Saturday January 2nd, 2010
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I got out and wrapped the rest of the hives today.  The one I expected to die has died. The rest look fine.  I did not bother with the ones that showed AFB (see note).  They won't survive and I'll deal with them later.  We have had exceptionally cold weather and drifting snow, though, this year and it has held me back.  We have been in the deep freeze since the beginning of December.

Some hives were drifted in by snow before I wrapped them.  Dead bees on the snow are not abnormal at this time of year, although this hive (right) has more than I like to see.

The temperature is as warm as we can expect for a while (if we can trust the weather guessers) -- minus fourteen Celsius (approx. 7 degrees F). 

Convert Celsius to Fahrenheit > Chart  Calculator

I like to finish wrapping by the beginning of winter, so I am a week or two late, but hive wraps do not make much difference until late winter and early spring when the bees are older and fewer and brood is expanding. Our climate chart is at left (click it to enlarge) and shows our normals and wide annual temperature ranges.

 The pictures below are thumbnails.  Click each for a larger view. 

An auger hole iced up by bee breath
(expanded polystyrene hive).
Unwrapped wooden triple-storey hives. Note auger holes for flight and ventilation Wrapped wooden double-storey hives.
Note openings for auger holes

Expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam) hives: Above left is the only shot in this group other than the one on the left immediately below, showing an expanded polystyrene hive (made by Betterbee and by Swienty).  Expanded polystyrene hives are featured on all shots of the scale hives on diary pages, though, since I have four of them on the scale.  There are a few more scattered around my beeyard.  I don't wrap them, since they are well-insulated all year.

Wooden hives: It was the wooden hives which needed attention today.  All the rest of the shots are of my wooden hives, which were, at the end of the day, wrapped.  The wraps only cover the top two stories, no matter how tall the hive, and that seems to be sufficient.

More details on our wraps and wrapping from Selected Topics:

  1. Our Winter Wraps (1)(2)(3), (4)

  2. a Bee Culture magazine article I wrote in 2002 (PFD)

 The pictures below are thumbnails.  Click each for a larger view. 

Top bars in an expanded polystyrene hive with lid and pillow removed A little frost outside the cluster area.
(Unwrapped wooden hive)
A little frost outside the cluster area.
(Wrapped wooden hive)

Here (above) are some shots showing the frost around clusters of happy, healthy bees.  Since the bees are now up against an insulated pillow and the water is not above the cluster, but out to the sides, it is not a problem, and can be handy to help liquefy honey as it melts.

Above are two close-in shots taken moments apart of one of the same wintering clusters in an unwrapped hive just after the lid and pillow was lifted.  Outside temperature is minus 14 degrees Celsius.  (-14 Celsius degrees = 6.8 Fahrenheit ). Click pictures for a larger image.  Minutes later, after the pictures were taken, the cluster will have  expanded about 1/3 and the bees will get more active, then settle again if the disturbance does not continue.

Maybe I should explain that I use plastic pillows containing a 1" sheet of batting year-round under telescoping lids and do not use hard inner covers at all.

Picture #1 below, left is a shot of a pillow I removed for a moment from a hive I was wrapping that shows some frost.  Yes, that is ice, and there is more on the top bars shown above.  It amounts to only an ounce or two at most, though, and does not seem to bother the bees.

1. Ice outside cluster area.  on a pillow underside, (Cluster was/is located up against pillow) 2. Underside of telescoping outer lid with 1" rim nailed around the  inside edge. 3. Looking down - a pillow on a wrapped hive that has a rim  on the outer lid as shown. The pillow is not compressed in centre 4. A pillow on another hive.  This outer lid had no rim and the pillow is compressed, reducing insulation and space underneath

The two pictures at the right (#3 & #4) are hives with the wrap on, and a pillow tucked in over the top bars before several more pillows (optional) and the telescoping lid (#2) is placed on top and weighted with two four-pound bricks.

Shots #3 & #4 show the difference that having a 1" rim around the inside of a telescoping cover can make in the way the pillow is compressed.  The pillow at left had a lid with no rim.  The one at centre was under a lid with a rim.  The rim, nailed into a lid can be seen at  right).

The left scale on the above chart reads in pounds for weights, and in degrees Celsius for temperature plots.  The right scale reads in pounds.  See chart legend for more details.
Click on chart to enlarge

Convert Celsius to Fahrenheit

Without the rim, the pillow is pressed down in the centre as well as the edges and leaves no room for the insulation to fluff up, little room for patties, and makes it difficult for bees to cross the top bars under the pillow.  With the rim, the pillow is weighted only around the edge and can loft up to allow all these things -- plus there is a positive seal around the outer edge which can be very important in a windy, cold spring.

Perhaps I should mention here that many neighbouring commercial beekeepers use a sheet of canvas as an inner cover and others use a chunk of carpet.  Some are also now using pillows like me. 

I don't know many who use the wooden inner covers that are so often sold to hobbyists.  They are simply too much handling and make a poor seal to boot.

I also checked the scale weight and recorded the latest data on the chart (right).  Feed consumption is quite steady.  There is a little fluctuation.  Some of that fluctuation may be due to the bees raising and lowering their metabolism to shift or do other tasks, and some is definitely due to errors in reading the scale.  Wind, for example, presents a pressure on the scale which can move the reading a pound or so, and one pound is all that we see some days as the entire change from the previous day.  Of course we try to make sure the wind and other factors do not taint the data, but it is an old scale and a little sticky, too, so we have to fiddle.  I think it is accurate within a half-pound -- usually.

Randy has been interested in my results, and suggested I disturb the scale hives deliberately to see if we can observe a consumption spike, so I lifted all the lids of the four-pack, looked in for a few moments, put them on again, and then thumped each lid quite heavily twice with one of the 4-pound bricks I use to keep the lids down.  The bees did buzz very loudly and they loosened up the cluster quite noticeably, with a few bees coming out to investigate.

I checked the weights several hours after and saw no change.  When I pulled honey back on Halloween, I had noticed a very pronounced change even two hours after the disturbance. (see chart)

Note: The AFB hives all came from splitting one hive into three last spring and summer, as far as I can tell.

The splits raised their own queens and apparently the stock was poor in ability to handle AFB.  The splits were quick walk-away splits made without inspection, and I'm guessing there was sufficient scale in the frames to cause a breakdown in the splits as well as the parent hive.  I haven't used drugs for a few years.

Good stock should be able to clean up and prevent AFB.  These bees did not, so I need to take a look at my genetics this coming spring.