Is it time to take insulation off of my hives
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  1. #1
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    Default Is it time to take insulation off of my hives

    I am in Dutchess county New York about 15 mies east of the Hudson River. I wrapped my hives with high r board 1/2 insulation in November. All hives (6) appear to have made it through the winter and have consumed all 16 lbs of sugar patty that was placed on before I insulated them. I recently added 5 lbs of hard sugar patty to each hive since I felt was to early to start syrup. My question is at what point should I take insulation off 2 hives are extremely robust and I am afraid as soon as drones are present they will swarm. I have a feeling the warm hives might have started a population increase earlier than I was expecting, I also think that might have accounted for the amount of sugar they are consuming. Any thoughts are most appreciated.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Is it time to take insulation off of my hives

    I'm keeping mine on, R20 top, R10 sides, no top vent. Based on hive weighing from Nov.2 till a week ago I have not noticed anything out of the ordinary with respect of hoeny consumption. I have not fed since Nov 2 and the hives are still carrying a good quantity of stores; checked by weighing and visual checks. I intend to maintain insulation all year ot until I find a problem. It will be interesting to see the impact on the capping of honey.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Is it time to take insulation off of my hives

    I am planning on taking mine off mid April and doing walk away splits in two hive . Let me know how it goes keeping the insulation on

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Is it time to take insulation off of my hives

    I have taken all insulation off my hives in the last week. Queens are busy laying, tons of nurse bees have emerged.
    Have seen capped drone cells already. I am in the same zip as you.

  6. #5
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    syracuse n.y.
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    Default Re: Is it time to take insulation off of my hives

    I only wrap over wintered nucs, took it off 3 weeks ago.
    mike syracuse ny
    Whatever you subsidize you get more of. Ronald Reagan

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Is it time to take insulation off of my hives

    i unwrapped 3 weeks ago or there abouts

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Is it time to take insulation off of my hives

    Quote Originally Posted by ny12569 View Post
    I have a feeling the warm hives might have started a population increase earlier than I was expecting, I also think that might have accounted for the amount of sugar they are consuming. Any thoughts are most appreciated.
    Perhaps a reminder is in order ? That - insulation in itself doesn't create anything: specifically, it doesn't make things warm.

    Insulation attempts to prevent heat transfer to a different level of heat - i.e. to anything or anywhere with a different temperature, and insodoing it 'buffers' any peaks and troughs. And so it tries to keep warm things warm, and cold things cold.

    If a hive is warm, then it's only warm because the bees are creating that warmth - that warmth is not being created by the insulation. The insulation is simply keeping that internal temperature as stable as possible.

    Whether or not this is a good thing is debatable: with small colonies (nucs etc) it can certainly help them to survive, but with larger colonies there is a mode of thinking that the absence of excessive beehive insulation actually assists the colony in rapidly detecting alterations in outside temperature which affect foraging behaviour - and any colony insulation requirements can always be met by the bees themselves by the mechanism of clustering behaviour.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  9. #8
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    Rutland County, Vermont,USA
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    Default Re: Is it time to take insulation off of my hives

    Mine will stay on quite a while longer. As LJ points out, insulation helps to moderate wild temp swings which I believe is its major benefit. In New England, wild temp swings pretty much defines spring. A couple years ago, I was fooled by a stretch of warm weather and took off the insulation. A quick cold snap resulted in chilled brood. I will monitor the 10 day forecast and play it by ear. BTW, I believe Enjambres who is a proponent of insulation took hers off quite late. If memory serves, around Memorial Day. J

  10. #9
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    Algoma District Northern Ontario, Canada
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    Default Re: Is it time to take insulation off of my hives

    There are many hives being used worldwide and year around that have integral insulation by design. I have not heard much in the way of any inherent problems with them.
    Frank

  11. #10
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    Spokane County, Washington, USA
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    Default Re: Is it time to take insulation off of my hives

    I take mine off when it is a hassle to leave it on. In other words, when the temperatures have moderated enough to where I am going into the hives on some regular basis, then it is clear the insulation is no longer needed.

