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  1. #1
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    Default Greetings from Clinton, Utah... Researching Beehive heating/warming

    Greetings! I'm trying to get a feel for losses this 2013-2014 winter in Northern climates. I've been experimenting with an in-hive heater/warmer design with exciting results. I'm looking for any input from others who have attempted to warm beehives during winter to compare some observations and results. We started this winter with two in-hive warmers with two major goals, but now have 3 warmers in play with excellent results. The first goal was to successfully overwinter two NUCs of between 4 and 8 frames of bees. The second was to prove that an in-hive warmer could significantly increase the queen laying and brood rearing season.
    I kept my 4 frame NUC at an internal temperature around 70 degrees until mid November, and observed at least a paper plate-size patch of brood and eggs up until I turned down the warmer to more dormant-level temperatures, for the winter. So I considered this test a success, although one or two hives is a small sample to make any grand conclusions. However my brother forgot to turn his in-hive warmer down in the fall, and left it at the higher level until we checked on it last week Feb 22. Holy Cow! He thought he lost most or all of the colony by the number of dead bees on the ground, however upon inspection, it was actually stronger than at the start of the winter! This queen continued to lay and raise brood all Winter! I expect that the higher dead count was due to the artificially warmer environment not extending bee life by dormancy. So bees apparently continued their shorter life span by not going dormant, however the queen continuing to lay all winter, has apparently more than made up for the losses. Anyone out there experiencing anything similar?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Greetings from Clinton, Utah... Researching Beehive heating/warming

    Welcome again!
    americasbeekeeper.com
    beekeeper@americasbeekeeper.com

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Greetings from Clinton, Utah... Researching Beehive heating/warming


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Greetings from Clinton, Utah... Researching Beehive heating/warming

    I've had good success with terrarium heaters but they are expensive if you are doing a lot of nucs. I've had good success with a thermostatically controled space heater and the hives clustered together with a gap down the backs of the hives:

    http://www.bushfarms.com/images/Winteringnucs1-2007.jpg
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesnucs.htm
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Greetings from Clinton, Utah... Researching Beehive heating/warming

    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  6. #6
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    Spanish Fork, UT, USA
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    Default Re: Greetings from Clinton, Utah... Researching Beehive heating/warming

    To answer your first question. Most beekeepers in Northern Utah that I have spoken with have had much lower losses this winter than last. I have heard figures ranging from five to ten percent. As of the end of January I was at nine percent winter loss. Winter of 2012/2013 had many beekeepers reporting losses of fifty percent or more.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Greetings from Clinton, Utah... Researching Beehive heating/warming

    Thanks LSHonda310, that is the article that I found that brought me to besource.com I was fascinated, but surprised not to find very many more recent studies.

    Thanks Michael Bush for the links. You've obviously taken hive heating beyond most of the tiny plans I've seen. Your configuration looks to be well thought out and effective. I imagine it takes a 800 or 1000 Watt heater to make a significant impact on that scale? What kind of results have you obtained regarding extending the brood season? Have you noticed any significant correlation regarding tendency to fly on cold days with resulting death?

    Thanks Jon B, I hadn't heard any figures about this witner's losses yet. My brother and I attended a local class that was supposed to be taught by a commercial pro about wintering, but he never showed. One of the local beeks in that class reported losing most of his 70 hives last year. Devastating news. I know how I felt about my little loss last year that I was trying to foster through the winter. I was even more frustrated about losing one of my strong hives this winter. I pulled another strong one from the brink of death, with half the hive appearing to be dead when I checked on them. A quick insert of a warmer brought them back and the presumed dead, actually recovered. Way to close for comfort!

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Greetings from Clinton, Utah... Researching Beehive heating/warming

    > I imagine it takes a 800 or 1000 Watt heater to make a significant impact on that scale?

    I don't want to make a significant impact. I want to mitigate those -20 F nights.

    > What kind of results have you obtained regarding extending the brood season?

    I don't want to extend the brood season.

    > Have you noticed any significant correlation regarding tendency to fly on cold days with resulting death?

    No. The thermostat is set low. I think I've tried 50 F at the most and 40 F at the least. I want it to run constantly when it's -20 F and not at all when it's a warm day.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Greetings from Clinton, Utah... Researching Beehive heating/warming

    I have used 750-1500 watt heaters in a large insulated cabnet with landing boards exposed for flight, had a big problem with humidity with the bees being more active, If i increase air circulation then my heat goes out, its tuff to regulate. The hives and nucs did ok for most of the winter, then just dwindled down after january.
    I'm not tense, Just terribly, terribly alert!

