Today I want to share with you how to make a beehive quilting box. As a beekeeper you already know that excess moisture and humidity in the hive is never a good thing, especially in the cooler weather when the bees are more prone to harm and death from living in a wet environment. During the winter the bees are still active in their cluster. They keep a small bit of brood alive and focus on over wintering their queen. Despite the outside temperatures, the center of the cluster must remain 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The bees do this by taking turns on the outside of the cluster and flapping their wings to generate heat. During this process their warm air mixes with surrounding colder air and naturally creates condensation in the hive. Usually this moisture collects on the lid of the inner cover and turns into water droplets. Those droplets then drip down into the hive, creating a condition incompatible with life.
To prevent this from happening, some beekeepers try to ventilate the hive in the winter to allow this warmer air to escape the hive. They do this by placing a pencil or twig between the inner cover and the lid. Some leave the screened bottom board in place. I leave the IPM board in during the winter on my screened bottom boards. The last two years, I had success by placing a twig between the covers and having a ventilation hole in my candy board shim.
This year I wanted to try something different. As a beekeeper, I have always loved looking at other types of successful hive other than my Langs. I noticed that the Warre hive uses a quilting box in the winter to help with moisture. The idea is this: The quilting box is covered with a piece of cotton muslin and filled with kiln dried pine shavings. The moist air permeates the muslin and still collects on the inner cover. However, when those water droplets drip down, they land in the pine shavings instead of dripping back down onto the bees. The muslin also helps to wick moisture out of the hive. I just loved this idea! This year, I decided to make my own. Two of these came together in ten minutes and they were super easy to make! Here’s how you can make your own:
Kiln-dried pine shavings (important to not introduce mold)
Align the muslin on the bottom of the honey super. Tack it into place with a staple. Pull the muslin taut. Staple around all four sides.
Trim off the excess muslin to the outer edges of the honey super.
Flip the box over.
Fill it 3/4 of the way with fluffy kiln-dried pine shavings.
Place the beehive quilting box on the hive. It should go between the feeding shim or upper most deep and the inner cover. Click here for the candy board tutorial that I make for my feeding shim. It is very easy!
The feeding shim has a small one inch hole drilled into the middle of it. This serves as an upper entrance as well as a ventilation hole in the winter. Of note, consider adding a queen excluder between the feeding shim and the quilting box. One season, I waited too long to remove the quilting box. When I went to remove it, the bees attached beautiful comb to the muslin and the queen chose to lay her spring brood in that comb! Smart bees, they went where it was dry and warm.
Once winter passes and spring arrives. Simply remove the beehive quilting box. Remove and discard the muslin and pine shavings. Refill the honey super with frames and you are all set to transition the hive into collecting honey for the upcoming season.
Read more about my beekeeping and ideas.
Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest
10 thoughts on “DIY: Winter Beehive Quilting Box”
Going to try this this year. Thanks for sharing! It is hard to find answers and solutions that make sense and help you understand the whole moisture problem.
That is so cool! Having had bees in Florida, I never had to worry about this in winter. This will come in handy someday when I have bees again in a colder climate.
As you head into this winter season do you plan on using this approach again? Is there any aspect of it you would change?
It worked really well for me. I would probably place a queen excluder inside on top of the deeps under both the shim with food and the quilting box then the inner cover. This would allow the box to remain on the hive until early spring and prevent the queen from laying in the comb the bees try to build on the quilting box if it is not removed by mid- February.
Thank you!!!! This will be my first winter and I’ve been freaking out about the whole moisture/feeding thing. You made this so simple, I really appreciate it!!
This is a great quilt box demo. I am sharing it with my beekeeping students
Thanks so much for this post! I followed your instructions and hope all is well with my bees.
I’ve read some other blogs that there should be holes in the top of the quilting box, or a shim with holes added on top of the box to release moisture. Do you think holes above the box are necessary?
I have not had any issues with the moisture, the kiln dried pine shavings do quite a good job with the moisture at least where I am located. I would suggest reaching out to other local beekeepers and see what their experiences are, as beekeeping can be so different depending on location. I hope this helps!
I am in Ohio. Curious at how close your winter is to ours. I am adding my blanket box this week as it’s getting cold out. Most keepers here go down to two supers. I noticed you have three plus a quilt box… is there enough warmth with the third?
Hello Andrea, if it helps I am in Gardening Zone 6-7 depending on the winter. I have found that I have greater success with leaving a full deep of honey for the bees- thus the third deep. Yes, traditionally you can do two deeps but I find that I have less feeding and supplementing to do when I leave an excess of honey in the hive for the bees. I hope this makes sense.