How to insulate long hives?
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  1. #1
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    Default How to insulate long hives?

    This keeps coming up, so here is my typical setup.
    The follower boards are essential (preferably foam sandwich, but anything is better than nothing).
    The roof typically has a poly insert fit under it to reduce upward radiation (1-2 inch, whatever I pull out of a contractor trash bin).
    20171029_162018.jpg
    20171029_162125.jpg
    20171029_162036.jpg
    NucWintering-2.jpg
    NucWintering.jpg
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: How to insulate long hives?

    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: How to insulate long hives?

    How about insulation on the box itself?
    Do you build them with thicker lumber or insulated panels?

    I suppose with insulated follower boards the need to insulate the narrow sides is reduced, but what about the longer faces?


    My current plan is to insulate above the frames more thoroughly than the sides of the hive, but I do have insulation on the sides.
    IMG_20181103_183802_691.jpg
    I'm planning to put foam insulation throughout the gabled roof, and use cover cloths (and maybe a winter "quilt") above the bars.
    My boxes are made out of plywood, so I thought extra insulation would be beneficial due to the narrow walls.
    Though, I think even if I made them out of 2x lumber like Dr. Leo's plans, I would put some sort of insulation on the walls.


    this guy took insulation to a whole new level,
    https://www.starhouse-observatory.org/node/15
    with 3 1/2" of R13 insulation built into his double-walled hive.
    DSC05199.jpg


    Has anyone had experience using natural materials as insulation in a hive? like straw or wool?

  5. #4
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    Default Re: How to insulate long hives?

    Quote Originally Posted by nickhefferan View Post
    How about insulation on the box itself?
    Do you build them with thicker lumber or insulated panels?

    I suppose with insulated follower boards the need to insulate the narrow sides is reduced, but what about the longer faces?


    Has anyone had experience using natural materials as insulation in a hive? like straw or wool?
    I know exactly what you mean...
    The considerations:
    * IF you will "never" move the hive, you can essentially build a fridge and that will be the best approach, IMO;
    * IF you will move the hive, the excessive weight is a problem (my 20-frame thick lumber hive is a problem that way)
    * I have hives from 2x lumber and like them (minus the weight)
    * I have a single hive experiment with sandwich walls (but the final weight is about the same as 2x lumber because of construction plywood I used - it is very dense and heavy)
    * I have no access to free wool - hence so do not use it; dry swamp grass is a plenty around me but I don't want to bother (need to make big hives - too bulky for me)
    * what I posted on the pictures works just fine for me;
    * I *may* test putting heavy plastic film immediately onto the top bars as it holds the warm air better and I still get plenty of ventilation under/around the follower boards

    My issue is that I need to be mobile; 2x lumber/heavy sandwich are not good for mobile hives.

    Future direction for me I see as two possibilities so to combine mobility and good insulation in a single package:

    1)the long side is from 2x lumber;
    the short side is from the lightest possible material (1x lumber is OK; construction plywood is NOT OK - heavy);
    use the insulated follower boards parallel to the short side;

    2)the long side is from 1x lumber;
    the short side is from 1x lumber;
    use the insulated follower boards parallel to the short side;
    make the 1.25" frame side-bars nearly all way vertically and thus create a "double-wall" along the long side;
    the concerns about propolising frames to each other are mostly overblown as they typically glue only the upper 1/3-1/2 of the frame anyway (not all way top to the bottom);
    I have seen people doing wide and touching frame side-bars and there were no complaints
    Last edited by GregV; 02-13-2019 at 09:12 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: How to insulate long hives?