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Greetings from Clinton, Utah... Researching Beehive heating/warming

    To me the goal of any indoor/heated wintering should be to keep them from raising any brood for as long as possible. Brood rearing requires consuming bee bread. Consuming bee bread causes excessive defecation. The need for defecation when the outdoor temperature does not allow flight is a bad combination. Complete darkness is probably the most effective solution to keep them from brooding. Cold is somewhat helpful. A popular technique (which I have never tried) back in the late 1800s was to remove every speck of pollen from the hive before winter.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Greetings from Clinton, Utah... Researching Beehive heating/warming

    Quote Originally Posted by BGhoney View Post
    I have used 750-1500 watt heaters in a large insulated cabnet with landing boards exposed for flight, had a big problem with humidity with the bees being more active, If i increase air circulation then my heat goes out, its tuff to regulate. The hives and nucs did ok for most of the winter, then just dwindled down after january.
    Thanks BGhoney, I'm trying to evaluate what others have done, and to compare with my own design, and study the feasibility and overall benefit or detriment to the bees. we're having some success and trying to evaluate the various methods for effect on the bees, and efficiency. We're additionally looking at the level of work/cost required by the beekeepers to pull it off successfully. How many hives do you typically have per cabnet/heater? Do have any idea what the cost for the electricity per cabnet / heater is, that you are willing to share?

    When I hit the internet last year looking for a commercial warmer to attempt to save a late swarm that I caught, I was hugely disappointed to find that there were very few available, and those I found were un-regulated elements. So I built my own and succeeded in keeping that little colony alive until mid March, when we had a power failure on a sub freezing day. The colony was down to a few hundred bees due to some winter flight loss, however I considered it a success since I managed to keep them alive through the coldest months. I've been refining and testing my design since. The 3 warmers that we've had on this winter season have succeeded thus far in not only preserving the NUC's, but in 2 cases, have even allowed them to grow during the winter. I've already been surprised by the bees reactions in a couple of ways, and I'm being encouraged. Thanks for your feedback!

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Greetings from Clinton, Utah... Researching Beehive heating/warming

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    To me the goal of any indoor/heated wintering should be to keep them from raising any brood for as long as possible. Brood rearing requires consuming bee bread. Consuming bee bread causes excessive defecation. The need for defecation when the outdoor temperature does not allow flight is a bad combination. Complete darkness is probably the most effective solution to keep them from brooding. Cold is somewhat helpful. A popular technique (which I have never tried) back in the late 1800s was to remove every speck of pollen from the hive before winter.
    Thanks Michael for your responses. I just spent an hour composing a further response only to lose it somehow. I don't have time at the moment to re-do. In short, I designed a warmer last year when I could not find one commercially available that I liked. We're having, what I feel, are phenomenal results with the 3 warmers that we've had running this winter. My design is in the shape of a frame and shortly will be skinny enough to fit between two frames without displacing one. I've placed them a frame or two away from the cluster in fear of frustrating them too much, but in two cases, the bees actually moved their cluster to incorporate the warmers directly in the center of the cluster. I had not presumed to be so audatious as to intend to apply heat directly to the bees themselves, but they did that not me. I had read about possibly extending the brood season to bolster the strength of a NUC, and so experimented last fall, and succeeded in extending the brood until late November, with the result of at least an extra frame of bees! My brother forgot to turn the temperature down on the old prototype that he was using, and a week ago, we discovered that while there were many dead bees on the ground and on the bottom board, the queen has been rearing brood all winter! She more than made up for the losses and the colony is actually stronger than we had last observed.

    This all flies in the face of conventional wisdom, and goes against many popular opinions, including mine, but now I'm scratching my head over it and figured I'd look to compare notes with others that have tried similar. Now that the bees have taken my fear of heat near the bees away, I'm now tweaking the design with that in mind. With a little bit of insulation, and the ability to heat just the bees themselves and not the entire hive structure, the efficiency is way up. When we discovered that my brother's hive had been kept in the 70's all winter, we expected to find no honey reserves, since the prevailing opinions out there would indicate that they would consume more being more active, but we found them to still have nearly half what they started the winter with. If that holds true, it is huge! It may be reasonable to place a warmer in full strength hives to reduce winter stores requirements, and perhaps significantly impact overall survival. I plan to approach the Utah State University Agriculture dept. for assistance with further more official testing. Until then, my little sample size and positive results are encouraging.

