Scroll down below the links for a slideshow & discussion of the Reichert/Inmon moisture control boxes & candy boards!
Click here for a very helpful article about over-wintering from the Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research & Extension Consortium.
For the Reichert/Inmon Candy Board Recipe, click here.
For the Lauri Miller (Miller Compound/Beesource) No-Boil Candy Board Recipe, click here (see photo below).
Winter Feeding & Moisture Control ~ Kevin Reichert
At our Oct 2014 and Sept 2015 & 2016 meetings, LCBA mentor Kevin Reichert presented how he, Jeanne, and Grant Inmon help their bees overwinter. Their approach to winter moisture control and dry feeding has resulted in about a 15% drop in hive losses for them. Your mileage may vary: Kevin noted that as with everything in beekeeping, there’s no such thing as a guarantee, but this approach has worked for them. To see a slideshow of his approach, click here.
Kevin noted that as the photo at right shows, some of their boxes are tall going into winter, as many as 2 deeps and a super, plus his moisture control box. He doesn’t want to kick out bees: they will eat more, true, but survivability tends to be higher with more bees. Wrapping the hives in roofing paper, as shown in these 2 photos, is optional.
When Kevin, Jeanne & Grant prep their apiaries for winter, they have 5 goals:
Create a Wind & Moisture Break
Kevin used to be in the fire service and asked us to think of a hive as a chimney: if you open the top, all the heat goes out. When he used to come to a structure fire, people would ask why they cut holes in the roof. They did this to ventilate get smoke and toxins out. During the first few years Kevin got into bees, ten or twelve years ago, he had wet boxes over winter. It’s not cold that kills – bees can fan to stay warm – but moisture, which promotes fungus and disease. Much condensation and heat builds up in hives as bees fan to keep their cluster around 90+ degrees, so he vents in a controlled way to keep heat in and moisture out. . . .
. . . Toward this goal, Kevin & Grant developed a system: a special screened box that fits over a candy board, holds cedar chips & burlap to absorb moisture, & fits beneath the inner & telescoping covers.
Materials & Tools:
1 inch all-purpose wood screws
Tin snips or heavy scissors
Hardware stapler with 5/16 staples
Cedar shavings, $7 to 10 worth (absorb moisture, keep moths out)
3/8 inch drill & 3/8 and 5/32 drill bit (Kevin pre-drills holes to prevent wood from splitting)
15-pound roofing paper, about $20 for 100 feet
Gloves and paint of your choice
1x6 box to get more ventilation - or a shallow super
Roofing paper to wrap the hives (optional)
Kevin takes his drill bit and angles holes up at 45, both so bees don’t get escape and so moisture doesn’t come in. See photos, right column, above, which show the inside:
Kevin pre-cuts the screen and staples it into the shallow super using a staple gun. About the screen: they used a screen door screen the first time they tried this, but it was nylon and the bees chewed through it. Now they use eighth inch mesh.
They inset the screen midway into the box because they will put candy on top of the frames when they set the box on the hives and want space above it, too, for insertion of the moisture control materials, the burlap and cedar chips.
Kevin tests the fit by putting the spacer box into the telescoping lid as a guide for measurement, to be sure it will work. On a one by four, you only end up with three and a half inches. . . .
Jeanne layers in burlap (see photo, right), pours in the cedar chips, then tucks in more burlap, like a baby in bed. If you want a little more ventilation, you can step the burlap inward and leave it away from the sides an inch or so to give more ventilation. Also, one could use a one inch spacer on top of the screen.
PUTTING THE MOISTURE CONTROL BOX & CANDY BOARD ON THE BEES:
Next, once the materials are ready, it’s time to put them on the bees. Kevin doesn’t always smoke his bees, but noted that in the case in the slideshow, his cameraman got stung, so she said, “Fire up that smoker!”
In Kevin’s slides, as noted above, there were many bees, so in some cases, he had to leave supers on: however, Kevin noted that if the supers are empty, you should get them off at this time of the year so that the bees don’t have to keep them warm.
Next up: they give each colony a candy board. Kevin uses smoke to drive bees down, then puts candy in the screened box (Kevin's candy board recipe is linked at the top of this column).
Using Honey-B-Healthy in the Candy Board Mixture:
Kevin & Jeanne put a splash of their homemade Honey-B-Healthy recipe in the sugar solution for their candyboards (their HBH recipe is also linked at the top of this column).
Some comments on Honey-B-Healthy: Kevin noted that they put their version in their mix and feed not during a nectar flow, but during spring buildup and for fall feeding.
