In my last post I talked about the Honey Bee’s Enemy #1 – The Varroa Mite!
Today I want to point out another common bee killer – Moisture!
Bees can survive very cold winters as long as they are dry. I am always being asked if bees hibernate and sleep through the winter. If you are a beekeeper you know the answer, but if you are new to beekeeping you might be wondering what those little bees do all winter long.
Bees need to stay warm to survive, they manage to keep the temperature in the hive around 90 to 95 degree Fahrenheit (32-35 degree Celcius) year round. In the summer, maintaining this temperature means they need to cool the hive by fanning with their wings and by bringing in water. In the winter, however, they need to generate heat, which they accomplish by forming a big cluster of bees and by shivering their tiny muscles.
Now if you combine the warm temperature within the hive with the cold temperature outside the hive you will get a lot of condensation. If you don’t protect your bees from moisture caused by condensation, they will not survive the winter!
The warm air from the bee cluster will rise up and hit the cold top cover, condensation drops will form and it will rain on your bees inside the hive.
By no means would I call myself an expert and just like with everything else there are many options. Do your research before implementing new measures.
Below you can find my simple approach for moisture management and so far I have not lost any bees to moisture.
In the spring time I use top feeders which seem to work well and in the winter I fill those feeders with wood shavings to create a layer of insulation above the inner cover. I also add emergency feed (dry sugar) on top of the inner cover. The sugar absorbs a lot of moisture and helps keeping the bees dry while providing food reserves. Between the inner cover and feeder I add an Imirie Shim to provide more space for sugar. Last but not least I add a piece of styrofoam on top of the feeder before I close up the hive with the telescoping top cover.
For better ventilation and to give the warm air more space to escape I place a small wooden shim between the top feeder and styrofoam piece.
This method has kept my bees dry for the past two winters!
- Deep brood box
- Inner cover
- Imirie Shim
- Fill air space of Imirie Shim with dry sugar
- Top feeder with wood shavings
- Styrofoam cover
- Telescoping top cover
Shim between feeder and styrofoam (Note: the telescoping top cover will come further down to cover the gap and to keep rain out. I just lifted it for the picture. Just make sure you have enough space under the cover for warm air to escape.)
Imirie Sim on top of inner cover and space filled with sugar.
Feeder filled with wood shavings for insulation.
Styrofoam inner cover on top of feeder.
One more Note:
This winter I have added a piece of ply wood which covers 4 hives for better rain protection.
Great colony size in January!