Tag Archives: impacts of warming hives

IMPROVED WARMBEES.COM WEBSITE!

I am pleased to announce my totally new redesigned WARMBEES.COM website, which has been redesigned to be an authoritative website for Over-wintering success!  Many of you have provided valuable feedback, and permission to use your comments in support of Warmbees In-Hive Warmers.  I thank you for your support and interest in the success of Warmbees In-Hive Warmers.   The new website format should prove to be very helpful in better understanding the physics and dynamics behind successful winter beekeeping.  Because Warmbees In-Hive Warmers are being so successful, we are seeing more and more smaller colonies surviving long winters into late spring, which has provided opportunities to observe and interact with colonies that otherwise would have died.  One thing that quickly came to light, is that critically small colonies have to contend with other factors beyond just temperature, to survive.  I am very pleased to announce that research and study into these factors, and what constitutes the minimum quantity of bees required to thrive, has lead to the observation and discovery that bees apply additional behaviors to control humidity, when they reside in a space hopelessly too large and dry for their small numbers to maintain high enough humidity, to incubate and hatch eggs.  This single factor is the largest determining condition beyond temperature control, which dictates the minimum quantity of bees needed to thrive in spring! This is a MUST READ!  With Warmbees In-Hive Warmers, many of you have begun to experience the excitement of getting small colonies through the winter months, only to watch the critically small colonies continue to dwindle and fail to thrive in the spring.  I have coined a new name for this condition, which I call “HYPOHUMIDITY SYNDROME in MASS-CRITICAL COLONIES”.  This new information, and many ideas and methods to turn this condition around and get them to thrive, is now on the new Knowledgebase page on Warmbees.com.  I have now successfully recovered many small colonies, and expect that many of you may pioneer other methods that will drastically change this outcome and drive our success rates to nearly perfect numbers.  My smallest success is a softball size colony thus far.  The coldest reported temperature, thus far over several days, for a successful overwinter, is minus -25° F in Kenai Alaska.  I am interested in setting a record.  I expect a standard hive of a 2 deep Langstroth full of bees with 2” foam snugly placed on all sides, top, and bottom, should successfully overwinter with a Warmbees In-Hive Warmer II, with an add-on element board, to minus -60° F.  To the first party that documents a successful overwinter with logs and pictures, to minus -50° or lower, using a Warmbees In-Hive Warmer II with Add-on, I will give them a free Warmbees In-Hive Warmer II with Add-on. I invite you to check out the new Warmbees.com, and further improve your success rates in beekeeping!  I also encourage you to please feedback your stories of both successes and failures, and any other observations that you may make surrounding overwintering, and particularly with Warmbees In-Hive Warmers.  This information is very valuable to this growing community and helps us tweak future designs and information to better withstand the elements, and provide the most robust and reliable products.  The new information available now, will illuminate many of our practices and procedures that can help, or hurt your hives chances for survival.  Don’t wait till spring to dive into the knowledgebase, by then it may be too late to hedge your bets!  The Knowledgebase section on the physics of heat loss from beehives, I believe, is some of the most valuable information that you can use RIGHT NOW, while preparing for the winter months!!!   Many of you have already learned that Warmbees In-Hive Warmers are the most valuable when placed in full strength hives.  Most full strength colonies are not only stronger in the spring, which equates to more honey gathered, but consume as much as 50% of the honey that they otherwise would have required, when they have a Warmbees In-Hive Warmer installed!!!  For those with the new In-Hive Warmer II, be sure and try using the B.A.W.B feature by moving the B.A.W.B jumper to the upper pins 1 and 2.  This keeps the warmer on at a very mild 10 % always, which removes that much burden from the bees to generate winter heat.  This literally will often pay for the In-Hive Warmer at least once in honey savings (just 17lb@$5=1 warmer), in addition to not having to replace a dead-out, while still allowing for near dormant temperatures!  Thanks and best of luck on the coming winter of beekeeping!  Ren (admin@warmbees.com)

Are you new to WARMBEES?  Are you skeptical?  RESULTS!

