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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,
Thinking ahead towards winter and exploring ways to minimize heat loss. I'm contemplating using double thicknesses of the 2" rigid insulation cut to fit between the hives. I would then run a piece if 15 lb felt across the front and back to gives some protection from wind and rain. Anyone else experimented with this? Is 4" spacing between hives ok, I'm running 7" now and don't seem to have a drift problem?

Thanks for any input.
 

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I dont think there is much heat loss from shared hive sides unless one of them dies out but you need some space filler and draft killer between to accomodate telescopic covers overhang. I used loose fiberglass bat slipped into a garbage bag and folded over. Wouldnt be as mouse proof as rigid foam but I didnt have any move in. I grouped and wrapped 4 hives in a bundle. Had no winter losses in hives done that way. The ridgid foam board is good on the exterior walls under the felt wrap. I also insulated over the four hives and topped with some old galv. roof sheeting but it would be better to be able to access each hive top separately without disturbing the whole bundle of hives.

The bees were mostly done flying by the time I wrapped last fall but I did feel the urge to separate them out this spring when it was still cold enough that they still could have been wrapped for another month. I like to work the hives from the side so being pushed together tighter is not a plus for me. I dont know how much problem there would be with drift when the bees were orienting and actively foraging.

Gang wrapping hives has plusses for sure but has some warts too.
 

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I have been getting my Georgia/Rossman Italians through the last five winters with 2" rigid insulation. I also call this DOW Board. THis year I experimented with 4 hives. I wrapped the Rossman's on all 4 sides, and added 6" on top of the roof as usual (physics works even in winter, and heat rises...LOL). The 2nd hive (italians) I only wrapped 3 sides, leaving the southern end exposed. Again 6" on top went on that hive. THe 3rd hive I only added 6" on top of the hive, and nothing on the sides. All the first three were Italians. The 4th hive was a set of Carniolins. I left them to the elements. All Survived, but in different stages of health. THe 1st hive, my oldest set, and the 2nd set were by far Healthy, with superior numbers, and the least amount of dead bee's on the bottom board. The 3rd set of Italians had huge die off numbers, as did the Carni's. Both these two exhibited signs of dysyntary. All did live but on the two hives exhibiting dysntary it appears I lost queens and had to replace.
When I wrap, I wrap up to the bottom of the telescoping cover. THe inner cover has an escape hole, and therfore airflow. Using DOW Board, I find that imparative, as if you do not allow for some air flow, they will die due to condensation. I am a firm believer that the DOW on top is as important as wrapping, as, again, Physics works.
Cheers,
Greathorned
 

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I have a row of 9 hives that are literally side by side. If there has been drift it is not noticeable. I don't think I could fit a 2" slab of insulation between without moving them a bit. My other hives are more spread out.
 

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I'm in northern NY. I used rigid foam insulation panels between my three hives and on the ends last winter. They were all on one stand for the winter and tightly pushed together, with no side exposure, except on the ends.

One the western (windward) end of the row I had 3", with 1 3/4" of foam between the hives (need at least that much if the tele covers are at the same level, a bit less if one hive is shorter). The eastern end had 2 inches.

But I also had an additional 1.5 " of foam insulation inside both sides of the western hive and about an inch inside both sides of the eastern hive. The center hive had only 3/4" on both sides. Plus each hive had a 3/4" thick (nominal) solid wood follower board on the inside of the foam, on both sides. Cross-section of this: Exterior foam panel / hive body wall/interior foam/solid wood board/ 5 - 8 frames (depending on which hive)/wood follower board/interior foam/hive wall/exterior foam panel

The back of the hives had a separate 2" panel for each hive (and covering its share of the between-hive insulation) and then a 1" thick a full-width span of all the hives (plus the widths of the exterior side panels and between-hive insulation) on the outside of that.

On the front of the hives I had (applied in mid/late January when it got even colder) a 2" thick full spun single panel. It rested on the upturned edges of the bottom board and recessed the front entrance somewhat.

To hold this arrangement together I used ratchet straps, which worked well, but are exasperating to get right when wrapping around such a large mass.

I also had other things going on like quilt boxes, insulation inside the tele cover, wind baffles over the upper and lower entrances and, um, blankets, wrapping the whole shebang. I didn't wrap with roofing paper or anything else.

My girls were very snug bugs and came through the winter like champs (100% survival). I still have the between-hive insulation in place and recently when we slipped back to freezing on a few May nights, I temporaily re-installed the multi-hive foam front and back spans during the night, removing it in the daytime.

My colonies' bees look different from each other in size and coloring (they are all three from different swarms of unknown origins) and I'm not seeing much drift. I have one hive that for some unknown reason has almost no varroa (I monitor almost constantly), yet slap up against it is my most varroa-plagued hive. If I had a lot of drift, I would think the mite numbers would be equalizing among the hives, but so far, not.

I am very satisfied with using exterior insulation and plan on continuing to do that. I expect I will also continuing interior insulation, as well. That worked particularly well with one of my hives that really was nuc-sized. Extracting the insulation and the follower boards in the Spring was far less difficult than I thought it might be - I did it gradually as the brood nest expanded laterally.

And I think quilt boxes are very effective and can't imagine running without them.

Blankets ???? Well, they worked, but were a big pain to get wrapped right. So that's one part I think I may not repeat.

After we get past the intense swarmy period, I plan to shift the hives apart more (10-12') and make a nuc from each hive that I haven't already split, which will mean that all of the exterior insulation is finally off for the summer.

