Honey bee hive covers reduce food consumption and colony mortality during overwintering

Ashley L.St Clair, Nathanael J. Beach, Adam G. Dolezal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Beekeepers regularly employ management practices to mitigate losses during the winter, often considered the most difficult time during a colony life cycle. Management recommendations involving covering or wrapping hives in insulation during winter have a long history; over 100 years ago, most recommendations for overwintering in cold climates involved heavy insulation wraps or moving hives indoors. These recommendations began to change in the mid-20th century, but hive covers are still considered useful and are described in contemporary beekeeping manuals and cooperative extension materials. However, most of the data supporting their use is published primarily in non-peer reviewed trade journals and was collected >40 years ago. In this time, the beekeeping environment has changed substantially, with new pressures from pathogens, agrochemicals, and land use changes. Here, we provide an update to the historical literature, reporting a randomized experiment testing the effectiveness of a common honey bee hive cover system across eight apiaries in central Illinois, USA, a temperate region dominated by conventional annual agriculture. We found that, when other recommended overwintering preparations are performed, covered colonies consumed less food stores and survived better than uncovered controls (22.5% higher survival). This study highlights the value of hive covers, even in an area not subject to extremely cold winter conditions, and these data can aid the production of evidence-based extension recommendations for beekeepers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0266219
JournalPloS one
Issue number4 April
StatePublished - Apr 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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