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Overwintering honey bees in single deep hives

For the second year in a row, I’m overwintering my bees in single-deep hives. After years of running double deeps, and three years with triple deeps, I went to singles beginning about sixteen months ago. My decision was prompted by Thomas Seeley’s discussions of single deeps and the fact that very large colonies seem to have disproportionately high mite loads. But most persuasive was the infrared photos I had taken of my winter colonies.

Winter life in double deeps

My IR photos of the double deep hives showed that at the beginning of cold weather, my colonies were nearly always in the middle of the hive, straddled between the two brood boxes. As the winter progressed, the colonies would move up, and by late winter the entire colony was in the upper brood box. Spring inspections showed that honey remained untouched in the lowest box, while the upper box was empty of stores and the candy boards were licked clean.

The movement of the colony out of the lower box meant the area was largely unguarded. The bees used the small top entrance exclusively, and therefore had no reason to go down through the cold and empty lower box. Instead, non-bee things could (and did) move in. I’ve found both mice and shrews to be quite pleased with the arrangement: relatively warm and dry with lots of food.

I kept thinking that confining the bees to one box would be more efficient. So in September of 2016, I rearranged frames and used escape boards to winnow all the doubles down to singles for the winter. That year I overwintered 100% of my colonies and went into spring boiling with bees.

The winter set up

From the bottom up, I used a bottom board with a reduced entrance, a slatted rack, a single deep 10-frame brood box, a queen excluder, a medium containing ten frames of honey, an Imirie shim with an upper entrance, a no-cook candy board with a central hole for upward ventilation, a moisture quilt, and a telescoping cover.

Although I often use 9 frames in 10-frame boxes when I’m running double deeps, with single deeps I reasoned that the last frame would give me 10% more brood comb. I used a queen excluder because, come spring, I wanted to keep the bees in single deeps, so I didn’t want a bunch of bee brood in my medium boxes. To me, it seemed easier to keep them below.

Remember that I’m living in the Pacific Northwest coastal area on the 47th parallel. What that means is that our winters are relatively mild, but they are wet and dark for a very long time. I live in USDA hardiness zone 7b, which means the average annual minimum winter temperature ranges from 5 to 10 degrees F (-15 to -12 degrees C). In a colder climate, It might be better to skip the queen excluder and let the cluster get closer to the food.

Problems with singles

Overwintering in singles is not without management issues. Most surprising to me was the seemingly unrestrained growth in early spring. With little expansion space, I thought the colonies would stay a bit smaller. They did not. Instead, it seemed that workers were living in the mediums and the candy boards because the brood box was already packed.

By spring, the colonies didn’t actually fit in the brood box any longer. When it was time to remove the empty candy board and the medium super, I used an escape board to coax them down into the brood box, but there was no room. I ended up leaving the medium boxes on until the nectar flow began, at which time I put comb honey shallows in place of the medium and put the bee-filled medium above them with an escape board. That worked, and I ended up where I wanted to be: a single deep with a queen excluder and two shallow supers above it, each with its own entrance. Towards the middle of the flow, I added a third honey shallow on top of the first two.

Although my bees were building comb honey like never before, I planned to remove the honey supers early and give them mediums to fill for winter. This also worked well. Of course, this past spring was particularly late and long, so putting away stores after building comb honey seemed easy. It won’t always be that way.

Swarming from singles

With jam-packed singles back in March, I knew swarming would come early. And it did. I split some colonies in time. Others threw swarms I was able to trap. But some got away. None of this was a surprise, of course, but due to other commitments, I wasn’t always able to be proactive. In any case, if you successfully overwinter in singles, early swarming should be on your mind. By the end of swarm season, I had more colonies than equipment, so I ended up re-combining some of the smaller ones.

All in all, it was a lot easier to manage the single deeps, simply because they’re single. You don’t have to lift one brood box off another, and the entire colony is clearly visible. Everything about it seemed quicker, easier, and lighter.

