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Wintering in cold climates Question- Alberta Canada

I have spoken to my local beekeepers, however I find that like on here, everyone I speak to has a slightly different opinion (or completely opposite opinion!!)

Here is what I’m planning on doing and I’d like those of you that have kept bees in cold weather (as in, it gets colder than -20 C where you are at times) to let me know what you think. I’ve asked the same of my local beekeeping facebook group so I can have input from all sides. The more knowledge I have, the better decision I can hopefully make right!?

We have had lots in bloom the last few weeks, and I’ve noticed the bees out on quite a few of the flowers still. We didn’t get any honey in our flow hive this year, and are leaving all honey in the brood boxes for the bees. We went foundationless and we had to cut out a lot of wonky comb in mid August but have decided at this point we should leave it or they won’t have enough for the winter. We also have an entire frame space filled with free form comb, very cool looking but at this point I assume I should correct that next spring, because it is filled with honey and pollen.

I’m planning on putting the 1:1 sugar feeder into the empty super and putting it on top of the two brood boxes. This will only last for a few weeks because then we will drop below freezing. At that point I will remove it. Here I’ve been told we use either raw sugar or fondant to feed in the winter. I’ll then be putting fondant on the top board for them to have with a pollen patty. This way when I check that they have enough I only have to crack the hive slightly.

After reading about the dangers of condensation in the cold weather, I’m considering drilling a hole in the top of the flow hive roof for them to have more ventilation and a top entrance. Not big enough for mice, but large enough to ventilate. I was then going to loosely wrap silver insulated bubble wrap around the hive, and ensure that we keep the entrances clear for the winter. The hive is already situated in a wind protected area. I’ll anchor it though to ensure it doesn’t tip over during our crazy winter storms!

I’ll check on warmer days to ensure the fondant and pollen are still there, and top up as needed. Then I’ll cross my fingers and hope that all is well when we open them back up in the Spring! Maybe listen a few times with my stethoscope to see what I can hear.
From talking to local beekeepers up here, it sounds as though its fairly hit and miss with getting them through. Currently we have no snow on the ground, but the temperatures overnight are starting to dip. Bees are still out and about during the day though in about +10-15 C.
So I’d love to hear comments, criticisms etc. I have done my research, I have talked to locals. But quite honestly I still don’t feel 100%. Or maybe that’s how we all feel with wintering!?

Rather than create a draft with a hole in the roof, why not make a simple quilt box which will both insulate and absorb water? Rusty Burlew has a great description of how to do that on her web site:

I’ve posted a link in your other thread
Don’t put pollen on too soon or they will start brooding run out of food and you will loose the brood unless you are prepared to keep feeding protein till the bees can gather their own. They need carbohydrate till spring.
Good luck
By the way. A well insulated hive ( and I mean that decent thick house insulation rather than a simple wind proof wrap) will not suffer from condensation. Have a look at how Mike Palmer winters his bees in Vermont

Ok, off to check out those links, read about moisture quilts and Mike Palmer! I did read that fondant will actually absorb some of the moisture, which could be why it is used in these parts! (or because other things freeze solid!!)

Well, that may be true, but bee biologists seem to think that bees will not take dilute liquid feed when the air temperature is below 50F or 10 Celsius. That is why in cold climates, it is recommended to feed fondant or solid sugar if feeding is needed. We have to remember that 2:1 syrup is still more dilute (from the sugar perspective) than honey, so although bees can overwinter on cold honey, they won’t use more dilute food sources.

Makes sense. The quilt idea sounds very interesting!! Also sounds like it would be easy to build with the supplies I have on hand.

Although the quilt idea might then put a damper on my upper entrance, which seems to be a unanimous thing here. So much to consider!!!

Well, you could put in a shallow shim and make an entrance in that below the quilt box. :wink: Might still be drafty, but if your locals like it, you should consider it too.

Just ordered a shallow shim!!! hahaha

Hi there - I was planning on making a moisture quilt for my hive too until I learned that Brushy Mountain Beekeeping Supply has a simple kit that includes the wood shavings. Not sure if that is as feasible for you with shipping cost to CA but wanted to pass on the tip.

@Eva What is the quilt kit called? I have searched the site and cannot find it?

Maybe she means beethinking.com :blush:

@Dawn_SD Thanks! You are probably right.

Yup, sorry about that - it was a beethinking product!

Thanks!! I’ll check it out

What about this for warmth and I still need to be feeding my bees. I really needed two brood box height for overwintering, but they only filled out one this summer.


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And then: to wrap or not to wrap.

  1. Meaning foam pieces covered with roofing paper held on with bungee cord; is one way.
  2. And if wrapping, wrap only back and 2 sides, leaving front sunny side as is.
  3. We do have an aspen grove and bushes behind (all loosing leaves),and spruce beyond that would be somewhat of a wind block.
  4. AND … my climate: I’m at 8,000ft with lots of sun. Sun melts most snow. Can have days from below zero (not a lot) and up to 40s, maybe 50s (the nice before the next storm. We just had snow overnight but the next 10 days show upper 60s.

I’ve got an inverted sugar syrup plastic bucket in there right now. Come colder freezing weather I was thinking of just putting sugar sprayed with water. Could make sugar patties and even pollen patties. What’s best for winter?

I am going with this http://www.brushymountainbeefarm.com/8-Frm-Wintering-Inner-Cover/productinfo/W254IC/ and making the suggested Honey Candy this mold will hold and then the insulated board.

And too, I’ll probably just wrap the hive with roofing paper and no added insulation board underneath.

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I like that model! If you want you can check out honeybeesuite.com for some good instructions on making that very thing, also check out @Michael_Bush’s site about using a paper plate with slightly moistened sugar in the winter.

Winters here are erratic. It can get to 0C sometimes, & is often damp. I figure I’ll bungey sheets of foam insulation & use a moisture quilt. One that gives you the option of adding a fondant or dry sugar feed or pollen patty near spring seems like a good idea.

Well… not a paper plate:

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