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Winterizing Hives

Updated: Apr 30

Oh, the weather outside is... freaking beautiful! Colourful leaves, sunshine, and just cold enough for puffy vests?! It doesn't get any better than this, but frightful is right around the corner so NOW is the time to insulate your hives for winter!


We use two different types of wrap insulation for our hives: a DIY version made from hot water tank insulation, and a commercial version called the Bee Cozy. We started out with the DIY stuff (that we often call 'shiny bubble wrap') and we have had very good success getting our bees through winter with it. Last year. we trialed a few Bee Cozies and found that those hives brooded up much more quickly in spring, thanks (we think) to the additional insulation.


This year, we are wrapping half of our hives in each type of wrap for a true test to determine what we will use going forward.



Regardless of the type of wrap we use, the way we wrap is the same. Here's a quick run-down, from the bottom up:


Bottom Board: Most of our bottom boards are screened. We put the trays back in for the winter. If we are using a solid bottom board, we drill a tiny hole somewhere for any accumulated moisture to drain out.


Entrance Reducer: We reduce all of our entrances down to about 1/2 an inch. Ideally, you want an opening small enough that a mouse can't get through. We actually prefer solid reducers for winter, but ended up using some ventilated ones (shown in the video) because that's what we had. You will see in the video that we put a screw above the bottom entrance to hold up the bee cozy to give space for the bees to enter and exit.


Brood Boxes: We overwinter most of our hives in two boxes. We have a few singles and a handful of nucs as well. Any size hive can successfully overwinter. The most important thing in the brood boxes is that you want NO EMPTY SPACE. If you've got blank frames in your second brood box, you should consider reducing them to a single box.


Inner Cover: We leave the top entrance in the inner cover open during the winter. With both types of wraps, there is space for the bees to use the top entrance to come and go. We also put a plug in the feeder hole in the inner cover so there is no way for the bees to enter the attic box.


Attic: We use a medium super as an attic on most of our hives. The nice vented ones were acquired from another beekeeper - you don't need to have vents and any size box will work as an attic. We put a piece of reflective bubble wrap in, followed by a big chunk of waterproofed (in plastic) insulation.


Lid: We use the standard metal lids on our hives. We usually end up putting a heavy rock on top before the first of the winter storms hits so that we don't need to worry about wind.


Looking for Bee Cozies? They are made in Canada by Nod. You can learn more about them here: https://nodglobal.com/bee-cozy-winter-hive-wraps/


Looking for more?


Looking for more beekeeping education? You can find my virtual, on-demand beginner and intermediate courses at https://courses.rushingriverapiaries.com


Or if you'd prefer a more tailored experience, you can join my mentorship group at https://www.patreon.com/thehivementorship

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