This wintering method has proven quit successful in the last number of years that I have tried it. It was originally designed to winter 2-frame nucs , but it works quit well for single brood chambers as well. This method helps the hives share their heat somewhat and it also provides a very important wind free environment. When checking the hives in early spring I find a few that need additional frames of food, but most hives make it through with an amply supply. The disadvantage of using this system is that it takes quit a bit of effort in setting up every fall. However for the small beekeeper it would be something worth considering. If the bees are healthy with a young queen and plenty of honey and pollen this system provides an ideal wintering situation for the hive.
The wintering stand you see on top holds 5 standard hives. It’s basically a box made out of 2″ Styrofoam insulation with top and bottom entrances cut out for each hive. The dimensions are such that they work well with a standard sheet of Styrofoam.The hives stand on a wooden platform that also holds the insulation boards in place.
The bottom boards of the hives are a little different then your stand bottom board. They are flush with the brood chamber, they don’t have a landing board sticking out past the brood box. This is an advantage when it comes to packing hives for winter and moving hives. In summer a landing board is attached to the hive to assist the bees into the hives when they are returning fully loaded with pollen and nectar.
The Styrofoam sides are put into place. They are grooved on the end to make a tighter, weather proof, seal.
When the sides are in place then fiberglass insulation is placed on top. It’s best if you can make a pillow for the fiberglass, it’s not nice stuff to work with.I used loose straw at one time and it works as well. Then a Styrofoam top is placed on top to seal everything off.
A plywood sheet is added on top of the lid in order to protect the Styrofoam from impact. Then wooden sides are placed around the corners and bolted together on top with a long rod with thread on one end and a washer on the other. The wooden sides have a plate screwed on that bottom the goes into the stand to keep them in place.
When everything is complete then a tarp is placed over the whole thing to keep the wind out. I get these tarps from wood bundles at the local lumber yard. The tarp isn’t completely air tight, they have the odd hole here and there, which is important to allow air in a out to a certain extent. Stones are places on top and in the corners to keep the tarp from flying away. You will notice that one tarp in the picture is white and the other one is turned around on the black side.· The black side doesn’t work. It gets to warm underneath, and the bees crawl out of the hives too much and die!
You will notice that the bottom entrances are left fully open, and a top entrance is also used. This sounds rather strange, but it does seem to work well. I’ve had very strong colonies come out of winter using this method. The moisture from the cluster is able to get out of the box quit easily. One would think that mice would get in and make it their home, however I haven’t seen this happen yet. It can happen thou, it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on them. They tend to go underneath the bottom insulation and make a mess there instead of going into the hives themselves.