Transparent PVC boards instead of Wood for Bee Hive
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  1. #1
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    Default Transparent PVC boards instead of Wood for Bee Hive

    Does anybody have experience with building/using a hive box made out of Transparent PVC board?

    Transparent PVC board is available with up to 15mm thickness. It seems to me that a reasonably sturdy Langstroth deep box can be made from it instead of wood. The joints can be glued with PVC glue to build a strong joint stronger than nails or screws. The joints would also be moisture and air proof. The box would be lighter, more durable, rot-free, long lasting and no need to paint and will retain it beauty. I believe it will also be cheaper and have a higher r-value for better insulation.

    My main motivation is to be able to see parts of the frames to be able to see potential problems without having to open the hive. For example, honey frames can be seen whether they have been capped and therefore ready for harvest. Swarm cells might be detected earlier so that we can take action to avoid the swarming. We would be able to assess a colony faster which would be a godsend for commercial beeks.

    I can foresee several issues with using Transparent PVC, some of which I think I can mitigate. Other issues, I do not know if they are insurmountable issues and I am hoping to get some ideas from experienced Beeks here. Some of the issues I will enumerate below.

    1. PVC glue might outgas and hence be unacceptable to bees. I believe this can be mitigated by dipping in beeswax to mask and cover the smell and make it more acceptable to bees.

    2. PVC itself may be unacceptable to bees. Again, dipping or coating with beeswax should solve this issue.

    3. The hive will not be totally dark. I do not know if this is an issue. Does anyone know if the bees will colonize a hive that is not totally dark? Will they be comfortable is such a hive? I've seen observation hives and the bees appear to be not bothered by light; but that is only light for a short amount of time. How will bees react if the hive is illuminated all day long? Will the Queen even lay in frames that are not totally dark? I suppose I can mitigate this problem by covering the hive but this will incur more work.

    4. Sunlight will be directly shining onto the hive possibly raising the temperature inside. The increased temperature may or may not be a problem. Its advantageous since it will evaporate more moisture to make honey faster. Its disadvantageous as it may cause more bees to spend more effort in fanning to cool the hive. This may be mitigated by installing a chimney to increase air flow ventilation to lower inside temps but improve honey evaporation. This might be good for honey production.

    Does anyone foresee any other issue with my plan above?

    Thanks
    Jojo

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Transparent PVC boards instead of Wood for Bee Hive

    Quote Originally Posted by JojoJaro View Post

    2. PVC itself may be unacceptable to bees. Again, dipping or coating with beeswax should solve this issue.
    ... and you still expect to be able to see inside ?

    4. Sunlight will be directly shining onto the hive possibly raising the temperature inside.
    Not "possibly" - definitely. There are sound reasons why bees are not kept in glasshouses - summer or winter. Look up "Solar Wax Extractor".
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Transparent PVC boards instead of Wood for Bee Hive

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    ... and you still expect to be able to see inside ?
    The wax coating is not totally opaque. Besides, I believe the bees will reuse the beeswax rendering the walls transparent again.

    Not "possibly" - definitely. There are sound reasons why bees are not kept in glasshouses - summer or winter. Look up "Solar Wax Extractor".
    LJ
    So, I guess an outer covering is required. I just need to remove the outer covering before I can see thru the insides. But that would be better than having to open the hive. Removing the covering is less labor than opening the hive, which would also be better for the bees. Do you have any suggestions on how to mitigate this problem?

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Transparent PVC boards instead of Wood for Bee Hive

    Does anyone know how the bees (or the Queen) would react to a hive that is illuminated all day long? Will they find this hive so uncomfortable such that they will abscond?

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Transparent PVC boards instead of Wood for Bee Hive

    Since all the action in a colony happens between the frames I don't know what you expect to see.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Transparent PVC boards instead of Wood for Bee Hive

    This seems driven by similar frame of mind that attracted people to the flow hives. " But that would be better than having to open the hive. Removing the covering is less labor than opening the hive, which would also be better for the bees."

    Many conditions within the hive need much better visual clarity than would exist in your concept. Brood patterns, brood condition, queen presence, backfilling etc.
    Frank

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Transparent PVC boards instead of Wood for Bee Hive

    Quote Originally Posted by JojoJaro View Post
    The wax coating is not totally opaque.
    Well - try it. Take a pane of glass and coat one side of it with beeswax. You''ll be able to tell light from dark ok, and maybe make out fuzzy shapes - but you won't be able to see though it in order to make out any details.

    I believe the bees will reuse the beeswax rendering the walls transparent again.
    Not a chance of that happening this side of hell. What they are very likely to do is begin adding propolis to the wax, rendering it even more opaque than before.

