Overwintering for first time

I have a couple of basic questions… Should I be trying to build up my hive population enough with feeding, with the goal of having a big enough population to put the honey super on my flow hive? Two of my three brood boxes are getting close to having all 10 frames built out/filled out.

Or should a honey super even be left on for winter?

Also, I just started feeding my 3 hives with 50/50 sugar water last week. How long should I keep feeding them? Each hive goes through a pint-sized mason jar each day without much effort. There is still some nectar flowing with the wild Jewel Weed and upcoming Goldenrod.

I live in the mountains of North Carolina where we get a hard frost in early October, and do get measurable snow fall with winter temps as low as minus 10 F.

I do plan to close off and wrap the hives sometime in late October. This is about the only advice I could get from a local beekeeper.

Many Thanks for any help!

Joe

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What is your setup and how many hives are you referring to with those brood boxes?

I would not plan to put the super on, especially not this time of the year, especially if the frames of the brood box(es) aren’t fully drawn, and especially if you’re feeding…

You’re not trying to build up the population so much as boost their stores and make sure they are healthy (varroa) so they can raise fat winter bees.

Not a flow super. A traditional super with the queen excluder removed could be left on if it is full.

I think your climate is pretty close to ours in central Ohio but the forage sources would be different. I have been overwintering in single deeps with wraps, making sure they are well stocked for winter and they have made it through with plenty of stores to spare, down to about the 30lbs level before they start bringing in nectar in the spring.

One of my three hives has had a flow honey super on since May. I’ve drawn capped honey from it twice, the last time being around July 4th. Is there a risk of the plastic in the honey super cracking from freezing temps in winter? And if you recommend that it should be removed prior to winter, then what should I do with all the bees and uncapped honey that they’ve been rebuilding? The brood box has been completely drawn out and full since early May.

Also, since I started feeding sugar water a week ago, do I keep doing that until I close up the hive for late fall, or is feeding a temporary task?

Thanks again,

Not just spontaneously but I wouldn’t try opening or closing the frames when they are cold - the wax and propolis also gets very hard and I would bet that the plastic would fail. However, freezing them prior to storage is a good idea to kill off any eggs or pests that might be lingering.

I am definitely recommending that you remove the flow super for winter, or even now. Harvest whatever honey they have stored and give them a day or so to clean them up and then remove the box and wrap it or place it in a container that is vermin-proof. You can check the moisture content of the honey that you get and if it is >18% you can freeze it or use it right away so that it doesn’t spoil (ferment) but there’s a good chance it will be dry enough to keep indefinitely.

As far as getting the bees out, if you just lean the box up against the hive overnight the bees that are inside will crawl up into the brood box on their own. Otherwise, you can pull the frames out and shake them off into or in front of the hive.

You shouldn’t be feeding the hive with a super on, maybe you’re not but I can’t tell from your description. You can feed them syrup in the fall to get them “up to weight” and then stop - they won’t take the syrup once the temps get below about 50°F anyway.

Whether you need more food for them is a question you’ll have to figure out but if you’re going to do emergency feeding in the late winter/early spring it will need to be dry sugar.

Hey Joe, everything @chau06 said, and be aware that the ‘honey’ you harvest now might be made of sugar water :wink:

Another way to have the bees clean up the super after you harvest is to put it above an inner cover on the hive. Then it’s basically like a feeder that the bees will bring all the residue down from. You can leave it there for a day or so then take it off and lean it as @chau06 described, or shake off & then put away.

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Thanks everyone for that advice. I had no idea… my learning curve continues! It sounds like after the last harvest from a flow honey super, that’s also the time to remove it for the season.

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This is probably a dumb question, but after I harvest the remaining honey from the flow frames, should I pull the plastic frames out before I prop the honey super up near the entrance, or leave them in?

Thanks again!

I’d leave them in, even if for no other reason than to limit their exposure to the sun.

Thanks for your advice. I’ll be working on this Sunday.

Maybe it’s time for Flow to put a note in the packaging about removing the super in certain climates. Like flower & veg companies do with planting times. What do you think @Bianca and @Freebee2?

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Adding onto this topic, we removed our flow frames today as there was no honey in them. My question is, we left the empty flow super on top of our two brood boxes for future fall feeding. Is this ok to do until the weather is colder and the bees won’t eat sugar syrup? There is plenty of pollen coming into the hive yet, so we haven’t started feeding yet. We plan to do OA treatments starting next weekend.
Thanks for any adivce!
Trish

Do you have the inner cover under the flow super?

The bees won’t take sugar syrup when it gets colder but they will now if there isn’t much nectar coming in. So it might be time to start. Wouldn’t recommend feeding pollen supplement this time of year.

You may find that formic acid is better this time of year if there is still a fair amount of capped brood or plan to do multiple OA treatments.

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yes, we have an inner cover on with a round hole which is open.

We plan to do three OA treatments 7 days apart.

As long as there is still pollen coming into the hive, wait to start feeding syrup?

I’m not sure what the season are like in SD but if you’re done with the supers and you’re trying to prep them for winter you might as well get them up to weight with syrup. If they aren’t interested (because they’re still foraging) then maybe give it a week or two and try again.

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Hi Eva,

Thanks for tagging us.

This is a tricky one! We are so keen to offer support and direction to new beekeepers, but there are so many aspects of beekeeping that depend on context, climate, local conditions, nectar flow and variety, and personal preference.

Because of this we generally recommend that newbees speak to other local beekeepers for the best advice in their particular circumstances, though we are also happy to share our own methods and opinions on a case by case basis where we have relevant experience.

@Bianca did you want to add your thoughts on this?

Thanks again for the suggestion Eva :slight_smile:

With regard to overwintering a flow frame, this is hard when there are relatively few flow hives in use compared to traditional langstroth hives.

True Alok, plus there is still skepticism and outright negativity among established beekeepers about Flow hives. Just looking at the number of times this question is asked on the forum AND the way it’s answered by experienced users, I think the data is clear enough.

@Freebee2 I appreciate Flow’s desire to not steer anyone wrong, but I bet if you checked the data the advice to remove Fsupers would correspond pretty neatly to certain hardiness zones:

image

Alok and Eva here is the information we offer in relation to overwintering How do I winterise my Flow Hive? Can I use Flow in cold or freezing conditions?

I’m hearing your desire for more info on this to be included with our hives. Unfortunately it could be quite confusing to include this for all customers, as many would not understand whether it applied to them or not. As it is, we get a very high volume of queries from people asking if they should be overwintering when their climate really doesn’t require it.

One of the first things we will look at for any beekeeping question is where the customer is. Supplying into over 130 countries, when even two hours from us the advice might be different, means that giving advice that is ill suited to local conditions is something we do need to be quite careful about.

Of course, I’ll be sure to pass on your feedback on this despite these concerns. Something it may be useful for us to review in the instruction manual is whether it is sufficiently clear that we have this sort of information available on our website for those who need it.

This advice is on that page, which everyone has decided is bad information:

  1. If your Flow Super is full of honey, remove the queen excluder, and put the Flow Super back on.

I can understand not wanting to send info with the equipment but you should also consider making the information on the website a better reflection of the advice from northern beekeepers.

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