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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I have been trying to think up ways to add some extra R value during winter to my TBH. During all of the past years, I have been wrapping it with a 1" blue-foam board, which -- on its outside -- is protected by a thin layer of wood, and this set up is supposed to add about a R5 value. The TBH itself is made of 1" pine, approx. a 0.75 R value. Recently, I have been looking at Owens Corning's Foamular 150, a 1.5" thick rigid foam board. My idea would be to score it to size (it's a 4' x 8' board) such that I could create yet one more external wrap-around layer (i.e., it would wrap around the TBH, after having already placed the blue foam layer I typically use), therefore adding another approx. 7.5 R. I have done due diligence searches on the web, to see if it contains any imidacloprid and deltamethrin, or other pesticides, I am not not finding anything on this. Questions: 1) Do you know whether OC's Foamular 150 contains chemicals harmful to bees? 2) In case it does not, is mine a good idea, or not? I have never had any hive die on me while overwintering, so maybe the R5 that I typically use is enough, and I am just overthinking this?

Thank you!
 

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Sylvia " I typically use is enough, and I am just overthinking this?" You are not over-thinking this. I have used Foamular 250 for 6 years ( 2-inch XPS) without a problem except ants trying to live in it. I have no environmental concerns using it. I am UDA zone 6 too.

Two implemenation comments: 1) Prevent wind effect from robbing heat. Open joints or cracks, air gaps are negative effects - sometimes big negative effects. I make a glued sectons or sleeves and tape / fill open joints to prevent ebb and flow of air due to wind. I leave one entrance at the bottom of the hive. 2) I have R20 or 2 layers of R10 on top and R10 on the sides - seems adequate by test (thermometers). I may try R20 on the sides but the biggest impact was sealing joints. 3) XPS Foamular is great for retaining moisture. I find this important in winter and would think it applies to your environment. When it is 15F outside, very low RH, bees can dehydrate and die. I have no top vent and have not drowned a single bee. Again, unsealed joints allow moisture out and in my case a North East storm pushed water in with the bees lined up drinking it. Given the chance the bees can manage the internal environment very well especially with insulated pine boxes. I insulate all year now.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Robert, thank you for your reply.

Since I already will have the TBH wrapped with the 1" blue-foam board which is pretty well airtight around the sides of the hive (it has cords to keep it together), my assumption (correct me if I am wrong) is that if my extra added layer of Foamular 150 has some small cracks at the joints in it, it will not affect much the hive, because underneath there is already a solid layer on insulation? In other words, if at the new Foamular's corners there are some 1mm or 2 mm corner joints that are not sealed, I am still OK?

I also have only one entrance, at the bottom of the hive, facing south, and approx 4" long. The mouse guard is already on. I also have no top vent. I have a small (typically covered by the wood) glass viewing window, and I think that the condensation is probably there in the winter, on a side of the TBH. I have not noticed any mold or dead/drowned bees in the past years (fingers crossed for winter coming up, of course). I do not have access to that viewing window in winter, I keep the hive firmly wrapped. It can get really cold here. Yes, our winter (and summer) humidity levels are pretty low here.

Also, so far, in the winter I only add on top on the TBH that one layer of blue foam. Am I understanding from you that I should add one more layer of the Foamular on top of the blue foam layer? That goes under the gabled roof, right?

My guess is that by wrapping one more time around with Foamular 150, the hive will retain no more and no less moisture that it already retains in winter with the 1" blue foam. Am I thinking right? One more layer around should not change the moisture content compared to my own 1-layer method?

Thanks (also to anyone else who might want to join the conversation).
 

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Hi Sylvia, I had a top bar hive a few years, and it overwintered fine. I put blue insulation on each side and pieces on top of the bars under the Peaked roof which which was hinged (a friend made it and gave to me). One entrance hole open on the short side, another screened one on the other short side; bottom was screened with 3 thin sliding boards to pull out which were cracked slightly. My weather in the Catskill Mountains is cold and long winters.
 

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sylvia "are some 1mm or 2 mm corner joints that are not sealed, I am still OK? "

I cannot quantify easily but in general you are better off. The easy way to "know" is to install a thermometer. A simple dial thermometer, digital or other, and a tiny hole or a place to put it for easy access will help guide you. I simply use a weather station, measure temperature and relative humidity, which provides hive data to my receiving station on my mantle - cheaply. It is amazing what you can learn form just thermometer readings combined with observations - I have to write them down :) while having morning coffee.

I can tell when a hive is safe, changing or is in trouble - temperatures are 10F lower than other hives with cooling weather. Right now my strongest hive is "changing" the queen is entering her fourth year - "supercedure", maybe and I will visually check. I hope the colony performs a natural queen replacement. ( if she is being superceded I will miss her - gentle and great forgagers)

Moisture resistance: The blue foam provides moisture and permeability resistance the more or thicker the greater the resistance. Thus it will help contain moisture within the hive. Seocnd point: moist air rises above dry air ( clouds in the sky) warm mosit air rises faster. So the top of the hive is usually warm and moist. The internal cluster conditions is well manage by the bees. Making it easy for them to manage the surrounding hive environment saves energy and water. Bees generate 3.5 gallons of water for each 40 lb. of honey they consume. It is eaither stored or lost. Bees die of dehydration like most insects. You either loose the moisture and the bees have to replace it or they can control it internally. Water in the form of water vapor is mostly likely lost from your hives fro your location via the bottom entrance ( I Have no top exits). It is lost via diffusion and via some air currents flowing in and ebbing out plus bees leaving to poop. In my case I do get some low side wall condensation and likely some condensation on bottom combs. I have read about large hives dying in winter from dehydration. So cracks matter but in your case it is greatly reduced by the joint overlapping a layer of foam underneath. If you have a real gap - tape it or stuff it. I have removable insulating sleeves and I close off the bottom in winter, leave the bottom open in summer as they have lots of water when drying honey.

Best of luck - try experimenting and keep asking questions.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
thank you all so much for the helpful feedback! :)
 
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