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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
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    Kaysville, Utah, USA
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    Question Insulating only three sides a problem?

    My hive is only in direct sunlight for a couple of hours a day now. Being concerned about heat loss, I insulated the three sides of the hive that do not receive any sunlight. I was wondering if this might create a heat imbalance inside the hive (one wall possibly being colder than the others) causing the bees to cluster to one side.

    I asked around, but none of the beeks I know insulate their hives -- unlike mine, theirs are in sunlight all day during the winter.
    Don't provoke a hive full of angry bees.

  2. #2
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    Apr 2010
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    Lititz, PA, USA
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    Default Re: Insulating only three sides a problem?

    I'm not sure anyone will really know unless a proper study has been done. You'll get a lot of "I think"s and "here's what I do". So here's what I do

    I insulate all 4 sides even though my hives do get sun. The "force" tells me that the steadiness (just slower change really) of the temp inside is more important than the daily warm-up followed by the nightly cooling off on that side. Plenty disagree w/me on that though.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Insulating only three sides a problem?

    I put a piece of insulation on top. The hives that receive a lot of wind, if they are lucky, I put a piece on the wind side.

  4. #4
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    Jan 2009
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    Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA
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    Default Re: Insulating only three sides a problem?

    I am insulating only three sides on my grouping of nucs this winter, the south sunny side I am leaving only tar paper on it with 2" foamboard on the other three sides, bottom and top. I think insulating the south side would hinder the warmup of the hive which may cause the bees to not fly on the occasional somewhat nice day(above 40) in the winter. Even if the outside temp is too cold for the bees to fly out, at least with the sun beating on the tarpaper it can warm the hive up a bit to enable the cluster to shift towards more food if they need to. John

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Windham, Maine
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    102

    Default Re: Insulating only three sides a problem?

    Most of our hives get insulation on 2 sides. The sunniest 2 sides just get tar paper. Some hives may get 3 sides depending on thier location. I believe that the sun warming the tar paper may help warm inside the hive enough to permit the cluster to move. It would be interesting to monitor hive temps in several loactions throughout the winter to see if this theory holds true.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Insulating only three sides a problem?

    Quote Originally Posted by jmgi View Post
    I am insulating only three sides on my grouping of nucs this winter, the south sunny side I am leaving only tar paper on it with 2" foamboard on the other three sides, bottom and top.
    I put 3/4" on mine. I assume insulating 3 sides has worked well for you in the past, correct?
    Don't provoke a hive full of angry bees.

  7. #7
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    Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA
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    Default Re: Insulating only three sides a problem?

    Splatt, actually this is the first time trying it this way, I usually only tar paper my full size hives, but with these nucs I want to do a little more to keep them warm, hope it works out. John

  8. #8
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    Sep 2007
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    Hudson, WI USA
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    Default Re: Insulating only three sides a problem?

    Splatt. I think the trouble is that noone really "knows" what is best. The insulation versus ventilation goes all over the place on Beesource. It is an imperfect world, I assume there is a reason you have to keep your hive where it is.
    Even if there is just a couple of hours of sun a day your bees would benefit from a bit of heat that tar paper or a black wrap would offer. The hive will warm up enough to allow them to scoot over/up to another honey comb. You didn't say, and I am curious, is your hive a deep or two or more? Is it a newly established package? Was it full of stores at the start of winter? Were there a lot of bees when you last checked? These details flesh out the picture. Good luck.
    Also, we like photos.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Insulating only three sides a problem?

    Quote Originally Posted by jmgi View Post
    Splatt, actually this is the first time trying it this way, I usually only tar paper my full size hives, but with these nucs I want to do a little more to keep them warm, hope it works out. John
    I hope so, too. It'll be interesting what we all have to report in the Spring.
    Don't provoke a hive full of angry bees.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Waterford, Connecticut
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    11

    Default Re: Insulating only three sides a problem?

    Quote Originally Posted by jmgi View Post
    I am insulating only three sides on my grouping of nucs this winter, the south sunny side I am leaving only tar paper on it with 2" foamboard on the other three sides, bottom and top. I think insulating the south side would hinder the warmup of the hive which may cause the bees to not fly on the occasional somewhat nice day(above 40) in the winter. Even if the outside temp is too cold for the bees to fly out, at least with the sun beating on the tarpaper it can warm the hive up a bit to enable the cluster to shift towards more food if they need to. John
    I agree with this statement. Last year I used Bee Cozys on one hive, which insulated the hive 360 degrees and the other hive with tar paper. The hive with the tar paper warmed up very fast on a cold sunny morning and the hive with the Bee Cozy was cold to the touch if you slipped your hand under the insulation. On a 50 degree day It would take a long time for the bees to fly in the heavily insulated hive. I'm thinking of using the Bee Cozy to insulated the sides of the hive that don't get any sun, I'll use bungy cords to hold them.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Insulating only three sides a problem?

