Humidity - Insulated hive - no top exits
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  1. #1
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    Default Humidity - Insulated hive - no top exits

    I have been recording temperature and RH in a top chamber for three well insulated hives, daily, along with external temperature and relative humidity. Internal relative humidity has been dropping steadily through March to a low on April 1, 2020. The unusual winter was wet, warm and humid. Now, with brood rearing and increased activities, the values are falling but internal temperatures have been really stable, 80 - 85F for days, while outside temperatures are in the 35 - 45F range.

    I have not plotted the all the data collected since January when I reached an acceptable (to me) a good insulated winter configuration. Now, my first thoughts are the hives have dried out (verified by touch), water foraging is readily available, brood rearing produces more water vapor, temperatures are relatively high inside the hives, relative humidity is now in the ideal range for the brood brood rearing. Apparently simple bottom diffusion and condensation is keeping relative humidity in an ideal range with little effort by the bees except foraging for water nearby. I hear no fanning, removable bottom boards are wet - it rained recently. My conclusion is things are balanced - easily controlled by the bees. The bees have honey, rearing brood, flying in acceptable weather, pollen coming in, foraging in the dirt I turn over in the garden and I saw Dandelions yesterday - it's Spring. All is good for 8 hives, the ninth has a drone laying, 1st year queen.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Humidity - Insulated hive - no top exits

    What humidity are you seeing inside the hive? Are you having any mold problems?

    The 80-85F sounds right for a hive if you are not in the middle of the cluster and it is well insulated.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Humidity - Insulated hive - no top exits

    Brain fart elemer_fud, I thought I had posted it above.

    The humidity sensors have a +/- 7% tolerance for RH and a +/-1F for temperature. The sensors are located above a heavily propolized canvass "inner cover" within a 1 1/2 inch spacer on top of the inner cover and under 4 inches of XPS foam, hives sides are 2-inch XPS - all joints are bonded. Today's values are 63% at 82.6F, 70% at 85.1F and 56% @ 80.8F respectively the first is a medium size hive with a queen which has become a recent drone layer, second is Super Woman (big cluster / colony/ first to find pollen), third has recently begun to lay in earnest (unknown cause for delay) and sensor seems to read low, will back check). My clusters appear to stay centered and remain below the top, medium honey super. (I have not feed since Nov. 2)

    I have not seen any mold since I applied the final arrangement of XPS insulation in all nine hives starting in early Jan. I installed old cotton tee shirts with the RH - Temp sensors to pick up condensation or absorb moisture to give me a feel for internal conditions versus readings. The tee shirts are drier now than in Jan when they were dampish with all the rain, fog, snow. Bees seem to raise the temperature to just above the dew point, at the top, by 3 degrees F or more. The heavy insulation appears to give them the ability to control the inside environment.

    What surprises me is the consistent data with various colony compositions - hive arrangements are all identical. I need more sensors to expand upon this approach. As I put supers on the brood chamber will become exposed to summer ambient wall conditions and the supers will be insulated - looking on impact on capping of honey. Crazy I know but I may make some XPS sleeves to insulate the supers and brood chambers thorugh the summer and fall.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Humidity - Insulated hive - no top exits

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Holcombe View Post
    internal temperatures have been really stable, 80 - 85F for days, while outside temperatures are in the 35 - 45F range.
    Given the location of the sensors, to me, that temperature information is significant and indicates, as would seem to be the case intuitively, that the warmth from the cluster significantly affects the temperature outside the cluster within the hive. Conversely, and more significantly, the warmer temperatures in the hive mean less stress on the bees. Insulation matters. I believe that we will come to find out that high relative humidity in the hive reduces the rate of varroa reproduction.
    David Matlock

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Humidity - Insulated hive - no top exits

    Varroa effects is a plus, the negative is foul brood incidence. There is a study showing an increase above 70% ( check this) causes an increase in FB in the Spring. I have not read the article. The interesting part of this is how hte RH of th ehive has been falling into ideal RH territory with the Spring build up.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Humidity - Insulated hive - no top exits

    I got a Broodminder last year. And since the fall of 2018 I have also been using an XPS 'box' that slips over the hive as insulation with only a bottom entrance. Insulation on year round.

