Surprised by how damp the quilt box was...
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  1. #1
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    Default Surprised by how damp the quilt box was...

    For the last couple of weeks I've been monitoring my hives for signs of activity to see how they came through the winter. The last three days have been warm but I wasn't home during the day to see any activity. Today I was off and I saw all of my hives had bees coming in and out. So yeah for that.

    I experimented with quilt boxes this winter. I was surprised how damp the saw dust in them was. I think I'll leave them on for a couple more weeks but I've got to get some new saw dust.

    For those of you who use quilts, how often do you change the sawdust in them during a winter?
    Zone 6B

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  3. #2
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    Sep 2014
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    Default Re: Surprised by how damp the quilt box was...

    We use burlap sacks. Free at your local coffee roaster and can be dried easily.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Surprised by how damp the quilt box was...

    I use pet bedding from Walmart, BIG bag for @ $8.00

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Surprised by how damp the quilt box was...

    I use three layers of burlap, and then as many layers of fiberfill batting to fill the box. I leave it all winter and dry in the spring.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Surprised by how damp the quilt box was...

    I think sawdust is too dense for the job. I use coarse pine shavings from Tractor supply in my QB.

    I have a neighbor who has bees and she filled her QBs with shavings/sawdust mixture that is much denser, with much smaller particles than mine. When I checked her hives yesterday I was surprised at how damp the material was compared to my own (even though we live quite close to another). I don't think it's less optimal than what I use (and it may be more insulating).

    There other question I have is what's above your QB? I have a shim with a wide open vent hole and 1.5" of foam insulation tucked up in my telecover. I don't use an inner cover with the QB on. My friend has a shim with a hole, then an inner cover and a tele w/o insulation. One of her inner covers showed signs of excess moisture with mold, but the other did not. The one with mold is older and for some reason it is painted; the other one is very new and unpainted, and was in pristine condition.

    She has two layers of very thin muslin sandwiched around a layer of screening to support the shavings.

    Notwithstanding the moisture I think her QB is doing its job.

    My own, less dense, material is working very well as I often see moisture venting actively from the upper hole.

    You might change out to a less-dense material (a bale of the "soft" pine shavings is only $8 at TSC) to see if you like that better. I don't think the fabric material (burlap vs. muslin vs. woven polpropylene ground cloth, for example) will make much of a difference but after seeing the state of my neighbor's colonies yesterday I'm pretty sure the filling does.

    Enj.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Surprised by how damp the quilt box was...

    Quote Originally Posted by JConnolly View Post
    how often do you change the sawdust in them during a winter?
    If you have to change the sawdust they are not working well. There needs to be enough ventilation to keep at least the top layer dry.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Surprised by how damp the quilt box was...

    Quilt box material needs to able to slowly vent from bottom to top and thereby get the moisture to the top. Shavings work very well to allow this slow ventilation of air and moisture to the top.

    Once the moisture makes it to the top, it needs to be exhausted. You need a space above the shavings and a min of a 3/4 hole on front side of quilt box. Hole should be above the shavings. I also have 2 1/2 inches of Styrofoam permanently fixed in under side of outer cover. Frost does not form in the center of the underside of the outer cover but there is at times some frost around the perimeter.

    I also have two top entrances that exhaust most of the moisture. This system worked quite well before quilt boxes. The addition of quilt boxes made it better yet. The top entrances are a 3/4 round hole in a feed shim and an open 1 1/2 notch on top side of front of an inner cover. Inner covers have a 3 1/2 round hole in the center and are immediately above the feed shim.

    Having no moisture problems at all. Ponder whether interior is too dry as there is so little moisture in the interior. Feces from cleansing flights is stringy in appearance.
    Zone 3b. If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got!

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Surprised by how damp the quilt box was...

    I would use planer shavings, not sawdust, it's too dense. Moisture needs to move through to the outside, not freeze and saturate the material. Coarsely chopped oak leaves should work too, but even saw mill sawdust is probably too dense.

    In a natural hive, water condenses on the cold sides and pools in the bottom where the bees can use it, also condenses in the outer comb. Box hives have the disadvantage of condensing water on the bottom of the outer cover over the bee escape hole, which can allow cold water to drip onto the bees, killing them.