Kevin also notes that when you use lecithin granules, you want to presoak the granules overnight, then stir them up well and be sure they dissolve, then put the mix in the blender and whip it. Then put it in the refrigerator. You can make this version of HBH for pennies, whereas commercial HBH is spendy.
Putting on the Candy Board:
Back to the actual insertion of Kevin’s candy board: Kevin noted that it was snapped in half. It had been in the freezer since spring.
After putting the candy on top of the frames, Kevin puts his repurposed shallow super, with its 3 inch recess before the screen to give space, on top of candy and frames.
Next, he adds a layer of burlap on top of the screen inside the spacer, then cedar shavings, then more burlap. Kevin said of the burlap: “think of it as a towel, more absorption.”
Kevin also noted that if you don’t use that burlap as a barrier beneath the burlap, the bees have a tendency, “little devil creatures that they are,” to try to seal up the screen – but they don’t with the burlap in place.
Tucking the burlap over the cedar.
Kevin doesn't usually notch his inner cover: they rely on the space provided by the telescoping cover to vent.
Once they pull their last supers in September, they add weight back to hives by feeding sugar syrup. Kevin quipped: “I’m retired, so that’s what I do: I go round feeding bees all day long.” They don’t feed sugar boards until the end of November/early December.
How often should this arrangement be checked to be sure the bees still have a food supply? Kevin checks every three weeks or so, choosing a nice day, in the 50s/60s, not raining or windy. He can wait longer to check if it’s a very cold winter: in a very cold winter, the bees will feed less, whereas in a warm winter, they may eat more.
Kevin suggested that to check the food supplies, you don’t have to open the hive box: you can just pick it up and feel for weight, then, when it starts feeling light, supplement food.
For checking that the chips aren’t saturated with moisture, you can do a quick in and out, but again, choose a mild day, and don’t leave the box open long so that you don’t cool the bees down.
Sealing cracks in the hive boxes:
Another way to help the bees is to take duct tape and seal the cracks between the moisture control box and upper hive box (see below, right). Bees won’t seal that top box as they would in July, and sealing the gap cuts the air flow and prevents possible leaching in of moisture.
Kevin’s next step is wrapping the boxes with roofing paper: he does one continuous wrap and staples each corner as he goes along. This creates a wind and moisture break, helping to keep pounding rain off the hive boxes (the threshold is left open with an entrance restrictor so that bees can exit on warmer days to do cleansing flights).
Kevin also tips the boxes a bit forward to help moisture drip out. He noted that you can punch in a hole where the notch in the inner cover is. Peter asked if Kevin uses solid bottom boards: Kevin says that he does, having had good luck with these, though others prefer screened bottom boards.
Kevin takes the tar paper off in spring, when the temperature warms up to the 50s/60s and hard pounding rain is done. Kevin noted that one thing to be careful of is the box location: if the box is in a sunny location, the bees will fly from a black-wrapped box earlier.
Where on the hive box are the holes we can see in the roofing paper photo? Below the handle, so no one gets stung when they handle the box. Kevin, Jeanne & Grant like to provide this extra entry hole in supers so that the bees don’t have to crawl as far during honey flows.
A note on moving bees to place them in optimal locations for winter: Kevin straps them down the night before moving and puts screens over the entrances, taps the screens in with nails, and the box is sealed. Also, you can stuff towels in hive entrances for transport.
THERE ARE LOTS OF WAYS TO HELP BEES OVERWINTER: BELOW, SOME SLIDESHOWS & FILES FROM OUR 2013 MEETINGS:
Click here to see a slideshow of moisture control methods for winter hive maintenance by LCBA member Mike Helms.
WINTER FEEDING USING CANDY BOARDS:
For more discussion of candy boards, click here to read about Tim Weible's presentation at our September 2013 meeting.
Below, Kevin & Jeanne Reichert's hives prepped for winter:
Above, 3 of Kevin & Jeanne's hives, prepped & wrapped for winter (scroll down for details; all photos in this series by Jeanne Reichert).
Holes drilled at 45 degree angle to prevent moisture getting in; note that the screen is inserted midway, so that there is space above and below.
Once the box is made, time to put in burlap, then cedar chips, then burlap again (see discussion, left column); below, Jeanne tucking in the burlap:
Above, putting the candy board on the frames, then the shallow super with its screen & burlap on top of the candy.
Above, duct tape seals cracks in the hive set-up.