I'm impressed that you are thinking about all this now. I didn't start wrapping my head around winter prep until late Fall - and it was a steadily evolving affair for a couple of months. Be sure to plan for some way to feed (fondant, Mountain-Camp style, bricks, or patties) as may be needed. You can't continue liquid feeding when the temps get below about 50 F.

Enj.
 

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Seems like it would be much more simple to cut a cover the size of the top of the hive to use for the winter and then slide all of your hives up tight cheek to jowl and forget using insulation between them. Then there might be some chance that two clusters will move to the walls between them and share the warmth.

If u r still determined to use foam board insulation stick it on top.
 

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What about condensation inside the hives when using the foam boards? Don't you need some kind of venting?
 

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Well, I saw NO condensation or unwanted moisture within my hives despite the very harsh, long winter, but remember I also used QUILT BOXES on top.

Quilt boxes: separate shallow or comb-depth supers (4-5" high) with fabric floors and filled with dry pine shavings, with an open ventilation shim above them. Shim had two 1.25" diameter holes that were uncovered all winter.

For ventilation I had: a) reduced-sized bottom entrance (mouse guarded) of approximately 1/2' width; b) top entrance opening in the feeding rim, below the quilt box, which I varied according to weather from 3/4" diameter to 1.25". This entrance also has a cardboard wind flap/deflector push-pinned to the windy side. c) the two vent holes above the quilt box.

The blankets (17 wool ones) were wrapped all around three sides and covered loosely with a plastic tarp to protect them from snow and sleet when necessary. Blankets are very breathable, even when wet, but I preferred to keep them dry.

Don't get confused by the word "foam" - the material is much too rigid to be considered a tight fit w/o caulking. From a functional point of view even with the hives snuggled as close as possible to each other and the intervening insulation panels inserted tightly between/against them, the rigid "foam" panels don't hermetically seal up the boxes because the boxes themselves are rarely perfectly square, and frequently ever-so-slightly offset one way or the other, so small gaps exist. The foam is definitely not there to totally impede air infiltration, i.e. it's not caulked. It's function is to retard radiational heat loss from within the hive, lowering the energy cost to the bees in maintaining their essential cluster temps.

Contrary to studies I have read, my insulation schemes also kept the air within the hive boxes much warmer than outside ambient - often a differential of 40-70 degrees F. My bees spent much of their time lounging about within the feeding rim, definitely not tightly clustered.

Inside the hive, I made more of an effort (though without caulking) to make the foam and wood panels fit tightly. Mostly to keep the bees from accessing, and possibly chewing, on the foam which probably wouldn't be good for them. Inside I made sure that the materials in one box actully met the materials from the boxes below and above to create a solid, insulated, side wall.

I happen to live in a very old house with no central heat (in northern NY), so am personally acquainted with the technical aspects of maintaining a comfortable existence within a point-source heated, and enclosed, space. So perhaps this makes more intuitive sense to me than it would if I lived in a conventionally heated building where the air is heated, instead.

Throughut the winter the only place I saw any evidence of condensation was on the undersurface of the insulation tucked up within the telecover, which was above the top double-vented shim. On very cold days I could find visible moisture here as the much-warmer (and hive-moistened) air rose up through the shavings and met the frigid air from outside. The condensation plane was the smooth, vapor-impervious, underside of the insulation. But it was, at that point in the stack, completely harmless to bees as they were protected by the wood shavings in the quilt box.

I think quilt boxes are essential, and foam insulation (inside and out) very important for over-wintering sucess in my very cold, snowy, climate. Roofing paper wrapping seems pointless, possibly even harmful to me (due to increasing temperature swings within the hive and sealing up the hive against small, vital, air leaks.) But you know if there are 10,000,000 beekeepers there are 10,000,001 opinions of what is The Best (Only) Way to successfully keep bees.

I'm just reporting on what worked for me, and what I observed, as I anxiously awaited the end of my first winter with my bees. Newbies like me have to make arbitrary-seeming choices among all the Best Ways To Keep Bees, and then hope for the best. I think there are a ton of long-standing, oft-repeated, "Beekeeping Rules," some of which are little more than one person's ideas now transmogrified into Accepted Practice. It's really tough to sort it all through - and then, too, all beekeeping is very local so YMMV.

Enj.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thank you all for the detailed and insightful responses. Given that you all don't think drift will be an issue, I think I have a plan. My goal is to have up to 5 hives per stand but not have to move hives tighter to accommodate my winter plan. I'm lazy Mark, hate doing things twice, love to systematize things wherever possible. If I can just slide a couple pre cut pieces of rigid foam snugly between hives once a year I'm a happy camper. I will however be adding a piece of foam board to my lids and covering them with an oversized piece of 1/2 corex to keep rain away from the hive bodies.

Also, being a builder of high efficiency homes, I can say with certainty that redbugs comment about moisture is spot on and my number one concern. Insulation and sealing things up is good but you have to have a way to chimney moisture up and out. Anyone remember the super tight homes in the 80s, they rotted from the inside/out, we still call Tyvek house rot.

Minimizing internal moisture is why I'm leaning towards side and top insulation but leaving the front/back just wrapped for wind relief. I'm told by my energy gurus that having warm and cool areas within a box creates a slow but effective convective air movement that helps moderate overall temps while exhausting maximum moisture. I'm trying to give the bees a slightly warmer, very dry environment instead of the cold wet bottom, warm wetter upper box.

Thanks again to all for chiming in. Troy
 
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