    Below is a chart of hive temps and humidity with that set up (Sensor is between the 1st and 2nd supers - 10 frame deeps). I'm impressed with how the bees regulate humidity- it is consistently moving in the opposite direction of outside humidity.

    TempHum_Broodminder.jpg

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Humidity - Insulated hive - no top exits

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Holcombe View Post
    Today's values are 63% at 82.6F, 70% at 85.1F and 56% @ 80.8F
    Those sound like good values for inside a hive. I was having problems with way to much moisture (90+% RH) in my hive and was having mold problems. I started running quilt boxes to help with high moisture and it seemed to help a lot.

    I wonder if some of the humidity problems I had may have to do with higher temperature swings in our area. We will see 40-50 degree F swings between day and night. If it is at 80% RH in the hive during the day, when the empty area's cool down during the night the water may start condensing.

    This is what I saw with the humidity sensor in the top of my hive. The change from 90+% RH to lower after about a year was because I started using a quilt box at that time.
    humidity 2017-oct 2019.jpg

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Humidity - Insulated hive - no top exits

    Elmer quote "I wonder if some of the humidity problems I had may have to do with higher temperature swings in our area. " I think, only think, I may have been where you are with swings in internal conditions; quilt boxes, insulation, put it on, take it off, top vent , lift the cover and so on. On top of this is the numerous variables in treating, feeding and reading hive conditions. Learning about and dealing with temperature and humidity issues is difficult to say the least. I do not pretend to have answers for all the variables in hive or enclosure design for a living creature.

    I have learned to treat and feed my apiary and then standardize my enclosure design. I have currently evolved to a standard brood chamber configuration for four season for all hives. My nucs are becoming a scaled down version of a hive. This past year I started with insulated tops and no top vent all summer; observed a few things by simple experiments. I also had to learn to manage a significant honey crop for the first time. I fed in the Fall to a specific, minimum hive weight. I selected three diverse colonies to have temperature and relative humidity sensor installed. The rest of the hives have dial thermometers to check on them, I observe the landings activity often - all hive enclosures are configured identically and changes are made to all. Critical to the effort was making a removable insulating box so I can quickly check inside a hive when needed especially for early Spring inspections to detect issues.

    I slowly increased environmental hive protection step wise. Realize I had no idea what I was looking for at first. I knew from the eyar before that bees seem to be able to control the dew point above their heads with the two tools they can use, heat generation and fanning. Data, simple and crude data, has lead me to make changes. Suddenly I noticed similarity in internal conditions in all hives temperature wise and humidity in three hives. I am learning to identify homeostasis (big new word for me but comprehensive). It has been clear to me for 3 months that a stable internal environment has resulted from the progressive hive design changes. It has become even more stable with advent of brood rearing and greater hive activity. All this by having a well sealed, 5 sided insulated box and a bottom exit only ( no signifcant snow this winter but very wet). I am convinced that a water buffering system is needed to assist the bees in managing moisture conditions inside the hive, even inside brood cells, especially in winter. I actually measured hive weights going up in winter, 12 lbs. and more in two weeks. This confused me when hive weight should go down then I realized it was water absorption. This provides support for quilt boxes but even greater support for pine boxes and wood frames that are permeable thus providing significant buffering capabilities. I am now worried they hives are too dry but I also know they have lots of water to forage on close by.

    Biological requirements of bees and laws of physics drive hive design. Honey bees need a humid environment and a warm environment which can exchange gasses with the outside environment - they are not cold blooded. The object is to create this environment with the least amount of physical stress - this defines homeostasis conditions which can change but change slowly to suit the bees.

    Another surprise was the effects of wind, especially what I call tidal effects of breathing through holes, entrances and gaps. My insulating box has tight joints, wind driven rain no longer penetrates it and is relatively impermeable; R20 on top, R10+ on the sides, winter brood chamber configuration is a medium + deep + medium, 12 oz. canvass "inner" cover and a 1.5 inch space cavity on top for sensors and a few tee shirts. All data is relative and from this top volume. I have not seen condensation since I reached this configuration, plus no mold.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Humidity - Insulated hive - no top exits

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Holcombe View Post
    - they are not cold blooded. The object is to create this environment with the least amount of physical stress - this defines homeostasis conditions which can change but change slowly to suit the bees.
    There's really nothing like changing the meaning of language so that it fit's someone theory ...

