I have great success using queen cell building colonies housed in supers composed of foamboard walls, foamboard Bottom Boards, and with a foamboard Cover. All surfaces exposed to the bees is covered with aluminum foil tape, to keep the bees from destroying the foam. They work great. But I do have some reluctance to use many of them, since they are very vulnerable to being destroyed in any small fire, such as a grass fire. Perhaps a double-walled hive, as described in this thread, would be more durable.
I have foam insulation panels inside my hives this winter. (And also outside, but that's not what you asked about.) I live in a cold climate (northern NY), Z5 edging into Z4, and this winter, seemingly Arctic.
It started when a colony lost enough bees late in the season (operator error, not disease or bugs) that I was advised to put them into a double nuc for the winter. But I was sick of buying new stuff, so I decided to make wooden follower boards and foam panels to shrink the walls of this colony's regular deeps inward to the interior size of a nuc box, rather than re-house them.
I removed any undrawn frames, a slightly rearranged the remainder of the frames in the bottom deep (and added a frame of honey) so that I had five (extra-fat, comb from cut-out and weird dimensioned) frames below and six (mostly on foundation) above. The follower boards were cut so they had tabs to hang from rebate, but instead of havng any bee space below them they were cut long enough to be the exact depth of the box so that they meet the tops of the matching follower boards in the box below, creating a continuous vertical wall on each side of the bee/nuc chamber. Outboard of the wooden follower boards I stuck in foam panels (cut the same way) to completely fill up the void between the follower boards and box sides. Both boxes are perfectly matched top and bottom. One side of this hive has 2.75" of foam and the other has 2". I did this in the mid Fall, and liked how it worked so I decided to apply it to my other hives, though in a much-reduced way: I simply removed any completely undrawn frames (these were new swarms hived in late June last year, so not fully established by their first fall), nudged things about a bit. Each colony got at least a new inner wall of wooden follower board on each side, and all but one side in one colony also got either 3/4" or 1" of foam. In essence I have turned my 10-frame equipment into 7 or 8-frame equipment for the duration of the winter. I read somewhere that bees' natural cavities have a typical range of R 5-15 in their walls; my hives -except for the "double-nuc" one - now have about that, as well.
I like how it has worked for the winter but, of course, now I am faced with deciding how to remove the extra material in a way designed to avoid increasing swarm pressures yet not create abrupt changes for the bees. Still working on that part of the plan.
But, in general, hives with lightweight, removable, winter insulation seem like a good plan. Sawdust-insulated double-walled hives sound awfully heavy!
BTW, only after I had fixed my hives this way did I read on here about the possible risk of bees eating the exposed foam edges. So far, at least, mine have not done that. (And I am looking hard for any evidence of munching.) But next year I would make plans to prevent that, by covering or blocking their access to it at the bottom and up by the top bars.
Insulated hives make thermo-dynamic sense to me because they would lower the energy-cost to the bees by reducing radiant heat losses from the cluster. I think they would also tend to keep the temps inside the hive from being raised too much, if any, from radiant gain through the walls of the hive on sunny days. This would be a good thing, I believe, particularly since I have much-reduced through-hive ventilation during the cold months. (But no worries re moisture build-up or condensation because I also use quilt boxes.)
OTOH, I had feral colonies of bees living here in the uninsulated, covered-only-by-wooden-siding cavities, within the walls of my unheated, unoccupied, timber-framed barns for nearly two decades. But I wasn't paying too-close attention to them so perhaps many years they succumbed to the cold and were just replaced by new swarms by the time I noticed them flying about each Spring.
I simply strap/bungee cord pieces of 1" foam board on the outside of the boxes and it will be removed in a week or so. I do not want insulation once warm weather arrives. It may not look pretty but it works very well and was done with little effort.
Enj, I like it. I'm going to try to overwinter july starts this year (if there's any bees left lol), was going to put them in nuc boxes, but that's a better idea. I wonder if using a one pc follower board would be better, say a pc of lauan board with a foam board backer to prevent warpage.
I had some Langs that did not a full 10 frames drawn. In those I removed the untouched frames and replaced them with 1 of two things:
1.5 " insulation board cut to the size of frames or frame feeders filled with paper stips from my shredder. I have not yet gone into the hives to sort them out for spring as it remains quite wintery here.
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