    For a weak hive, I may consider leaving it a little longer into the "hassle" period.
    So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Is it time to take insulation off of my hives

    I don't wrap or insulate and my nucs will need to be split soon.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Is it time to take insulation off of my hives

    LJ - "any colony insulation requirements can always be met by the bees themselves by the mechanism of clustering behaviour"

    Do you like reacting to thermal stress situations, physical stress such as wind chill, falling into an icy brook? Generation of heat by bees results is shortened lives and loss of stores. How do you keep your house environment in below zero weather, C or F, or do you stand by a fire outside to warm up? How long do you "hold your water" in an unheated tent in -5F weather and 20% RH? I work hard just to keep my nose warm in a thin shelter, a tent, but under unheated conditions. Provides a little empathy experience sharing bee-like conditions.

    It is apparently not only an issue of reacting to temperature gradients quickly but one of humidity control and, in my opinion, avoiding condensation above the cluster. Temporal humidity changes lag temperatures changes, significantly . The bees are able to sense and respond to RH changes. So why do the bees have these capabilities - reacting to environemntal changes and human intervention? One could argue that honey bees having the ability to sense and control their environment with the least stress creates homeostasis and longevity.

    Clustering is only part of he solution to honey bee's needs year round. Forced clustering is stressful and is not a final solution, it's a last gasp effort. Bees die in a cluster, whether from inability to access food, or lack of sustainable heat generating capabilities even with food available. Cluster size and tightness matters when bees have food and water - physics matters, especially in thin shell enclosures.

    Now, after two winters, I am going to explore the impact of tree like emulation via XPS insulation and wood boxes, not just in winter, but on a sunny 90F day with 92% RH, day and followd by night time cooling. Numbers, recorded data, explain a lot more than observations and conjecture. I did not drown a single bee all winter - conjecture, I think. I was unable to find significant moisture in the hives exept down low, very low.

    Care to join in on a hive design experiment? I am going to try and compare basic hive design approaches, standard internal hive configurations with different enclosure techniques in-situ next winter for my local area. It would be neat to see if data and interpretations correlate with another environment, especially a wet one and a dry one. Using remote sensed, cheap weather station sensors in a top cavity is simple but I am progressing towards the need to design a temperature / RH sensor for use in-between frames at low cost. I am monitoring nine hives, three with weather station sensors and six with dial thermometers for quick observations.

    Curiosity question, , why do the bees stick their butts out in a cluster arrangement? Same seems to be observed in many dead outs, butts sticking out of a cell. Termites do it, honey bees do it, humans do it - control their enclosure's or home's environments when given the chance. I am trying to figure out how to give them the right enclosure for my local, backyard conditions.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Is it time to take insulation off of my hives

    "Curiosity question, , why do the bees stick their butts out in a cluster arrangement? Same seems to be observed in many dead outs, butts sticking out of a cell."

    It would be very difficult or perhaps impossible for them to enter a cell tail end first. Wings would not co operate! They can back out of a cell because the walls guide the folded wings.

    I am 100% signed up to the value of insulation but the jury is still out for me on the necessity of selectively providing some area cool enough to cause enough condensation to provide free water for the bees to dilute honey as necessary for feeding brood. I will be watching with interest Roberts experiment with closed insulation on 5 upper surfaces.

    My experiment with this method did not end well, but extenuating circumstances could well have been the real problem. Suffocation from having bottom only entrances only is a strong possibility and nosema has not been ruled out. 5 of 7 hives perished. This past winter with slight change 5 of 5 survive. Addition of small upper entrance and making top insulation somewhat porous was the difference.

    It is extremely easy though to come to incorrect conclusions. Absolute proof of concept and correctly attributing the reasons is equally as difficult.

