Thursday, December 31, 2009

Weather warning: Batten down the hatches...err...hive!

When bad weather is coming, sailors use the phrase, "batten down the hatches" which means to prepare for the worst. Although I'm no sailor, that's just what I'm having to do here...batten down the hatches, or maybe I should say...the hive! 

The weather forecasters here in my area are calling for severe weather, most say bitterly cold, over the next few days. While the daytime temperatures will be in the 30s, the nighttime temperatures are dipping into the upper teens, low 20s range. Not taking a chance that it could freeze my honey bees, I've decided to shut off the screened bottom board until the temperatures climb back up a little warmer.

Closing off screened bottom boards in cold weather can be the subject of controversy among beekeepers. Some never shut off their bottom boards..while others say that when the weather gets nasty, they shut it off to restrict air-flow inside the hive and make it easier for the cluster to conserve heat. My though is this...if screened bottom boards make it better to increase ventilation for the bees in the hot summer months...closing it off during extreme cold temperatures to reduce the frigid air-flow can't be all that bad. So I have elected to close it off until the temperatures stabilize again.

I am really fortunate that I have friends in the sign business. Steve Moore and his wife own Southern Screen Printing and Graphics, and they make all sorts of signs including campaign signs and those signs you see for big sales..and they also make special notice signs for our local city government. The signs are made of heavy-duty plastic corrugated cardboard which is basically weatherproof. Unfortunately for Steve, if they make a mistake in the printing, they have to throw the sign away. But his loss is my gain. I asked Steve if I could have some of the throw-away signs for my bee hive..and he gladly handed me about ten of them. So I brought them home and had them in my garage...knowing that I would use them at some point. And now is the time. Thanks, Steve!

As you can see in the pictures, the corrugated cardboard is perfect to slide right under my screened bottom board. I did have to trim off about six-inches down the length of the sign, but nothing else. Luckily I have a spare screened board in my garage and was able to use it for a guide. So I inserted it under the hive and pushed it in.

Voila! As you can see to the right, the sign is pushed all the way to the front of the hive, and now the screened bottom board is completely shut off from the outside air. Plus I have enough excess on the edge that I can just reach down and pull the sign out and not have to dig around to grasp it. Oh, and he also had some plain white signs that had flaws in them, so I can use those to do mite counts when the need arises. Plus I have enough extra signs to use for my new hives that pop up in the future.

Here's an idea. If you're like me, I hate to see campaign signs sit around for weeks or months after an election. So now you can see just how those signs could be put to good use after their original usefulness is long gone. Of course, don't get yourself into trouble taking them if it is against the law. 

As I close this out, I would like to take time to wish a happy new year to one and all! May 2010 be your best year ever in so many ways!


  1. Wish somebody would write a definitive book on beekeeping, but as we know ask 3 beekeepers the same question.....

    I didn't close off my screened bottoms last winter and the bees did fine. This year, for some reason I don't know, I decided to do so. So far, the bees seem to be faring quite well. We'll be lucky to see temps out of the 20's this week.:(

  2. I screened off my own hive a good couple of months ago but that was partially due to my concern about the possible lack of food sources. Looking forward to having more than one colony in 2010 so I will be able to compare the results from varying techniques between the hives. All the best for 2010!

  3. Great idea on the signs. I like it. It seems we all have the same delimma about beekeeping advice. I've even got different answers from the same beekeeper. We're all on our own out here... The blogs have been a great source of realtime information. Keep 'em coming!

  4. Cliff: Happy New Year! Like you, I plan to have a second hive this year, so it will be good to see what happens between the two. My hive has a huge store of food, but I'm sure that with the cold weather for this coming week, the winds could whip up the bottom of the hive -- maybe chilling the cluster -- so with the bottom board being shut off, it reduces the chances of that happening. Least I hope so anyway. Good to hear from you!

    Steve: Good to hear from you. Hope all is well in Georgia! By the way, I added you to my real-time beekeepers posting list, so others that isit my blog can see what's going on in your neck of the woods. Stay warm down there!

  5. My Varroa board opens at the back of the hive and what I did was put the same kind of corragated plastic on mine but I put it across the back, tapped across the top edge sto that it works like a flap. Then I put on my winter wraps (I'm in Canada so wraps are needed). For a little extra measure I had a 1" board that I laid across the back of both hives, especially since the back of the hive would take the force of westerly winds.

    Best wishes for 2010 to you too Mark.



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