    The whole raison d'etre of the honey-bee's behaviour is that it IS cold-blooded, but has evolved so that - as an amassed organism - it behaves as if WERE warm-blooded: that is, maintains a higher temperature than other cold-blooded creatures during winter. That is precisely WHY it spends it's time collecting nectar to be stored as honey in order that it can live off that energy-rich source during winter. But that energy-rich material is external to the honey-bee, not stored internally as is the case with the stored fats of warm-blooded mammals which hibernate.

    And as for homeostasis which allows change - do me a favour. "Plus ça Change, Plus C'est La Même Chose" - the more things change, the more they stay the same - i.e. they DON'T change - not even slowly. Pick another word for your theory.

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

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Humidity - Insulated hive - no top exits

    LJ, We obviously have a problem with definitions of words and the applied meaning of the words. To further the issue with definitions I quote Dr. Ellis "A single honey bee is a cold blooded insect; but the honey bee colony is warm blooded creature. It can make its temperature different from that of the surrounding environment, and this makes it one of the most unique of all the insects." I usually mean the colony aspect of a hive. I thank you for the focusing me on the correction but I remain confused about the whole warm blooded - cold blooded definition issues - I did use the plural of bees, implying a colony. I do partially understand the limited survival characteristics of a single bee, but not the apparent need to separate mammals from bees, cold blooded from warm blooded.



    Homeostasis is not static based on my understanding and usage. Cold blooded, warm blooded confuses me. Is "bloodedness" a kind of life capable of having a body temperature in sync with a wide variation in environmental temperatures? How wide, even humans tolerate variations. Does it mean a type mass distribution system of heating and cooling or strictly by pure ectothermic absorption or poikilothermics to live. What happened to the effects of metabolic functions in the definitions? Effects of temperature on chemical reaction rates? Can cold blooded life withstand absolute zero? It is a lot like accountants and lawyers where definitions can be tuned to suit the need or to obfuscate an issue.

    Physics, especially when defined by math, provides more fundamental word concepts which can be tested. I like exothermic, ectothermic and endothermic definitions a lot more with the mode of energy transfer or heat generation method defined (at the Newtonian level at least). I think all living things generate heat by some means. ( Have to check the definition of living) Is metabolism the common denominator? Conservation of energy is really, really important for all "living" creatures - I am guessing.

    Cold-blooded animals require less amount of endothermic energy as compare to warm-blooded animals. Warm-blooded lofe intentionally produces heat by internal mechanisms other than metabolism ( true?). Is metabolism endothermic or exothermic? What we need is a common point or baseline dictionary to be used. In physics one can drawn a boundary around an object or system and define all boundary conditions, like energy (heat transfer) crossing the boundary - endothermic and exothermic and how. A colony requires heat generation to survive in its' environmental range unless it is above 58 - 60F at all times than it is a question of how well, how long, what affects survival. Exact survival numbers are all about heat transfer, both ways and many other environmental conditions.

    I will work on this to better explain myself and see if I agree with your definitions. My view or definition of homeostasis is based on a study performed by a South African entomologist and his usage of the word. In the meantime do you think conservation of energy is an important principle for survival of the honey bee hive? Does a single honey bees die at moderate ambient temperature values, like 45F? Does it depend on ambient conditions and time? Does a honey bee regulate various body part temperatures actively or statically? DO honey bees become stressed when they have to disconnect the wing muscles to generate heat? Is a tight cluster under more stress than a loose cluster?