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Spring Update

The winter is fading and spring is coming on…  A new update is overdue.  I’ve had several chances to inspect my two remaining colonies, and have verified that I do still have both queens.  My North most small colony is the smallest with very few bees left.  Unfortunately, while I did observe eggs a few weeks back, I still don’t see any capped brood.  This obviously means that without replacements, the bees will die down and fail.  I suspect some residual disease such as perhaps EFB, which I thought I had gotten resolved last fall.  However I did see one bee with deformed wings, which would indicate mite issues.  I am currently treating to see if it is possible to get this tiny colony to successfully brood, before total failure.  If I can observe significant brood in the second hive, I may take some of those bees to help give the North queen a chance at survival.  To have come so far this winter, and then not fully succeed, will be very frustrating.  This all goes to show that while the WARMBEES warmer is a success in reducing loss due to cold temperatures, disease and other issues still must be dealt with for success.  But I have learned from other pets and charges, that warmer temperatures, allow for faster and better recovery from illness.  This is becoming obvious to me to hold true with bees.  Comments from customers of the WARMBEES In-Hive Warmers, are finding that hives with warmers are coming out more healthy than those without.

Winter 2014 – 2015 testing and information

If you’ve visited WARMBEES.COM lately, you’ve had the opportunity to view the videos on the main page.  These are of some hives that turned out to be in critical trouble, due to yellowjacket predation, going into this current winter season.  While this is frustrating to me for having basically all of my hives in jeopardy, it is the worst case scenarios that the WARMBEES IN-HIVE WARMERS will ever face.  So I’m  posting occasional updates so customers and anyone that wants to follow, can see the progression.

My original intentions for this season, were to continue testing, what I call the standard purpose of the WARMBEES IN-HIVE WARMER, which is to assist a marginal – to – weak colony, to survive our Northern climate winters.  What I consider to be marginal, is 3 to 5 frames of bees.  We have proven in previous years that colonies of this size, are easily preserved using the warmers.  That being said, my goal this year was to attempt to learn what the limitations really are for the WARMBEES IN-HIVE WARMER design.  However, as I identify what I consider to be important feature changes, and modify the design to incorporate them, it obviously changes what the limitations might be.  So I actually have several versions of the warmers in play, which muddies the water just a smidge.  Nevertheless, I purposely left my 4 remaining hives out in the middle of my small apiary, un-protected, separated from each other, and with no wind break or insulation.

I installed the WARMBEES IN-HIVE WARMERS into 3 of my weaker hives early in October.  When I returned from a wonderful Halloween vacation to Disneyland, I went out to install warmers in my two strongest hives.  My main objective for this winter’s testing, was to measure the consumption of honey in strong hives, with WARMBEES IN-HIVE WARMERS installed.  However, when I opened the strong hives to install the warmers, I quickly learned that my second strongest hive (2 full deeps of bees in mid September), was completely empty of bees, and was being robbed of the box and a half of honey that it had.  Further, I discovered that my strongest hive (3 full boxes of bees in mid September), was reduced to a baseball size cluster, barely hanging on in the upper most corner of the top super.  It was in the mid 30’s that day, so I took the top super off and set it aside without disturbing further, and then broke down the 3 boxes beneath it, leaving a single deep with several frames of honey and pollen.  I then placed a warmer in the lower box, directly beneath the cluster in the super that I placed back on top.  This allowed the heat to rise from beneath and benefit the small baseball sized cluster that remained.  I did see the queen, so this cluster was still viable!

The first video on the WARMBEES.COM home page, is of this small cluster in the top super.  The 4th video down on the home page, is this same small colony 1 week later.  The cluster had actually moved down from the top super, to the warmer, and took up residence between the same two frames that the warmer occupied!  This is significant to me because, while we have seen bees move their clusters to the WARMBEES IN-HIVE WARMERS before, this is the first time, and with the smallest colony, that a colony, particularly this small, has actually moved DOWN from one box to a lower one, to take up residence directly above the warmer!  This move happened during a 2 day cold snap where temperatures went into the lower teens!

