Overwintering: Which way do you wrap or insulate your hives?

October 22, 2019

Overwintering: Which way do you wrap or insulate your hives?

Wrapping up for winter

How do you protect your bee colonies from the cold winds, snow and rain? Every beekeeper has their own method for overwintering their hives. If you ask, you will get different opinions on which way is best every time. The fact is, most methods do work, but you have to find the one that works best for you.

No matter which way you choose to wrap, the most important parts are to have a healthy hive and ensure proper ventilation to keep the hive dry inside. Bees can keep their colony warm, but they cannot survive damp, wet conditions inside the hive. 

Fall Prep List and Must Have Supplies:

  1. Mouse Guard: Always remember to place your mouse guard on. It helps keep critters out for the winter months especially mice and skunks.
  2. Fall Feeding: Although the feeding window is over, in the fall we recommend feeding your bees 2 parts sugar and 1 part water (2:1). Temperatures need to be above 15 °C for feeding. We recommend a pail feeder for most hives, but people also like the pro feeder. Feeders

Do you have a healthy thriving hive or do you need to consider combining hives?

The 2019 beekeeping season was a tough one for many beekeepers. Some hives didn’t make it through Alberta’s 2018/2019 cold winter, while others experienced a rough summer with the cold, wet weather.

Every fall, you need to make sure your hives are healthy and strong enough to overwinter. Sometimes you have to make tough decisions. You may have lost a queen (and yes, it’s too late to requeen) OR you may have a weak hive. In these instances, you will need to combine hives in order to overwinter successfully. It’s a hard decision to make, but it’s better to have one hive that’s thriving than having no bees at all come spring! If you have questions, please contact us info@hiveworld.ca. 

When should you wrap your hive?

We recommend wrapping your hive around the Thanksgiving weekend (mid-October). It’s usually the perfect time to wrap. The weather has cooled down enough, and you won’t over heat your hive on warmer fall days (we can still see temps around 15°C in October). If you wrap too early, it can heat up the hive a lot, which makes your bees work harder to cool it off and use more of the honey reserves.

How should your wrap for over wintering?

We wrap our hives with tar paper. It’s the method we recommend because it works for us, but there are some people that swear by insulating their hives with foam insulation or a bee cozy. Each method works a little differently. 

Why TAR PAPERFirst off, it’s easy to find, and it works well. Tar paper uses the sun to absorb its heat which transfers to the hive and raises the temperature inside by a few degrees. This allows the bee cluster to have enough heat inside to still move around on warmer days and reach their honey stores.

Wrapping with tar paper is easy. You just wrap your hive using about a 7’ sheet of tar paperand secure it to the hive with a staple gun. The tar paper must be cut open around ventilation holes. You also place a piece of pink insulation in the top ventilation box to help with moisture. The biggest threat to the hive in the winter is not so much the cold, but moisture in the hive, so ventilation is key! See our how to video: How to wrap your hive

STYROFOAM WINTER HIVE WRAPS works differently than tar paper as it works to keep the hive warm according to the styrofoam’s R-value. Styrofoam insulation keeps the heat inside the hive that the bees generate as they keep the cluster warm.

A BEE COZY provides a waterproof breathable layer of insulation around the hive. It allows your bees to keep the hive warm using less energy. The bee cozy helps keeps stable temperatures and relative humidity levels due to the breathable material.

This Saturday is our last Meet the Beekeeper Field Day for 2019! Join us to as we discuss all of these methods and show wrapped hives.  The weather might be a bit chilly, so please ensure to dress properly as we will be outside the whole time!

Have questions or need supplies, contact us at info@hiveworld.caor shop online https://hiveworld.ca.

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