Nevertheless, I’m more nervous about overwintering this coming winter than last. The weather is the problem. Yesterday on Thanksgiving, all my colonies were out and about, flying, darting and using up their food stores. I told them to go back home, but you know how well they listen.

A word about moisture quilts

As an aside, I wanted to mention the moisture quilt as a thermal insulator. My primary reason for using a moisture quilt is, oddly enough, moisture. My lids, inner covers, and top bars used to drip with water all winter long, and now everything inside is bone dry, even the wood chips. Made properly, the quilts are magic. Still, I never thought of them as insulators, simply because it’s not that cold here in Olympia.

But earlier this fall, I was feeding some leftover syrup in baggy feeders, mostly to get rid of it before winter. After a month, two of my smaller colonies would not drink it, and I realized it was too cold for them. I almost gave up, but then I decided to place the moisture quilts above the baggy feeders and just leave them.

Three days later when I checked, the syrup was totally gone. The colony heat held in by the moisture quilt was enough to warm the syrup to a drinkable temperature. I’m sure it’s that same colony-generated heat, held in by the moisture quilt, that keeps the wood chips dry all winter long. I had always thought it was simply the ventilation ports that kept the chips dry, but now I realize it’s more complicated than that.

The future of singles

I don’t know if I will continue with single deeps or go back to doubles. Certainly, there are issues with both methods, and if you live in an area where swarming is a problem, singles might be difficult. But overall, I find management of singles is easier and lifting is minimized. Although my honey production per hive was way up this past season, I think I have to attribute that more to the nectar flow than the hive configuration. But still, singles are my management plan for the immediate future.

Rusty
Honey Bee Suite

Winter bees in single deep hives.
This shows what happens In late winter, without a queen excluder. The bees go up and live in the candy board, a problem in early spring. © Rusty Burlew

Comments

Elena Campbell
Reply

Thank you, Rusty. As usual, this is really helpful.

MB - Ohio
Reply

Interesting idea Rusty. It’s my first wintering over of my single hive and I was in to check it this afternoon while the weather was 54F. Unfortunately, my hive looks wet inside, even with the quick box on top. My candy board is damp and soft, which is wasn’t when I put it in. The wax looks opaque which indicates moisture, so between my inner cover and the quilt box I’m just not getting enough ventilation through my hive. SO I took a gamble and pulled out my inner cover for the screen vivaldi board I have and put the quilt box back on top. This opens up the entire top a little better to help with airflow. I did a quick check and my bees are sitting between the bottom brood and the top brood box.

They are active, flying out to meet me when I opened the brood boxes up and in and out the bottom entrance and up on the candy, so they are moving about some inside with the warm temps. I”m going to give this a try for a bit until the weather drops down in temps and moisture and then put the inner cover back on under the vivaldi board to hope that cuts the moisture back. Here cold spans this year are short lived and I just have this feeling that moisture is going to lead to a much larger issue then cold at this point. Maybe next year I will try to go down to just one brood box and see how that goes. I just need to establish two more hives so I have a back up if I lose one. Thanks for the ideas…into the “experience” box they go. 🙂

Rusty
Reply

MB,

I don’t use an inner cover in winter because it just gets in the way. Does your moisture quilt have ventilation? Your wood chips should stay dry except for a very thin layer of moisture on the top, perhaps a 1.4-inch deep. Your hive should look dry, rather than wet, so maybe you need to adjust things a bit.

patrick
Reply

Very Interesting….and I had never heard of moisture quilts before…and I can definetly see the efficacy in using them…! I’m gonna look ino them,…P.

Ken Rhodes
Reply

Interesting. I have heard of doing this and even have considered it. I live in south east Idaho (zone 5) and have wondered how this would work. With the swarms I got this past year, most of them I put in a deep/medium on top configuration at first. I was hoping to move them into all mediums (three deep for the winter). Seems they had other ideas. One swarm was so large it took two deeps for them to all fit. My wonderment is: since large colonies are prone to more mites, how does one reduce the bees for the fall treatments and put them to bed in either a single deep or deep/medium configuration? If they are busting at the seams with bees, if you reduce their living space are there not still as much bees? I have been struggling with this all year and realize the answer is probably simple and obvious, but it just isn’t coming to me!

