Here we will cover all the important information about ventilation and how it plays a crucial part in making sure your bees survive through the winter. It’s not a very widely discussed subject and we wanted to make sure you take this into consideration during your winter prep.
There's no one size fits all when it comes down to overwintering your bees. Each location comes with its own microclimates that will determine what you need to consider when insulating your hive. Things like: Sunlight, Wind, Rain, etc.
Benefits of Ventilation
To regulate temperature inside the hive, good airflow must be present. Ventilation keeps moisture under control and helps to regulate the temperature inside the hive. Excess moisture can be very dangerous for your bees as it promotes mold, mildew, disease, and fungi. Moisture can also make your bees wet, which will lead to them getting cold, killing the bees and reducing their chance of making it through the winter. Too cold and the bees will eat through their stores much quicker in order to get the energy they need to keep the hive warm. You don’t want it to be too warm inside the hive either. Too warm and then the cluster will break, letting bees fly and expand more energy. More energy means more food. The ideal internal temperature for a hive is between 5°C - 7°C.
Moisture is something that goes hand in hand with overwintering bees. It is not something we can get rid of because the honey being stored is part of the reason there’s moisture. The consumption of honey produces both carbon dioxide and water vapour that rises to the top of the hive. About 40lbs of honey can produce up to 1 gal of water. Most of the condensation from this process will form on the walls and top the hive on the inside. If the water at the top drips down onto the cluster, this can very well kill the colony.
The basics of good ventilation is to have cold air enter through the bottom and then leave though the top. This is why we turn our entrance reducers to the smallest 1” gap and to make sure we keep the pests out, as well as putting on a mouse guard. As the air enters the hive it will get warmer and eventually rise to the top. It will take away some of the moisture and CO2 inside the hive and escape through a small gap at the top. This gap is usually found on the inner cover and also acts as a second entrance for the bees. During the winter on a warm day the bees will take cleansing flights. It’s better for the bee to be warm leaving the hive, as opposed to getting cold while trying to exit from the bottom. You can also help deal with condensation at the top of the hive by insulating it. This will help with most of the moisture forming on the walls instead of the top.
Make sure to come back next week to join us on how to winter wrap your hive. Armed with this knowledge you’re sure to have a successful winter wrap up.
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