Author Topic: Insulation With a Hole In It  (Read 96 times)

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Offline MudSongs

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Insulation With a Hole In It
« on: February 15, 2021, 12:35:26 pm »
Where I keep bees on the island of Newfoundland, on the windy and damp east coast of the island, upper ventilation is key to winter survival.  I'm curious what y'all think of this set up...



It's the top of a standard Langstroth hive, but I’ve got a piece of hard insulation over the inner cover, with a hole cut in the insulation above the inner cover hole, and a ventilation rim covering the whole thing.  Then a standard telescoping top cover not shown in the photo.

I know many beekeepers in Newfoundland who winterise their hives in almost exactly the same fashion (using a D.E. Hive, if you've heard of it), but instead of hard insulation, they drop in some kind of absorbent material (pink insulation, whatever).

The idea behind using a ventilation rim and hard insulation with a hole it over the inner cover is to: 1) Prevent condensation from forming under the inner cover. 2) Keep the bees a little warmer. 3) Allow for moisture to escape through the inner cover whole and out the ventilation rim.

Thus the bees get the best of both worlds, both warm and dry.

Before you say this is a bad idea, I should mention that so far it seems to be working out fine (I've had it set up for about a month with no issues).  But what about it doesn't look right to you?  Maybe it's a stroke a genius, or maybe it's a really bad idea.  Just curious what other beekeepers in other parts of the world might think...
- Phillip Cairns
Isle of Newfoundland
47°42'34.2"N 52°42'49.9"W
#NLbeekeeping

Offline Bakersdozen

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Re: Insulation With a Hole In It
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2021, 04:45:30 pm »
Thanks for sharing, Mudsongs.  I think you are on the right path for your location. 
Last Saturday I heard a presentation by researcher that had been exploring the best options for over wintering colonies. It concerned wrapping, insulating, etc. colonies in winter.  She explained there were less winter losses if insulation and wrapping were used together.  This research took place in Iowa or Illinois.  Those states have a lot colder winters than where I am located.
Here is an article that might be of interest to you. https://www.beeculture.com/winter-management/  This article discusses the various types of insulation and ventilation.

Offline Zweefer

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Re: Insulation With a Hole In It
« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2021, 12:27:33 am »
Frozen tundra here.  I usually put a sugar mixture of 10:1 that has solidified on top of the hives for emergency feed.  This also acts as my moisture absorption so I do not cut a hole through the top of my upper insulation layer.   

As for your setup I have a question. Do you slant the top at all? Several beekeepers I know up here add a slight incline to the inner and outer covers to hedge their bets if you will against condensation. The theory being that any moisture that does build up will roll to the edge and down the side rather than rain down on the bees.  If this is the case for you, wouldn’t the location of the vent hole be best on the upper edge (back) of the piece? I just wonder with it being over the bulk of the cluster if you are losing the bulk of the heat.  Conversely, I suppose you are also venting the bulk of the moisture as well....  :eusa_think:

The ultimate answer of course for me is, if it is working, it is correct, and don’t mess with it!



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Keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.
Henry David Thoreau
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Offline MudSongs

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Re: Insulation With a Hole In It
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2021, 10:59:25 am »
Here is an article that might be of interest to you. https://www.beeculture.com/winter-management/  This article discusses the various types of insulation and ventilation.

That is the most thoroughly and clearly-explained article about winter ventilation and insulation I've ever read.  I was aware of most of it already, but the precise explanations of how it all ties together, insulation with ventilation, was insightful.

It's interesting to see how different beekeepers in different areas take different approaches to wintering their bees.

When I started, all I did was wrap my hives in roofing felt (or tar paper), place a piece of hard insulation over the inner cover and reduce the bottom entrance.  That basic method seems to work for many people in cold climates who don't experience extreme temperature and humidity fluctuations in their local climate.  It stopped working for me after moving my hives to a more damp fog-drenched climate.  That's when I began experimenting with ventilation aids:  simple ventilation rims over the inner cover in the summer and winter; moisture quilts / quilt boxes over the inner cover; wrapping  and no wrapping; reduced entrances and wide open entrances; etc.  The moisture quilts had the most dramatic effect on my hives.  Just about every hint of moisture was wicked way from my hives.  They were almost too dry at times.  The heat loss in that set up didn't seem too bad.