If they are that large, won’t they eat through a lot of honey befor the winter is over? Now I am more thinking out loud.

Thank you for your great posts.

Ken

Rusty
Reply

Ken,

The colonies start to contract soon after the summer solstice, so by fall there aren’t nearly so many bees. But yes, they do burn through a lot of food. I have two colonies that barely fit in a deep plus a medium super. Even now, with an IR camera, I can see they are bursting at the seams. I keep giving them more honey that I held back, but I will just have to keep watching and see what happens. This is definitely learning by doing.

Deb Western Catskill Mtns NY
Reply

Hi Rusty; My winter set up is similar to yours; I have uncooked sugar mixed with very little water in a 2 inch shim, with the bottom being 1/4” hardware cloth (I use a rolling pin to pack the dampened sugar in) and the shim has an entrance. No inner cover but insulation put into the outer cover. We insulate every side of the hive except the south facing one. I keep the sugar away from the entrance in the shim so the bees have easy access to the upper entrance and helps with ventilation. I use screened bottom boards with drawers closed too. The sugar shim acts as a moisture quilt as I have no problem with moisture. I wonder if this would work for the above MB in Ohio. I am trying a one deep hive this coming year with a QE. I will winter the same way I do now except no QE, a medium of honey and the sugar board. I saw a u-tube video on this style of beekeeping (yeah u-tube!) and I believe this man is in Ontario Canada. We’ll see how it works. Here’s the link https://youtu.be/YjyNcyVvbEI

Rusty
Reply

Deb,

Thanks for the link. I’m glad to see people trying new (or new to us) ways of overwintering.

Cy
Reply

Thank you for this article. This year when I attended EAS, I love the presentation given by Paul Kelly from the University of Guelph. They have been overwintering in single deeps for some time now and got the suggestion from old beekeepers. I have plans to start using single deeps myself.

MB - Ohio
Reply

HI Rusty,

Yep my quilt board has a bunch of ventilation. I am using about 2 inches of wood chips and they are a little damp on the bottom at the moment. Hopefully when I check later in the week, they will have dried out more by taking out the inner cover. I built my own Vivaldi board that is all screen, since I know my climate is very wet in the winter I wanted that extra airflow. Next week is suppose to get up into the high 50’s again so I will get it a check again to see if things dried out more I’m glad my instincts to just take out that inner cover seems to be on track. 🙂

I Deb, Yep I also have a very low moisture sugar patties on wax paper over the Vivivaldi board, which are all now rather damp, so they are wicking up the moisture too, just not enough of it. Again, my ground is like a wet sponge through the winter…so I know moisture is going to always be an issue for me. I just have to figure out how to get the best airflow without overchilling the hive…

Rusty
Reply

MB,

That’s a new twist. I’ve never seen the wood chips get wet on the bottom. Normally, they get wet on the top after the water condenses on the inside of the telescoping cover and rains back down.

Vivien Hight
Reply

Hi Rusty:

I offer a triple-layer wool blanket with all of the Valkyries that we sell. It is special order: the Canvas inner cover comes standard with each hive. The blanket is kept on all year long and aids in temperature and moisture control. Check out the website… have a great Holiday season!

MB - Ohio
Reply

Thanks Rusty, I think it has to do with where the inner cover was below the vivaldi board and quilt box. The inner cover was acting like a false ceiling and I think it being wet was wicking into the bottom of the wood chips. The hive is much wetter below that, so moisture is likely condensing and raining back into the top brood box from the inner cover more than on the telescoping lid. Taking that inner cover out should solve all of this (I hope).

