Need some advice-wintering weak hive

As most of you know I live in Montana. We have long winters with the potential for many days below zero. Of my two hives one definitely does not have the resources to make it thru the winter. Back in late July this hive finally had one deep brood box full so I added the second brood box. Combined with having the hive swarm they never filled the second brood box.

Since I truly only have one brood box with frames of honey, pollen, and brood should I consolidate the colony back to one deep? I have read that some winter bees in nuc boxes?

Could I put several deep frame feeders in the hive with sugar?

Any advice that can help me do my best to keep these girls alive thru the winter?

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That sounds like an excellent idea.

They do, but if your bees can occupy an 8-frame deep, I would do that. A nucleus will loose more heat through the walls (greater surface area to volume ratio), so one deep would be better than two nucleus boxes.

Not quite sure what you have in mind here, but I would certainly feed them if they are short of stores.

There are several helpful concepts, and they will apply to all of your hives, but will be particularly critical for this weak hive:

  1. Rusty Burlew has some comprehensive advice here:
    How I overwintered ten out of ten - Honey Bee Suite
    Personally I wouldn’t open the screen of the bottom board, but she did it successfully for a few month, presumably to deal with any condensation. It seems that her husband (an energy conservation expert) persuaded her to close the screens back up during the winter. :wink:
  2. In addition to a quilted roof, I would consider putting insulation around the outside of the hive. You can either buy this from a beekeeping supplier, or you can make your own by cutting rigid home insulation to shape:
  3. Consider snow depth and how your bees will exit the hive for cleansing flights. You may want to put the hives under some kind of open sided shelter, if you have it available. If not, you will need to make sure that the hive entrances don’t get buried in snow.
  4. If you need to feed them all winter, switch from liquid food when the outside temperature is below 50F. Bees won’t take liquid when it is this cold. Consider using candy or dampened granulated sugar.

I am sure others will have great ideas and I look forward to reading them.

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As Dawn. I.e. I agree with Dawn
Don’t fill the void inside with frame feeders. The bees move along in winter from cell to cell and when the cell is empty that’s where they huddle down when not active. They won’t do that in a frame feeder. Candy is the way to go roll it thin, wrap it in heavy duty cling film, make a few slashes in it and lay it straight on the top bars. You may need a thin shim. Get yourself some of that ally faced insulation ( it’s called PIR) 50mm thick and put a layer on top of the crown board without any gaps. As Dawn says insulation all round is a good idea. A hive cosy of the same PIR as the top is easy to make. Wooden barbecue sticks to keep the thing rigid and some decent pva glue and lots of ally tape. You need to seal the inside joints to maximise the insulating potential. Again the tape is ok but I find silicone sealer from a gun easier to apply. I paint mine now as the sunshine strips the foil. Reduce your mesh bottom board by three quarters but don’t close it completely. Insulated like this there are no cold spots and no condensation.
Good luck

If they are short on stores, now is the time to feed them. In another month it will be too cold. Then you can put sugar on top:

@Michael_Bush I am feeding them a 2 to 1 sugar mixture now. Once the evening temps temps plummet I will switch to dry. There really wasn’t much being stored in cells so that has me concerned as well. They are bringing quite a bit of pollen in so that is good. There are still a lot of the wild and garden variety sunflowers in bloom right now so hopefully they are getting all they can out of those. Ultimately what I would like to know is what is the best way to feed the dry over the winter?

Last year I wintered a frame and a half of bees. It got down to 5-10 degrees F some nights. I placed hay bales around it, and kept a fondant patty on top. They didn’t eat much of the fondant because they stopped moving when it got really cold and I even thought they were dead. On a 50 degree sunny day I was getting ready to clean out the hive and I leaned their 2 frames against the hive in the direct sunlight; they started moving and before long, flying. So I learned they aren’t dead until they are warm and dead.
The key is to make sure they stay in contact with food so when they need it is there.

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Love it. That is something that my pathologist husband would really appreciate! :smile:

John, as Dawn mentioned … Good decision !

I just cruised thru my hives yesterday with my friend Danny who is my mentor. I appreciated his time as he is professor n head of a local beekeeping program n research.

I’ve worked with Danny off/on all this season n learned much from his expertise n experience. He basicly has followed my journey on F.B. n chats during our working together in a joint friends 7 beeyards. But this was his first actual onsite visit to my small apiary.

Of my five hives … One, Pine Hive, has lost its Queen but unsuccessful tried its requeening as we found plenty of honey, nectar n pollen resources plus multiple "supercedual cell (open) but no queen n limited work force still working. It numbers are too small to warranty combining. He adviced using to abundance of honey resources to shore-up/build-up two hives that are okay but could use the extra frames n store the rest in a freezer for a future need. I don’t look at this hive “Die-Out” as a loss. I have used the strong resources of this colony to requeen two hives this first season as well as steal a good honey supply for my current late season 5 frame Nuc.

Wow, I’m so pleased with my first season back into beekeeping after 55 years. It’s been a quick learning curve with all the new bugs, critters n procedures in a complicated new Bee World. Now just getting the other four healthy hives secure n ready for our long damp cool winter !! I’m going to order a couple Nuc’s for the coming Spring 2017. That way I can fire up My Pine Hive again next season… And if no further losses use the second Nuc for a Nuc Tower/Resource hive.

Wishing you success n good luck Bro.