    So, I guess an outer covering is required. I just need to remove the outer covering before I can see thru the insides. But that would be better than having to open the hive. Removing the covering is less labor than opening the hive, which would also be better for the bees. Do you have any suggestions on how to mitigate this problem?
    Suggest you look at what already exists in this field - observation hives, for example. I know very little about them, but there are many on here who do. But these are not 'left out in the field', as it were.

    Some Warre beehive enthusiasts incorporate inspection windows into their boxes, which are normally covered when not being used - I see no reason why that modification couldn't be incorporated into Langstroth boxes. Here's a link which may be useful: http://warre.biobees.com/guillaume.htm

    I remember once seeing a photograph of a Warre Hive which was built in Perspex from top to bottom, but I suspect that was more of a demonstrator than a working beehive. I'll trawl around and see if I can find it again. (*)
    LJ

    (*) https://warre.biobees.com/ last picture on that page. Dunno any more about this - other than having once seen that particular photograph.

    Also:
    http://www.apiculturegatineau.fr/photo_7.html

    I created and manufactured this observation hive, especially for the joint congress exhibition - SNA and UNAF at GAP in 1977. The bees entered and exited by a transparent corridor of one meter twenty, towards the outside of the exhibition room (Gold Medal).
    Last edited by little_john; 03-18-2020 at 07:15 AM. Reason: added link to photograph referred to
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Transparent PVC boards instead of Wood for Bee Hive

    I have a couple of hive bodies that have plexiglass windows in the sides that are normally covered with wood unless I take them off for viewing. I have had them for years and know exactly what you will see.

    "My main motivation is to be able to see parts of the frames to be able to see potential problems without having to open the hive. For example, honey frames can be seen whether they have been capped and therefore ready for harvest. Swarm cells might be detected earlier so that we can take action to avoid the swarming."

    You will be completely disappointed. There are only 2 things that you will see. 1. a few bees on frames of honey. The brood, queen cells, etc. will always be in the middle of the hive where you cannot see. 2. When they start brooding up in the winter there will be condensation on the clear walls of the hive.

    It will have to be covered all the time you are not viewing it if it gets any sunlight or as others have said it will be a solar wax melter and the bees will abscond.

    As far as using PVC, others have built PVC bottom boards that work well. Once it is cured, the PVC solvent will not be a problem. I am planning on building a white PVC hive to test out because of it's excellent water resistance. However, my concern is strength. PVC boards are more flexible than wood and may need to be thicker than what I can get here in order to stand up to all the weight above them.

    "Transparent PVC board is available with up to 15mm thickness"

    15 mm is about 0.59 inches which will not be strong enough. 3/4 inch is the minimum I would even try. A full inch would be preferable, but currently unavailable to me.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Transparent PVC boards instead of Wood for Bee Hive

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Grimshaw View Post
    Since all the action in a colony happens between the frames I don't know what you expect to see.
    Well for one, since they are mostly on the bottom of the frames, swarm cell or developing queen cups might be visible. This is probably one of the more important things to watch out for.

    Secondly, I would be putting Drone cells on the outer frames which would make it directly visible, thus making Varroa diagnosis a little easier.

    Thirdly, assessing the rate of honey production would be easier without opening the hive.

    Fourthly, assessing mite infestation levels might be faster.

    Fifthly, assessing SHB or wax moths presence and infestation levels would be faster

    Lastly, diagnosing temperature and humidity levels might be better. Once you see bees fanning often, you can immediately tell you that you have a temperature problem. Once you open the hive, bees will stop their natural behavior depriving you of this diagnostic tool.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Transparent PVC boards instead of Wood for Bee Hive

    Beekeeping is hard work, hands on, and it requires one to get into the hives to inspect them and make any necessary changes. No offense, but it seems like you really do not want to be a beekeeper. There are some who are "beehavers" and maybe this is more suited to what you want to do. But if you just want to have bees, do not put them in clear plastic boxes. It's a really bad idea. J

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Transparent PVC boards instead of Wood for Bee Hive

    Quote Originally Posted by crofter View Post
    This seems driven by similar frame of mind that attracted people to the flow hives. " But that would be better than having to open the hive. Removing the covering is less labor than opening the hive, which would also be better for the bees."

