View Poll Results: upper vents in winter: Y/N? consequences?

Voters
40. You may not vote on this poll
  • don't use them, lower openings only

    7 17.50%
  • have always used them

    22 55.00%
  • didn't use them at least once, had problems (condensation or mold), use them now

    11 27.50%
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  1. #21
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Auburn, NY
    Posts
    112

    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    @Dutch - Please don't change your plans b/c of me! I am just a noob asking questions, trying to figure out what might work for me. You can see from the poll so far that MOST people use upper vents. I am simply curious to know why lack of ventilation works sometimes, where and why. But even I will probably stick with the vents until I have enough colonies to experiment with.

    @Michael - Thanks for that great quote! I wonder what the N was for Gallup's observations: a couple, a couple dozen...? I am fascinated by stats/observations of wild nests, but unsure how much to read into them. Are the bees doing it that way in the wild b/c that is what they prefer, or is it an artifact of what's available? For example, location of the nest opening relative to the cavity. Seeley and Morse (1976) studied 20 nests around Ithaca NY and found that bottom entrances predominate: "bottom, 58%; middle, 18%; top, 24%" The authors pondered why this might be: "Either honey bees select cavities with bottom entrances, or fungal decay, which probably produces most tree cavities, tends to expand upward from its entry point into a tree." I can't imagine why decay would only work up, and I would have guessed that many available cavities are made by animals (e.g., woodpeckers) and are top entrances, but what do I know. Wouldn't it be great to put out a bunch of swarm boxes in pairs, one with a top entrance and one with a bottom entrance, side by side, and see what is really preferred? Maybe they don't even care, LOL! And of course, to do similar side-by-side experiments to see if there is a difference in how the 2 colony arrangements perform (with maybe 100 pairs). If anyone knows of any studies that have looked at such nest preferences in the wild or in boxes (wasn't there one on frame number?), please point them out to me! Anyway, given that bottom entrances are the norm for wild colonies, at least around here, I wonder how they are affected by condensation? I had pondered in previous posts that maybe the wood surrounding the colony was playing a role in absorbing moisture, but now that I have read more and know that nest cavities tend to be completely sealed in a waterproof 'propolis envelope' that seems unlikely. The norm is a bottom entrance into a waterproof un-vented cavity. So maybe it's all about the roof architecture, and that domed/sloping roofs (presumed for wild nests) keep condensation from dripping back onto the colonies? Or as some plexi users are finding, condensation just isn't always what we fear it to be. Anyway, once we get that figured out then we can move on to the implications of how the nest dimensions we offer are so radically different from what they have in the wild. Seriously, that same study showed that wild nests are cylindrical with an average diameter of ~9", height ~5', and volume ~12 gallons. Compare that to a Lang, where 2 deeps are 2x as wide, 1/3 as deep, and more than half again the volume, not including our supers! Our design, with less surface area, is probably better for minimizing heat loss, which might balance the fact that we aren't keeping them in un-vented cavities. Who knows, but it's fun to think about, or should I say...wax philosophic

    cheers

  2. #22
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Auburn, NY
    Posts
    112

    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    I just read Langstroth (1853) to see what the master had to say on the subject of wintertime condensation. And the answer is, that he goes from one extreme to the other in the course of the book! In the main text, he supports well-insulated/protected hives with some limited wintertime ventilation and does not support upper ventilation with a bottom entrance, an arrangement he feels causes unnecessary draft. In fact, he goes to great lengths to prevent freezing temps from ever occurring inside the hive (including multiple layers of insulation and hive placement in a wall-backed south-facing trench he calls “the protector”), speaking very disparagingly of ‘miserably thin and unprotected’ hives made of thin wood in open air (ironically, the things that today we call Langstroth hives), as he blames freezing as the source of condensation (I’m not sure about that ) and claims that bees will starve before eating from a honey frame coated with frost (that sounds off too, but what do I know ). Anyway, no need to sweat the details, because he ultimately flip-flops his views entirely. In a 2-year delay between writing the text body and publication, he got sick, did some more work, more thinking, and more writing…and an Appendix was created in which he takes the polar opposite view, abandoning his insulated/protected/stifled hives for thin hives with upward ventilation! “…in very cold climates, unless the dampness is allowed to escape from above, it is almost impossible to prevent such fatalities in hives standing in open air. The intense cold will defy any amount of protection which can be given, and the hives will be damp, the combs moldy, and the bees diseased, even where frost may be entirely excluded. Indeed the greater the protection given the hives that have no upward ventilation the greater, often, the risk from dampness. A very thin hive, unpainted, so that it may easily absorb the heat of the sun, will dry inside when the weather becomes mild enough to thaw much sooner than one painted white, and in every way most thoroughly protected against the cold…While the one is annoyed with dampness for a short time only, the other may be so long in drying as to injure if not destroy the bees.”

