Honeybee Winter Survival with WARMBEES IN-HIVE WARMERS

With the huge percentages of winter losses reported the last few years – It is apparent that research and effort must be made to attempt to reduce those losses!  My own recent interest began when I entered my hat back into the beekeeping arena, when a swarm came to my shed in 2012.  I captured the swarm and long story short, it didn’t really thrive.  However a second swarm entered the same box In late August or early September.  With 3 frames of bees that were extremely docile and very actively trying to build up prior to winter, it became apparent to me that there just simply was not enough time for this colony to adequately build, and put away enough stores to survive our Utah winters!  Thus began my research into methods and products for warming beehives to attempt to avoid the inevitable.  I was immediately disappointed to find very few products, none of which came close to my expectations.

My education and background leave me well suited to this task, so I set out to create what I was looking for.  So long story short, the WARMBEES In-Hive Warmer was born, and the successes that we are seeing, are beyond my best expectations!  All of the research that I was able to find in the days that I was formulating the specifications of the WARMBEES warmer, were not all that positive.   However, most of the studies, that I could find, were done in the 1950s time frame or earlier.  I have fairly extensive exposure and experience with modern process control systems and technology, and I am an electronics engineer, so I knew that it would not be that difficult to produce a design that could easily fit INSIDE the living space of a typical beehive and gently add heat to help the bees survive!  With a few small revisions along the way, along with the positive responses from the bees that are being observed since the Winter of 2012, I am now very pleased to say that the current model that I have made available for sale is surpassing all of my expectations and working extremely well!  Prospects for how this product can change beekeeping are very exciting!

Through the course of my research and beginning to sell WARMBEES In-Hive Warmers, I managed to find a couple of beekeepers in a city named North Pole Alaska, near Fairbanks, that are trying WARMBEES  In-Hive warmers in their extreme environment.  I learned that beekeeping is possible in that climate, however since winters get to extreme temperatures approaching MINUS 60 (-60 F) Farenheight, they typically purchase packages of bees in the spring, let them build for the 4 or 5 months that are warm enough to thrive, and then they simply kill off the entire colonies, and take all the honey!  With packages being double the price of the lower 48 states at $150, and shipping also double,  needless to say, honey is expensive and our fine hobby or profession of beekeeping is nearly cost prohibitive there!  With WARMBEES In-Hive Warmers currently testing there with success thus far, they will change the way Alaska and other Northern regions do beekeeping!  Alaska has already reported temperatures in the MINUS 10 deg (F) with colonies still thriving.  I currently have 4 critical hives, here in Utah, that are still alive after last night’s 9 deg (F) temperatures, with 30 to 60mph winds!  The windchill shows to have been MINUS 15 (-15 deg F).  So against all good practices, good sense, and for the sake of this project, I actually popped the lids today on 2 of my critical hives, and both were still alive!  NOW FOR THE KICKER!  IF THIS DOESN’T CONVINCE YOU TO TAKE THE WARMBEES IN-HIVE WARMERS SERIOUS – YOU MUST KNOW THAT THESE HIVES ARE UN-INSULATED, UN-SHELTERED AND BOTH HAVE LESS THAN 1 FRAME OF BEES!  One has a cluster that is the size of a baseball or smaller!  Both are still alive only because of the WARMBEES In-Hive Warmers!

Ok, now for the real purpose of this blog!  I believe the WARMBEES In-Hive Warmer to be a game changing appliance and as such – I am very interested in the science and technology and the study of its use with honeybees!  So It is my hope that this can be a forum for those currently using this and similar technologies, and those seriously interested in improving the general condition of honeybees and their survival!  It is very exciting to set out to make positive contributions, and see them succeed.  Hopefully we will see a positive dialog, answering questions, asking new ones, and a collaboration to improve honeybee survival and the success of beekeeping.  So with this goal in mind, please feel free to comment and ask questions!  Sincerely  Ren Holmes admin@warmbees.com

4 thoughts on “Honeybee Winter Survival with WARMBEES IN-HIVE WARMERS

  1. Elizabeth

    wanted to let you know about the state of my hives when I checked them today. It is our first 50 degree day this year. It has been an exceptionally cold winter here in MA with no mild patch ( over 40) since December, not even 1 day. We have had night time temps in the single and minus digits on a weekly basis.
    SO it turned out to be an excellent winter to be testing a bee Warmer!
    I am pleased to report that my hive with the warmer is thriving! The bees were active today and there were 2-3 frames of bees in the top super when I took a quick look to add a sugar patty. The only insulation is a heavy style top cover with a piece of folded newspaper on top of the inner cover opening.
    The hive without a warmer is struggling badly. Only a fist full of bees when I looked inside. The hive had dysentery and this became apparent about 2 weeks ago when they were forced to try and take cleansing flights on a 35 degree day. There is 2 inches of foam board insulation inside the typical over cover, with folded newspaper over the inner cover opening.


    1. warmbeesadmin Post author

      Thanks, for the feedback! Excellent results. I appreciate the detail and information and comparison of your hives… What do you think might be the lowest temperature during this season for you? Thanks in advance.

