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Thread: Hive Insulation

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
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    North Alabama, SW Kentucky
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    I've been thinking this winter: with all the concerns over hive temperature during the winter (and in the southeast, the summer heat too), is there a better way to shelter our bees than the 3/4 inch thick wood that makes the hive bodies? Here's my premis: what is the natural hive like for bees? Is it a hollow tree? If so, are the bees better suited, then, for a hive of better insulative qualities than we offer? If so, what are they loosing by being wintered (and summered) in a lumber hive? If anything, how could we alter our hive designs to "give it back" to them?

    Some of you have a library of knowledge on the history of beekeeping. Has this issue come up before? In England where they use the inner hive/ outer hive parts, does the extra layer of woodware make a difference in the temperature of the hive?

    What thoughts does everyone have on this?

    WayaCoyote
    WayaCoyote

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Bridgewater VT. USA
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    238

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    From what I have read here and in books it appears to be moisture and condensation that are the real problem. Last winter I wraped my hives with "blueboard" and roofing felt, they came through strong, this winter I used only roofing felt. i have not seen any activity yet this year but we have had some very cold weather here and they may still be tightly clustered.I will let you know what happens when it warms up.They are in three deeps and were very strong in november when I wraped.
    Stuart

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    I put insulation on the lids this year for the first time. I bought it to wrap some nucs. Six if the nucs died in spite of that, so I'm still looking for a way to overwinter nucs.

    But I've never wrapped hives and have never had trouble wintering hives as long as you don't try to overwitner the weak ones.

    I may try wrapping sometime, but I'm still trying to get the nucs through. [img]smile.gif[/img]

    I agree that a tree is better insulated than a hive. But I think the reason the double walled hives never caught on is weight and cost. They are too heavy to lift and it costs twice as much to make them.

    Two of the nucs that didn't make it were in styrofoam hives, so I can't say they helped any. Or hurt any for that matter.

    But if you want more insulation and less weight the Beemax may be the way to go. Balsa wood hives would be nice wouldn't they? Maybe about 2" thick and weigh like a feather?
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Hamilton, Alabama
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    Read the original Langstroth book and you will see his opinion on the matter. This is one of the many mistakes he made in his tinkering approach. I see no reason to use a double walled hive. I do see lots of reasons to give the hives we have better ventilation and a good shield from summer sun.

    In a nutshell, bees don't try to heat the interior of the hive. (Thats human thinking for you, think like a bee) They cluster to keep warm and the only thing they try to keep warm is the cluster. If you put on extra insulation and restrict air flow, condensation will freeze inside the upper cover and the bees will die. The key to wintering bees is in a different direction than use of thicker boxes. Note that the answer to this would be slightly different if I lived in Canada.

    Brother Adam set up colonies in double walled boxes and control colonies in thin walled boxes. The thin wall colonies performed best every time. The problem is that when temperatures moderate which should allow cleansing flights and/or the cluster to move to new stores, the double walled boxes hold the cold in preventing necessary activities. Note that a tarpaper wrap absorbs heat on days when the sun is out and can be very beneficial in some climates.

    My bees are located under some huge old oak trees that lose their leaves in winter so can soak up some sun when its cold. In summer, their heat load is reduced by the shade. Instead of thinking about thicker walls, think in terms of ventilation and the natural shading that a tree cavity would give.

    Fusion

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Casper, WY
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    526

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    Hi Guys,

    Insulation requirements will vary depending upon the climate and the time of year. Thin walled hives with out any insulation and just wind protection will be fine if the hives get heated by the sun. But snow, fog or darkness(Alaska) bound hives will fare better, during the winter,if insulated.

    Once the bees begin to raise brood, the situation changes. Insulated hives will have larger, looser clusters, much earlier, than un-insulated hives. Whether that's an advantage depends upon climate, season and beehive management. In some locations, an early start can result in a weak summer hive rather than a strong one.

    I've got a different take on upper ventilation. See:

    http://wind.prohosting.com/tbhguy/bee/plex.htm

    What do you think?

    A series of three articles was published by the ABJ in the 90's concerning hive insulation and cluster size. Super large, normal, and small clusters were overwintered in a variety of super insulated, insulated and un-insulated hives. The results were quite interesting. The large clusters in the super insulated hives died. The small clusters in the uninsulated hives did poorly. The normal size clusters did ok in the uninsulated and insulated hives.

    It was found that 'water balance' and not temperature was the driving force behind cluster rotation. Super-insulated, super large clusters actually dehydrated to death. The hive was too dry and when the weather would break, many bees would be lost trying to gather water.

    I've seen the same thing in my hives.

    Regards
    Dennis

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    North Alabama, SW Kentucky
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    thanks everyone
    WayaCoyote

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    As far as upper entrances I think it's a climate issue again. When I was in Western Nebraska and Eastern Wyoming I never saw any buildup of ice from condensation. In Eastern Nebraska I have and I'm not nearly as humid as a lot of other places.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Manitoba Canada
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    >>It was found that 'water balance' and not temperature was the driving force behind cluster rotation. Super-insulated, super large clusters actually dehydrated to death. The hive was too dry and when the weather would break, many bees would be lost trying to gather water.


    Interesting, Dennis. I am wintering some of my hives just outside of the house in the back yard becasue I like watching their acitity and sutch. Kindof keeps me intouch during the winter months. We have been having a warm spell, and I have been noticing the bees in all the hives are drinking melt water off the wraps near the upperenterences.
    Our climate is not as dry of winter as yours, so the severity is not near the same. I have been advised to water my indoor hives. I never considered it last year and they made the winter fine, but I think I'll water a bit this month just to see how they take it. My Relative humidity is not as bad as most larger wintering rooms. Might actually be too high.
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

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