Preparing bees for winter in East Devon.

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clare 

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I have two WBC hives with metal mesh varoa floors and metal trays. I have heard some people who over winter their bees with open floors, is this a good idea? Wood it be better to replace the metal tray with marine ply? My area tends to be pretty damp so I guess ventilation is important. I was planning on putting a piece of cellotex (not sure that is the right name but that foil coated insulation) on the crown board but I am worried this might make the condensation problem worse. I tried using a glass crown board and the condensation was terrible so I am quite apprehensive. Any advice on how to get the balance right between tucking them up snuggly and keeping the hive ventilated would be great. I am sure I read somewhere that people make up little bee hive duvets, or maybe that was just a mad dream! We have come along way me and my bees in the last few months, swarms, drone laying workers, combining really want to get them them through! Thanks, Clare

Sorry just another thought is all this much easier in a Polyhive???
 

oliver90owner 

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You will need top insulation for sure. It used to be called a quilt in the old days, we now use a coverboard. It is thin and will leak heat easily. With an OMF you will not need any top ventilation at all - well I don't leave any. I simply cover the crownboard with a thick sheet of expanded polystyrene.

Are you wintering on a brood or a brood + a super of stores. In the South West things may be warmer but the weather in Devon can be different in different parts, I am sure.

With a WBC I, personally, would be on a brood plus the super for a variety of reasons.

Regards, RAB
 

clare 

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With a WBC I, personally, would be on a brood plus the super for a variety of reasons.

Regards, RAB[/QUOTE]

Thanks for your help.

The choice of brood or brood and a super has been troubling me, local beek recommending just brood. What would influence your decision?

My patch of Devon is pretty sheltered, not too high or windy but definitely damp.

I have read all the post in thread suggested...no definitive answer then!! I suppose that is what makes the whole thing so facinating.
 

Rosti 

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My patch of Devon is pretty sheltered, not too high or windy but definitely damp.
Clare that probably helps you make the decision, there is a lot written about damp killing bees more than cold (subject to stores being available). An OMF with some 'wind buffering' either the sides of a stand or a super placed under it allows for moist air to be expelled without too much heat being stripped out, perfect for 'damp' Devon I would suggest. Not sure how that is achievable with the type of stand you use but you'd have to have free air flow below the hive.
 

Queens59 

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I'm not far from you, and on WBC too - I am going to overwinter on BB and super, polystyrene under the roof, and an old super underneath to protect from the worst winds - all wrapped up with a nice hive strap.
 

Monsieur Abeille 

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and an old super underneath to protect from the worst winds - all wrapped up with a nice hive strap.
Hi Queens - I'd discarded this thought as I couldnt see where it could easily go, so interested to hear how you are planning to do it. Are you going to put the super between the BB and the stand (which I assume would be awkward for the bees to navigate) or under the stand with another stand underneath to allow airflow (sounds a bit precarious!)
 

Queens59 

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My WBC has (at some point) had the legs removed and replaced in different places and I think a super 'should' fit underneath safely. If not I think it could go under the BB, but I hadn't thought strongly about it, as I am fairly certain mine will fit underneath...
 

oliver90owner 

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clare,

What would influence your decision?

It has just been a culmination of my experience over about ten years.

I started with WBCs and Nationals. Jumbos were hardly heard of, but 'brood and a half' was often used. I used 'a super-over for wintering' after my second winter, for sure.

After my initial start, when I stripped out as much honey as I could and replaced it with sugar (following the crowd in my first year), I found that I was left with some frames with 'dubious' honey in them. So I soon adopted the 'leave a super' and only top up if necessary approach - I also had some honey surplus that was a 'buffer' for a poor season. Those years were steadily getting warmer and the bees generally collected enough late in the season such that a few frames, kept back from harvest, could be slotted in where any short-fall occurred. I actually found myself finishing up with an extra super, or more, to be extracted very late in the season. In effect I had changed my philosophy from 'harvest as much honey as possible' to a more 'just take the surplus'.

While this was going on I had bought my first 14 x 12 and liked it, mostly. I also tried one (or two) hives with the new idea of an OMF. I also changed at that point and went to top bee space.

All this in about 4 years! Some of my friends in the LBKA were frowning at all these changes, and muttering that 'I would still finish up on the same kit as everyone else, when I stopped making so many changes'.