    I believe Enjambres is quite bought in to leaving her very ample insulation on year around. Barring the encounter with EFB she has had super winter survival.
    Frank

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Is it time to take insulation off of my hives

    Keeping mine on a while longer. Temp swings from 60 degrees to below freezing at night. I am trying only top insulation this year, and so far liking it, at least 4 of 4 are all alive.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Is it time to take insulation off of my hives

    It would seem all-foam boxes need more ventilation. When I closed the rear vent and fornt vent leaving the exit only a puddle formed in the bottom of the 5 frame EPS nuc. I had to open all vents. Surprising as EPS can absorb significant amounts of water, interstitial voids.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Is it time to take insulation off of my hives

    Crofter "Wings would not co operate! " - Interesting, logical observation - I wonder how it could be verified - they cannot back in? But what would be the purpose of abdomen first? And the queen has shorter wings much longer abdomen! I had not considered the question of reversing the orientation and why not.

    Head First: I think it is a last resort effort to keep the head warm. It is thought to be the primary requirement to overcome cold stupor; inactive control center, the head, results in death. Highest priority is the head temperature, second the thorax muscles, last is the abdomen. Abdomen is often left colder. My conclusion is based on a unique infrared study (first I have seen with such accuracy - Austria I think) which discriminated the various body parts by temperature and my physical observations. This supports clustering methods, and last gasp survival attempts especially with antennae sensors up front.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Is it time to take insulation off of my hives

    I keep top insulation on with no top vent all last year. The combination of a good flow year and top insulation produced an incredible yield (just luck too). I did check internal top temperature versus the brood chamber (thermocouple in brood chamber). The brood area remained constant at the 93-95F range, 3 supers up it reached 99 -101F on a hot, sunny, humid day and you could hear the fanning. At night the supers cooled off but brood area remained the same. Cyclically it took time to get above the brood temperature at the top - about noon. My interpretation of the cycles is the bees used the sun for drying / curing the honey before capping. It was really humid last year but they used rising air temperatures to drive water out of the honey, hot air to absorb the vapor and fanning to drive increase hot, humid air down to the vapor exchange area with the outside. " What are the areas" is the new question? I am beginning to believe they may use the wooden walls on a hot day to evaporate water out. So paint selection is important or providing summer paths if insulated with foam to cure and cap honey. I need better RH sensors. "Just a hobby!" - really - I always liked biology but understanding some physics is a good platform to support learning about bees and other forms of life.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Is it time to take insulation off of my hives

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Holcombe View Post
    LJ - "any colony insulation requirements can always be met by the bees themselves by the mechanism of clustering behaviour"

    Do you like reacting to thermal stress situations, physical stress such as wind chill, falling into an icy brook? Generation of heat by bees results is shortened lives and loss of stores. How do you keep your house environment in below zero weather, C or F, or do you stand by a fire outside to warm up? How long do you "hold your water" in an unheated tent in -5F weather and 20% RH? I work hard just to keep my nose warm in a thin shelter, a tent, but under unheated conditions. Provides a little empathy experience sharing bee-like conditions.

    It is apparently not only an issue of reacting to temperature gradients quickly but one of humidity control and, in my opinion, avoiding condensation above the cluster. Temporal humidity changes lag temperatures changes, significantly . The bees are able to sense and respond to RH changes. So why do the bees have these capabilities - reacting to environemntal changes and human intervention? One could argue that honey bees having the ability to sense and control their environment with the least stress creates homeostasis and longevity.

    Clustering is only part of he solution to honey bee's needs year round. Forced clustering is stressful and is not a final solution, it's a last gasp effort. Bees die in a cluster, whether from inability to access food, or lack of sustainable heat generating capabilities even with food available. Cluster size and tightness matters when bees have food and water - physics matters, especially in thin shell enclosures.