Debbie in Ohio
Reply

That baffled me as well, dampness under the wood chips, so that means, somehow, the moisture is hitting the bottom of the chips and condensing or being absorbed there, and not being released by the upward flow … hummm …. a ponderment. Something would have to be there to allow the moisture to condense and not flow upward. I would get rid of the wax paper under the patties as wax paper will condense moisture. I found that out a few years back. (not the problem in this case) I make my candy boards in a super, that way, above the 2/3 inches of sugar is dead air space for the air flow to hit the moisture board and move out and in deep winter it gives me a place to add additional sugar or patties. This issue will have me thinking for days ! Where in Ohio are you MB? I was wondering since you said you were in such a wet area. This hive must be extremely strong to be producing so much moisture as to wet the hive in such a fashion from the bottom upward. I have found that candy boards, altho hardened, will start to crumble if they start absorbing too much moisture coming up from the hive. Is this happening? A great problem to ponder ! Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.

Isaac B
Reply

Hi Rusty,

I run medium 8 frame boxes exclusively for my hives (bush farms method). This makes my life so much easier when it comes to moving/adding boxes and frames not to mention the weight when full of honey/brood. Everything is the same size so there is no guess work or pre-planning needed. I think this would also aid in your single brood box issue where they expand too quickly in the spring. Note that I use two 8- frame mediums in the winter which equals about 1.5 standard size brood boxes. All I need to do is add boxes on top in spring and let them go crazy. I realize converting existing boxes/frames to all medium is not cost effective, but if you replace them over time it is feasible. Just thought this might be interesting to you as a different was of dealing with this particular issue.

Peter Borst
Reply

Anyone familiar with beekeeping history knows that the single Langstroth hive was the standard a hundred years or so ago. The question at the time was whether to enlarge the single (as the Dadants did) or use two Langstroth deeps for brood, like the Roots promoted.

The double deeps caught on, once beekeepers produced more extracting honey than comb honey. By switching to a big, multi-story hive — problems with swarming, supering, and queen excluders all went away. At least one commercial beekeeper I know runs single brood boxes and they just put on all the supers at once.

I use two deeps for brood, no excluder and throw on 3 mediums as soon as they look ready to expand from the two deeps. Once the flow hits, I go around and redistribute the supers so that the better hives have more, and supers are not wasted on hives that are slow.

When I used to run all deeps, most hives were in three, four, or five during the main honey flow. Basically enough space for maximum brood area and a hundred pound average harvest. I usually have two or three harvests.

Wintering in singles used to be common as well, but the chief advantage to two or three deeps for winter is that sometimes in spring you can’t get equipment to the hives, and with this arrangement the stuff is already there. You can reverse the boxes to get them to use the empty combs below, or let them expand downwards. I don’t worry about swarming at all with this plan.

PLB

Debby Newby, Auckland NZ
Reply

Where is your apiary? Enough detail so that I can figure out the typical weather please.

Peter Borst
Reply

> Where is your apiary? Enough detail so that I can figure out the typical weather please.

South of Ithaca, NY. USA
approx 42.34, -76.50

Bryan Bender
Reply

I overwintered in a single deep last year but my go to is one deep one medium. This year I’m trying 5 over 5 nucs. Quilt boards are always a must for me. I leave them on year round.

Jim Hopkins
Reply

Hi Rusty—- first much thanks for all your efforts in maintaining this great website. I am a largely self taught beekeeper living on a somewhat remote island in northwest Washington. Your site has been an invaluable source of information for me as I try to navigate the many intricacies of beekeeping.

A few years ago I read one of your posts on moisture quilts which seemed an excellent idea, particularly in our Pacific Northwest climate. Since I began using them the interior of my hives have remained dry and I have had fairly good overwintering success. I typically place a feeder rim with two small holes for an upper entrances below the moisture quilt.

While upper entrances seem to be conventional wisdom for almost any type of winter setup, an article in the August edition of ABJ, Derek Mitchell, Honey Bee Engineering: Top Ventilation and Top Entrances, has lead me to question their use in winter. This article concludes that the heat loss from an upper entrance will significantly reduce the depth of the heated space in the upper portion of a hive with some degree of top insulation, even though the very upper portion of the interior space will remain constantly warm. I have noticed that by mid winter in some of my hives the cluster will have moved into the feeder rim space directly below the moisture quilt. I have attributed this to premature consumption of honey stores, although in hindsight I am not sure this has always been the case and in one instance the cluster had moved to the very top as early mid December, a colony which had at least five frames of honey in each of three medium boxes only two months prior. Mr. Mitchell’s article suggests that another possible explanation for this upward migration is an effort by the bees to cluster in the limited, but warm, area in the very top of the hive. Regardless of whether or not this is the case, his analysis certainly indicates upper entrances may well be counterproductive in winter for a hive with some form of top insulation. Your thoughts?

