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LJ
I don't know how moist it is here but probably not too bad. I hear moister is hard on mites. I have no upper ventilation and a reduced bottom entrance. Two inch foam on the hive top out side the hive and nothing on the walls. I had one hive last year that had water sitting on the plywood under the insulation all year long. How do I know? Because every time I inspected the hive, I would dump about a quart off of it and was too lazy to fix it. It was a design fault of my building of the top.

The bees survived that.

I do say that on flying days early spring that my bees are gathering water hard along with chicken feed till the flows really get going.

I do not know which is best as far as insulation goes but have it rattling around in my brain that there was a study that kinda showed that 2 inch thick hives were producing sicker bees. I know I did not dream this and wish I could find it again and read it again as I am not infallible in my understanding what I read with out reading stuff more then once.

My belief is that what I am doing is enough for my 5b growing zone though I could not say I could prove what might be best. It does make me wonder about high insulation and then good venting on top of a hive. Seems like one would counter the other.

I have also read some studies on freezing bees to see what they can take and though I don't remember the particulars, I do remember being impressed with the bees toughness.

These are only my observations in my yard and what I run with and not something that I know and can prove.
Cheers
gww
 

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I don't know either ...

I find it hard to disagree with the need for ventilation, as I rely upon bottom ventilation to ensure winter survival in my own uber-damp environment - and yet at the same time I'm aware that the bees work hard to seal their hives up tight, and that I'm doing something that's unnatural and I'm pretty sure they'd prefer I didn't. But - I don't have an answer to this conflict between what I know works in practice, and how bees are able to survive in the wild without such human assistance.
LJ
 

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I live in the beautiful Pacific NW that is well known for being extremely rainy and humid throughout the winter. It does not get real cold (freezing temperatures) most of the time and we get very little snow. Thus, moisture is a major issue here. Leaving bottom entrances fully open guarantees mice will move in. Since freezing temperatures is not an issue but moisture is, I have extra large openings in my inner covers that are the exact size for a wide mouth canning jar. It can also be used as a feeding hole. My outer cover has the front vertical edge removed so the excess moisture can easily escape. Throughout the winter I used to see a lot of moisture on top of the inner cover with plenty of mold and mildew. Removing the front side of the outer cover seems to allow the moisture to evaporate outside of the hive much more quickly. Since both the top opening and the bottom entrance are facing the same direction, you do not get a breeze through the hive. I would not recommend this setup for areas that get much colder than here but it has worked very well for me.
 

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...... Leaving bottom entrances fully open guarantees mice will move in. ......
Please just stop this.
:)

Wire screening is about free to get (very cheap, at the least).
Very easy to apply too.
Not to forget, just keep the screening in place permanently - and forget it then.

Does not matter if your entrance is fully open - it is screened.
 

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Greg
I have 3/8th inch gap on my bottom board. I have not had issues yet of mice getting in my hives during winter. Not saying it will never happen. I have traps with out bees in them that also have 3/8th entrances that I leave out all year. I have had mice chew those entrances bigger as well as chewing holes in the frame rest area and moving in over winter. I do have plenty of mice around (probably more then most) due to leaving chicken feed out all the time.

I don't use mouse guards or screen to curtail the mice, they just don't seem to move in on the hives that have bees in then with the 3/8th gap. Knock on wood of course.
Cheers
gww

Ps Empty hives are also a great draw to the red wasp and I even found a snake in one that had a round hole for the entrance. I had what I think was yellow jackets moving under my warre hive cover.
 

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Greg I have 3/8th inch gap on my bottom board.........
Sure, gww.

Personally, I just don't trust the wood alone.
Those darn mice will eventually chew and squeeze through.
Metal screening everywhere for me 24/7/365.
And move onto other things, forget the mice.
 

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Please just stop this.
:)

Wire screening is about free to get (very cheap, at the least).
Very easy to apply too.
Not to forget, just keep the screening in place permanently - and forget it then.

Does not matter if your entrance is fully open - it is screened.
I use queen excluder in the hive bottom. Towards the spring it is kind of automatic air conditioning, less air circulation because of dead bees on it.
 

