter is over. And if a person would do this, how far out from the hives would you construct this?

Rusty
Reply

Shelly,

I would put it fairly close, but be sure to leave yourself plenty of room to work the hives.

Frank Olson
Reply

Hi Rusty,
I noticed that the hive you wrapped was an uninhabited hive. Since my hive has a colony of bees I was going to staple the felt to a piece of wood at each end and then staple it the slats to the hive. I think stapling would upset the colony less than screwing the strips.
What do you think?
Sincerely,
Frank
Colorado

Rusty
Reply

Frank,

They will recover from either either staples or screws. Just do what is best for you.

Leave a comment

name*

email* (not published)

website