With some spring-like weather finally arriving in Northeastern Pennsylvania over the Easter weekend, my wife and I were finally able to break down our hives and switch the big supers from top to bottom.
As I mentioned in the last column, we had wrapped some of our hives in black shrink wrap, some in the insulated Bee Cozy hive wraps, and two hives were not wrapped at all.
The success rate overall was a 63% winter survival rate, with a 50% survival rate of the unwrapped hives, a 55% survival rate of the black shrink wrapped hives, and a 100% survival rate of the hives with the insulated Bee Cozy wraps on them.
Not only was the survival rate of the hives with insulated covers much higher than the other hives, but the amount of bees in each of the Bee Cozy wrapped hives was unbelievable. In each of the uninsulated hives there was a small amount of surviving bees with some honey and very little or no brood. The insulated hives already had several thousand bees in them, with brood, larva and many young bees. As I opened the last insulated hive, there were so many bees in both supers that flew out on me, my wife said my bee suit was covered with them.
In the fall before wrapping each hive, we experimented and stapled newspaper around the top of each hive cover, leaving the middle open for ventilation, to help with moisture levels in the hive. Upon inspection when breaking down the hives, the uninsulated hives had very little signs of moisture. The Bee Cozy wrapped hives appear to have had a much higher moisture level inside as the newspaper on each hive cover was very, very wet. As the inner covers were removed, the health patties we had applied on the top of the frames in the fall for supplemental feeding, had some green mold on them from the moisture. Overall, I am very happy with the newspaper experiment, because without the paper to absorb the condensation created inside the hive, moisture would have fallen off the cover onto the bees themselves.
Since this was our first year using the insulated wraps, we have concluded that they do work very well for the $18 investment, but more ventilation is needed for the amount of moisture created in the hive. When we wrap our hives this winter, I think we will add a thicker layer of newspaper around each cover to absorb more moisture and add wooden spacers between the inner cover and the hive cover for better ventilation.
Overall, we are very pleased with the results of the Bee Cozy covers and plan to purchase more for the upcoming winter. Not only did the wraps help keep the hives a little warmer, but they are also reusable. All we did to remove them was take off the hive cover and inner cover and pull them off. There were no rips or tears from the winter weather, and we put the covers away for next year in about the same condition as when we purchased them.
Finally, even though it has started to warm up in the Northeast, there still is not much available for our bees to feed on. We use and would suggest you use sugar water on each hive, with two feeders on some of our weaker hives as they need some extra help to get going this spring.
Thanks for reading and until next time, keep them buzzing!