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I live on the north eastern seaboard and also have lots of connected days of high humidity, fog, mist and light rain. I have moved a few miles away form the ocean to avoid having mold grow in my shoes but my bees sphere of influence reaches the Atlantic Ocean.

I went in the opposite direction as you. It is hard to argue success when it works both ways but I do get below 0 F weather and 90+ F days in the summer. No top vent or top exit all year, R10 insulated top all year and R10 side insulation in the winter. I intend to have an insulated hive or two all year in 2020 with no top exit. Oh, I use 12 oz. duck cloth as an inner cover which gets heavily propolized along with my rough sawn, home-made boxes. Bottom board is screened.

Backing up a bit, I have not notice any house designs trying to control moisture in a manner you describe; drawn cold moist air in the bottom and vent the same or slightly warmer moist air out the top. In fact the home building code is starting to enforce maximum air infiltration requirements. (I do worry about this code requirement and issues like "draw" by a wood stove.) But the DOE advises control by controlling the dew point location and where it occurs in a wall or roof. Hidden in all this are the effects vapor pressure, diffusion and honey bee attempts to control temperature and humidity along with something called "propolis". In the old days we would keep our single pane windows closed, stove on and accumulate wonderful amounts of ice on the inside of the window panes. I would play with it - sometimes it was really thick. Then it would melt and rot the sills. So we would put rolled up towels on the sills ( showing my age). It seems this problem has gone away with careful engineering thermal management and vapor barriers. Even when it is 60 F outside and 98% RH my house stays a nice 70 F and ~50% RH. I just cannot see pumping cold humid air through the house by opening a first floor door and a 2nd floor window.

I have seen a couple unusual result with 7-10 hives wintering-over the past two years and going through summer. The neatest event was in a late winter Nor'easter and my weather station showed that the temperature at the top of the hive above cluster was below the dew point - raining inside the hive??!!! I went out during a lull and peaked under the insulated cover. The foam insulation joint was leaking on the wind side - Nor'easter wind pressure was pushing water, rain or condensate, in. About a 150 bees were lined up, side by side, taking the water! The inner surface of the top cover surface was mostly dry. I need a better top cover design for wind and rain! I have yet to lose a hive or a bee to "moisture problems" that I could find. I do not find mold inside the hives - anymore - since eliminating the top vent and insulating. I do have one mystery and when I figure it out I will report it - had to do with feeding in the Fall. I I think physics is on my side. Much more to learn about this environmental condition.
 

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[..] I have not notice any house designs trying to control moisture in a manner you describe; [...] It seems this problem has gone away with careful engineering thermal management and vapor barriers. [...] I think physics is on my side.
I think one needs to be very careful here when making comparisons. Honey-bees are not humans - they have different respiratory systems and, unlike humans, are individually poikilothermic - although not entirely so when functioning as a 'super-organism' - and so are somewhat unique in this regard.

Most sciences are based upon modelling of some kind, and modelling of static systems in general tends to approximate reasonably well - with dynamic modelling of course being far less reliable. And with honey-bees there is the additional complication of the cluster providing both it's own dynamic heat source with it's own dynamic insulation around it - both of which can readily respond intelligently to changing conditions.

I have tried to discuss such biological 'complications' with Derek Mitchell, but as a theoretical physicist he is unable to embrace them.

I think what I am trying to communicate is that a pure physics approach can only ever be a monochromatic perception of a rich and multi-coloured tapestry. :)
LJ
 