    I had great luck this year with some solid inner covers or no inner cover at all, just sugar above the cluster on paper (which they removed). Happy bees in all hives so far, and they are all quite heavy yet but one, which is still OK but lighter than the others.

    Peter

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Surprised by how damp the quilt box was...

    Don't make it too dry. Bees need to dilute the honey/syrup to feed their youngs. If the quilt is damp the bees will be able to suck the needed moisture. As long the moisture is not dripping on them, you are fine.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Surprised by how damp the quilt box was...

    When I lived in upstate New York and dry Maple leaves were plentiful in the fall, I shredded some and used them in my quilt box., which was a medium with some coarse fabric scrounged off of an upholstered footstool I was tossing.

    in a Medium Quilt box, it worked wonderfully...in midwinter the top 1/4-3/8" was very damp, but the rest was very dry, and when I put my hand all the way down by the fabric, it was toasty.

    I had 1/8" x 3/4"x3/4" spacers glued on the top corners of the box, and they provided plenty of ventilation w/o cuttin holes in a good medium box.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Surprised by how damp the quilt box was...

    Quote Originally Posted by JConnolly View Post
    For the last couple of weeks I've been monitoring my hives for signs of activity to see how they came through the winter. The last three days have been warm but I wasn't home during the day to see any activity. Today I was off and I saw all of my hives had bees coming in and out. So yeah for that.

    I experimented with quilt boxes this winter. I was surprised how damp the saw dust in them was. I think I'll leave them on for a couple more weeks but I've got to get some new saw dust.

    For those of you who use quilts, how often do you change the sawdust in them during a winter?
    This was my first year so I made them with 4inches about of space to put animal bedding in supported by painters drop cloth. under the fabric I left a 2inch space for feeding sugar. bored 2 or 3 2 inch holes on each side of the box.
    My results were every single one of my boxes were dry. I moved it out of the way and felt down to the fabric and not noticeably moist or warm. not what I expected. The only strange thing was I had a 2 story nuc whose holes on the quilt box had 2 inches of clearance but were not directly hit by the wind. On Feb 1st I found the quilt box still dry but the sugar had all obviously absorbed moisture as it was just a goopy mess. I threw it out and put in more and they ate all of it as of yesterday. just strange.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Surprised by how damp the quilt box was...

    I use wood shavings in my Quiltboxes
    There just 1x4 shims with heavy canvas
    Stapled to the bottoms , all mine were
    Bone dry last week and I haven't changed
    the Bedding once this winter

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Surprised by how damp the quilt box was...

    My QB is very similar to that described by Enj in post #5. The box is built out of 1X4's, bottom covered with #8 hardware cloth, filled to the brim with pine wood shavings, screened 1" holes at the 2" level - total of 8, 3 on long sides & 2 on short sides, small piece of a yard stick nailed to the top front two corners of the box to hold up the OC. The OC is designed and built with 2" rigid foam built in, and no IC used during the winter. The QB has an upper entrance (1 X 3/8") designed in the front bottom and the lower entrance is the same and also open, and SBB is open but restricted all winter. Seven winters X 10 colonies = no ice or moisture problems.

    Steve

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Surprised by how damp the quilt box was...

    I finally settled on deep box's for my quilt box set-up they seem to be the best height . I wanted my vent holes to be above the shavings for better circulation across the top of the shavings where they get damp and still allow for 5-6'' of shaving depth , I have never replaced any shavings yet during the winter and have re-used shavings the following year after they have dried out .A 2 1/2'' feeding shim below the quilt box for sugar bricks with a 7/16 hole for a upper entrance and more ventilation , and no inner cover when the quilt box is on .Seems to work good , I do notice alot of condensation on the tuff r insulation in the telescoping cover when I take it off to add more sugar bricks but this is expected from what I have been told from the warm air hitting the colder surface of the insulation , are the other quilt box users getting the condensation also on the telescoping cover.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Surprised by how damp the quilt box was...

    Laketrout, I do not find any moisture in any phase (liquid, solid, or gaseous) within the hive at the top because it has had ample opportunity to be swept out before reaching the top. The wood shavings are not even moist.