I know people in my area who have used "Bee Cozies" to wrap their hives.  Their colonies come out strong in the spring, but are often bone-dry of honey stores too, requiring late-winter sugar feeding and lots of syrup in the spring so they don't starve.  I also know people who only put some kind dark wrap on their hives (roofing felt, black tarp, anything dark) and provide only top ventilation through what is essentially a ventilation rim under a large top cover that provides some dead-air space.  In that set up, there is constant ventilation and loss of heat through the inner cover hole.  Yet, colonies is these hive (called the D.E. Hive) seem to do well in my local climate; it's a popular hive.

What I've shown in the photo I posted is basically the D.E. Hive set-up but with insulation over the inner cover.  But now after reading the article you link to, I kind of get the impression that that insulation might not  be doing a whole lot.  But it also seems that the effect of top insulation on any hive with a top-notched inner cover entrance is greatly reduced by the exposure to cold air provided by the upper entrance.  I need to read that part of the article more carefully.  I may have misinterpreted that part.

I know wrapping is popular, but I'm very close to being completely done with it.  My hives are painted black (summers aren't very warm where I live), and except for the hives in wide open areas, they're not wrapped and don't seem to suffer from not being wrapped.  But again, my local climate is fairly mild throughout the winter (most of the time).  The biggest challenges in my local climate are the wind and precipitation (often blown into my hives at 90 degree angles -- good times).  The turning point for my was upper ventilation provided through a ventilation rim over the inner cover -- in both summer and winter (with wood chips to absorb condensation in the winter, basically a moisture quilt).

I've talked to many beekeepers about the necessity of reducing winter entrances, namely because it reduces the cold air hitting the cluster when it's low in the hive.  I noticed that most entrance reducers reduced the entrance but the kept the entrance in the middle of the bottom entrance -- right where the cluster often hangs out.  So last winter I began reducing my bottom entrances but leaving the sides opened just a little so that airflow would occur on the edges (not the middle) where the cluster wouldn't be bothered by it.  That seemed to work out okay, but there was more moisture build-up in the hives too.  This winter I've gone with completely open bottom entrances on most of my hives -- which I've done before with no issues -- and the bees in those hives are doing great.  Despite the wide open bottom entrances, the clusters stayed low in their hives much longer than the hives with reduced entrances.  The cold air blowing in through the wide-open entrances doesn't seem to bother them at all.  And I know many beekeepers who swear by wide-open entrance in the winter, claiming it keeps their hives well-ventilated and dry.

So there are many ways to skin this cat, but the evidence-based article you linked to seems like an excellent reference for thinking through my over-wintering strategies.  Thanks.
- Phillip Cairns
Isle of Newfoundland
47°42'34.2"N 52°42'49.9"W
#NLbeekeeping
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Offline MudSongs

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Re: Insulation With a Hole In It
« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2021, 11:11:57 am »
Frozen tundra here.  I usually put a sugar mixture of 10:1 that has solidified on top of the hives for emergency feed.  This also acts as my moisture absorption so I do not cut a hole through the top of my upper insulation layer.

I do something similar, using a 12:1 ratio, and this is my first time cutting a hole in the insulation, keeping in mind that my top cover doesn't sit directly flush against the insulation.  It sits over a 6-inch ventilation rim.

As for your setup I have a question. Do you slant the top at all? Several beekeepers I know up here add a slight incline to the inner and outer covers to hedge their bets if you will against condensation.

That's a common practice here in Newfoundland (and probably many places), except the whole hive is tilted, not the inner and outer covers.  The hole in the inner cover doesn't make any difference as far as I know (though I see what you're getting at).  People do it all the time.  Many beekeepers I know have insulation over the inner cover so the condensation builds up on the colder sides of the hives and then drips down the sides away from the bees -- one of the benefits, I suppose, of putting insulation up top but not on the sides.  The tilted hives supposedly allow this condensation to pour out the bottom entrance, though I've never seen a great deal of water pouring out of my hives.
- Phillip Cairns
Isle of Newfoundland
47°42'34.2"N 52°42'49.9"W
#NLbeekeeping