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I went in the opposite direction as you. It is hard to argue success when it works both ways but I do get below 0 F weather and 90+ F days in the summer. No top vent or top exit all year, R10 insulated top all year and R10 side insulation in the winter. I intend to have an insulated hive or two all year in 2020 with no top exit. Oh, I use 12 oz. duck cloth as an inner cover which gets heavily propolized along with my rough sawn, home-made boxes. Bottom board is screened.
...
I have seen a couple unusual result with 7-10 hives wintering-over the past two years and going through summer. The neatest event was in a late winter Nor'easter and my weather station showed that the temperature at the top of the hive above cluster was below the dew point - raining inside the hive??!!! I went out during a lull and peaked under the insulated cover. The foam insulation joint was leaking on the wind side - Nor'easter wind pressure was pushing water, rain or condensate, in. About a 150 bees were lined up, side by side, taking the water! The inner surface of the top cover surface was mostly dry. I need a better top cover design for wind and rain! I have yet to lose a hive or a bee to "moisture problems" that I could find. I do not find mold inside the hives - anymore - since eliminating the top vent and insulating. I do have one mystery and when I figure it out I will report it - had to do with feeding in the Fall. I I think physics is on my side. Much more to learn about this environmental condition.
Robert,

I'm going down a similar path to yours. R10 insulation wedged into the telescoping cover year-round, with R5 on the sides year-round. The inner covers are plexiglass. No top venting Sep-June. Last year I ran a couple of hives without top vents through late Spring and Summer. I didn't see any issues other than ants setting up nests on top of the inner covers. No moisture problems. No mold.

The only time I have ever seen moisture under the glass was early fall after heavy feeding. This lasted a couple days, and never returned.

I've run a broodminder with this setup. During the winter the bees maintain 60-80% RH under the inner cover. As long as no cold air contacts the top of the inner cover, the bees stay dry and can survive and thrive with no top vents.
 

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Discussion Starter #291
Bernhard Mobus researched these questions and wrote up the results in the July and August 1998 issues of American Bee Journal. I happen to have a copy and made them available to Derek Mitchell to review. Derek basically dismissed the problems Bernhard found and published several articles indicating thermal efficiency is better for the bees.

Bernhard put colonies of bees into super insulated hives, i.e. with very thick insulation protecting the bees. The results were eye opening. The larger the colony going into winter, the worse they looked coming out of winter. Why? When he investigated, he was able to weigh the bees to prove that they were severely water deficient. Again, why? It turns out that wintering bees rely on water produced by metabolizing honey. Honey is about 18% moisture to start with, but the process of metabolizing honey also produces water from the chemical reaction of sugar as it oxidizes. C6H12O6 + 6 O2 turns into 6 CO2(carbon dioxide) and 6 H2O(water). That extra water is not just wasted. The bees use it to maintain the colony when they are unable to forage because the temperature is too cold.

But there are some details worth considering. Bernhard was working with colonies deliberately made very large by combining two colonies for winter in an insulated box. It turns out that small nucs and weak colonies do indeed winter better in an insulated box. The bees in a small cluster are forced to work harder on a per bee basis to maintain cluster temperature. The small cluster does not become water deficient.

When I first started beekeeping, I put my bees in Langstroth hives with tightly closed boxes and an entrance 3/8 X 3 inches. The combs were covered in mold and the bees were nearly dead by the time I figured out something was wrong. Talking with experienced beekeepers in the area provided information that an upper entrance is required in this high humidity climate. I cut a notch in my covers that was 3/4 inch wide by 3/8 inch deep under the lip of the cover so I could slide the cover to either open or close it. With it open in winter, I had an upper entrance just in case the bottom entrance was blocked by snow or dead bees and the bees no longer had mold in the hive due to high moisture.

What would I advise people who want to test very well insulated hives? Study the bees and listen to what they tell you. The bees will never lie. If moisture levels are too high, the colony will be in distress and mold will grow. Get the heat generating cycle out of balance and loads of bees will fly out and die in the snow as they try to forage for water. Get too much air flowing and the bees will consume excessive amounts of honey generating heat and they will die of nosema or just flat out from having a gut full of poop for too long in which case they will foul the combs. Be sure to pay attention to cluster size as the dynamics are very different for a large colony vs a small colony.
 

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Thanks for adding a word to my vocabulary, "poikilothermic ". I am aware of the concept but simply defined it (to myself) as a honey bee life and death system requirement with a wide temperature tolerance and capable of heat generation in response to specific demands. I would think the human approach is to adjust clothing to suit needs and avoid high demand on metabolic rates which also helps.

