I replied to another post about insulating with Shavings, but thought since it is 'That time of year' I would start another thread about winterizing. This post addresses insulating tops.
Last year I bought some food grade burlap sacks from a Starbucks supplier for $1.00 each. I put a small scoop of shavings in each one and folded it like a pillow. Here are my screened top covers:
(This hive actually has two colonies..3 deep frames over 3 on the left- double stack of mini deep frames on the right)
This is a recent photo taken October 15th-good fall scenario.
The problem is, if you put shavings or leaves directly on the screen, you will foul the comb below with 'crumbs' and you can not easily remove the insulation material to see the cluster below. WIth the pillow, all you do is lift he cover and lift the pillow to make a quick visual check in winter without losing too much heat and no mess.
Insert the pillow in an empty super and you can use any type lid. (My screened top covers have a 1/2" x 1" notch for top entrance and ventilation.) I never get moisture problems With this set up. I still may have to crack the top cover very slightly, as condensation will accumulate on the upper most surface. A vent hole too far away will serve no purpose other than perhaps a top entrance.
Most of my inner covers have a few small holes drilled into them just for this reason.
The pillow with the shavings will allow air and moisture to filter through it-without accumulation in the pillow itself. You have good balance of ventilation and insulation.
I am in the Pacific Northwest, near the coast. Known for our wet weather. Even a large cluster like this will not create condensation in the hive with this set up. But you Must have some venting near the top.Note: the shavings are not for absorption, they are for insulation. Shaving will absorb moisture, but that should not be your intent. If a person really wanted to have a natural moisture absorbing material-why not use stove pellets? They will absorb a tremendous amount of moisture before getting saturated. Just keep you eye on them and replace them when needed. Be sure to put them in a sack or you'll have a mess for sure.
So for those more difficult to insulate Migratory covers, this is another way I insulate them without a huge amount of specialized equipment to store. These are fast and easy to make and can be used in the hot summer months in warmer climates.
Just make a simple frame (19 7/8" x 16 1/4") or the size of your hives. I use 1 1/2" X 3/4" hem/fir.
Cut 1 1/2" thick Foam insulation with a square and razor knife to tightly fit the frame. You don't have to worry about squaring up the frame, when you stuff in the rigid insulation it will square it up for you. Just be sure to cut the insulation accurately. It should be quite tight to stay in place by itself...BAM! Done!
Here's the application:
Hive box and top cover. Here you see my screened top inner covers which allow me to feed or view without disturbing the colony. You will need an inner cover of some kind or the bees will chew the insulation.
Now set the insulating frame on top. Now I have created about a 2" dead air space. (I still have room to add organic matter or moisture absorbing material in that space if I want.)
Now you lid of choice.
I use aluminum 2" tape (you see on the top of the cover) to mark all my hives..what strain, what queen, etc.
You can find it in the HVAC section of you local hardware store. Use a fairly fat black permanent marker, it will not fade and will stay on until you peel it off. Not to awful difficult to take off, even after a year.
Left is the insulated frame, right is the empty frame.
You can see a stack of these takes up no real storage space. They are the lightest piece of bee equipment you'll own.
I make my telescoping lids with 3" material so I have room for a full inch of insulation and still have good overhang and wind resistance.
When I am all done for the fall with hive management, I strap the hives down with ratchet straps to keep the lids on and critters out.