Marty Allen writes: Do you recommend wrapping hives for winter?
Yes, I recommend wrapping hives for winter. The black paper absorbs heat from the sun on cold winter days and adds a bit of protection in windy apiaries. I use a single layer of 15 pound felt (tarpaper) with insulation of some type above the inner cover. A piece of 2" rigid foam cut to the size of the inner cover works well, and can be re-used year after year. An empty super with dry leaves or planer shavings can also be used. The felt paper should be wrapped around the hive and be tucked under the outer cover. Don't wrap the hive with the paper folded over the inner cover like a package. That holds the moisture in and causes problems.
The worst thing for our bees during the long winter confinement is moisture. With an insulated inner cover, and an upper entrance, excess moisture leaves the hive as vapor and doesn't condense within the hive. Leave your bottom entrance wide open, protected from mouse intrusion with a piece of 1/2" hardware cloth. Cut a strip 4" wide by the width of the bottom entrance. Fold into a wedge lengthwise and shove into the entrance. For a top entrance, use the notch on the front rim of the inner cover. Place the notch down, and toward the front of the hive.
For a colony to winter properly, there must be a large population of young bees that are healthy and unaffected by varroa mites and viruses. They need 70-80 pounds of well ripened feed. While wrapping a hive won't save a weak colony, it will help good colonies make it to spring with a healthy cluster of bees.