The attempted point of my comparison was from a physics point of view. An explanations of materials, arrangement and effects. One of the joys of this beekeeping hobby is the huge number of variables one must contend with over the course of a year which do not repeat year to year besides short term temporal requirements. It makes it difficult to prove you have control of a system when you cannot make something occur and go-away at will; far easier with non-living system issues. I have even given thought to re-learning and using the Buckingham theorem approach to define some effects. I think the time required and my age may limit that approach. Entering my fifth winter I am just beginning to feel like I now understand a few things about the mix of honey bee biological, ecological requirements and in a clearly definable physical environment. The effects of the environment not to mention the social behavior aspects are difficult to measure; hive humidity relative to honey bee needs being one of the least understood variables. ( I am also trying to learn to improve my writing, reading and communication skills.)

Lastly, Derek Mitchell is one of my favorite authors along with Dr. Seeley. Defining observations with "numbers", derived or by test, works for me. I have yet to read his article on the hive-bee mass relationship but he has already saved me a lot of time confirming things I was thinking about and implementing. It helps to have my "questioned" sanity reinforced by a trained physicist and biologist. I am quite sure your conclusion of his ability to embrace concepts is affected by the "eye of the beholder". :)
 

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I have not had the mold problem after two winters. In fact i had more mold with the standard no insulation, top vent approach. But the bees were dead when I saw mold so free water may have accumulated after the fact. I have to re-read Bernhard Mobus research and conclusions again. I hope to see actual test reports with more detail. I thought he was stretching his understanding of fluid dynamics and boundary layers a bit to suit a position.

When I have had bees "fly out" on to the snow. I investigated and picked some up. I warmed them in my hand until they came out of the cold stupor, began to move appendages slowly and then flew off again. Right back onto the snow. My conclusion was Nosema not dehydration. Three hives showed this symptom but all three survived and boomed in the spring. I had zero winter loses but three hives died, eventually, 8 survived. Two due to queen issues and one likely due to an unconfirmed disease.

Until proven it is the wrong approach I am sticking with the conservation of energy principle as a guiding light. Hopefull some cheap and accurate humidity sensors will show up soon. I am looking for one accurate probe on a small diameter, 10-inch probing shaft.
 

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It helps to have my "questioned" sanity reinforced by a trained physicist and biologist. I am quite sure your conclusion of his ability to embrace concepts is affected by the "eye of the beholder". :)
"Trained physicist" - yes, 'trained' is an appropriate term to use - I couldn't improve on that.

So - you're a physicist intent upon analysing the dynamic conditions within a beehive.
Question: does moist air within a beehive ascend or descend ? A simple enough (albeit unqualified) question which should provide you with just a taste of the modelling complexity which lies ahead.

Recommendation: if you have some ideas which make sense to you, then I'd seriously suggest developing confidence in those, rather than looking for confirmation of them from others - because ultimately, that's the only way in which progress, or at least novel ways of looking at the world are created.
There's certainly comfort, reassurance and even approval to be found within the 'group hugs' of herd thinking - but somebody, somewhere at some time has to do or think something different, else nothing will ever change.

Perhaps the most perfect example of what I'm talking about can be found in the recent work of Samuel Ramsey: in the early days of his research Ramsey began to suspect that the conventional view that Varroa fed on bees' haemolymph was wrong. It must have taken a lot of guts to pursue further investigations which went against the herd view, especially as he was required to provide something substantial and of merit within a relatively short time-frame in order to gain a PhD. But he held true to his suspicions and went on to prove that the commonly held view was completely wrong.

Asking the right question is immensely important. Ramsey asked "what do Varroa mites actually feed on ?" As a physicist you'll know that Max Plank asked the question "why does a heated iron bar glow red (and not any other colour) ?". And from that simple question developed his Quantum Theory.

FWIW - one question I'm currently asking is "why are bees covered from head to feet in hairs - including their mandibles and the cornea of their eyes ?". What purpose do they serve ? And the Varroa mite too - it's covered in hairs - why ? I do have some ideas, but it's only by asking questions that others aren't asking - essentially by challenging received wisdom and if needs be going out on a limb that new knowledge is gained. So - believe in yourself :)

Good luck.
LJ
 

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LJ, I too wonder about the hairs on a bees eyes and suspect that they are a sensory organ of sorts. Who knows for sure?
 

