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I've been listening to Zooms by Bill Hesbach and what he says about ventilation and insulation make sense to me. So much that I will try it with some of my hives this winter.

For those not familiar with the Condensing Hive logic it is essentially this: ventilation negates insulation. Bees do fine without ventilation. Some colonies do well with ventilation. {Ventilation (Upper Entrances (UE) specifically) seem to be a North American thing} So Bee Cozies, tar paper, etc., used with an upper entrance function as a wind break - the heat escapes through the UE before the insulation has a chance to work as intended.

Insulation at the top of the hive to prevent moisture from bee respiration, honey liquification, etc., condensing and dripping on the bees is crucial in many hive systems in the north. The Condensing Hive system uses insulation on the sides of the hive as well to keep whatever heat escapes from the cluster within the hive. Accumulation of Carbon dioxide is not a significant issue as the bees survive it. This is similar to how a bees in a hollow tree cavity with only one entrance survive. The only significant difference is the composition of the insulation - live tree vs XPS or whatever. Seeley does a good job describing the hollow tree cavities he observed in the Arnot Forest (outside of Ithaca, NY) in The Lives of Bees.

My question is what do folks think of this? I don't want to hear the old sayings repeated ad naseam and without critical evaluation - I've heard them all before.

I am a 20 year plus beekeeper who enjoys learning and implementing new strategies, more so if they work.
 

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I believe he also writes in the ABJ. I insulated the top of a hive last year and they overwintered well. I just added 1” XPS to my other hive tops and I feel they’ll survive better this winter.
 

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I am starting out the winter with no top entrance or ventilation but it would take only a pull tab to create an opening about 3/8 by 2". I have more like 4 inches insulation top, 2" sides and back and only an inch front, leaving some area cold around the could be upper ent/vent. Condensation freezing in opening in bottom board may be an issue. Many of the European setups have some screened area in bottom board. Will be keeping a close eye on them. Past experience with shavings quilt and small upper entrance works well but suspicion that it may starve the bees somewhat for water when they start spring broodup.
 

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When I started, I was told I needed to notch the inner cover. Then, to keep SHB out, I needed to add window screen over the notch. The bees were in a different forum, they were told to propolize all openings including screen.
By their choice, there is no upper vent in my hives.
After an experiment with EPS last winter, I just added an inch of XPS to all my hives under the telescoping top. I agree that it will reduce condensation at the interface.
 

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mrphillip2
so I understand it right, you are using an outer cover, 1" insulation board, inner cover with no notch and then your super/brood box?

I kind of like that set up, and sounds like it would work good.
 

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With insulation, the question is then what is the appropriate size for the bottom entrance?
 

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Is there a visual somewhere that shows how the air moves within the hive in different configurations? It sure would be handy to have a video of maybe some coloured vapour that shows how it goes from the bottom to the top or how the bees move it around.
 

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Variables; insulation, how much and where on the hive. Single deep brood chamber, 2, or three. Square central bottom entrance or full width but 1/4" high. Italian bees or Carniolan, Your location and its own micro climate variables. Is 90% survival worth aiming for or is 80% more economically feasible.
 

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We have been putting 1" insulation on top of ours for years. Last year we over wintered 6 singles with a 2" foam box on 5 sides, no insulation on the bottom, no upper entrance. All 6 made it as well as the doubles. When we would open to check on them and the bees would be in a loose cluster not tight like the doubles. We like the singles for ease of management. So this year we did several more. I would say that when we opened the hives in the winter moisture was not as issue.
 

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We just use the smallest entrance. But we do tilt all hives forward by putting a 2 by 4 under back end. U We find that some will have a little moisture from time to time but with the tilt it isn't an issue.
 

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mrphillip2
so I understand it right, you are using an outer cover, 1" insulation board, inner cover with no notch and then your super/brood box?

I kind of like that set up, and sounds like it would work good.
It’s a bit different in that commercial telescoping tops don’t have much depth to them so I eliminated the inner cover and replaced it with canvas. They use canvas in Central America, so it should work and it may absorb some moisture to boot. I did ratchet strap each hive to ensure the roof stays on as extra insurance.
 

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We have weight on all ours a brick at least. Nucs end up strapped down. We can get some awful winds in winter.
I make most of our boxes and make the telescoping lids deeper to handle the insulation. And we use some canvas inner covers and they work fine. Especially once the bees propolize them.
 

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My question is what do folks think of this? I don't want to hear the old sayings repeated ad naseam and without critical evaluation - I've heard them all before.

I am a 20 year plus beekeeper who enjoys learning and implementing new strategies, more so if they work.
Not much participation.
I'm not surprised given the above approach used to start the discussion.
 

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I think maybe the term "condensing hive" may be new. I never called it that. We jusy started doing things different to find what works for us.
 

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Yes, that is what I am asking, the explanation of a "WHY" rather than just that is how I was shown to do it. Just because you have been doing it for 20 years doesn't mean it was the right way.
Thank you Litsinger
 

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There's also a fairly detailed treatment of the subject over at Clong's thread and the articles in question are posted in some of the more recent posts:

 

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Last season I wrapped 3 double nucs (4 over 4) in 1" of foam board and put a quilt box filled with wood chips on the top. I had 3 colonies make it out of the 6. I had mice get in 3 of them. Can't say for sure the mice did them in but I believe that's what caused them to not make it. The low last season in my area of Minnesota was -21 Fahrenheit and below 0 for over a week.
I've been watching/reading Ettienne Tardif, and others. This season I have 4" of foam board on the tops, 1" on the sides, and nothing on the bottom. To battle the mice, I have a 1" X 3/8" bottom entrance. No top entrance or any venting. I suspect I'll end up opening the entrance up occasionally to clean out dead bees.
I've also got five 5 frame nucs that have 2" foam board on the bottom and all sides. I have 4" of foam board on top of those and a 1/2 hole on the bottom for an entrance.
No idea how these tight hives will do through the season but I'm willing to try something new.
 
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