    Do you have a preferred dictionary? One I can access via a library or online ( preferred). Word comprehension can be more frustrating than learning a new hobby. It takes practice to under stand what has been written and much harder for understanding one way verbal inputs.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Humidity - Insulated hive - no top exits

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Holcombe View Post
    Elmer quote "I wonder if some of the humidity problems I had may have to do with higher temperature swings in our area. " I think, only think, I may have been where you are with swings in internal conditions; quilt boxes, insulation, put it on, take it off, top vent , lift the cover and so on. On top of this is the numerous variables in treating, feeding and reading hive conditions. Learning about and dealing with temperature and humidity issues is difficult to say the least. I do not pretend to have answers for all the variables in hive or enclosure design for a living creature.

    I have learned to treat and feed my apiary and then standardize my enclosure design. I have currently evolved to a standard brood chamber configuration for four season for all hives. My nucs are becoming a scaled down version of a hive. This past year I started with insulated tops and no top vent all summer; observed a few things by simple experiments. I also had to learn to manage a significant honey crop for the first time. I fed in the Fall to a specific, minimum hive weight. I selected three diverse colonies to have temperature and relative humidity sensor installed. The rest of the hives have dial thermometers to check on them, I observe the landings activity often - all hive enclosures are configured identically and changes are made to all. Critical to the effort was making a removable insulating box so I can quickly check inside a hive when needed especially for early Spring inspections to detect issues.

    I slowly increased environmental hive protection step wise. Realize I had no idea what I was looking for at first. I knew from the eyar before that bees seem to be able to control the dew point above their heads with the two tools they can use, heat generation and fanning. Data, simple and crude data, has lead me to make changes. Suddenly I noticed similarity in internal conditions in all hives temperature wise and humidity in three hives. I am learning to identify homeostasis (big new word for me but comprehensive). It has been clear to me for 3 months that a stable internal environment has resulted from the progressive hive design changes. It has become even more stable with advent of brood rearing and greater hive activity. All this by having a well sealed, 5 sided insulated box and a bottom exit only ( no signifcant snow this winter but very wet). I am convinced that a water buffering system is needed to assist the bees in managing moisture conditions inside the hive, even inside brood cells, especially in winter. I actually measured hive weights going up in winter, 12 lbs. and more in two weeks. This confused me when hive weight should go down then I realized it was water absorption. This provides support for quilt boxes but even greater support for pine boxes and wood frames that are permeable thus providing significant buffering capabilities. I am now worried they hives are too dry but I also know they have lots of water to forage on close by.

    Biological requirements of bees and laws of physics drive hive design. Honey bees need a humid environment and a warm environment which can exchange gasses with the outside environment - they are not cold blooded. The object is to create this environment with the least amount of physical stress - this defines homeostasis conditions which can change but change slowly to suit the bees.

    Another surprise was the effects of wind, especially what I call tidal effects of breathing through holes, entrances and gaps. My insulating box has tight joints, wind driven rain no longer penetrates it and is relatively impermeable; R20 on top, R10+ on the sides, winter brood chamber configuration is a medium + deep + medium, 12 oz. canvass "inner" cover and a 1.5 inch space cavity on top for sensors and a few tee shirts. All data is relative and from this top volume. I have not seen condensation since I reached this configuration, plus no mold.
    Just curious Robert why did you settle on Medium+deep+medium? did you want the large deeper comb in the center for the winter time? or is it simple height? or placement of the seems to transition bees?
    I have really good luck with Deep+Deep+medium but in 8 frame. bottom deep has a lot of pollen and top medium has all honey. I am considering using plastic, like the Ukraine UTube GregV shared.
    GG

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Humidity - Insulated hive - no top exits

    GG, " large deeper comb in the center for the winter time?" That was one reason plus some intuition after reading Tom Seelys' in the hive stuff, guidance on feeding - Palmer, listening to various beekeeper arguments and comments including a one-deep over-wintering approach plus treating requirements. II have thought of he cluster as more of a living bubble - larger than the typical cluster. I wanted to create a standard 4 season approach as best as I could and change from there.

