I’ve lived in Maryland since 2002 and have NEVER experienced a winter like this. The issue is not snow or days of cold temperatures but rather, the ridiculous windchill. Last weekend started the insane windchill weather: -25 F which is -31 Celsius, thankfully this would occur at night, but during the day it was -15F which is -26C. Wind gusts were 60MPH. I can’t even explain to you how cold this is. We would give the chickens water in their coop and it would be frozen solid in an hour. Faced with such marked cold windchill, I decided to wrap the hives. Not insulate them, just wrap to give them an extra layer of wind protection. As you know, wind markedly increases our perception of cold and very quickly strips you of any warmth. Any cracks in a hive, any drafts on chickens will greatly increase their experience of cold and “chill” them. Which is why it’s so important to build windows in a coop that are ABOVE the chickens’ heads when roosting–to avoid persistent drafts on the birds. This is also why bees use propolis, to seal any cracks. But if you’ve checked on the bees, then you’ve broken the seal.

It is very unlikely that you would NEED to wrap the hives, especially in Maryland. I didn’t NEED to as I knew the colonies were strong, there was only one I was worried about.

So we used ratchet straps to strap the hives down during those wind gusts and wrapped them with roofing paper. They were not tightly wrapped, plenty of air flow was allowed, I also have not closed off the screened bottoms to the hives–they’ve been open all winter as they have been since I started in 2011. No insulation, just hefty paper providing more windbreak.

Roofing paper wrapped around hives, no insulation.
Roofing paper wrapped around hives, no insulation.

We received about 12″ of snow yesterday and the kids are enjoying it immensely. This picture was taken yesterday in the middle of the snow storm.

When we had a warm day 2 weeks ago, I was able to get in the hives and add pollen patties, the bee candy was still being used though all hives felt very heavy with stores.

Adding pollen patties. Bees look good.
Adding pollen patties. Bees look good.

I actually overwinter my bees with bee candy sandwiched between each hive body, that way, no matter where they go, they’ll find food. So far so good.



  1. I have to dig my hives out almost daily to make sure there is a little, tiny escape hole for cleansing flights, should it ever get warm enough! Today was a balmy 28 degrees ABOVE zero and I fully expected to see some activity. Hope mine are toasty warm inside. I didn’t know that about chickens and always wondered if their legs and feet get cold?

    • Martha,
      When they roost, they hunker down and fluff their feathers over their feet. Drafts are the enemy of chickens and bees and I would guess of other animals too. Thankfully, I haven’t needed to dig them out and based on the activity yesterday afternoon, they are alive. New dead were dragged out and dumped and bee poop was on the new snow. All of this equals a happy beekeeper. 🙂

    • As I mentioned above, they were loosely wrapped with plenty of air flow, no sweating involved. But for those who may want to wrap more tightly, the house wrap is a good suggestion.

      Sent from my iPhone

  2. I’ve been watching the snowy scenes on your side of the pond with wonder and interest. I can imagine that you’re ready for spring though! A colony of bees can use up to 1kg per week of sugar/honey stores generating energy to stay warm (Celia Davis) so the hives should be nice and toasty. I wonder if we’ll have to start strapping down our hives in winter as our wind storms are getting fiercer. Good luck to you and your bees seeing out the rest of the snow.

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