    Quote Originally Posted by libhart View Post
    I'm not sure anyone will really know unless a proper study has been done. You'll get a lot of "I think"s and "here's what I do". So here's what I do

    I insulate all 4 sides even though my hives do get sun. The "force" tells me that the steadiness (just slower change really) of the temp inside is more important than the daily warm-up followed by the nightly cooling off on that side. Plenty disagree w/me on that though.
    I thought of that, but I wasn't sure which would be better. Hopefully things get easier after your first year!
    Don't provoke a hive full of angry bees.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
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    Polk County, Tennessee, USA
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    251

    Default Re: Insulating only three sides a problem?

    Quote Originally Posted by Splatt View Post
    Hopefully things get easier after your first year!
    Nope....they don't. Im into my 4th and things still get complicated.

  13. #13
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    Jul 2012
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    St. Paul, MN
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    145

    Default Re: Insulating only three sides a problem?

    The sun can only hit two sides at a time (and the top). Meaning 1 or 2 walls are always warmer than the others. Your cluster is always dealing with a heat imbalance. I don't think the addition of insulation to 3 sides is causing a significant enough temp difference that you need to worry, the bees are going to go where the honey is stored.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Insulating only three sides a problem?

    Here's that pic I promised. The exterior wall you see is the east wall of the house.

    It was about 56 degrees when this was taken this afternoon; you can see some of the girls out and about.

    Insulated Hive.jpg
    Don't provoke a hive full of angry bees.

  15. #15
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    Sep 2007
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    Hudson, WI USA
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    Default Re: Insulating only three sides a problem?

    Splatt, thanks. nice job making the insulation fit snug.

  16. #16
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    Feb 2012
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    West Bath, Maine, United States
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    Default Re: Insulating only three sides a problem?

    Insulating 3 sides may be an improvement. Insulating will keep the hive a little warmer at night but a little slower to warm up in the morning. The open side to the sun should warm faster, at night it should cool faster and possibly be the first condensation point. The next day the condensation would melt and drain down the side. Theory anyway.
    Studies show the cluster does not heat the hive, so the whole concept of insulating in a body that is open to the outside gets a little strained anyway. In all probability insulation on the sides acts as another layer of a windbreak. The building paper heating in the sun acts as a heat sink more than as insulation.
    If you think about internal thermal currents the center hole on inside covers should be on the corners not the centers. That becomes more so with an insulated cover as thermal currents should tend to actually set up more often with an insulated top.

    If you wanted to get elaborate I would borrow some concepts from box solar panels. If the exposed south side had a clear cover and a space between that would act as a heater. (Think of a garden springtime starter box.)

    The simplest most effective insulation is probably to put the hives in a portable garage with the door open to the south. Then the whole hive would be warmed. Concern would be the bees would fly out the door and freeze. Someday I will spend the $.

    That is my over thinking of the simple

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Insulating only three sides a problem?

    Quote Originally Posted by Saltybee View Post
    Insulating 3 sides may be an improvement. Insulating will keep the hive a little warmer at night but a little slower to warm up in the morning. The open side to the sun should warm faster.
    That's kind of what I was thinking. I guess I need one of my girls to fly up to me and tell me what they actually want!

    Quote Originally Posted by Saltybee View Post
    The simplest most effective insulation is probably to put the hives in a portable garage with the door open to the south. Then the whole hive would be warmed. Concern would be the bees would fly out the door and freeze.
    I'd be worried about them flying around and pooping on everything in the garage.
    Don't provoke a hive full of angry bees.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Insulating only three sides a problem?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Quiney WI View Post
    Splatt, thanks. nice job making the insulation fit snug.
    Thanks. I tossed around several ideas (including the handyman's secret weapon), but eventually figured the straps would hold up better to the elements.
    Don't provoke a hive full of angry bees.

  19. #19
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    Mar 2011
    Location
    Utica, NY
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    Default Re: Insulating only three sides a problem?

    Quote Originally Posted by Splatt View Post
    I asked around, but none of the beeks I know insulate their hives -- unlike mine,
    So why are you?
    Have you ever noticed that people put sweaters, blankets and other clothing around dogs? Those are the ones that die young. A dog sheds in the spring and grows hair in the fall. Why do you think that is? Do you think you know what is best for the honeybee?
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Arlee MT USA
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    548

    Default Re: Insulating only three sides a problem?

    I pushed all three hives tightly together and insulated the whole row with 2" on all six sides. (4 sides plus top and bottom) But left a 1" air gap between the hives and the insulation. All my covers have a 2" hole drilled in them that was then filled with a 2" metal soffit vent. For the winter I stuck a wad of tissue paper in each hole that will hopefully block air flow but let moisture escape. So far my hives are dry as can be. My theory is that the condensation will form on the insulation rather than on the hive and run out the bottom.

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