    The top medium is assigned to being the stored, capped honey box - 40 plus pounds. I like to have a Fall, early November weight of 80 lb. or so. THus 40 lb. is expected to be stowed in the deep brood box as brood rearing wanes thus using 5-6 frames outside frames. This leaves 4-5 frames for brood or more syrup honey storage going into winter. The bottom box is imagined to be multi-functional. In Summer it is grand Central Station for handing off forage, temporary warehousing and providing a place to "hang out". In winter it is condenser or cold zone for condensing excessive moisture but also mitigates or tempers drafts from wind driven "tidal" effects through the entrance. Come Spring - early summer this space also provides room for brood expansion as they honey box fills up while supers are being put on. My first year experience supports the concept. Apparently you take a very similar approach.

    First year beginners luck struck - eight hives and zero swarms plus an incredible foraging year. This winter I lost zero colonies but I have a drone laying queen in one hive. Current observations show the cluster centered in the deep with honey above in the medium. What is new is the observation that the bees took all the honey from the outside frames, 1&2 and 9 & 10 and kept honey in the center. I will know more shortly as we will have a decent inspection day soon. It seems the insulation kept the outside frames warm enough for honey retrieval by two colonies and likely a loose cluster. I have an air gap between the insulation and the wood boxes which allows me to easily monitor the air gap temperature. Values clearly show a bubble effect of warmer air on top and cold air at the bottom - surprisingly only a 10 F typical gradient top to bottom; values in the 60s and rose with brood rearing.

    In the Fall, treating was consistent for all hives. I use screened bottom boards and count dead drop Varroa post treatment. I noticed a lot of bees hung out in the bottom box in the Fall during robbing season. I am pleased with the first year results and will continue with this arrangement. Because of he insulation approach, exposed surface area has a far less effect on heat loss. BTW, the bees did not consume stores abnormally ( reminder, I am late weighting all hives). I look forward to observing the summer effects of the insulating box. I also want to buy an 8 sensor weather station soon.

    Frankly, I hope to see some swarming or swarm queen cells in some hives this year as I want to breed two queens in particular. Breeding queens will be a whole new learning exprience.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Humidity - Insulated hive - no top exits

    I forgot to point out a one-time observation in three hives that can be verified over time. It would seem that relative humidity is allowed to go high in a winter hive, 80 to 90 % RH at the top, with low to nil brood but also at lower temperature levels which they can modulate. This occurred at a time, cold and dry winter air, when it is easy to vent moisture out by diffusion and condensation with a little effort.

    Spring has brought on the brood rearing in more precise temperature controls with lower relative humidity values - more in line with colony defined values in the 50-60% range for brood rearing. Is this a tradeoff between colony desires for higher humidity preferences for adult bees but lower relative humidity for broods rearing to suppress bacterial or some other biological activity like foul brood.

    Funny thought - everyone advised me to vent my hives in winter to keep them dry but invertebrate life like high humidity as they are easily desiccated, now I advocate keeping hives humid or assuring the bees have the ability to control it.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Humidity - Insulated hive - no top exits

    Robert- Heartily agree with your assessment of the natural ventilation with proper insulation. The only thing I'm still not sure of is whether the entrance shouldn't be about 1/3 the way up the brood box to aid the convection ventilation.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Humidity - Insulated hive - no top exits

    Quote Originally Posted by Swarmhunter View Post
    Robert- Heartily agree with your assessment of the natural ventilation with proper insulation. The only thing I'm still not sure of is whether the entrance shouldn't be about 1/3 the way up the brood box to aid the convection ventilation.
    Swarmhunter, I am Intrigued by the entrance 1/3 of the way up. I have a couple hives I built from the online parts of the book keeping bees with a smile, By Leo S.. I have noticed where the bottom entrance hives haul out debris and dead bees the hive with the entrance up the side does not. Anticipating this I have a drawer under to remove the cappings, debris, etc. Did your testing of the entrance 1/3 up from the bottom show the same results?
    GG

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Humidity - Insulated hive - no top exits

