We had a nice day to prepare the hives for winter on October 8, 2016. It was cool, but sunny and a bit breezy. We started with the little swarm hive. It is not impressive and had some signs of fighting, indicating robbing at the entrance. We stapled Reflectix insulation on the outside with 9/16" staples. The bees got quite upset with us and began to come out of the hive to bombard us. Fortunately we had anticipated this and were all wearing our beesuits. The hive did seem too light. When we pushed too hard to staple, it rocked way too easily. Next we stapled a layer of roofing felt on top, AKA tar paper. We also used the long staples for that because it needed to go through both layers. When stapling on both the insulation and the tar paper we made sure the bottom entrance and the top ventilation holes in the inner cover we left open. The Reflectix has an r-factor of 6, which is better than most foam insulation. It is easy to cut, handle and install and removes easily in the spring. I store it and re-use it year after year. It can be purchased at Menard's or Lowe's. I did not find it at my local Home Depot, but a larger store may carry it. Lastly we put an absorbing layer on top of the inner cover. On this hive I used a burlap bag filled with sheep wool, but a blanket of any sort would also do the job. The purpose is two fold, to absorb extra moisture and also to add insulation. We did not reduce the entrance, but because of the apparent robbing, I will put a wooden entrance reducer on this hive turned to to "summer" entrance, which is the longer, larger opening. Even with all this preparation I do not think this hive will survive the winter because it did not build up at all over the entire season and did not store much honey. I will not do anything to help it because I am attempting to breed adapted bees. Since I collected this as a swarm, I have no idea where it came from. Since it hasn't acted like it knows it must endure a Michigan winter, I don't want to propagate it. We prepared it for winter for practice and just to see what happens.
We moved on to the horizontal hive next. We had to piece the insulation around the little roof and the latches, but that was no problem to do. We had to do the same with the tar paper, of course. We did close down the entrance with a wooden entrance reducer. That leaves about three inches completely open, which I will staple a piece of half inch hardware cloth over eventually to keep mice out. We put blankets in the top and closed down the ventilation holes to the slats. Since the blankets are in there it probably makes little difference, but the blankets don't cover the whole area, so it gives a place for the warm moist air to ventilate out if necessary.
Lastly we covered the vertical hive like the other two. It didn't have much evidence of robbing and seems to be in good shape, so I plan to just staple 1/2" hardware cloth over the entrance and leave it open. They have completely propolized all their upper entrance holes, so I will keep an eye on that over the winter and open them up a little if I think they need the ventilation or upper entrances. We put a burlap bag with wool in the top of that hive for the moisture absorption and insulation.