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Overwintering in the Northeast USA, Pennsylvania


#1

It’s July here in the northeastern US with temps around 90F, but I’m already thinking about winter prep and getting through my first winter as a new beekeeper. I live in Pennsylvania and was wondering if anyone that lives in this general area has some hive overwintering experience. I have four hives and my intent was to leave the bees with two deeps and a medium configuration to get through the winter. How does that sound? I purchased Vivaldi boards for the moisture control and feeding if necessary. Does anyone insulate their hives or heat them electrically? Just curious to hear what’s worked and what hasn’t.


#2

@Eva is in your state, and @Red_Hot_Chilipepper is not too far away, so hopefully they will have some ideas for you. My climate is a lot milder than yours, but in your situation I would consider insulation and moisture quilting, plus aggressively treat mites in late summer and fall.


#3

I’m in a colder climate, Nebraska, and the success of that configuration would depend on the race of bees and the size of the cluster. A frugal bee (Russians, Carniolans, etc.) would not need nearly that much and indeed might do fine in a single deep. For an extravagant bee (Italians and their variants) in a large cluster two deeps and a medium may be perfect. I run all eight frame mediums, so I have more options. I can have anywhere from two eight frame mediums to six eight frame mediums going into winter depending on the size of the cluster etc. In other words I have twice the control over the space, since two eight frame mediums = one ten frame deep.


#4

Thanks a lot for the info. The bees I have are Carniolans. Do you add any insulation to your hives for the winter?


#5

Do I? No. Should I? Probably I should add some to the cover and I used to but have not gotten around to it for the last ten years or so… I do not wrap and was not favorably impressed the one time I tried it.


#6

I should point out that my hives are all against each other. A cluster of 14 hives are all huddled together for winter…


#7

I use quilt boards. Sometimes I stack bales of hay on the north side of the hives for a wind break if they’re in an open field.


#8

Wrap the hives in 15# roofing felt and if they seem light on stores place fondant on some waxed paper directly on top of the frames. MAKE SURE the cluster of bees is in contact with the fondant. Plain table sugar works as well and will harden as it absorbs moisture. I know because I’ve done it with success.
I don’t know how close to New Jersey you are but Grant Stiles of Stiles Apiaries has bulk sugar and fondant for very cheap. Come to any of our state meetings and he brings a truckload.

Make sure to address moisture in the hives. I’ve used these moisture/ventilation devices to prop the roof up just a bit:


#9

Thanks again, great info. I have Vivaldi boards for moisture, ventilation and feeding if necessary. You mention putting the fondant in contact with the frames. The Vivaldi board has an opening like an inner cover where the fondant is placed. Do you think that is problematic?


#10

Yes:

You can use that board as a shim and flip it upside-down to make room for the fondant but don’t use it as shown or else the bees have to go through the center hole to get the food. You don’t want the bees to have to leave the brood chamber to get to the food.
Place the fondant directly on the top bars of the frames and make sure the cluster is in contact with it. Poke some holes through the waxed paper and the bees will do the rest.

In this video you can see my waxed paper location. Fondant was on top of it until the bees ate it.
https://photos.app.goo.gl/vxVgq88cZJerpCe52


#11

Currently living in Kansas City, MO; but born and raised in the Philadelphia area(s) I would recommend insulation. Moisture problems are much reduced with insulation. The bees thrive better and an insulated hive much more closely resembles a wild natural tree hive in thermal properties.

From everything I have read I would stay away from heating the hives.