Winter and Beyond

By | September 5, 2011

The beginning of September seems a mite (no pun intended) early to be writing about winter, but the Future Plans section has been largely ignored for the entire summer, and I guess they wouldn’t be future plans if I wasn’t writing early.

As I wrote in the spring, I seem to be the far south of the far north.  The winters here are cold enough to believe that insulating hives is worth the effort, especially for a hobbyist beekeeper who has the time and willingness to do so.

My expansion this year from two to six hives plus a nuc has me short on drawn comb.  My solution is to use dummy boards symmetrically in the outside positions of the lower bodies.  The hives at the house should be able to have six frames in the lower body, meaning a dummy board on each side, and full boxes for the second and third box.  The alfalfa hives are a bit shorter, requiring two boxes of six topped with a full eight frame third box.  This isn’t ideal, but I believe it’s the best way I can give them as much comb as I possibly can.

I then plan to use 1″ extruded polystyrene foam insulation on all 4 sides of each hive, wrapping that in tar paper and simply cinching it tight with nylon cord wrapped around the hive.  The hole in the screen bottom board will also get a piece of insulation inserted from below.

I hate the idea of having a notched inner cover allowing warm air to escape at the top of the hive, but when picking between losing heat or trapping moisture, the answer is lost heat every time. For additional moisture control, I have a half depth “attic” box in mind for each hive. I’ll use the same foam insulation inserted into the top and bottom of each attic box with some straw in between. The lower piece of insulation will have a hole cut out to match that of the inner cover. The hole coupled with the straw will hopefully catch and hold moisture that comes up through the hole. This attic will also serve a dual purpose in that I can use it to check on and feed the hive without cracking open the bodies in the spring should that become necessary.

Next Year
I’m barely comfortable having six hives, but at the same time really enjoy having that number plus a pair of nucs.  They keep me busy and completely engaged without being too overwhelming.  I’m now down one nuc, but hopefully next spring will see another begin.  I don’t plan for any expansion next year.  If I fit into the average, I’ll lose two to three of my hives this winter and use swarms or splits to replace those next year.  I’m already sad just typing that out, but I can only resign myself to the expectation.

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