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Insulating the Flow Hive

I live in Denver Colorado, and I was wondering if I should build some sort of insulatory barrier around the flow hive for winter? Or do you think it will be fine just the way it is?

I was also wondering if it is necessary to remove the honey super /flow frame over the winter? Will that affect their ability to keep warm? They haven’t completely filled out the flow frames, so I was just going to leave them on through winter instead of harvest

Advice appreciated

My thinking is to insulate the hive as much as possible, including the floor. Also make sure that cold wind can’t blow directly into the hive, not to mention snow blockng it.

Ask yourself if you would like to spend the winter inside a box with walls of wood only 20mm thick, with a tin floor, or one sheet of coreflute between you & the elements below.

It’s my understanding that folks are removing flow supers during harsh winters.


I just looked at your average temps for December and I would really think seriously about insulating the hive and I would also take the Flow Super off so that the bees have a smaller area to keep warm. The bees will go thru Winter a lot easier.


It would be a very good idea. You could do something very simple with rigid foam board roof insulation (e.g. Home Depot) and duct tape. You would also do well to build or purchase a moisture quilt.

Definitely take it off now. If you don’t, they will liberally apply propolis to it, gluing it up so well that you find it impossible to harvest next year. You could harvest it now (off the hive if it isn’t capped) and feed the honey back to the bees.

Hopefully you have double brood boxes, but if not, you are going to need to plan to feed all winter, as they won’t have enough supplies in a single brood box.

Please ask more questions if any of this is not clear. :blush:

Styrofoam cut to fit the cover and held down with a brick works fine in my experience. This will reduce condensation on the cover which would drip down on the bees. You might get by with wrapping in Denver as you are much drier than here. But you are also not as cold as here most of the time. We get -27 F sometimes and -10 F almost every winter. Wrapping here seems to hold in the moisture and the condensation causes more problems than the insulation helps.


I wonder if a migratory lid with a bee mat like we use down under would help as far as condensation dripping onto the bees is concerned. The mat would certainly prevent water dripping onto the bees.

I find that the stronger a colony is, the less condensation I get. The added strength of population must mean that more bees can devote themselves to getting rid of condensation naturally.

I’m interested in where all this condensation is coming from in harsh winter climates. A 15sq.cm. entrance could be reduced to say 75sq.cms. With a well insulated hive, all the bees have to do is only consume the amount of honey needed to maintain the temp they like, assuming brood raising has ceased. Then they regulate the humidity to their liking, via the entrance.

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Every molecule of sugar when metabolized by the bees makes six H2O and six CO2 molocules.

C6H12O6 + 6O2 --> 6CO2 + 6H2O

That is a lot of water over the course of the winter.

Ok then, if a hive is well insulated all around, that means the bes will need to consume less honey in order to maintain the optimum temp. Let’s give the bees credit for being able to expel the moist air out of the hive.

In summary: less honey consumed = less condensation.

PS. Beekeeping doesn’t have to be complicated. The more common sense people use in relation to beekeeping, the better off they are in my view.

People don’t give bees enough credit when it comes to air conditioning their hives.

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When it is -27 F (-33 C) the bees are NOT able to expel moist air out of the hive. They are torpid and barely moving and not capable of ventilation.

With respect Michael, wouldn’t that be all the more reason to better insulate a hive? You would also be torpid and barely moving if stuck in a box that’s poorly insulated in those low temps.

Maybe folks who place their hives in bee houses can see the value (I know I would) in well insulating a hive.

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I thought that and tried insulting. The end result was that the hives were soaking wet all winter. It’s definitely worth insulting the top. Perhaps if you solve the moisture problems it would be a good idea.

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I’m interested in how feral colonies survive winters in the Northern states of the U.S. It’d be interesting to see the results of studies Fred was talking about on feral colonies in the state he (@FrederickDunn) lives in.

I was going to ask about that too Jeff, but just thinking of the Winter temperatures there got me shivering and trouble in hitting the right key typing… :grinning::grinning::grinning:
Cheers mate

Elisha Gallup was the editor of the American Bee Journal for some time. Here is a quote from him on what he finds in both manmade hives and trees as far as entrances go and health:

"I had a neighbor who used the common box hive; he had a two inch hole in the top which he left open all winter; the hives setting on top of hemlock stumps without any protection, summer or winter, except something to keep the rain out and snow from beating into the top of the hive. he plastered up tight all around the bottom of the hive for winter. his bees wintered well, and would every season swarm from two to three weeks earlier than mine; scarcely any of them would come out on the snow until the weather was warm enough for them to get back into the hive.

"Since then I have observed that whenever I have found a swarm in the woods where the hollow was below the entrance, the comb was always bright and clean, and the bees were always in the best condition; no dead bees in the bottom of the log; and on the contrary when I have found a tree where the entrance was below the hollow, there was always more or less mouldy comb, dead bees.

“Again if you see a box hive with a crack in it from top to bottom large enough to put your fingers in, the bees are all right in nine cases out of ten. The conclusion I have come to is this, that with upward ventilation without any current of air from the bottom of the hive, your bees will winter well without any cobs.”–Elishia Gallup, The American Bee Journal 1867, Volume 3, Number 8 pg 153

I find most of the feral colonies surviving here are in the walls of houses. All of the houses from the settlement of Nebraska (back in the 1850s) until probably the 1960s or 70s were usually frame houses with no insulation. Bees often move into the walls. Most of these houses still have no insulation. But they do have 1" boards on the outside, building paper, and lath and plaster on the inside. Bees do very well with the heat source of the house. When I find them in trees, they are often very large trees 2’ or more in diameter. Not always, of course, but often. I’m sure they are pretty well insulated by the wood. First you have the live wood with sap then inside that the punky wood which is probably better insulation. It also probably absorbs a lot of moisture.

Thanks for posting that Michael. After reading that, I’d be providing the bees with a small top entrance, then blocking the bottom entrance, to see how it compares with a colony the other way around. I’d be trying everything possible in hoping to get a better outcome next season.