    Note that not only is he recommending against insulation, he is recommending against white hives here, a point quite contrary to his earlier text and that of others. [“The only proper color for a hive when exposed to the weather is a perfect white. Any shade of color will absorb the heat of the sun so as to warp the woodwork of the hive, besides exposing the bees to a pent and suffocating heat”]

    Other quotes of interest:

    “The grand essentials for successful wintering bees in the open air in cold climates may be condensed into a very few words: Plenty of bees; plenty of food; easy communications among the combs; upward ventilation for the escape of dampness; and the hive-entrance well sheltered from piercing winds.”

    “I believe that they would thrive, even if their combs were hung in an open shed, and merely protected from the wind. I would sooner risk them in such a situation than in a damp hive, however well protected.”

    “It must not be forgotten, however, that when upward ventilation is given to the hives the entrances should be most carefully sheltered from cold winds.”

    I also have a later version of his book, one which supposedly contains 40% more information and presumably his most recent conclusions. I’ll report back anything newsworthy.

    cheers

  3. #23
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Fort Worth, TX, USA
    Posts
    1,789

    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    So if I guess either way, I'm still agreeing with Langstroth at some point or other. I'm going with screened vented inner "covers", with fiberglass insulation above the screen. I think. That will slow down the drafts somewhat (my vent holes on my existing one are pretty large) but will allow condensation to escape. I think.
    Stuck in Texas. Learning Permaculture in drought, guess I will teach permaculture in drought. The bees are still alive.

  4. #24
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Livingston County, NY
    Posts
    548

    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey: Brother Adam, pg. 56, b. Protection during winter.

    He doesn't mention ventilation, but cites studies he, & others did w/ insulation. Says totally unproductive & hives did not build up as well in the spring as hives without insulation. says same protection from wind as in summer, etc.

    I am going to use entrance reducers, mouse guards, SBB's, piece of rigid foam insulation on tops only (warm moist air that meets a cold top will cause condensation, that is why I use the insul board), w/upper entrance cut into inner cover that has vent hole, some migratory tops, some telescopic.
    Rmns 1:16/Prv.3:5,6/ Beegan BK May 09/ Zone 5b
    I have NOT failed. I have only found many many ways that do not work!

  5. #25
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Fort Worth, TX, USA
    Posts
    1,789

    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    Guess I should search for a pic of a mouse guard? My helper is coming out to help me build in a couple of hours It rained, so the time to deal with the foundation is now, wet clay has raised it back up. That makes this build bee stuff day. Mouse guards...extra supers and deeps, beevac, vent covers, sbbs
    Stuck in Texas. Learning Permaculture in drought, guess I will teach permaculture in drought. The bees are still alive.

  6. #26
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Utica, NY
    Posts
    10,156

    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    Wow in another thread it was said that the ambient moisture didn't matter so if you are in a dry climate or a wet climate it shouldn't matter...

    I don't agree. We lost our fist hive to moisture and put top ventilation in the next hive and it made it through the next winter. Just a notch in the inner cover and a hole in each box. If the holes are too drafty the bees will seal it up or break it open to their liking.

    Most feral hive are not on ground level in 3 or 4 feet of snow. They are up in trees where the air is much dryer. Managed hives need ventilation in the north east. Condensation is a function of temperature swings.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  7. #27
    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    Location
    DuPage County, Illinois USA
    Posts
    9,656

    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    Managed hives need ventilation in the north east.
    Maybe, maybe not. Have you given them the option to show you what they want? I have found that my bees will close off the upper entrance/vent before winter. I have never tried to usurp their desire for a sealed off top. Simply a reduced entrance with solid BB is how they over winter.
    Regards, Barry

  8. #28
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Utica, NY
    Posts
    10,156

    Default Re: upper vents in winter for condensation/ventilation: yes or no?

    As I said the bees can open and close the small holes as they see fit and they do. I would not ventilate the hive with something that the bees cannot get to for closing up and I would not make it so large that it would take a lot of time to do so.
    I did notice that the bees closed off the hole in the inner cover with vertical comb even though there was an outer cover installed. It seemed as though they used dead bodies or sacrificial lambs to stuff in the comb at different times. I suspect as though they did not want to permanently close off the inner cover hole because I was feeding honey patties on top of the cover in the spring. The comb was bottomless so they could crawl through it at will or plug it up at will. People say that bees cannot think but I think they are very crafty creatures. Not what I would consider dumb.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

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