    Now, after two winters, I am going to explore the impact of tree like emulation via XPS insulation and wood boxes, not just in winter, but on a sunny 90F day with 92% RH, day and followd by night time cooling. Numbers, recorded data, explain a lot more than observations and conjecture. I did not drown a single bee all winter - conjecture, I think. I was unable to find significant moisture in the hives exept down low, very low.

    Care to join in on a hive design experiment? I am going to try and compare basic hive design approaches, standard internal hive configurations with different enclosure techniques in-situ next winter for my local area. It would be neat to see if data and interpretations correlate with another environment, especially a wet one and a dry one. Using remote sensed, cheap weather station sensors in a top cavity is simple but I am progressing towards the need to design a temperature / RH sensor for use in-between frames at low cost. I am monitoring nine hives, three with weather station sensors and six with dial thermometers for quick observations.

    Curiosity question, , why do the bees stick their butts out in a cluster arrangement? Same seems to be observed in many dead outs, butts sticking out of a cell. Termites do it, honey bees do it, humans do it - control their enclosure's or home's environments when given the chance. I am trying to figure out how to give them the right enclosure for my local, backyard conditions.
    It's not an issue of physics at all - it's an issue of biology. Bees are insects - they're poikilothermic - we're mammals. We heat our houses and wear clothes because we find the cold unpleasant. Bees deal with environmental temperature variation in a different way. You seem to be suggesting that clustering is an abnormal or extreme behaviour ... You also appear to be suggesting that stress is undesirable ?

    In order to manage bees successfully, it's important to drop the anthropomorphism - there can never be 'empathy' between different species - in fact I'd say that there's no such thing as empathy, period - it's a modern psycho-bullshit invention where some people kid themselves that they can relate to the experiences of others.
    LJ

    And anyway - why pick on one line of a person's post ? Why not take the post 'as a whole', and view that one line within the context in which it was written ?
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Is it time to take insulation off of my hives

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Holcombe View Post
    Crofter "Wings would not co operate! " - Interesting, logical observation - I wonder how it could be verified - they cannot back in? But what would be the purpose of abdomen first? And the queen has shorter wings much longer abdomen! I had not considered the question of reversing the orientation and why not.

    Head First: I think it is a last resort effort to keep the head warm. It is thought to be the primary requirement to overcome cold stupor; inactive control center, the head, results in death. Highest priority is the head temperature, second the thorax muscles, last is the abdomen. Abdomen is often left colder. My conclusion is based on a unique infrared study (first I have seen with such accuracy - Austria I think) which discriminated the various body parts by temperature and my physical observations. This supports clustering methods, and last gasp survival attempts especially with antennae sensors up front.
    I believe the reason for them being in the cell is to heat the comb. The comb is the conducting surface though the bees are the heat source. I dont think the assumption has been that they crawled in there head first to die! We dont want to get to anthropomorhising now do we. In any case I am a firm believer it is much easier to put a winged creature head first into a close fitting hole with the wings trailing rather than leading. I know it is the case when you are trying to cage bees, and from experience, putting chickens in a bag. I suspect the lengthened abdomen of a queen relative to wings is to accommodate placing the egg in the bottom of the cell. I had never considered that the heater bees were going in head first to keep their brains warm.

    It may be a point not attempting to attribute intent with bees actions.
    Frank

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Is it time to take insulation off of my hives

    I think it's important for beekeepers to accept that clustering is perfectly normal behaviour, and not some kind of stress-laden emergency response. However, this isn't something I feel warrants a long-winded personal argument as it's such a basic matter - so here are 3 hopefully relevant extracts which underpin my own attitude to bees being capable of providing their own insulation within thin-walled hives. Needless to say, this attitude does not extend to Canada, northern States of America, or similar thermally-challenging locations.