Rusty
Reply

Jim,

I don’t have a copy of the article, but if I can locate one, I will definitely read and comment. Without reading, my first questions would be where is he located and is his real issue temperature or moisture.

Rich
Reply

Jim,

You will lose moist, warm air through an upper entrance. In a very cold climate, the heat loss through an upper entrance might be too great, such as most of Canada and the Midwest of the United States. Perhaps quilt users in those climates should consider a small, lower entrance in winter, a single deep arrangement, and experimenting with the quilt thickness. The quilt should be thick enough to keep the hive warm and allow the moisture in the warm air to condense in the upper layer of the insulating material, but thin enough to assure a sufficient flow rate of air to move moisture out of the hive to keep all interior surfaces dry most of the time. Another obvious variable is the ability of air to flow through the insulating material. Rusty has had very good performance with a few inches of lightly packed wood shavings that are very dry when placed. I was amazed when we noticed how dry the lower chips were and how moist the upper ones were on inspection. It was that moment where the mechanism of what was occurring dawned on me.

You have a vapor barrier on the inside of your home’s wall insulation typically to keep moisture from condensing in the outer portion of the insulation. Your wooden wall and siding will rot if you allow your walls to behave like a hive quilt. So the goals are a bit different in the two habitats. In our homes, we add dry heat and a little ventilation to keep the interior air dry. Then we keep the moisture out of the walls. In the hive, your heat source is the colony, and that heat is very moist per unit volume. You allow moisture to enter the roof insulation, and discard the insulation each year – or use the chips for another purpose.

But the ultimate goal with your house and hive are the same. It is to keep the habitat livable.

There is also a comparison of a Langstroth to a colony in a tree cavity. The wood on the inside of the natural hive both insulates and absorbs moisture, leaving the hive dry. The Langstroth with a quilt mimics the natural environment quite well.

Ryan Reynolds
Reply

I work in U.S. embassies around the world on two or three year assignments which makes beekeeping difficult. We also have a weight limit on what we can take with us from post to post. I have switched to poly hives to help with weight, have you ever thought of keeping one poly hive in the bee yard? I love your insight and would love to hear your experiences with a poly hive.

Rusty
Reply

Ryan,

No, I’ve never had a poly hive. I’ll put it on my “possibly might do” list.

Debbie
Reply

Well, heck, that would do it, having the inner cover above the brood box and then the moisture box. Ok, got it now … makes sense now more than before … This really had me thinking about the dynamics of it all, could not figure out why water w/condense up under the moisture box! With inner cover gone and moisture box over brood box, will work much better. These moisture boxes hold in a lot of heat for the bees as well. I opened a hive in October that was small, and it looked cold, when I added their candy board and moisture box, within an hour, they were warmer and started flying outside the box. A lot of that heat would have just rose and left the hive. Glad you figured it out MB. Had me going!

Stosh Kowalski
Reply

Ah, now you’ve given me yet another woodworking project to build – a slatted rack (but probably not until spring). As it is, my single-deep overwintering seems to be going okay. Rer your suggestion, I put a second box on top with a moisture quilt I built on top of that. For the second box, I built a rack to hold two bags of sugar and some pollen patty strips (I’m hoping the rack – instead of just a flat board – with unscented Swiffer pads underneath the sugar and pollen patty will help reduce hive beetles).

