We have been getting lots of queries on winter wrapping your hive lately so I guess its time to repost about wrapping your hives for the winter. There are lots of opinions on how to do best wrap the hive and what to use for wrapping material, it kind of mirrors the statement “Ask 10 beekeepers the same question and get 12 answers!”, and so what follows below is NOT the only or mandatory way to guarantee
success. Rather it is what we use at ABBIGAIL HONEY and what has worked for us in the past.
So here goes:
It's all about proper ventilation and moisture control. Surprisingly enough it's not about increasing the internal temperature of the hive, and in fact if that is what you are trying to do, well you are setting yourself up for issues as the bees are quite good at thermoregulation of their hive.
That out of the way let's start from the bottom of the stack and move up.
If your hive is on a stand, we recommend you figure out how to stop drafts from below the stand. We use black landscape fabric wrapped around the stand; it acts as a wind break and cuts down on drafts.
Next we reduce the main entrance to approx. 2 to 3 inches with a wooden entrance reducer (the first critical step to adequate ventilation in our opinion). Now on the face of the brood chamber we attach 3 wine corks spaced equally from top to bottom to act as an air channel under the outer wrap (ventilation ventilation).
We use commercial bee cozy wraps to cover the brood chamber, ensuring both the lower and upper entrances stay clear.
Moving to the covers....
We start with a regular inner cover that has a 1 to 2-inch ventilation notch cut into the side facing the front of the hive and resting on the upper brood box. Next comes a 1 inch feeder shim that goes on top of the inner cover and creates emergency feeding space if required. Now the feeder shim is covered with 1/2 inch blue insulation board to prevent rising moisture from hitting the cold outer cover. Otherwise the warm humid air from the bees will hit the cold outer cover through the inner cover hole and condense. Then this condensation drips back onto the cluster and causes hypothermia and certain death – something we are trying to avoid.
The final layer is the standard telescoping outer cover that is weighted down. Again this year, as in years past, this method has given us an average yearly mortality rate of less than 15%.
A variation this year for 20 test hives will be to replace the bee cozy with plastic 1/2-inch bubble wrap covered with black industrial shrink wrap.
Finally consider crabby patties as a winter food supplement. Crabby patty recipe to follow soon.
The best advice? Do some research now, ask local keeps what they do to winterize and then decide your course of action. Remember, you can only do your best, the rest is up to nature 😊
Master Beekeeper and Owner