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Author Topic: Winter Pack Down  (Read 790 times)

Offline Beenic

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Winter Pack Down
« on: March 21, 2017, 10:12:43 PM »
Hi All - as a relatively new hobbyist beekeeper with only 2 hives at the moment, I have what I hope isn't a question that has those of you experienced beekeepers rolling your eyes !  As I understand it, traditionally you'd pack down a hive for winter in March or April?  With the weather in Melbourne being varied at best, without relying on the weather, what am I looking for in my hives that may tell me it's time to consider packing my hives down for winter.  Apologies if there is a really obvious answer.  Would love your feedback / suggestions.  Thanks -  :happy:

Online Lancej

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Re: Winter Pack Down
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2017, 12:51:00 AM »
Hi beenic, type in pack down in the search bar and they is a post from honeycomb king from last year, he is also from vic.

Offline Beenic

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Re: Winter Pack Down
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2017, 05:59:50 PM »
Hi Lancej - thanks for the response.  Will look into it.

Offline Andersonhoney

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Re: Winter Pack Down
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2017, 08:16:17 AM »
Thanks Lance.
But don't ask me, I'm never sure what the answer to that one is.
I suppose it's different decisions for different set ups, for different beekeepers in different years for different out comes in different areas.
(There's a different answer for you)
That's what makes it too hard a question to answer I can tell you what I've done in the past  or what I'm intending to do this year. Whats worked in the past for me and what hasnt worked.You can tell me your set up, with all the info you like but all I can give to you is my opinion on that info you tell me.
Mentoring many newbees has taught me lots. The most important thing I've realized is its the things that people don't tell me or don't see to tell me are the clues that they are missing.
Any how I digress.
What is winter pack down? Or rather what is its purpose?

Answer:To get the hive through winter.
In northern australia that means put another super on. In Canada they move them indoors. USA similar or they rap them. All are different answers (blah, blah see above).
So start at the end, what do you want/need the hive to look like in spring, or mid winter for almond pollination.
How could you achieve this?
What are your specific challenges?  Wind/draft, moisture, food source etc.
How do you meet those challenges?  Move hive, ventilation, supplement pollen and nectar, etc etc.
So it's not a definite.  Say 1 box high or 1 full box of capped honey on top of your brood box etc. Which are all good things you'll hear. They are only guides for you to use with your knowledge of your bees.
So beenic it will be an easier thing to deal with as time goes by.
I'll let you know the definite answer after this winter because I'm sure I'll get it completely right or maybe the winter after or the one after that ......

Offline 220

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Re: Winter Pack Down
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2017, 04:16:00 PM »
As someone in their first year of beekeeping this is my biggest concern.
Location seems to be everything when it comes to winter prep, the only constant I have got form local beekeepers for my area is have them packed down by ANZAC day/end April.

Offline Andersonhoney

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Re: Winter Pack Down
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2017, 09:55:54 PM »
Yep.I try and have it all done by then. Camping with friends and family that weekend. On a busy year that can be my first chance to enjoy their company. Better to pack them down and have them fill the lid, than leave them space and have them freeze/starve.
I'll start packing down at the end of next week. Should finish by easter. Then may move some further north before it gets too cool.

Offline Beenic

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Re: Winter Pack Down
« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2017, 08:27:21 AM »
Thanks for the info Anderson Honey. Seems like I'm looking for a needle in a haystack. I was hoping the answer would be as simple as some clear signs in my hive/s that'd tell me, rather than rely on our unpredictable weather here in Melbourne to give me a sign it's time to pack down. I'm planning on packing down a hive 3 boxes high that currently has bottom box full of nectar & pollen, 2nd box full of mostly brood, pollen, honey & nectar & top box mostly full of honey.

Offline Beenic

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Re: Winter Pack Down
« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2017, 07:58:18 AM »
So, as a follow up to my winter pack down question, & subsequent advice, I feel that I 'missed the boat'.  With this unpredictable Melbourne weather & some cold, wet , windy weather & the beginnings of a frost last week, I managed a quick hive inspection & decided that I'd leave my hives as they were & not pack down, i.e.: reduce the number of boxes from 3 to 2. There is what I think is plenty of honey stores, brood  & pollen. Just decided to help them along with keeping their hive warm. We'll see how they come out the other side of winter.

Offline Acebird

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Re: Winter Pack Down
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2017, 09:18:18 AM »
I am of the belief that if you let them the bees will do it themselves.  They have only had millions of years of practice and no one knows their location better.  What the beekeeper should not do is take too much honey.  So you have to learn what is too much for your location.
There are beekeepers that do take too much intentionally and then try to cram the hive with syrup in its place.  That does work but it is not my style.
In areas where bees could not survive without intervention because of extreme weather the beekeeper will wrap, insulate, or bring the hive into a controlled atmosphere.  For the most part hobbyist tend to worry more about cold than commercial beeks do.
The thing to do when you are new is ask beekeepers that are in your community what they do.  If there are a number of beekeepers close you will get different procedures.  Pick one, it probably doesn't matter.  If it is not completely wrong the bees will adjust to the differences.  You will dream up your own differences as time goes on and most likely that won't matter.
Brian Cardinal
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Offline Acebird

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Re: Winter Pack Down
« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2017, 09:37:39 AM »
reduce the number of boxes from 3 to 2.

