Thursday, November 29, 2012

Keeping the Bees Warm and Dry

This fall I had been reading about Moisture Quilts on and liked the idea but wanted to make a few changes. The idea is to provide insulation and ventilation to the bees and also absorb the moisture that is produced by the bee cluster. I think one of my colonies died last year due to lack of ventilation, as the moisture condensed and dripped down on the cluster.  Also, in addition to providing ventilation, insulation and moisture control, I wanted to build in a space for feeding the bees, not included in the original moisture quilt. Usually the top covers of the hive fit down close to the top of the honeycomb frames, leaving only enough room for a bee to walk across the top of the frames. This is about 3/8 of an inch and is referred to as "bee space". In the summer, if there is anymore than bee space between anything in the hive, the bees fill it with comb. So as a result there is no room to feed unless you add an empty box for that purpose. Lastly, I wanted to use wire screen to hold the wood shavings insulation, rather than burlap like they used originally.
So, one day this fall I set out to build some boxes that would meet these needs, this is what I came up with.

Construction Phase 1
First off, I cut some pine 1x6's to length and drilled 3/4" holes in two sides for vents. Next I glued and nailed the boards together to make three boxes. Then I cut 1/4" wire screen to fit inside the boxes and stapled it in place. I positioned the screen in each box so that it was about three inches down from the top, and also made sure the folded edges of the screen covered the holes just to make sure no unwanted hive guests moved in. Finally I painted the boxes and left them to dry.
Construction Phase 2

The next day, I placed the boxes on the hives. Things were looking good. The portion of the box above the screen would hold pine shavings for insulation and moisture control, the portion below the screen would be for feeding, and the holes would provide the venting. I started to load up the first box with pine shavings, but soon saw that fine pieces of the shavings were going to filter down onto the bees. I guess 1/4" screen was a little too coarse. I didn't like that, so I cut a couple old T shirts in to sheets and placed the cotton sheets on top of the wire. This should allow the moisture to travel up to the top of the hive and condense and then drip down on to the shavings, and not the bees.

Modified Moisture Quilt in place.
Here is the modified moisture quilt in place. When I last checked the bees, all three colonies were looking good. They had plenty of honey to eat and were clustered nicely. As we head into December, I'll check them again and see if I need to feed to help them through the hard times. As spring approaches, I'll feed protein to help the colony get a jump on the brood rearing and building up the population for the bloom.   Speaking of honey, how is your honey store? We still have a few jars left of our Johnson's Garden Honey available. They make great gifts for anyone interested in local, homegrown goods and health foods. Shoot me a note at or comment on this post if your interested. Remember, honey is non-perishable and easily shipped!
That's all for now, thanks for reading.

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