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Outdoor Temps and Hive Activity

1516 Views 5 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  enjambres
I've been watching my first hive for the last 10 days and noticed the warmer it gets during the day the more the bees fly. The morning temps are around 50 with some afternoon temps over 90. Mid to upper 80's seems to be the trigger point for all the available workers to fly.
So I'm thinking the interior hive temp gets warm enough that the brood no longer needs bees to keep it at a safe temp which in turn frees up more bees for foraging.
Correct me if I'm wrong but if I wanted to keep the hive at the absolute best temp for maximum foraging wouldn't I need to replicate nature by making the hive more like a tree trunk with thicker wood? Wood = insulation and will reduce the temperature swings to free up the bees.
I'm running 2 ten frame deeps, SBB and a notched top cover under the lid.

I used an Infrared camera to check the heat loss through the Cypress deeps
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On a 50 degree night the hive temp is about 60. To me that shows the bees are doing a lot of extra work just to make up for the heat loss through the thin walls of the hive.

If I revamped the SBB and better insulated the exterior of the boxes I think the bees could maintain the interior temp easier with less bees.

What say you?
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Bees generate a ton of heat without much effort. If you are concerned about keeping the hive warmer/cooler for them, ditch the SBB and go to solids. JMO. In addition, your infrared is reading the exterior of the hive...the bees are maintaining 90-95* INside the hive, no matter what. There is a constant cycle of foragers vs nurse bees, etc...perhaps your flow has kicked in, and you are seeing more foraging as a result. What say me? Me thinks you are over thinking... ;) bees will figure it out!

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This is just speculation on my part, but increases in bees flying as the temperature rises may be a result of increasing nectar availability (due to temperature).

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Bees have been regulating brood nest temperature for a couple of years before humans started keeping them (actually millions of years). A tree may be more insulated and more efficient at removing moisture which I think is more important; however I think you can over play our role in bee keeping. It is much more efficient, (for my dog) if I carry her down the street but the point is taking her for a walk. I think it best to let them adapt and make it there home, they know what is best for the colony, if your hive is not a good home they will let you know. Also tree bound colonies tend to be much smaller in number although Im sure there are some exceptions more bees might need a more ventilated less efficient hive. .....?

Excellent photos though, very neat perspective.

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Heat to keep brood warm is indeed the limiting factor in spring buildup. My bees are still tightly covered with an insulated wrap and the I" bored holes in the upper brood box are more and more resembling a fire hose. Last two nights have been below freezing and snow on the ground two days ago. I think I will let others adapt their tropical insects to a gaping hole in the bottom of their hive in such conditions. In a week or so I expect swarm preparations in the hives and I can make a few splits and wrap them up tightly too. It will be mid July before nights are even in the fifties here.

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Some where I read that the "typical" tree nest cavity's walls had a R-value of 5 -15, the same as 1-3" of that pink (or now, light purple, for the ozone-safe material) foam insulation we use in our houses.

I'm northern NY and I used that range last winter when setting up my hives for the big chill. I used insulation both inside my hives (protected to prevent bee-chewing) and on the outside surfaces; the range was from 2 - 4" of foam, on each exposed side (except the bottom). I had wood-shavings-filled quilt boxes and 1.5 inches of foam in the covers. All the insulation inside the hive has long since been removed to make room for foundation and comb-building and I have removed most, but not all, of the exterior panels. On warm days I take them off, but have them at hand for cold or frosty nights, which up here can happen right up to Memorial Day.

I have a SBB over a solid board, with the slot closed up. I wouldn't want to be w/o the ability to count mites, even though in the winter I want to have more protection than a SBB would provide (though I have read of people up here in the north wintering on SBB - seems too chilly to me.)

I think the technical issue of making sure there is sufficient through-hive ventilation is probably more critical than air temp within it. Single layer, somewhat leaky, boxes may be better for ventilation so any insulation or "tightening up" activity you do has to take into account the potential for lost ventilation. Bees don't do well in dampness and they generate a lot of moisture by themselves not to mention evaporating down all the nectar into honey. And it costs them considerable work to move the air about.

Last winter, during days when the air temps were less than 20F, I occasionally stuck an instant read thermometer in through one of my ventilation holes. It generally read above 80F. When temps dropped down below zero outside, the air inside was never below about 45/50 inside. The take away for me was that by insulating the hive I was lowering the energy costs to my bees of maintaining their cluster temps. They don't set out to heat their space, but an insulated space better retains the radiant and convective losses from the bees' cluster, making the air inside warmer. Some people argue that having an uninsulated box - even one wrapped in black roofing paper - allows for significant radiant heat gains from the sun (at least on the south side). Certainly my medium purple boxes felt warmer than my pale yellow ones, at least on the surface. But I knew from decades of running greenhouses that radiant solar gains in the daytiime are insiginificant compart to radiant losses during the darker, colder and longer hours at night. There's also the issue of whether dramatic temperature swings are good for the bees. My guess is not, but I have no proof of that.

All in all I was happy with my arrangements, though since it was an ad hoc, evolving set-up, it had some convenience issues which I will have to improve before winter. For instance, I didn't plan ahead for easy access to my mite monitor boards, so pulling them required about 45 mintues of disassembling the whole shebang. Will definitely improve that next winter!

And, although I am sure beginner's luck played a part in it, all of my (three!) hives survived in excellent shape, in a year when reportedly there were 48% losses among non-migratory beekerps in my state.

Last summer I was too new to have any opinion on whether box insulation would make things better or worse during warm weather. It's something I will think about, but for now my plan is to move to remove all the insulation ASAP. But then I don't have the summertime high-temperature issues you do in Texas.

Commercial, or even sideliners, may not find it worthwhile to have anything other than the standard wooden boxes we all use. But beekeepers with a few hives don't necessarily need to follow suit.

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