The cold, cloudy wet spell continues, so my focus has become preparing my hives for winter. Last year, my hives died, not because of lack of honey, but for other factors. I believe, all associated with the brutal month of January we had. The winter clusters in all hives were unable to move up to honey just inches away.
This year I took some precautions to lower the probability of that happening again. First, this year's bees just seem healthier than last year's. There were less bees crawling around the ground, dangling from blades of grass. Second, I opened up each hive less this year. This did mean one hive swarmed, but this probably would've happened anyway. Third, I was more deligent in monitoring for varroa mites and, used powdered sugar and drone brood culling more systematically. Lastly, I moved the hives in Beelandia so that they would receive more winter sunshine than they got last year.
Now that fall is here, it's time for me to consider my approach to winterizing the 5 hives. Since dampness might've been an issue last year, Monta and I have designed and made quilt boxes for both the top bar and langstroth hives. Those of you who keep Warre hives are already familiar with quilt boxes. Simply put, it is a box, fitted with a fabric bottom and filled with sometype of absorbant, insulating material. For the langstroth, I simply took a shallow box, stapled some material to its bottom and filled it with recycled paper pulp. I placed these boxes on top of the inner cover of each langstroth I have.
The quilt boxes for the top bar hives had to be made but the design was pretty much the same as for the langstroth. In this case, Monta designed and made long and wide shallow boxes that would fit over each top bar. This boxes had fabric bottoms and were also filled with paper pulp.