    Many conditions within the hive need much better visual clarity than would exist in your concept. Brood patterns, brood condition, queen presence, backfilling etc.
    I don't want to sound confrontational cause I truly appreciate your response, but your response seems to me to be of the mindset that the more you open the hive to inspect, the better. Just because you do not want to open, does not mean you are a lazy beekeeper. Besides, what is wrong with being a "lazy" beekeeper. I am of the mind set that the less you open it, the better. I am sure bees do not want you to destroy their home and disrupt their lives every time you have to open just to see if you have a "problem". It seems to me that you are creating a problem just to see if you have a problem every time you open. Transparent hives simply gives you an indication on whether you need to open the hive more. If you do not see a problem looking thru a transparent hive, you do not need to open. In the course of your management, you will end up opening the hive significantly fewer times if you have a transparent hive. I do not know why that is being ridiculed as a bad thing, like the "similar frame of mind that attracted people to the flow hives" statement you made.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Transparent PVC boards instead of Wood for Bee Hive

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    Well - try it. Take a pane of glass and coat one side of it with beeswax. You''ll be able to tell light from dark ok, and maybe make out fuzzy shapes - but you won't be able to see though it in order to make out any details.



    Not a chance of that happening this side of hell. What they are very likely to do is begin adding propolis to the wax, rendering it even more opaque than before.



    Suggest you look at what already exists in this field - observation hives, for example. I know very little about them, but there are many on here who do. But these are not 'left out in the field', as it were.

    Some Warre beehive enthusiasts incorporate inspection windows into their boxes, which are normally covered when not being used - I see no reason why that modification couldn't be incorporated into Langstroth boxes. Here's a link which may be useful: http://warre.biobees.com/guillaume.htm

    I remember once seeing a photograph of a Warre Hive which was built in Perspex from top to bottom, but I suspect that was more of a demonstrator than a working beehive. I'll trawl around and see if I can find it again. (*)
    LJ

    (*) https://warre.biobees.com/ last picture on that page. Dunno any more about this - other than having once seen that particular photograph.

    Also:
    http://www.apiculturegatineau.fr/photo_7.html
    Good suggestions, you changed my mind about coating the walls with beeswax. It may not be a problem as some posts here have suggested that bees will accept a PVC hive. I will just have to devise a means to wrap it when I am not observing it. Maybe opaque panels on hinges to cover it much like observation hives.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Transparent PVC boards instead of Wood for Bee Hive

    Quote Originally Posted by ffrtsaxk View Post
    I have a couple of hive bodies that have plexiglass windows in the sides that are normally covered with wood unless I take them off for viewing. I have had them for years and know exactly what you will see.

    "My main motivation is to be able to see parts of the frames to be able to see potential problems without having to open the hive. For example, honey frames can be seen whether they have been capped and therefore ready for harvest. Swarm cells might be detected earlier so that we can take action to avoid the swarming."

    You will be completely disappointed. There are only 2 things that you will see. 1. a few bees on frames of honey. The brood, queen cells, etc. will always be in the middle of the hive where you cannot see. 2. When they start brooding up in the winter there will be condensation on the clear walls of the hive.

    It will have to be covered all the time you are not viewing it if it gets any sunlight or as others have said it will be a solar wax melter and the bees will abscond.

    As far as using PVC, others have built PVC bottom boards that work well. Once it is cured, the PVC solvent will not be a problem. I am planning on building a white PVC hive to test out because of it's excellent water resistance. However, my concern is strength. PVC boards are more flexible than wood and may need to be thicker than what I can get here in order to stand up to all the weight above them.

    "Transparent PVC board is available with up to 15mm thickness"

    15 mm is about 0.59 inches which will not be strong enough. 3/4 inch is the minimum I would even try. A full inch would be preferable, but currently unavailable to me.
    Your response has been the most useful response thus far. Very much Thanks.

    If the entire wall were transparent, you can see the entire outer frames, which is precisely where the bees would fill with honey last. If you see this frame capped, you have an indication that all the other inner frames would have been capped also. This would indicate a super that would be totally ready to be harvested. Seems easier and less disruptive to the bees.

    Actually, I mentioned 15mm PVC boards because that was the cheapest I could find at Alibaba. But they do make transparent PVC boards up to 30mm. I believe 30mm would be strong enough.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Transparent PVC boards instead of Wood for Bee Hive

    Quote Originally Posted by Fivej View Post
    Beekeeping is hard work, hands on, and it requires one to get into the hives to inspect them and make any necessary changes. No offense, but it seems like you really do not want to be a beekeeper. There are some who are "beehavers" and maybe this is more suited to what you want to do. But if you just want to have bees, do not put them in clear plastic boxes. It's a really bad idea. J
    Once again, I get the sense that people ridicule other people just because they want to save on labor. What is inherently wrong with being a "lazy" beekeeper anyways. The entire point of many features we have with our modern hives is to make it easier for the beekeeper. Beekeeping does not need to be backbreaking difficult. We need to invent ways to make it easier. And just because one wants to find ways to make life easier does not mean he is a bad beekeeper.