    Steve

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Surprised by how damp the quilt box was...

    My quilt boxes don't ever seem to have any moisture in them at all. They have 4x1" holes towards the top (screened, two each on the long sides of the box) to allow rising moist air to escape and a notch for a top entrance. This year I decided to go with 3" feeder rims with a top entrance notch and there's no evidence of any moisture related issues stemming from internal moisture. One hive has an issue because of a poor lid design/set up... that's on me. The only evidence of moisture with feed rims is that the upper entrance can frost shut when it's really cold. But that doesn't seem to last very long, I think the sun is usually enough to help melt that out.

    I use the horse bedding from a local farm store... this is over a mesh screen bottom. There's really barely any of that in there even, maybe 1-1.5" of the pine shavings. There should really be more, but I never got around to filling them up this fall when I put them on.

    I don't plan on building any more quilt boxes, I don't really see the benefit compared to the feeder/top entrance shims that I have now. The quilt box is much more difficult to get open for a quick winter sugar addition, protein patty add, or cluster check.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Surprised by how damp the quilt box was...

    Laketrout:

    Regarding condensate appearing on the under surface of the insulation of the cover: it varies depending on the outside atmospheric conditions when I take the box off.

    When the air is very cold and dry (outside) there is little condensation visible, but typically when I'm taking the tops off to check on the sugar bricks it's (relatively) warmer and there is visible moisture on the foam insulation tucked into the lid- sometimes enough so that it drips off in a heavy shower when I'm inverting the cover to lean it against something while I'm working on the hive.

    There is usually more visible moisture towards the end of the season than there is in early December.

    This is the same pattern I see with visible condensation around the vent holes aboce the the shavings (with the lid on) at night. It may be that early on the shavings are dry enough that they absorb most of the moisture and hold it, then as they become saturated the box begins to "work" to exchange that moisture with the outside air. It would very interesting to have some logging hygrometers above, below, and within both the shavings and the feeder space below.

    Since the moisture originates in the metabolism of honey by the bees, the size of the colony, its position, and the honey consumption rate would make a difference, too. As we all know, compared to the early-winter period, the rate of hive weight loss really ramps up towards the end of winter when the brood rearing gets underway in earnest. Perhaps all things being equal, a change over to more moisture being visible around the vent holes, in the shavings and on the foam under the cover is another sign of the brood rearing status. Wouldn't it be grand if dripping insulation meant your queen was happily back on the job?

    Certainly no moisture seen on the underside of the lid, or in any aspect of the shavings, combined with no warmth at the bottom layer of the shavings would have me extremely concerned. I don't like to rap on the boxes to confirm that there are bees alive in the hive. (And it's hard for that to be effective through inches of outer insulation.) If I am ever worried, though, I just stick my bare fingers down into the shavings to feel the heat the bees are giving off.

    Thinking of your deeps used as QBs I was wondering if one could make a bag to hold the shavings, perhaps resting on an interior ledge around the perimeter to keep the bees properly contained within the feeding space, but with the bag of shavings supported from above. If the ledge was recessed up into the boxes the height you wanted for the feeding space you could have an all-in-one "winter box", with an easily replaceable muslin container for the shavings. I find the hard work of stretching and securing the cloth floor to be a barrier to making/using QBs, and I don't like a screen floor for various reasons. But a bag has definite possibilities. See back in the Dark Ages when I was in school, girls went to Home Ec and boys went Shop, so the idea of making up the bag seems a piece of cake, but the thought of a carpentry project seems overwhelming.

    Do you think an all in one box would be difficult to tip up to check on the bricks or patties? it would certainly eliminate the draftiness of a late-applied part of the hive, and multiple joints, including the one on the bottom edge of the QB itself where the fabric is stapled.

    Oh, oh, just now thought of this idea: to moderate the excessive- perhaps harmful - loss of the hive's humidity through the QB (If that's actually a real problem.) You could simply set a small piece of non- permeable material (a piece of glass, with ground off edges for safety would be an example) on the upper surface of the fabric. It would be a limited area of vapor barrier and the fabric would be come saturated underneath it, and the bees could drink that moisture as needed. If it was set off the central area, it would likely not result in the harmful drippiness over the cluster. My bees are often actively moving around within the feeding space so they would find the moist patch, I think. Whatcha think?