Only issue I’m having is that in the 3 weeks it’s been in, they don’t seem to have touched the sugar or the patty. I even went with two types of sugar as an experiment… I have a bag of granulated, and one of powdered, and put a few drops of peppermint oil around them to try to pique their interest, but apparently not. Will they work through their own stores first before turning to the sugar, or am I missing something? We have had a few warm days when I’ve seen them out and about, but on the whole it’s been pretty cold here, and I don’t want them to starve.

Thanks!

Rusty
Reply

Stosh,

Don’t worry about that. I’ve had them go months without touching the sugar, and then one day, there they are. That’s fine, after all, it’s emergency rations, not their regular food.

Mike Serio
Reply

Hi Rusty

Like Isaac B, I run two 8-frame mediums as a brood chamber. It works well here in TN, where our winters are relatively mild. I check the boxes in late February, and if the girls are in the upper box I will reverse them and let them expand upward again. This has worked well for me for several years. The supers go on when the first dandelions bloom, usually in late March. Hives are checked weekly at that time and any queen cells are moved to a nuc. I try to run about 15-20 colonies a year. Since I’m an old geezer, the 8-frame mediums work well as a standard size for all equipment plus the weight of each box is not as heavy as a 10-frame deep or medium. I’m one of those beekeepers with the bad back!! Thanks for the info and enjoy the holidays!!

Peter Borst
Reply

“The majority of American beekeepers use too small a hive and most of them never provide conditions so that a single colony reaches full strength at the beginning of or even during the honey-flow, and it is the privilege of those whose work it is to create a better beekeeping to help beekeepers correct their mistakes. The use of small hives results either in weak colonies or in unnecessary and totally unprofitable labor to the beekeeper.

“Adaptability of the hive to labor saving need not be discussed at length, except to repeat that the use of swarm control measures necessitates the use of a double brood chamber, and the result is that no brood chamber except one consisting of two hive bodies is open to the beekeeper for whom swarming is a problem. Since in all the better beekeeping regions of the North, swarming is too serious a problem to be neglected, there are few beekeepers who can afford to use a single hive of any depth for the brood chamber.


“In those years when spring nectar is scant, the users of the larger single story hives fail to get maximum returns, unless they go to the intolerable bother of spring feeding. Beekeepers who use the single story deep frame hives labor under the misinformation or the erroneous belief that there must surely be room enough for all colony requirements, whereas in at least a third of the spring seasons in northern states such hives are too small, because they cannot possibly hold both enough honey for safety and enough brood.

“While the deep hives are far superior to a single story Langstroth hive, it is undesirable to use them when there is a better hive at hand. The demands of the bees in adverse seasons and the enormous brood rearing ability of a first-class colony of bees leave no option for the beekeeper who wishes to use standard equipment except to use the two story Langstroth hive, the largest hive in common use anywhere.

“While it may be possible at rare intervals to get the greatest possible development of colonies in time for fruit blossoming in a story and a half Langstroth hive or in a single story Jumbo hive, in the majority of cases full strength at this time will not be attained in any hive smaller than the two-story Langstroth. In some cases it is even necessary to add a third Langstroth hive body before fruit blossoms open in order to give the colonies full opportunity to develop and to prevent swarming at this important time.”

THE NEW BEEKEEPING
By E. F. PHILLIPS, New York State College of Agriculture, Cornell University, Ithaca, N. Y.
JOURNAL OF ECONOMIC ENTOMOLOGY [Vol. 26 February, 1933]

Comment:
When I worked at the Dyce Lab one of the prominent New York beekeepers was touting the single story brood nest, saying that it was right for “today’s bees.” Professor Calderone’s opinion was this was an excuse for substandard colonies, a real colony would need more than one box for brood.

PLB

Rusty
Reply

Peter,

Of course, we didn’t have Varroa mites in 1933. In truth, I don’t know if that is relevant or not. Most accounts I’ve come across of small colonies faring better against Varroa are anecdotal and I don’t think I’ve seen much actual data. You would know better than I.

In my case, I’ve found singles much easier to handle and the dynamics of the small colony are interesting. And in my opinion, the very best comb honey comes from a freshly captured swarm. I think that’s because the wax is laid down at a furious pace, making it thin and flaky.