I am not saying your decision is wrong but I think your mindset is wrong.  The number of boxes means very little.  If the colony is small it will perish.  If the colony is large and has consumed most of its stores it will parish.  You should have some idea what is in the boxes before you make decisions.
Decisions in the fall force decisions in the spring.  If a hive barely makes it through winter it may struggle in the spring and skip the swarm mode and stay in survival mode.  If it were left an absolute abundance of stores it may take off in swarm mode the instant spring allows.  So it is very important to know what is in the boxes in the fall and the spring so things don't happen as a surprise.
Good luck, first year is always pins and needles.
Brian Cardinal
Just do it

Offline tycrnp

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Re: Winter Pack Down
« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2017, 11:33:20 AM »
So does this depend not only on what is in your hive, but also where you live?  I am in NW Florida and winters are generally mild.  :cool:  This past winter my bees were out and about several days, so I didn't feed them or really do anything special.  I covered the hive a couple of days when we had a "hard freeze warning."

Offline Andersonhoney

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Re: Winter Pack Down
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2017, 11:07:51 PM »
Looks good bee nic.
Tycrnp. There are lots of USA and Florida based beekeepers on the other threads, this is an Australian thread so our seasons are different.  I'm sure you will get more valuable information from more local sources.

Offline Beenic

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Re: Winter Pack Down
« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2017, 08:53:29 AM »
Thanks for your thoughts acebird. I'm confident from my recent inspection that the numbers in my colony, along with the amount of brood & stores of honey will not place them in a position to perish or swarm after winter. Like you said, they've had a million years of doing what they do. I guess my query about packing down was about reducing the amount of space for them to keep warm over winter. Where I live is at the base of a mountain range, so we don't get snow, just some frosty, cold days & nights, hence the reason for the insulation board to keep the hive cosy. Guess I'll see how this works for my hive the other side of winter. I have a friend who tells me there is 5 ways to 'beekeep' - my way, your way, the right way, the wrong way, & the bees way.  :happy:

Offline Andersonhoney

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Re: Winter Pack Down
« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2017, 06:27:31 PM »
Bees have been doing it for years, but not in a thin pine box (22mm, or3/4"). The amount of heat loss compared to a thick tree trunk where combs twist around to stop drafts, moisture drains away etc etc. Beenic I think your insulation will help that alot.

Offline Beenic

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Re: Winter Pack Down
« Reply #14 on: May 09, 2017, 07:02:22 PM »
Thanks for your vote of confidence Andersonhoney. What I've done this winter by putting the insulation board around the hive is more than I did last winter.  :grin:

Offline Andersonhoney

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Re: Winter Pack Down
« Reply #15 on: May 10, 2017, 07:21:18 AM »
Yes it is more than you done last winter, but this season has not been as good to us as the previous.
"Every year is different", that one of the only things I know for sure.

Offline Acebird

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Re: Winter Pack Down
« Reply #16 on: May 10, 2017, 09:00:19 AM »
Where I live is at the base of a mountain range, so we don't get snow, just some frosty, cold days & nights, hence the reason for the insulation board to keep the hive cosy.

Where I live we get 100+ inches of snow for the season.  I have overwintered hives with wide open SBB and the bees make it just fine.  I live in a valley while you live at the base of a mountain which might be a valley.  A major killer of a hive in a valley is moisture condensation dripping on the cluster.  That is what concerns me about foil faced Styrofoam.  Bees can survive winter in a metal container that keeps the wind, rain, and show off of them.  They don't make the container cozy they make themselves cozy by clustering.  An insulated container is a very minor advantage to the bees.  I insulate the top cover with 2" foam not for the purpose of holding in heat but to prevent condensation from forming on the top flat surface which may drip on the bees.  That lets the condensation form on the walls which becomes the water source for the bees when they cannot fly.
Late winter and early spring is when I see a lot of water coming out of the hive.  It fills my pans below my SBB.
I am not the one to tell you what to do for your area.  I think you should ask a beekeeper that has more then one or two hives what is common for your area and go with that in the beginning.  Of course there will be differences but they might be able to head off a blunder if you tell them what you intend to do or what you have done.
Brian Cardinal
Just do it

Offline Beenic

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Re: Winter Pack Down
« Reply #17 on: May 11, 2017, 02:39:20 AM »
Thanks again for your thoughts and advice Acebird.  You could certainly make your fair share of snowmen and snow angels with that amount of snow over winter :wink:.  I am part of a beekeeping club, and our next meeting is a week from now (next Thursday), so I'll ask around there and see what advice I get on what I've done for winter pack down for my hives.

Offline Andersonhoney

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Re: Winter Pack Down
« Reply #18 on: May 11, 2017, 06:40:09 AM »
Yes Beenic you should talk to a local beekeeper that has more than one or two hives.
It will be interesting to see what you get from next week's bee club meeting..

Offline Beenic

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Re: Winter Pack Down
« Reply #19 on: May 11, 2017, 08:05:35 AM »
Thanks Andersonhoney. Yep, I had a local beekeeper offering assistance up until this time 12 months ago, but they just got a little too busy with their own stuff. That's ok though, I was lucky enough to have the advice for as long as I did. Hopefully next weeks meeting will give me something.  :wink:

Offline Beenic

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Re: Winter Pack Down
« Reply #20 on: May 19, 2017, 07:44:19 AM »
Club meeting was really interesting, better that previous months meeting for me. Got some reassurance that my pack down was ok & I've done the right thing.  Keen to see how they go over the coming months. Let's see how they fare the other side of winter. Hopefully they'll be with me forever 🐝  Love my bees - wish I had more hours in my day to spend with them.

Offline Andersonhoney

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Re: Winter Pack Down
« Reply #21 on: May 25, 2017, 07:49:27 AM »
Follow the kiss system. It seems like you have it all in hand now. Good work.

Offline Beenic

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Re: Winter Pack Down
« Reply #22 on: May 25, 2017, 08:16:27 AM »
Gotta love the KISS system Andersonhoney. Thanks. Looking forward to spring 👍🏼