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Warm Hive - Derek & Elaine Mitchell


Went to talk by these beeks today at Stoneleigh - very enlightening - the hive needs to be insulated against hot as well as cold


God old Derek, well done that man.
Elaine keeps bees, Derek is the scientist and her assistant :wink:
I did see an argument for keeping your hives cold in the winter…I think on one of the Honey show youtube videos…Irish chap. Gives the brood break you need to help keep varroa under control.
I’m more in the insulate camp.Makes it easier for bees to maintain homeostasis.


All of what Derek says makes good sense - My hubby is an engineer as well and I may pick his brain on one or 2 points.

I put the poly feeders over my bees for insulation in winter - no food in them - just to keep more warmth in - looks like I did the correct thing. also my slatted rack will add a bit of buffering to ventilation with out cooling


Poly hives bleed warmth from the handle areas - I often wondered about that but he confirmed it.

“One UK bee farmer has 1,000 wood and 1,000 polystyrene hives. He gets more honey from his poly hives and is changing to them as fast as possible.”


Hi Dee, I’m also in the insulate camp. It makes good sense to insulate the hives during winter in cold climates. I don’t feel the need to insulate my honeybees during our mild winters but I insulate my native bees, one species in particular that are more cold sensitive.


No need to insulate from the heat in our summers :slightly_smiling: though Derek says you should keep the PIR covers on all the time.


@Dee So that is where your advice to cover came from?

I tried to get some scrap insulation from my builder but may get him to get some with a discount for next year.

Reducing the entrance, bottom board on my screen, slatted rack, bubble wrap and the poly on top insulating was all good but I know they have clustered as I have been checking the wax capping’s and following them on the BB.

Derek does say if the Humidity is high/good and the temperature is above 31°C (brood favours this) and below 35°C (eggs favour this) then it is not favourable for the varroa to breed. Yes the brood break does help.


Yes, indeed.
I have see through cover boards on most of my colonies. None of mine have clustered tightly.


I was worried about my wooden hive - had a peek today - all is well. Actually I have too much food in the Poly but Emerald’s girls would not let me into look. Sapphire has brood on the go.

Put on QE (Queen Excluder) and supers will try to get them to move the nectar up so there is room to lay. It will be syrup store so will keep them back as feeding supers for winter and Nadire it in.

My snow drops are out - they seem to have multiplied into the grass as well

Fanning Nasinov you can see they have dropped their butts down ie the yellow is showing on the end of the abdomen

Spring brood started - Sapphire doesn’t mind me so much as Emerald does



It is way too early to do that. They will not move anything and you will be creating far too much space to heat above their heads. Remember, brood rearing doesn’t start in earnest for a month or so but when it does the bees will make room themselves and the queen will lay in the cells they empty which they will at an alarming rate. I wouldn’t even be looking inside now. We have at least another month of winter left, maybe more and I would expect the bees still need half the stores they went into winter with.
Please Valli, put everything back.


Both hive are full of bees - way more than I expected.

Emerald was way too quiet and thought they were running low on stores - her girls were out beginning of Jan but when I tapped the box last week there was little if any buzz, where as Sapphire in the Polly was noisy.

We had a sunny spell about 1pm and it was mild so the fondant was going to go on. Some of Sapphires frames were 1/3 full of capped, so she had plenty of stores.


Spoke to Celia Davis tonight - it was our AGM and Celia did a talk afterwards about Bee Mathematics - very interesting about the way varroa double in 3 - 4 Months depending on the original starting number of mites in the hive (mites per 100 bees).

Celia brought up the topic of too much stored Nectar/sugar Honey this time of year as it leaves the Queens little room to manoeuvre in terms of hive Spring build up and full production for an April Honey Harvest.

In order to have full brood by 11th April the hive needs to be getting to swing now - it takes 9 weeks to go from egg, larvae, pupa, emerged, nurse, to forager and die. Bees who forage later in their lives, live longer and bees that forage early in life die sooner. And apparently older bees make better foragers.

I mentioned putting my supers on already; Celia is of the opinion it is not too early to put the supers on if there is no room to lay at this time of year due to being full of syrup nectar.

So it seems my instinct was correct - put the supers on now and let the bees take it up into the supers - the supers I have used are going to be kept over the summer in a freezer and given back to the girls in Autumn so there is no chance of having Sugar Honey being taken off.


Sorry I think she is wrong.

The average beehive peaks population in June.
What happens in April is that you reach a point where the number of bees emerging finally exceed those dying so the colony starts to grow.
I personally think it’s madness to be putting a super on in winter.
Your bees though.