Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Science-based, Innovative Winterization System on the Health and Mortality of Honey Bees

Final report for FNC22-1321

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2022: $29,460.00
Projected End Date: 01/15/2024
Grant Recipient: Northwinds BeeCo, LLC
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Peggy DeSanto
Northwinds BeeCo, LLC
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Project Information

Description of operation:

Peggy DeSanto is the owner of Northwinds BeeCo, LLC, which is a business dedicated to developing an innovative, science-based winterization system to improve honey bee health and mortality. She is a certified beekeeper through the University of Minnesota Bee Lab and has been a beekeeper for 4 years. She currently keeps 6 hives in Grasston, Minnesota. In her first year of beekeeping, when she opened a hive and discovered the colony had died, she felt personally responsible for the death of the bees. Over the following years, she tried numerous winterizing techniques, but continued to suffer 50% losses every winter. In her frustration, she became determined to develop an effective winterization system to improve honey bee survival.

Over the past year, to learn what she could about heat loss and moisture control, she worked with an expert in state-of-the-art insulation systems and an engineer in thermodynamics. She extensively researched scientific publications regarding effective ways to improve winter bee survival. She ultimately based the winterization design on the studies that were current and showed the most compelling data. In the fall of 2021, she manufactured 20 winterization systems and gave them to beekeepers for field testing of the prototype. She intends to use this "pre-trail" information to troubleshoot potential issues and streamline the logistics of this larger controlled study.

Kristy Allen is the owner and head beekeeper of The Beez Kneez, LLC, a non-migratory honey production and beekeeper education operation that was established in Minneapolis in 2010-2020 and is now based in Grantsburg, WI. She manages 150 hives in MN and WI for honey, wax and queen production. For the past 7 years, she has taught an intensive beekeeping course called Camp Beez Kneez for small scale beekeepers, both new and experienced. The course focuses on sustainable beekeeping for northern beekeepers. The goal of the course is to teach how to successfully overwinter honey bees. She has been a beekeeper for 14 years, first working for her aunt and uncle's commercial beekeeping operation in northern Minnesota. While building her business and managing her own hives, she also worked for Wozupi Tribal Gardens, University of Minnesota Bee Lab, and alongside many bee experts and local beekeepers. She has worked with beekeeping operations in Ecuador and Jamaica. She has presented to both regional and national honey associations and taught a short course at the Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Conference.


Every winter, beekeepers in Minnesota are experiencing 50-60% losses. Peggy DeSanto did an extensive review of the scientific studies, and the research shows that managing both cold and moisture greatly improve honey bee survival. A common beekeeping practice is to eliminate moisture by creating openings to ventilate the moisture out of the hive. However, a major drawback to ventilation is significant heat loss. The research shows that another potential benefit to keeping moisture in the hive is a reduction in parasites and diseases.

With the help of many experts, Peggy created an innovative, science-based system utilizing high-tech materials to minimize heat loss. The design is unique in that it controls where the moisture condenses, it does not seek to eliminate it. The project proposal is to perform a controlled study comparing this winterization system with the current, widely used system used by beekeepers. If this new approach to winterization is shown to be more effective, this will lead to a significant paradigm shift in how beekeepers winterize their hives. If successful at improving winter survival and bee health, beekeepers will reduce costs associated with colony loss, increase income from honey and bee sales, as well as save critical pollinators.

Project Objectives:

1. Perform a study where a new bee hive winterization system is installed on 50 hives and then compared with a control group of 50 hives to determine its impact on honey bee survival, bee health and honey consumption.

2. Perform a study to compare how the new winterization system affects the temperature and humidity in the hives compared to the control hives.

3. Quantify the amount of labor and financial savings that the new winterization system can provide for beekeepers.

4. Share the results by utilizing social media, publishing in bee journals and presenting at bee clubs.


Materials and methods:

Project was not able to be completed.

Research results and discussion:

Project was not able to be completed.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Project was not able to be completed.

Learning Outcomes

2 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Lessons Learned:

Project was not able to be completed.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.