I will probably continue with singles until I get tired of messing with them. At least they give me something to write about.

Peter Borst
Reply

> Of course, we didn’t have Varroa mites in 1933. In truth, I don’t know if that is relevant or not. Most accounts I’ve come across of small colonies faring better against Varroa are anecdotal and I don’t think I’ve seen much actual data.

Well, that is a valid point. The big colonies seem to experience varroa explosions before the small ones. But is that sufficient justification for keeping the colonies small — or is the better plan to have big, otherwise healthy colonies and to control mites with formic and/or oxalic …

As you know, Tom Seeley has been studying single story colonies which are not supered at all and swarm on a regular basis. He claims this do not succumb to varroa like the big colonies, and can over winter here in Upstate NY. He says they are similar in size to feral colonies in trees.

Perhaps a comparison could be made with dwarf fruit trees. You could get lots of apples, but you would need more trees. With the same equipment a person could have a lot of small colonies, or a few really big ones. Something in me just feels that in this case, bigger is better.

Lots of questions still unanswered!

PLB

Rusty
Reply

Pete,

“Perhaps a comparison could be made with dwarf fruit trees. You could get lots of apples, but you would need more trees. With the same equipment a person could have a lot of small colonies, or a few really big ones.”

Not quite the same equipment. You would need a ladder, just as with large colonies, I need a lifter!

Ryan Reynolds
Reply

I am currently in Ukraine where they make great poly hives at a fraction of the cost of those sold in the U.S. My favorite is a six frame poly hive with a vented bottom that can be split into two, three-frame nucs. If you PM me an address I can send you one for my good deed of the day. Happy holidays from Kyiv!

Harold
Reply

Hi, could you give an indication of the cost and a web address of the manufacturer, please?

Randy
Reply

Rusty:

Hello. I was wondering do you not worry about the cluster leaving the queen down below the excluder. That would be my big concern. I overwinter hives in all sorts of configurations from single 5 frames, single 10 frame deeps, double and triple deeps to 5 x 5 x 5 deeps. My single deeps I overwinter with 10 frame deep then a candy board with a an vent / top entrance in the board then a quilt box then a pc of pink board between the quilt box and the top entrance the pink board keeps all condensation from the top cover and the wood chips, I have very good overwintering success on my single deeps. When I have losses it usually comes on my bigger hives. I run about 50 hives and last winter I lost one I am also in zone 5 in western Pa. I have been following your site for some time Very informative. Thank you.

Rusty
Reply

Randy,

You have no faith in your bees! They cannot survive without their queen, and they know that. The bees will not leave the queen as long as she is healthy. In a winter cluster, certain workers have the chore of going for food and bringing it back to the nest where it gets distributed by trophallaxis. The rest of the bees remain in the cluster and keep the queen and brood warm and cared for.

I have used these feeders repeatedly with no problem, and so have many others. By spring they are nearly empty and the colonies have exploded in population.

That said, if the idea makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it. There are many types of winter feeding systems. Beekeeping is all about making the beekeeper happy.

Debby Newby, Auckland NZ
Reply

If ever there’s a subject that mandates information about what winter is like in the poster’s area, it is this one. How about it, folks?

Also, what type of bees does the poster have? These posts could be like discussions about overwintering roses without talking about species and rootstock.

SDB
Reply

Rusty,

I’ve spent the last year learning all that I can absorb and then some and intend to start with two hives in the spring. Thank you for all the great information you share. I love the scientific/principle-based approach you use.

Interestingly, I’ve been reading a lot about using single brood chambers and it seems to be unique (not unheard of, but unique) to those in the US. Swarming seems to be one of the biggest issues with single broods, which leads me to a question – could a queen excluder be applied to the entrance to keep the hive from swarming until ready to do a split?

The other question that stems from MBs issues with moisture – could the hives be temporarily moved to a barn or a garage during the winter to minimize exposure? Or would the bees decide to try to come out of the hive to forage if they are too warm in the enclosure?