    "Has anyone had experience using natural materials as insulation in a hive? like straw or wool? " Our world in addition to just starting out with bees is very much tied into raw fiber, mostly llama and alpaca, but the fiber artist in the family also dabbles some still with raw sheep wool. All three would be excellent insulators with one monster caveat. I would strongly recommend washing any raw llama or alpaca fiber you might obtain and absolutely positively no question wash any raw sheep wool if it was not already washed. The greases and lanolin in sheep wool [not in llama or alpaca] can over time develop some very nasty odors, the greases can actually go rancid and moldy neither of which I would think is a good idea in a hive. But as far as insulation, throw away fiber from any of those animals is seriously good insulation provided it stays dry.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: How to insulate long hives?

    I make my Long Hives from old 38mm (1.5") thick scaffold planks - it's a low-cost material and with 'glued and screwed' corners results in a strong and rigid hive. Although I really like Greg's idea of a box-within-a box, right now most of my Long Hives have just the one partition board with the bottom 2" removed, which then function as a 'thermal curtain'.

    I prefer to use hard Crown Boards (inner covers) on top of the main box, which support inverted jars of syrup or fondant. Above these Crown Boards are a 3"+ slab of expanded polystyrene, with jar covers being made of the same material. All of this is protected from the weather by being inside a feeder shell, with a fully rainproof telescopic cover on top.

    FWIW - I was looking inside a Long Hive earlier today. It was a 'Deep' Long Hive (frame depth 12") into which I'd fitted a partial Slatted Rack in order that 8.5" depth frames could be accommodated towards the front of the box. Now although the normal configuration adopted in a Long Hive is brood nest at the front and stores at the back - this colony has shown a definite preference for the deeper 12" frames and has set up home right at the back, and is only now beginning to work it's way forward onto the 8.5" frames. I suspect that showing such a preference - to the point of adopting this reverse configuration - may well be significant.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  8. #7
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    Default Re: How to insulate long hives?

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    ....... I suspect that showing such a preference - to the point of adopting this reverse configuration - may well be significant.
    LJ
    They like the depth, telling you LJ.
    Not any depth, mind you, just the comfortable depth of the living space - which starts somewhere around 12 inch and deeper down to about 24 inches (which would be pretty normal for a hole in a tree).
    The depth at which they stop cleaning that floor - means the hive is deep enough and they don't care going down much anymore (what I was demonstrating recently).
    Cleaning the floors shiny clean (and making some beekeepers proud) is an indicator - they just want the volume floor going deeper down for the proper micro-climate regulation.
    So they are trying to scrape it down best they can (rotten wood they could actually scrape down pretty well).

    Space between the bottom edge of the combs and the floor is also a parameter.
    I got lots of open frames in rotation - they build down, down, down and stop few inches above.
    Try it sometimes for the experiment.

    It is like living in a house with 6 foot ceilings - yes you can do it; no, you will not like it.
    8 foot ceilings are much more agreeable to most people.
    Ceilings beyond 10 foot will feel "chirchy" and not exactly comfortable either.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: How to insulate long hives?

    How does the 24" depth square with wild nests? I've removed nests in walls that were much deeper than 24". One in particular was in the wall of a house with 10' ceilings. The nest stretched from the top plate of the wall to within three feet of the ground.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: How to insulate long hives?

    Just the person I've been wanting to talk with ...

    These wall cavities - can you give some idea of their typical dimensions ? Needn't be that accurate - just trying to get some idea of what they're like.

    And - within those cavities - typically, how many individual combs would be drawn ?

    The vast majority of our houses (99.9%-ish) are either brick or stone-built, and so we seldom get to see this sort of thing. In roof voids, yes - but not within walls.
    Thanks.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  11. #10
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    Default Re: How to insulate long hives?

    Quote Originally Posted by judyv47954 View Post
    How does the 24" depth square with wild nests? I've removed nests in walls that were much deeper than 24". One in particular was in the wall of a house with 10' ceilings. The nest stretched from the top plate of the wall to within three feet of the ground.
    It squares in that the bees don't care to "push the floor down" anymore
    (added: immediately, upon arrival - what perceived in box hives as if "cleaning the floors" - bees don't care to clean the floors as soon as they get away without).