The final outcome was a dry hive (no damp or mould on outermost frames in spring) with enough stores in the one box. That is what I have used up to now. The Dartingtons fell into the collection purely as a 'try-out' of the system (as did the Beehaus).

Only 11 or 12 frames to check (except that I still allow her to lay in a super as well, as there is still often insufficient brooding space at peak spring build-up), no winter top ventilation at all, all supers were always 'proper honey' (I hoped), WBCs were definitely too small (IMO) for the modern bee (yes, I had swarming problems early on!) and so, too, were my standard Nationals. Home-made ekes were cheap and easy to convert from standard to Jumbo. Generally bigger colonies seem to allay fears of wasp attack - I still get them, but even late splits of a full 14 x 12 are generally fairly 'wasp resistant'. Just one full frame of hatching brood, moved to a weak colony, is one h*ll of an increase for the receiving colony. 14 x 12 nucs are more easily maintained (one full frame of stores is enough for some time). The brood nest can closely retain it's 'ideal' shape (spherical).

Downsides were: Weight, which at that time did not unduly bother me. Getting the large format frames drawn satisfactorily (not so much a problem when spare drawn frames are available). Leaving rather more honey from the crop (I am only a hobbyist, so that is not so important - and running an 'extra hive' was simple compensation for that one - and I don't count the number of honey jars filled by each colony each year!). Different format to the rest of the local BKA members - I couldn't help the locals out with a test frame, for instance. Possibly locating the queen, although that is now not really a problem - and I rarely search for her anyway.

So my recommendation for your colony is simply for it to be of similar dimensions to the system which works admirably for me.

I find the 14 x 12 is a good all-round size. For instance this year I recovered a swarm and housed it in a 14 x 12 nuc with undrawn foundation, left it over-night in a warm place (the hall in my house!), transferred it to a full 14 x12 brood, in a new location, with more undrawn foundation and the box was completely filled in, I think, 3 weeks. Totally filled with brood and stores. A complete up-and-running new colony in less than a month with minimal input from me, with her laying upstairs before the month-end as the new brood was only just beginning to emerge (for more laying space).

Others have other ideas and ideals. I have found the above worked for me and gives me less worries over the winter. I have done my bit and if they don't survive, it was beyond my control. There are other combinations for over-wintering, I know, but 'hefting' from Chistmas onwards, is not for me - I know they will have enough until brooding starts in earnest - until about late Feb.

Your experience will eventually guide you into your most liked method. I found 1) more stores were better than marginal store levels, 2) ventilation was paramount (and 'bottom only' was good, via the OMF, for me) - I did not master the regulation required for top ventilating in about 4 or 5 years, 3) good top insulation helps a bundle and 4) no space should left unfilled above the cluster.

If nothing else, the above will give you something to think about!

Regards, RAB
 

Queens59 

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Thanks RAB - I know your answer was aimed at Clare, but it was truly helpful for me too...thank-you.
 

Monsieur Abeille 

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Very informative and thorough as usual RAB, thanks. Interested to hear further about your decision to move to top bee space, but that will wait for another day and thread.
 

oliver90owner 

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Interested to hear further about your decision to move to top bee space

In a nutshell, posted previously but may be lost in the archives!

Langstroth, ease of manipulation, simpler coverboards. Only complication might be framed Q/Es but I don't use them so often, now. Oh, and Dartington fits in nicely, too

Regards, RAB
 

Monsieur Abeille 

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OK thanks, these are Langstroths, you've not modified your 14x12s? (sorry for any thread diversion)
 

clare 

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You are right it has given me plenty to think about! Thank you so much RAB for putting so much time and detail into your generous reply. The 'only taking the excess' is definitely the approach I feel most comfortable with. I will definitely go for leaving the OMF as is and add top insulation. Though I fear it may be too late now to go from intending to winter on just a brood to a brood and a super. Next year. It was really interesting to hear the changes you have made in your beekeeping methods. Thanks again Clare
 

oliver90owner 

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Monsieur Abeille,

Nah, I've only got a couple of Modern Beekeeping jumbo poly nucs, and they are converted for National jumbo frames.

'Langstroth' because they are top space and are the most popular hive type in the world. They could not have got everything wrong, could they?

Regards, RAB
 

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