I’m a newbie and this will be my first winter with our hive in Ontario, Canada.
I’m connected to our local bee keeping community which is a great resource but no one has a flow hive.
So I have a couple questions if anyone is able to help me for the original flow hive specifically.
1: moisture quilt: common in our area for winter. I will be building a spacer to house the moisture quilt above the inner cover that has the hole in it. Should the hole be covered? Or should I keep mesh over it for ventilation but so they can’t get through?
2. Should I drill a hole for ventilation where the flow logo is?
3. What is the best way to make the entrance smaller for the winter?
Sorry if any of these questions seem silly but I really want to set my hive up as best as I can for them to survive winter. Any advice appreciated.
Hey Simone, welcome to the forums here. I live near Windsor Ontario and I have 6 Flow Hives (+13 traditional langstroth hives) and there are a few people also in our beekeeping group that have Flow hives. Most of the beekeeping advice is universal to flow vs langstroth hive management-- the only difference really is about harvesting.
As in most beekeeping, you will likely get lots of different perspectives and recommendations as there aren’t ‘rules’ that are absolutely guaranteed, just folks that have strong opinions about what has worked for them. Below is my opinion:
- Ditch the moisture quilt-- you don’t want wet anything inside the hive come freezing temps-- you want as much sealed space as possible so there are no drafts or flow of air that can create a problem. The bees know how to manage moisture inside a space that is almost airtight (the do need the entrance obviously).
- I would not have an upper entrance of any kind or hole. My point here is that in nature bees don’t have multiple points of entry/exit over winter-- they narrow their traffic through a small hole only below the nest of the hive. Think about it this way-- you don’t want warm air that rises flowing out of an upper hole because that will create condensation that will freeze and then kill the bees (potentially). So I wouldn’t do it. I have done it and regretted it, and now keep all upper holes/entrances sealed year round.
- Flow’s angled landing board is a pretty thing but a pain in the butt for putting on a reducer. I take a strip of wood the size of a wooden entrance reducer that has notches and I lay it across the entrance leaving less than 1/2 inch at one end, and attach it with a screw at one end through the strip of wood, and then a small nail on the landing board to hold it against the front of the hole like a pin. This keeps it in place and makes it easy to swing it up and out of the way if you need to do that.
Hello and welcome to the Flow forum! None of your questions are silly - it would be silly not to ask if you aren’t sure. You already have some excellent ideas from @Tim_Purdie, but as he says, opinions differ a lot!
Unlike Tim, I think a moisture quilt is an excellent idea, unless you have a highly insulated hive (Polystyrene for example) or you keep your bees in a bee house like @Doug1 does in Alberta. Across the border from you, @Eva uses moisture quilts on her Flow hives, and I sure she will be able to give you some expert advice. Most people don’t use a crown board/inner cover with a moisture quilt, but I would be interested to hear what she does.
I wouldn’t do that personally, as it will allow warm air to escape, as Tim says
I highly recommend getting a mouse guard/entrance reducer. Again, perhaps @Eva can tell you what she uses. I have a home made one crafted from a block of oak wood. Otherwise you could consider something like this:
Please keep asking questions and we will do our best to help.
An empty shallow super with a pillow from the second hand store works OK in my climatic conditions…on weaker colonies. Strong colonies sometimes produce enough moisture to to make the pillow wet so not the best idea if that is that case, but a strong colony can handle moisture conditions within without much problem. Frames in weaker colonies can get moldy so the pillow helps prevent that.
Another idea that works well and is used in my area by commercial guys is simply to bore a 3/4" hole in the side of the brood box instead of a top entrance…bees seem to like it and are around it all winter long.
So lots of options for you Simmer
Thank you for all the info Tim.
Thank you so much Dawn. Appreciate all the extra info!
Thank you Doug for your info!
Hi Simone, welcome! I see you have some solid responses already. I think moisture quilts are a good strategy - rather than add moisture, when made properly they will wick it away from the cluster. For this to work well, the bottom of a shallow super is fitted with a tight screening material and filled with wood shavings. A few, small ventilation holes are drilled in the sides of this box. Warm air rising from the cluster to the cooler uninhabited space near the roof will condense, and the wood chips absorb it. This moisture stays captive in this bedding and evaporates out safely, rather than rain back down on the bees. When I’ve used them, I put the crown board/inner cover on top of it, followed by the outer cover. Until this year, I’ve replaced the peaked Flow roof with a standard/flat one each fall.
As Dawn noted, a moisture quilt isn’t needed if you insulate the sides and top of your hive (or have it inside a bee house like Doug does). Our revered former poster Dee in Wales, UK would patiently point this out whenever moisture quilts were being discussed, and I find it a simpler way to provide more thorough protection.
This week we have a return of 70F daytime temps/50s at night. I’ve been feeding all four of my colonies to help them fill some patchy areas in their top boxes. The feeding shims or ekes are perfect to bump up some space under the Flow roof to accommodate an enclosed wad of stuffing like the pillow Doug showed, or pieces of rigid foam insulation board - same as what I tape up around the outsides - under the standard lids. That’s what I’ll be doing next week.
All four of my colonies have a top entrance, made from the notch in the crown boards that are placed under the feeding shims. Two of them have propolized these -almost- closed. Remains to be seen if they will fully close them before winter, or if they simply want a smaller hole. I see Jim’s point about natural hives not necessarily having more than one entrance/exit, but I also wonder about the difference between a tree hollow and a thin-sided pine box, often with a barely covered screened bottom, when it comes to consistent warmth inside. I’m assuming it could be a lot colder at the bottom - as well as covered with dead bees - and thus perhaps happily avoided when there’s a dry & protected exit elsewhere.
With the advent of sponge-delivered oxalic acid for mite control, I’ve ditched screened bottom boards in favor of solids.
My setup also lets me easily take a peek and begin feeding in late winter/early spring.
Good luck with your preparations and here’s to your success!