BBKA Forum

British Beekeepers Association Official Forum 

  • Top Tips for Over Wintering Bees

  • General Q&A, Bee chat and only Bee chat please
General Q&A, Bee chat and only Bee chat please
 #4829  by JohnB
 15 Sep 2019, 17:32
As a newbee going in to my first winter I wondered what top tips people had to offer. A few questions to go with it:

a) should you cover the feeder holes in the crown board?
b) if you have a open mesh flood do you leave the varroa tray in place or take it out?
c) when typically would you stop doing detailed inspections of your bees and leave them undisturbed?

Thank for any help or comments
 #4830  by NigelP
 15 Sep 2019, 18:26
Feeder hole, cover and add layer of insulation/ Polystyrene/kingspan or similar. Helps keep the cluster heat from dissipating too fast and hence they use less energy to maintain temp.
Unless you have a reason to inspect....i.e new queen laying/accepted etc? Not really worth it.
In or out ...up to you. If very bitter weather leave in but if mild, out. Makes little odds

More important have you treated them for varroa? Did it work?
Have they got enough stores? Have you fed?
 #4831  by Chrisbarlow
 15 Sep 2019, 19:20
A - cover feed hole, cuts down drafts
B - keep insert in over winter, cuts down drafts
C - once your happy it's queen rite and enough feed for overwintering. So anytime now.

Have a look at this thread here for many more tips
 #4836  by MickBBKA
 16 Sep 2019, 01:21
Treat for Varroa, cover feed holes and any overhead ventilation, insulation above crownboard. Insert in or out makes no difference in my observations.

Cheers, Mick.
 #4840  by AdamD
 16 Sep 2019, 11:57
John, they are very valid questions and not often covered in books.

a) should you cover the feeder holes in the crown board? There used to be the idea that bees would be better with a cold and well-ventilated hive. However bees do better in an insulated one. So I would not be bothered if my porter bee escapes were in place however I insulate above the crown-board so there is no top ventilation at all.

b) if you have a open mesh flood do you leave the varroa tray in place or take it out? It doesn't seem to make any noticeable difference. If, like me, you have double brood boxes or put a super under the brood box around the end of September, then wind disturbance on the bees themselves will be less.

c) when typically would you stop doing detailed inspections of your bees and leave them undisturbed? I may or may not do a cursory check on some colonies from now. If they have stores, have been treated for varroa and the queen is showing no sign of being superceded, they should be fine and won't need inspecting.
 #4870  by mikemadf
 23 Sep 2019, 10:10
A lot depends where you live and local winter conditions..
Balmy South, Gulf Stream, low lying warm sheltered? varroa board in not really needed.

At altitude, forst pocket, raised hive stands and windy area, wind funnel effect from house/trees- varroa baord in. (I did experiments - at 150m above sea level + frost pocket + raised stands plus wind funnel effect ... two identical hives, boards in or out- Board in overwintered better and grew faster in spring). I am now either solid floors, deep drop from mesh to floor bottom and boards in... oh and super underneath to reduce wind effect..

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to generalise on this subject.. local conditions rule..

(I know people who keep bees at 500meters in Staffordshire Moorlands.. The bees tend not to survive without extensive insulation and boards in)..
 #4878  by AdamD
 24 Sep 2019, 11:14
thewoodgatherer wrote:
18 Sep 2019, 21:28
Don't forget the matchsticks :lol: :lol: :lol:
My local association monthly newsletter is still recommending them under the corners of the crown board :roll:
My analogy is to ask yourself would you be more comfortable (warmer) in a well-insulated house in the middle of winter (polyhive) or would you prefer to live in the garden shed with a skylight open? (National hive with matchsticks). It's fair to say that I would need more food to keep warm in the shed. That's probably a fairly easy question to answer - food consumption is less in a well-insulated hive.
The second question of "would I, as a honeybee, be more healthy?" is not so easy to answer. Certainly bees need some ventilation and this is achieved by having an entrance below the colony or mesh floors below the colony. Heat rises so the bees keep warm but there is an air exchange from below. In the number of years that it has been discussed on forums (at length ! :lol: I have not heard of any health concerns in colonies that have a 'warm roof' or are well-insulated and nor have I seen any health issues myself. However as mikemadf comments - local conditions rule.
 #4888  by NigelP
 26 Sep 2019, 22:24
Was very disappointed (to say the least) at the new BBKA mag. There it is on page 331 on an article on preparation for winter..."I use 4 help, create a chimney effect for efficient air circulation.

I can think of no advice that is so stupid and stressful to overwintering bees. Actually I'm furious that cretins like Gareth Morgan still believe and publish this total crap and that newcomers will pick it up, read it, and follow this really really bad advice. In a bad winter they will lose hives because of the bad advice given in the official BBKA magazine......shall we say words escape me and if I ever meet him I shall be so in his face about this crap he has written he won't know what has hit him....
Rant over.

BBKA has totally lost the plot if they allow this rubbish to be published......