    Enj.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Surprised by how damp the quilt box was...

    Quote Originally Posted by laketrout View Post
    I finally settled on deep box's for my quilt box set-up they seem to be the best height . I wanted my vent holes to be above the shavings for better circulation across the top of the shavings where they get damp and still allow for 5-6'' of shaving depth , I have never replaced any shavings yet during the winter and have re-used shavings the following year after they have dried out .A 2 1/2'' feeding shim below the quilt box for sugar bricks with a 7/16 hole for a upper entrance and more ventilation , and no inner cover when the quilt box is on .Seems to work good , I do notice alot of condensation on the tuff r insulation in the telescoping cover when I take it off to add more sugar bricks but this is expected from what I have been told from the warm air hitting the colder surface of the insulation , are the other quilt box users getting the condensation also on the telescoping cover.
    Think one hole located above the shavings in the quilt box is enough. If you have more, the underside of the telescopic cover(mine is plywood cover on 2 1/2 Styrofoam permanently in telescopic cover) is near ambient temp and moisture will condense on the cold surface.

    In cold temps, I get frosting around perimeter of underside of telescopic but a large oval area in the center remains dry.

    I also use my inner cover above my feed rim. It has a 3 1/2 round hole in the center and likely directs the heat upwards moreso towards the center of quilt box and underside of outer cover. Inner cover has a 3/8 rim on top and front 1 1/2 notch is left open. Rising heat and moisture spreads laterally in the 3/8 space. Area above the inner cover stays dry.
    Zone 3b. If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got!

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Surprised by how damp the quilt box was...

    Enj,

    Re: your Home Ec. comment, I use a pillow case full of wood shavings in the upper most 5 frame NUC box for insulation/moisture absorption. The "stack" is: 5/5 full of bees, a partially screened with 1/2 inch hardware cloth IC, an empty 5 f NUC box with the shavings filled pillow case, and the OC. As the season progresses, the pillow case is replaced with sugar bricks &/or 1:1 syrup.

    Re: Your fabric covered glass plate comment: I'm confused! It sounds like you must want moisture in the hive. In my case, all my north facing slopes at still white with snow and on sunny days when it is flying weather, the girls can fins plenty of "free" water.

    Steve

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Surprised by how damp the quilt box was...

    Steve,

    Re my glass plate idea: Lately I'm been pondering if my bees in my well insulated. and quilt boxed hives might be being deprived of moisture they need and can't find in the hive in the winter. So I've been pondering how I might remove most of the moisture (which I think can be harmful) while still supplying a small controlable quantity to meet their needs. I was thinking a smaller area of condensation plane might do the trick. (I have also speculated about small plates filled with a damp natural sponge, etc. No clear solution, yet.) I do not use any IC below my quilt box. I left one on by accident once and was surprised at how much visible moisture damage there was on it, even with a quilt box above the large hole in the center.

    My bees go out in the winter to search for water, perhaps driven out in unsuitable temps, when they can perish. I'd like to manage that better. And I often have periods where even my intrepid swarm-mutts won't leave for six weeks or more.

    I also really don't like to have a screen mesh as the "ceiling" of the feed cavity. I frequently need to scrape the festooning bees off that surface and if it's fabric I can do that safely and very quickly with gentle sweeps of the hive tool. Looking closely with a magnifying glass at the bees hanging from screening showed me they had their little tarsi hooked into the screen and I believe scraping them like I do would cause amputations. My QBs are on most of the year so I am often opening QB'd hives for inspections and you need to get those bees off before setting the QB down.

    My little notion today of containing the shavings in a self-supporting bag hanging within the deep QB is intriguing. I've been sketching it up this afternoon.

    BTW, most well-used pillowcases have a thick layer of laundry chemicals, some of which contain benzene in the interstices of the fabric. That's why I use new twill for the fabric parts, except in emergencies when I am improvising a QB for someone else in mid-winter.

    Enj.

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