    May be just a pipe dream... but dreams are fun and maybe we can make some small difference...

    Again, I appreciate your input, especially from a commercial beekeepers point of view.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Greetings from Clinton, Utah... Researching Beehive heating/warming

    I'm sure the effects depend on the local climate. If there are warm enough days to make a cleansing flight now and again, it is a different outcome than if they can't. In my climate that is unpredictable, but a typical year there are some warm days somewhere in winter and sometimes frequently.

    In theory the idea of a heat source in the middle of the cluster is a great idea. In practice, the trick would be how to provide it. As long as the surface of your heat source never went above 93F it should work. But do you put it in a frame? Between two frames? I suppose that a terrarium heater could be placed in the center of a frame. Maybe with plastic foundation on each side of it? Maybe get it drawn before winter?

    All of this presuspposes outdoors. Indoors shifts things dramatically. I was thinking of trying a reefer with a vent fan and some smart thermostats that would make decisions based on the temperature inside, the temperature outside and the target temperature.

    Decision matrix based on temperature:
    Target<Inside and Target>Outside use outside air to cool
    Target<Inside and Target<Outside use refrigeration to cool
    Target>Inside and Target>Outside use heater to heat
    Target>Inside and Target<Outside use outside air to heat

    Then, of course there is oxygen and humidity to take into account, but you might be able to just assume a certain minimum air exchange for oxygen and assume humidity will be mitigated by that also.

    For indoors, I want a system where the temperature is kept down when we get a 50 F day in the middle of winter. I think I want them dormant. In know 40 F is optimal for most things, but I think I prefer 20-30 F. I suppose one could even set it up so that you go with the flow but just mitigate the highs and lows. In other words on a warm day I don't want to go over 40 F. On a bitter cold night I don't want to go under 20 F. That insures the small nucs aren't dying in the -20 F nights... and they aren't getting confused by the ups and downs of winter weather. And allowing a wider range might be cheaper to operate.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Greetings from Clinton, Utah... Researching Beehive heating/warming

    Warmbees, what type of heating device are you using? I have been giving alot of thought about external heat for my bees as well. Living in the Interior of alaska we have winter 8 months out of the year and it is not uncommon to have several days in a row with -45 to -50 degree tempuratures in january and feb. The common practice up here is to harvest all the honey in the fall and kill the bees because they wont survive the winter and then order packaged bees the next spring. I don't want to do that but it is very difficult to winter bees up here. I am just starting out and im am using a top bar hive that I built using plans that someone posted in these forums who lives in canada. However I don't think that will be enough considering our extreme temperatures. I very excited to here you are having success with your heaters and I would like to do the same thing. I don't feel comfortable with killing the bees in the fall, I would rather try to get them through the winter. Keep me posted please.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Greetings from Clinton, Utah... Researching Beehive heating/warming

    Thanks Michael for your in-depth response. I had to go to work and so can't contribute more until this evening. I would really like to have some further dialog with you about all of this. I've never considered active cooling, but it could be done fairly easily. Google the "peltier" effect and you will find tons of vendors that sell solid state active cooling devices. These are what the little portable Coleman coolers use. One about 3" square would probably be sufficient to cool a hive enough for most needs. If designed properly, they can achieve about a 40 deg delta from outside temps. Small enough for individual hives, and cheaper than Freon system of equal tonnage. And the best part, could be controlled electronically just as easily and as tight as my heater design.
    To answer your q, my warmer is self contained unit that will fit between two frames, and was designed to be a standard frame footprint. I've not sold any yet, but intend for it to be a commercially viable turnkey item that you simply take out of the box, set the desired temperature to either dormant (40) or active (75), and simply drop it in like a frame. It has an external indicator for power and heat indication. It uses a standard wall plug power supply at about 12 watts, and low voltage into the hive.