Rusty
Reply

SDB,

1. Yes, you can use a queen excluder (called a swarm guard) for short periods of time. But using them is tricky because the drones cannot get in or out either. Also, sometimes a small queen may be able to squeeze out, but maybe she can’t get back in. If you need to use a swarm guard for a few hours, or maybe even a whole day, while you get ready to split, that’s fine. Otherwise, beware.

2. Lots of folks overwinter their hives indoors, especially in Canada and other cold areas. There is much written on how to do it. But yes, if the bees get too warm the will fly out of the hives. Light will cause they to fly out, too, so beekeepers often use red lights to see what they are doing.

3. I don’t know where you are so I can’t be much help, but you may be overthinking the whole thing.

Paul
Reply

Rusty,

I took over a hive in mid July that I don’t think was managed well and it never was bigger than a single deep. Since there were no additional boxes with honey and pollen stores I decided that I would need to feed the hive through winter. I looked at a few different configurations and I found a YouTube video of someone who made a moisture quilt/feeder/Vivaldi board combo that was just what I was looking for. My version is slightly different as I drilled two 2″ holes on each of the four sides but everything else is pretty much the same. This allows me to feed syrup with all the advantages of having a moisture quilt. I am also using a winter pollen patty from Mann Lake that has reduced protein. I am anxious to see how this all works out come spring. As always, thank you for another great post!

https://youtu.be/IsjlEzQgnQI

MB - Ohio
Reply

Wet under the wood chip Update!

For Rusty and Debbie…

Well, removing the inner cover did the trick. I checked the hive on Wednesday while temps were in the 60’s here and it’s BONE DRY. Yes! So the problem was the inner cover under the wood chips wicking moisture.

My brood from my Queen Amber II were active and happy, poking out their little heads and taking a few purge flights and chewing away on their sugar patties.

Debbie, I’m in Northern Ohio – Portage County and I have a rather large stream on my property that is about 100 feet from my bee hive. This creek regularly jumps the banks and comes up into my side yard about 40-60 ft. My grass is ALWAYS green, even in the depths of August. I’ve started to plant white clover down by the stream so I don’t have to always mow it. Unfortunately, my lawn mower gets auggered in at the lowest part of my yard by that stream about a dozen times before it semi-dries out in late July.

I swear I could grow rice on most of my side yard. My own house runs about 65% humidity in winter and 85% in summer and yes I’ve burnt up two dehumidifiers in the past 5 years. So yep, you want a yard you never water…that’s my place. My bees are a rather nice ball still, I’d say around the size of a large softball in the hive so between the climate and the numbers, moisture is going to be my nemesis.

John
Reply

Rusty, here in Indiana, we are one zone cooler than you. What are your thoughts about wintering in 3 mediums, rather than your deep+medium configuration? Does the air gap between boxes make a difference?

And is your queen excluder metal or plastic? (For winter use, I’d guess plastic.)

Rusty
Reply

John,

I think 3 mediums would be fine, and I don’t think the small air space makes much difference. I use wood-framed metal excluders.

WesternWilson
Reply

Paul Kelly has promised he’ll post a video in the UGuelph series on managing in singles. Devan Rawn has YouTube videos on singles, and worked with Paul. From what I understand, the broodnest can be expanded above the queen excluder by moving brood, so the single is really the site of the active broodnest. Devan, in Ontario, winters with just the single, but I would find it hard to give up the full honey super = insurance feed, so in winter would remove the queen excluder. Last year my strongest spring hives were the three dinks from the fall before I wintered in singles….next season 4 beekeepers in my club are running singles as a test project. We’ll contrast and compare results and blog that up! It just makes a lot of sense to confine HRH to the single, and manage around that, not least because we will only have to do inspections carefully on that single with the queen and new brood in it.

Rusty
Reply

Janet,

I am looking forward to reading whatever you come up with. The singles I overwintered last year did great this past season, each giving me two to three supers of comb honey plus a medium for wintering. In addition, I had very low mite counts. After just one season it’s impossible to know if it was coincidence or not, but it certainly is a fascinating experiment.

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