    From Warre's 'Beekeeping for All', 12th Ed.:

    THE WALLS
    The most healthy walls are those of the old skeps, in straw or osier, covered with daub. These walls are warm in winter, cool in summer and permeable at all times. They do not keep the humidity in. They attenuate variations in
    temperature. In practice, because we need the regularity of a square form, we give preference to wood. Wood requires less monitoring and maintenance. As insects often hide in the straw, rodents attack more readily.
    Wood is more resistant to insects, rodents and bad weather. A coat of white oil-based paint can, moreover, be quickly given, without driving the bees out.
    We thus settle for wooden walls of 24 mm thick. A thickness of 20 mm is sufficient. A thickness 24 mm is preferable only from the point of view of strength. There is less play in the wood at this thickness.

    Furthermore, in such hives, the bees go out sooner in the mornings because they sense more readily the ambient temperature.
    Thicker walls increase the weight of the hive and its capital cost.
    Double walls have the same disadvantage. In addition it is almost impossible to retain the enclosed air that should be an insulator and thus useful.
    The insulating materials that can be placed between two boards are often expensive; they sometimes absorb moisture and cease to be insulators.

    Furthermore, the insulating walls do not achieve their aim. In spring they delay the bees foraging sorties. In winter they do not economise on stores. On the contrary, the bees consume less when they are torpid with cold than when they are kept active.

    Certainly, if single-walled hives are more susceptible to the ambient temperature by day, they are equally susceptible to the cold at night. But at night, the presence of the bees compensates for the lack of warmth.
    And let us not forget that comfort weakens the stock, that striving, as Pourrat said, is the condition of life, adversity its climate.

    De Layens 'Elevage Des Abeilles' ('Beekeeping') - 3rd lesson:

    A swarm which leaves a hive in very hot weather, sometimes settles permanently under some shelter, and thus functions in the open air. Its natural form is that of a reverse cone, closed on all sides by bees, except at its end; from which point the bees come out and go in.
    If, a few days after the swarm has settled, that cone of bees were to be cut in half, in a plane perpendicular to the combs already started, fig. 6 would roughly represent the state of play.

    In the middle of the cone is a primary comb attached at it's top to the branch. To the right and to the left of this first comb are two other combs, shorter than the first. Around these three combs, we find an agglomeration of bees forming an envelope, and whose thickness hardly exceeds 3 to 4 cm.

    This inactive mass enables the free movement of the active part of the cluster of bees which work inside an envelope which looks rather like a solid crust formed from bees hanging tightly from one another. The purpose of this crust is to develop and maintain a temperature of about 35 degrees in the center of the cone - a temperature which is necessary for the manufacture of wax and the raising of brood. This crust plays a very large role in the work of the bees; it increases or decreases in thickness, depending on the outside temperature, and dissociates above about 35 degrees. Should the cone come to be struck by a current of cold air, we will see an immediate increase in the thickness of the crust.

    As soon as the central comb reaches a length of 10 to 12 cm., the mother begins to lay her eggs in the cells towards the end of that comb, which is near to the centre of the crust. At this time, the cells are still very shallow.
    Note: "an agglomeration of bees forming an envelope" = clustering.
    No hive, no Hive Walls, no unnatural 'stress' involved.


    ABJ No.8 1872. p.108

    The Hive Question, By E. Gallop.

    This is a knotty question to many a beginner in beekeeping, and, in fact, it is not yet solved by many an old experienced beekeeper. It is a well known fact, that a natural swarm of bees will build comb, raise brood, store honey, and carry on their labors without any hive whatever during the entire summer. But in this case there is a constant guard or crust of bees surrounding the brood nest at all times and on all sides. During a storm this crust or guard is made very thick on the windward side. Now, in constructing a hive with this knowledge, we make the hive or the material out of which the hive is made, answer in place of this guard or crust of bees, thus allowing all this force to become outside laborers.

    In the heat of the day the bees occupy all parts of the hive, but at night, or on cool days, and especially mornings, there is a large, compact mass or crust of bees clustered just above the brood, in order to retain the necessary warmth below too, or for the development of the brood.
    Note: "a crust of bees" = clustering.
    No hive, no Hive Walls, no unnatural 'stress' involved.

    'best
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

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