    To answer the question from Alaska, the current design is capable of up to a maximum of 12 Watts which equates to around 40 BTU per hour, right into the cluster of the bees.
    I'm sure I could design a version for Alaska that is capable of whatever was determined necessary to keep them alive. I've already had beefier ideas in mind for the Northern most climates. It is necessary to provide moisture the colder it gets, because of physics, and I've just been giving them a bottle of syrup on top of the inner cover all winter. This way it is right there above the cluster if they need it.
    I'm not sure why my signature isn't showing up, but you can see more about it on my site, warmbees.com

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Greetings from Clinton, Utah... Researching Beehive heating/warming

    Thanks for the link to your website. It would be a game changer if your device could work for our extreme temps.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Greetings from Clinton, Utah... Researching Beehive heating/warming

    Quote Originally Posted by chris_nelson123 View Post
    Thanks for the link to your website. It would be a game changer if your device could work for our extreme temps.
    Thanks Chris for the inquiry. Thus far we have not been seeing any major problems with moisture, but to be clear, our original design pardigm has been similar to Michael Bush, in that the goal has been to stay out of the way, or hands off as much as possible, and only step in when needed. So the warmer only comes on if the temperature just above the cluster drops below the setpoint. So if the bees are capable of keeping their own temp up, the warmer isn't even in the equation. We're just stepping in to give just the amount of assistance needed. My controller is designed to be so tight that there are no swings or variations in temp like traditional thermostats. So unlike so many other designs, we are sensing directly in or just above the cluster itself, and applying steady mild heat directly to the bees.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Greetings from Clinton, Utah... Researching Beehive heating/warming

    Hey Warmbees, I had 28 nucs in a long box with 2 inch insulation all around, I was using 2 - 1500-750 watt heaters both set at 750 watts. both heaters were set as low as they would go, around 53f. I think in the book" honey bee democracy "he stated that a cluster of bees could generate 40 watts of heat. I have switched from trying to heat them to keeping the rain and wind off the nucs. I built a 6 x 16 bee shed with removable panels, and moveable racks 5 high. should hold around 130 nucs if I filled it. The new battle now is how to keep the yellow jackets from robbing out the nucs . Last year I had 6 traps and they were 5 inches full everyday. Funny late , around sept, honey was the best bate and very seldom caught a honey bee.
    I'm not tense, Just terribly, terribly alert!

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Greetings from Clinton, Utah... Researching Beehive heating/warming

    Thanks BGHoney, I've not seen similar heating projects of the scale that your describing prior to joining beesource recently. Michael Bush's threads were some of the larger scale that I've, recently learned, exist. I'm sure its my own ignorance and lack of exposure. I show 12 years with 2 recently in my signature, which is true, however the first 10 were in my youth with my father, and frankly nearly 30 years ago. I started my more recent passion when I caught my swarm 2 years ago late in the season, and you know the rest, however with the huge losses last year and in recent years, I'm amazed that there is not an all out war against winter loss, with brilliant minds from all over the globe, expending major resources on the problem. And again, this is probably the case, but I just haven't been connected to the industry to see it. But if this were the case, I would expect a whole lot more hats in the ring, with products and research, (more recent than the 1950's) readily apparent when I search.

    So thanks again for your responses. I'm encouraged to learn of yourself and Michael, with serious efforts being applied to the problem!

    Again, I am very interested in further dialog with yourself and Michael and any others that are working on the heating possibilities, but as I am new to the forum and may have error'd in starting this thread in the "WELCOME" forum, perhaps somebody like Barry could respond quickly and advise me on protocol. Should I open a new thread in the BEES forum, or should/could this thread be moved to a more appropriate forum?
    Beekeeping 12 yrs, 2 recent - 10 Hives - 6a - Engineering Solutions against Winter Losses! - WARMBEES.COM

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Greetings from Clinton, Utah... Researching Beehive heating/warming

    I tried to post the other day and it wouldn't let me, so here's another try.

    So BGHoney, quick math tells me that my in-hive warmer design, being on maximum full time, would come to 28 hives X 12Watts and yields 336 Watts. You would still need a method of insulation, but the intent is to put only the amount of heat necessary, directly into the bees, and not waste any outside of the box. My hives are almost never on full time, or maximum, except in the coldest nights or days. Again, unless I am experimenting with warmer temps to extend brooding, if the bees are capable of warming it themselves, the warmer never even comes on.

    This is why I'm anxious to compare notes. I'm hoping that we've come up with a method that approaches maximum efficiency, that brings the cost of preserving NUC's down to manageable and makes it more cost effective than purchasing packages.
    Beekeeping 12 yrs, 2 recent - 10 Hives - 6a - Engineering Solutions against Winter Losses! - WARMBEES.COM

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