The 5th video on the WARMBEES.COM HOME page shows the same colony after surviving a night at 9 deg (F) with wind gusting to 60 mph!  The windchill registered at MINUS -15!  And they are still alive!  The remainder of that week took overnight temperatures clear down to zero!  When I checked hives in that 5th video, they were still fine and all bees were alive, however when I checked them after that week-long cold snap, I found that bees, just one frame away from the warmer, in the second hive, had died or were in the process, so to me this was a clear demonstration of the limits of the current WARMBEES IN-HIVE WARMER design.  Clearly we want bees to survive more than one frame away from the warmer during critical temperatures, and we need them to survive even harsher climates.  However remaining un-insulated and protected was no longer prudent for testing reasons.  So I rearranged a bit and insulated to preserve the remaining bees as long as possible, and give them a fighting chance at some recovery.  I will also not open and inspect quite as aggressively at temperatures below freezing.  Significant to note, is that the third hive in the videos which had only a handful of bees, still had 6 live bees after the week long single to no digit temperatures!  However with no queen, it didn’t make any sense to continue that hive as a test.  A fourth hive that is not in the videos is actually critical as well, but has about 1 frame of bees or a softball size cluster, and the warmer that I have in that hive, is the oldest version of warmer I have in the yard.  They have taken up residence 1 frame away from the warmer, which could be that it is running hotter than the others.  So as of 2 days ago, I am now down to 3 hives still in testing.  All are critical but still alive.  I’ll have to wait till a warm day to inspect for queens and any brood.

I am interested in any feedback that current customers, with WARMBEES IN-HIVE WARMERS in place, might have.  Specifically, any information about the size and health of your hives going into this winter season, the type and amount of any insulation you may have in place, and the estimates or actual weights that you may have for your hives honey stores.  I don’t expect any of you to open and inspect hives in cold temperatures, but indication of how they might be doing is also appreciated.  Some beeks will put their ear to an entrance and then tap or knock on the hive and listen for the buzzzz.  Some use stethoscopes for this proecdure.  I suggest that you don’t need an actual stethoscope to hear the buz.  Simply take a 1/4″ or larger piece of hose or tubing and place one end up to an entrance, and the other end up to your ear.  Tap or knock on the hive, and if they are alive, you will hear them increase their buzz for you.  You may even be able to tell a bit about strength of the colony by how loud the collective bees can buzz.  Finally, I am very interested in how cold it has gotten in your areas with these hives.  Success is good to hear.  I am also interested in failure information, but I don’t promise to be as excited.  Thanks for reading!  But hey its a blog… and the goal is noble, and positive outcomes should excite all who are interested!  Ren

WARMBEES IN-HIVE WARMER UPDATE

One of my main objectives this winter, is to find out what the limits are with the current WARMBEES In-Hive Warmer design.  I have now learned this threshold.  My excitement this past week (not to be confused with hubris, as it was my intention to learn these limits), was finally tempered after checking in with the critical colonies after nearly a week in single digit temperatures!  Yesterday as I checked the critical hives, I found that bees which were not between the frames where the warmers reside, parished!  So the very cold temperatures were able to overpower the periphery of the colonies!  So I finally went ahead and insulated the hives with 1″ styrofoam  (R5) on all sides.  I do want to continue my testing and rescue these colonies if possible.  I won’t know, however until warmer weather, weather the queens have survived or not.  It is important to note, for those following this blog, that as the inventor and developer of this product, I must know its limits and what it is capable of, to properly showcase and represent the product to the public.  My new design coming out, perhaps, next month, still fits the Warre and Topbar designs as well as the Langstroth, however does away with the swiveling elements and the complexity of construction and vulnerability of those flexible cables.  This should help lower cost and production time.  However this new design also allows for add-on elements, which will allow us to increase the size of the warm zone, the overall amount of heat, as well as lower the critical threshold, for the coldest climates like Alaska.