      You also asked in email, if this is typical results for WARMBEES… The answer is yes. Those customers that have replied with information, are experiencing similar results, with only few exceptions. Those exceptions had other issues. One customer had purchased it for a small baseball size cluster, but found that there was no queen. So it obviously fizzled all the way out. The other obvious exception was more frustrating to me, and that was the one test hive in Alaska, that I was super interested in. Much of my design thoughts and iterations, have been with Alaska in mind. The fact is that much of Alaska can’t keep bees over winter because of the extreme temperatures. I am trying to change that, but this is the first winter that we have had a unit there for testing. That customer reported that they were alive during December into mid January with temps as low as -20, however it got to -50 and they did not survive that assault. My new model includes an option for an add-on heating element board to not only double the capacity, but to spread it out further in the hive. The other issue is that I believe the Top Bar Hive design to not be the best for the extreme cold environments. The reason is that the TBH design is a horizontal design rather than vertical. Where Heat rises, vertical makes the most sense so that the bees can move up into the honey stores rather than horizontally. So more and distributed heat, and a vertical design, I think would meet with the most success. Unfortunately, it will be another winter before we will know if we have succeeded. So while that colony did not make it to -50, we know that -20 did. But several others have made similar reports to yours. Again thanks. Ren


  2. Phil Fostini

    I’m getting my hives ready a little early for winter here in CT. Its expected to be brutally cold this year. I have my 4 Warmbees heaters ready for install and I am looking forward to having the add on heating element in my toolbox just in case the temps do start getting into the predicted levels. Any suggestions on the time frame of when the Warmbees should be installed for the winter season? I’m assuming when nighttime temps start to drop in the 30’s.I plan on wrapping the hive and installing moisture absorbers also. Your service and products are excellent and I’m looking forward to report my results on my 4 hives this winter season. Two hives are weaker but doing well.


    1. warmbeesadmin Post author

      Thanks for the comments. I have tried to engineer the Warmbees products to exceed specifications so that they will last a long time. As to when they should be installed, my only answer is to use your best judgement for your conditions… By that I mean every situation is slightly different, and opinions of course, vary as well. Warmbees Warmers are new enough technology, that we are still kind of writing the book on the subject of proper strategies, which is why I invite the feedback from all customers. My suggestion is to get them in place sooner rather than later, depending on your goals. I am contemplating some new format for the web site to be a bit more informative. If you are supplementing a strong hive to reduce honey requirements, any time prior to buttoning them up for the winter should be sufficient.

      If you are assisting a small colony that otherwise has no chance of surviving the winter, then I would get the warmers in place immediately. I would also install the AddOn boards immediately when you receive them, rather than wait. Once temps drop to freezing, it is a stress to open the hives and modify the configuration. Keep in mind that the AddOn boards double the capacity, but otherwise don’t change the set temperature range. So if the bees keep their living space warmer than the set point of the warmer, then the warmer won’t even apply any heat. So the existance of the warmer or the AddOn board is of no consequence. A Warmbees In-Hive Warmer without the AddOn board is capable of supporting a critical colony down to about minus 20(F). In a normal size colony where a substantial portion of the heat needed is, and can be supplied by the bees, the addition of a Warmbees In-Hive Warmer can extend their survivability to even lower temps or for longer periods. With the AddOn board and double the capacity, I expect the WArmbees In-Hive Warmer to make it possible for a normal sized colony to survive as low as minus 50(F) or more. A critical size colony may not go quite as low without substantial heat from the bees. Of course more insulation around the hive also drastically changes the requirements. But when the temperatures really drop, is not when you want to be opening the box to add the AddOn board. If you already know and expect low temps, then I would place the AddOns immediately when you receive them and have them already in place when the going gets tough… Just some thoughts.

      I don’t think CT is in the zone where the length of the winter months increases substantially, so I don’t believe other strategies are warranted. However in Alaska and other Norther extreme climates, placing Warmbees In-Hive Warmers with AddOns and set to HIGH, early in the FALL makes sense so that it is possible to extend brood rearing in to the FALL,by at least a month, then switch to dormant temp for 3 months, followed by selecting the HIGH temp setting early in the Spring to promote brood rearing a month or two early to replace bees, who’s life extension by dormant temperatures may still not be long enough to survive the entire length of a long winter climate. Of course reducing the calories needed by bees to create the heat, also makes the honey stores last longer, which also helps keep from starving to death. So different climates and goals can vary the suggested installation date.

      We’ve had NUC’s with 3 frames of bees actually grow with a Warmbees Warmer on high all winter. However the baseball, and softball size colonies that I brought through last winter, did not have enough bees to supplement the heat, so they just survived without growing through the winter. This resulted in the smaller baseball size cluster not making it past April due to end of bee life expectancy.

      Since your hives are at least marginal in size, they should do fairly well with or without extension of brooding. Adding at least 1″ styrofoam on all sides and top, should see them through at least minus 50(F), with Warmbees with AddOns. I’m making this prediction based on last years tests in Alaska, but we are still writing the book on this, so will be anxious to hear your progress and outcomes for this winter.

      Again thanks for the feedback. I will try to get your AddOn boards and Power supplies to you this week. I have the AddOn’s but am waiting on delivery of some new supplies. The previous ones I purchased are not even holding up to their own rating, so I have ordered some from a new manufacturer, and they should be here Wednesday. I will then ship your order. Thanks Ren



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