Ready To Unwrap

April 20, 1997

These hives have been wrapped since October, and although there have been some warm days during the winter when bees could fly, the temperatures went as low as minus 40 degrees for days on end. During the winter, snow covered the wraps, often to the point that the hives could not be seen.

Only in the last few weeks has the snow melted and the temperatures stabilized to near freezing temperatures by night and temperatures ranging from 10 to 18 Celsius during the day.

In northern areas, such as Alberta, the days are very short in winter, but become very long in summer. The transition from winter to summer is very rapid, since the days change in length most noticeably during the periods near the equinoxes in March and September.

As of yet, there is no significant pollen coming in and the bees are depending on their own stores of pollen in the combs and pollen supplements. As brood rearing commences and the bees consume more honey, they discover the pollen buried beneath the honey in the brood chambers.

The weaker hives have eggs, but little brood, but the better ones have had several frames of brood for some time now. Survival is typically 20 to 22 out of 24 hives alive, with any under 2 frames counted as dead. About 1/3 of the hives in each yard have enough bees to fill the upper brood chamber.

The wraps you see here are about 20 years old and have been stored outside much of that time.

These wraps are made of two layers of a black tarpaulin material lined with a Kodel batting 1-1/2 inches thick and sewn around the edge. Kodel is a polyester fibre, and the batting is quite resistant to mice and sheds water. It provides insulation rated at around R5 on the sides. Inside the wrap, on top of the hives is a pillow bag of insulation - often Kodel scraps, that adds an additional R20 or so.

The most important insulation is the insulation on the top of the hives. The side insulation breaks winds and moderates temperature swings so the bees have time to react. A sheet of 3/8" construction plywood sheds water and allows a little ventilation up through the wrap.

Upper entrances to allow respiration and vent moisture are provided here by a slit in the inner cover (shown further down the main page) and a piece of 3/8 plywood tacked in place with a nail or drywall screw. These ones have a long slit, but we now use a 1" drill hole in the cover piece.

Shelter is an important factor in good wintering and early spring buildup. Often the same trees which provide shelter also yield pollen in the early spring. Although a windbreak is important, it is not nearly as important as the condition of the bees going into winter and their stores. We have bees on windswept knolls that do just fine.

The hives sit on pallets (40" X 48") to allow for easy moving with a forklift and to keep them out of water which sometimes accumulates in heavy rains. Pallets also slow down the inevitable rotting of hive bottom boards.

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