With the 4 colonies that I have been working with this winter, I now have 3 that are still alive with tiny clusters.  I opt’d not to insulate the 4th hive, since there were only 5 live bees left, that I could find.  But there were 5 live bees after a week in single digits!  I also added some small candy bricks for feed directly above these tiny clusters.  I had ensured there was honey frames and polen available to them, however I’ve learned in previous winters, that small colonies cannot move around much within the boxes.  With colonies this tiny, it is virtually impossible to move away from the warm zone created by the warmers.  So providing feed directly near the clusters is imperative.  Larger colonies around 3 frames of bees, will obviously fare better and have more lattitude to move around.  We have already succeeded with 3 frame nucs in the past.  So learning the threshold of the current model was very important to me, and the losses this week would have been prevented with some insulation and earlier feeding, as previously recommended.

It is also important that followers of this blog not only understand these facts, but also that I have made some subtle changes to the design, over this past year, as we explore the parameters that affect the bees and what we can do to maximize survival, and other positive effects, without increasing any possible negative things!  For example, the first model of WARMBEES In-Hive Warmers already incorporated a very tight controller that does not cycle.  But it did not turn off 100%, when not calling for heat, nor keep the elements from going above temperatures that the bees could handle.  I can make arguments for both of these parameters to go both ways and there of trade-offs, but for now I currently feel that it was best to adopt this current configuration.  I may change my mind back on these and other parameters, depending on further testing, depending on what we determine to be best for the bees.  So as you can see that there are many parameters and trade-offs to consider and test, and that this is about what is best for the bees and the beekeepers, but that we are still studying and learning.  We are proving that we can effectively warm and significantly impact winter survival in a positive way, but must endeavor to now understand all of the ramifications and develop the best products or features to allow for the various needs across the industry.  First and foremost survival – (Apply gentle heat only as needed to maintain dormant temperatures).  Applying too much heat angers the bees and they will sting the heat source!

Second, by maintaining a warmer range in the 70’s or 80;s (F), we can actually promote laying and brooding.  This can be a boost to a weak hive in the fall and in the spring.  Promoting brood rearing in February and March, can ramp up bee counts earlier, and empower a hive to hit the nectar flows in force, which is WIN:WIN.  However until the nectar flows begin, you may need to artificially feed the extra bees to support the build up, or they could starve.  It goes without saying that heat, which is provided by the WARMBEES In-Hive Warmers, is heat that doesn’t require calories consumed and burned, to produce that heat, so less honey is needed or consumed – again WIN:WIN.  However a dormant period is needed by bees for proper cycle and health.  The lifespan of honeybees is significantly increased by the dormant period, which is what makes it possible to survive the extended winter months without brood rearing.  Warming a cluster above dormant temps, but below brooding temperatures, will diminish the extended lifespan without replacing the bees that will now die prior to the spring buildup and flows – which means certain death to the colony, although well meaning!  Brood breaks are a positive way to reduce Varoa mites!  However warming of hives also probably aids the Varoa mites, so more study needs to be conducted to look at what the WARMBEES In-Hive Warmers are doing to the Varoa mite populations!  Standard measures for mite control and disease control must be taken independent of warming.

The BIG OBVIOUS, however, is that a dead colony leaves no more options or opportunities to work out other problems or issues!  We can work to resolve disease processes, mite problems, and lack of honey stores… or work with genetics to work on all of these things, until the dreaded deadout!  Many beekeepers argue that if a hive doesn’t make it, then it had poor genetics anyway.  I personally don’t agree!  Good genetics can meet with a bad set of events like a bad year for nectar flows or yellowjackets, followed by an extreme winter, which would stress or take out any “NORMAL” strain, if we can even use the term “NORMAL”.

Sorry for long post, just throwing out current issues and thoughts regarding artificially warming hives.  From the purest stance, we are all tired of lost investments, both from a monetary perspective and an emotional or one of time and passion!  The WARMBEES In-Hive Warmer gives us another tool to combat the one big thing that we can’t control – the WEATHER!  Now at least we have some more options to extend our investments and continue our passion.  Sincerely Ren Holmes – Inventor – WARMBEES In-Hive Warmer.