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If you investigate near-Earth atmospheric electricity (a wikipedia-level investigation ...), you may begin to get some clues there. During flight a honeybee develops anywhere from 20 or 30 - up to a massive >400 volts of static electricity on it's body - this positive voltage will no doubt be carried on some or all of those hairs.

Recently, somebody posted about Varroa mites waiting on flowers for a ride on a visiting bee. Where were they observed to position themselves ? - on the edges of petals and on the tips of stamens - precisely where the plant's negative electrostatic charge is concentrated. The mite then apparently extends it's forelegs upwards - this suggests perhaps that negative ions stream from those 'sharp points' just as a lighting conductor does. Are these hairs then the tips of sensory organs, just as a cat's whiskers are ? Very likely, imo.

Electrostatic 'ribbons' streaming upwards from tall buildings and trees are implicated in the formation of Drone Congregational Areas, and variations in atmospheric electrostatic potentials would also explain how bees detect approaching storm fronts, and so on ...

I've been amassing this kind of information for ages - needless to say there's nothing absolutely definite about any of this stuff, but in my opinion it does point toward static electricity playing some kind of role in the life of bees - and hairs are very likely implicated in that. Who knows - it could become the next big area of research. Sorry about the thread drift ...
LJ
 

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Robert,

Derek's research is among my favorite reading, too, especially this time of year. His insulation experiments prompted me to experiment with a few polystyrene hives last winter. I had 30 hives in wood and 5 in poly. The difference came shining through in late-winter/early spring during the unsettled weather. Wood hives had 3-4 frames of brood while the poly had 6 or more. The poly hives had drones at the purple-eye stage in the 3rd week of March: I could have started grafting a full three weeks early. The poly hives also swarmed in the 2nd week of April, again, three weeks before the wood hives. So working/watching poly hives in early spring was like driving a sports car: tap the gas and spin out.

All my winter loss last year was nucs I made up too late. Those were in wood, but I was able to move a few nucs into poly equipment and lost none of them. I believe the extra insulation helped them move to stores and take feed earlier.

Once the temperatures started to settle into May/June wood and poly hives seemed about even, so the wood hives caught up. Actually, it seemed the wood hives were storing more nectar during the flow, but I have nothing but speculation as to why that appeared to be the case. In the course of the season I became too busy to care to keep close tabs on the honey production comparison. I did start wondering if the bees in the poly hives collected less because they knew how efficient the cavity is...so needed less to survive...

No mold, no condensation issues at all. The Paradise poly hives that Blue Sky sells are intended to have the screen bottom open, year-round. That's where the air exchange takes place, especially during winter...

I haven't seen any indications that polystyrene hives have fewer pests or diseases, in my location.

I ended the year with 60 poly hives.
 

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Discussion Starter #299
JoshuaW, you are pointing out that better thermal protection permits earlier spring buildup. Note that narrow frames and small cell foundation also correlate with earlier spring buildup. You have to do due diligence to figure out if earlier swarming is manageable with your setup.

What I would really like to see would be 200 colonies set up in poly for winter with half having a small upper entrance about 1/2 inch diameter and the other half with only the lower entrance. This would tell me much more about the effectiveness of poly for wintering bees.
 

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Hi Fusion, thanks for the response.

I've decided to use standard-size equipment. As far as managing earlier swarming, I draw a parallel of using poly hives to growing plants in a greenhouse: season extension.

As for a 200-hive experiment, I'll repeat what I wrote: "The Paradise poly hives that Blue Sky sells are intended to have the screen bottom open, year-round. That's where the air exchange takes place, especially during winter..."

As a matter of fact, Paradise makes a ventilated top cover, but Derek Mitchell's research indicates that top ventilation in heavily insulated hives is detrimental. I think Paradise made the top vent cover for market demand, IMO...
 
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