    Swarm Hunter - My first take on 1/3 up is a question. What does the bottom board look like? There are several processes that are affected by entrance design. CO2 although diffused in air is heavier than typical air and causes air to drop . Moisture or water vapor is lighter than air so causes air to rise. I would anticipate this is affected by entrance location and bottom design. I use a screened bottom board. I have no clue, so far, as to the relevance of exit location versus CO2 disposal. I know M. Bush has all top entrances only but have no idea about his bottom. I think the formic acid treatments woudl also be affected by this approach.
    I prefer the bottom entrance with a screen board and bottom baord in place. I would not like a vent blowing into a cluster - it is windy here. One of my early "rules" was avoid convection currents, forced convection currents and let the bees do the fanning when needed. Finally, a tree hive, I believe, has a typical sump hole with an entrace above - naturally occurring do to rot I would think.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Humidity - Insulated hive - no top exits

    Robert- I'm not talking about moving the entrance anywhere near the top of the hive but in a natural hive the bees usually have there brood area very near the entrance with some brood lower than the entrance. Below that a cavity for excess moisture and trash. I see no reason for anything but a solid bottom board especially not a screened bottom board that promote excess ventilation and hamper natural convection air movement. The bees will open or close their opening as needed. I'm putting a 2 inch spacer between my bottom board and the bottom of my brood frames for moisture and trash. Entrance 1/3 the way up on the bottom brood box. Entrance- 3/4 X 2.5 in. vertically.
    I know some of this is unconventional in a standard box hive but so is year round insulation. I'm going to keep experimenting till I find what works. Your thoughts would be appreciated
    Jerry

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Humidity - Insulated hive - no top exits

    Swarmhunter: I like unique ideas. Trying to create sump below the cluster is what I also try to do. I have a primary need for the bottom screen board with sticky board in place. I count dead Varroa that have dropped down 3-5 days after OAV treatment. I plot data and identify the peak of horizontal Varroa migration as a result of robbing, mostly. Using this data, I treat until single digits show up then pause until Christmas or early Jan for a winter double OAV treatment.

    I am planning a bottom board re-design to integrate treatment, insulation setup, winter bottom board inspections, weighting and evaluating condensation plus providing more volume for diffusion of water vapor form inside to outside ambient. I also use a sliding entrance plate with 7 to 8 entrance holes ( 7/32" I think) all Fall and Winter - wind, robbing season, rodent issues.

    My suggestion for you vertical entrance is to put a awning like cover over it so the bees walk up to enter and maybe a little horizontal landing board. This should stop rain and direct wind effects but allow breathing. The question is how do you measure the impact? CO2, heavier than air will likely increase ( small amount?) in the bottom portion. Will you have a clean out access for the bottom board? If you use formic acid strips you will affect the process as the fumes are also heavier than air with the application designed to drian out the bottom. IF you OAV, how will the wand be installed? ............... have fun and Good Luck

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Humidity - Insulated hive - no top exits

    Robert - thanks for the thoughts. Two weeks ago I put a 3 inch space below 4 hives. Looked yesterday and they're filling it with comb. Extensions on frames would be unruly to work with.
    I've been reading from Walt Wright's manuscripts and I'm going to put a med. brood box on the bottom below a deep brood box. Doing the same thing I was trying to do with the space below the brood area (I hope). Pollen and food storage and a cooler condensation area. Going to put entrance in the bottom med box.
    Walt uses med. then deep, med.s for above . Sounds like what I'm looking for. Winters with med. then deep and a med. of stores. Got any thoughts?
    Jerry

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Humidity - Insulated hive - no top exits

    Jerry, I have posted before - that is exactly what I use as my standard brood chamber, winter and summer. Bottom up, a screened bottom board, medium, Deep, medium, 12 0z duck cloth or canvass as an inner cover - all the time with an insulated top - all the time. All the time means the last year and this year after playing around for 4 summers - evolution . In summer I put a QE on than supers with the canvass on top. In winter I add a 1 1/2" spacer ontop of the canvass with thermometer poked thorugh the canvass or a remote weather station sensor installed plus some old cotton tee-shirts as a hands-on moisture tester / absorber or buffer.

    My hive in an open field has the lowest RH but in brood range with a good temperature. Sample of one is a clue. My changes are driven by htese simple sensors and net results of hive performance. My hives, by memory, are at lest a month ahead of prior hives building up for Spring; first time I have had at least two huge clusters at this time.

    Good Luck

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