    They have enough of vertical space to work within the comfort limits
    (added: that is - during the very first season of the cavity occupation; of course, the multi-year colony will continue down every year up to a point OR will swarm if space is getting tight).

    See that?
    Last edited by GregV; 09-05-2019 at 11:39 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: How to insulate long hives?

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    These wall cavities - can you give some idea of their typical dimensions ? ........
    LJ
    Typical US house is built with stud walls.
    The typical studs are 2x4 or 2x6 (I got 2x6).
    Typical stud spacing is 16 or 24 inches on center.

    And so, you are talking of typical stud-wall void spaces with cross-sections of
    (1) 3.5x16
    (2) 3.5x24
    (3) 5.5x16
    (4) 5.5x24
    These cavities vertically may extend anywhere from 6 feet to 10 feet (typically, if talking the houses).
    You can do the math to find the volumes, if care.

    Surely, the older houses and barns and commercial structures may have other cases too.
    Typically, the voids should be filled with fiberglass or cellulose - in newer houses.
    Of course, there are plenty of cases where this is not so.
    Older houses often don't have insulated walls while the external sheathing is not so great - thus creating potential bee habitat.

    The actual lumber dimensions, fyi:
    2 x 4 1 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches (38 x 89 mm)
    2 x 6 1 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches (38 x 140 mm)
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: How to insulate long hives?

    This was an old clapboard house with no insulation in the walls. It was due to be burned, but the fire department wouldn't take it out with bees in residence. As I recall, the nest was on the east side of the house with comb running north and south. The brood was at the top, with the honey below. I don't know how long it had been there, but I got 4 1/2 gallons of honey out of it and filled two 10 frame deeps with the brood.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: How to insulate long hives?

    Quote Originally Posted by judyv47954 View Post
    This was an old clapboard house with no insulation in the walls....
    But could you spec out the stud wall numbers?
    I am curious of the old housing wall specs too.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  15. #14
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    Default

    As I recall, it was a balloon construction, with no braces from top to bottom except at the corners of the house. It was full dimension lumber, so 2” wide and about 16” on center, There were two combs in the 2" space, almost 16" wide. They had almost filled this space and has started comb in the next one. It has been demolished now.
    Last edited by judyv47954; 09-06-2019 at 01:06 PM.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: How to insulate long hives?

    Thanks for the info - so different from the dimensions of 'regular' beehives - and yet very acceptable to the bees.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  17. #16
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    Default Re: How to insulate long hives?

    Quote Originally Posted by nickhefferan View Post
    How about insulation on the box itself?
    Do you build them with thicker lumber or insulated panels?

    I suppose with insulated follower boards the need to insulate the narrow sides is reduced, but what about the longer faces?


    My current plan is to insulate above the frames more thoroughly than the sides of the hive, but I do have insulation on the sides.
    IMG_20181103_183802_691.jpg
    I'm planning to put foam insulation throughout the gabled roof, and use cover cloths (and maybe a winter "quilt") above the bars.
    My boxes are made out of plywood, so I thought extra insulation would be beneficial due to the narrow walls.
    Though, I think even if I made them out of 2x lumber like Dr. Leo's plans, I would put some sort of insulation on the walls.


    this guy took insulation to a whole new level,
    https://www.starhouse-observatory.org/node/15
    with 3 1/2" of R13 insulation built into his double-walled hive.
    DSC05199.jpg


    Has anyone had experience using natural materials as insulation in a hive? like straw or wool?
    I insulated the top of my hive with surplus ceiling insulation. Mine is a wool based product, treated to inhibit mites from eating it, so after 20 years it still looks like it did when it was new.
    Its been over the inner covers for the last couple of years and seems to being working okay.

    Having said that, i dont get the same low temps you northern types do, but I think I do get quite high summer temperatures- highest ever measured via industrial thermometer was 55c. That was a couple of years ago. But! no melting comb, so something must be working.

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