    Just as some posters have pointed out, transparent hives do have some disadvantages which I intend to mitigate if possible - like covering it when I am not observing it. It would be more helpful for you to tell me why transparent hives are such a bad idea instead of criticizing my personal motivation. Getting personal really is not very helpful.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Transparent PVC boards instead of Wood for Bee Hive

    A wiser man than I said, "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door".

    I say, "Build it and you will be able to unequivocally and unapologetically answer all of your questions".

    Good luck,
    Alex
    Ten years of Beekeeping before varroa. Started again spring of 2014.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Transparent PVC boards instead of Wood for Bee Hive

    I think you should just do it! Experience is the best teacher ( sometimes the most expensive though ). Prove these nasty naysayers wrong!
    Frank

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Transparent PVC boards instead of Wood for Bee Hive

    Jojo, I encourage innovation, but your lack of beekeeping experience means at this point you don't know what you don't know. My advice would be to make a Plexiglas inner cover for a wooden hive. You can remove the top and look down between the frames to get an idea of what is happening in the hive (as long as the plexiglas stays clear). Proper hive inspections are a necessary part of sucessful beekeeping. Trying to be minimally invasive for long periods of time is a recipe for a dead hive. Contrary to what you may have read or heard, going into the hive to check stores, laying pattern, queen cell development, etc. can be done quite frequently witbout disrupting the bees to any great extent. During the spring, I am into the hives about every two weeks sometimes more often. Always for a purpose and usually for no longer than 5 minutes unless I am doing some serious hive maintenance. If you do decide to build a transparent hive, do not make it your only hive, and keep it in full shade. Best of luck.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Transparent PVC boards instead of Wood for Bee Hive

    Quote Originally Posted by JWPalmer View Post
    Jojo, I encourage innovation, but your lack of beekeeping experience means at this point you don't know what you don't know. My advice would be to make a Plexiglas inner cover for a wooden hive. You can remove the top and look down between the frames to get an idea of what is happening in the hive (as long as the plexiglas stays clear). Proper hive inspections are a necessary part of sucessful beekeeping. Trying to be minimally invasive for long periods of time is a recipe for a dead hive. Contrary to what you may have read or heard, going into the hive to check stores, laying pattern, queen cell development, etc. can be done quite frequently witbout disrupting the bees to any great extent. During the spring, I am into the hives about every two weeks sometimes more often. Always for a purpose and usually for no longer than 5 minutes unless I am doing some serious hive maintenance. If you do decide to build a transparent hive, do not make it your only hive, and keep it in full shade. Best of luck.
    That is true, but part of knowing is knowing what you don't know. My intent for this post is to try to find out if what I am thinking is truly insurmountable or if the problems associated with it can be mitigated. I wanted to find out if there was an insurmountable problem with transparent hives that can not be mitigated or solved. I am very cognizant of some of the issues with transparent PVC hives. As you can see in my original post, I did outline 4 of the issues that I foresee. Judging by the responses, it seems that 3 and 4 are the more significant issue with it. I can mitigate those issues by covering it. It seems that there are no other very significant problems that I might see.

    I will build the hive as soon as I can buy some Transparent PVC boards from China. This COVID-19 pandemic is putting a damper on my plans. I have to wait after it goes away.

    Thanks for the responses and suggestions.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Transparent PVC boards instead of Wood for Bee Hive

    Quote Originally Posted by JWPalmer View Post
    My advice would be to make a Plexiglas inner cover for a wooden hive. You can remove the top and look down between the frames to get an idea of what is happening in the hive (as long as the plexiglas stays clear).
    Dadant, Rossman (and probably others) sells a clear dome that fits on top of a 10 frame hive. I'm sure it is intended to be covered with an empty supper when your not observing.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Transparent PVC boards instead of Wood for Bee Hive

    Quote Originally Posted by JojoJaro View Post
    That is true, but part of knowing is knowing what you don't know. My intent for this post is to try to find out if what I am thinking is truly insurmountable or if the problems associated with it can be mitigated. I wanted to find out if there was an insurmountable problem with transparent hives that can not be mitigated or solved. I am very cognizant of some of the issues with transparent PVC hives. As you can see in my original post, I did outline 4 of the issues that I foresee. Judging by the responses, it seems that 3 and 4 are the more significant issue with it. I can mitigate those issues by covering it. It seems that there are no other very significant problems that I might see.

    I will build the hive as soon as I can buy some Transparent PVC boards from China. This COVID-19 pandemic is putting a damper on my plans. I have to wait after it goes away.

    Thanks for the responses and suggestions.
    You make a transparent inner cover yourself, or buy one. Betterbee makes one:

    https://www.betterbee.com/wooden-hiv...er-8-frame.asp

    I would love to see bees in your plexiglass hive. You could keep it in full shade.

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