Moisture quilts  

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Terri Johnson
Active Member

Hello Question about providing moisture quilt for winter 

After watching some of the YouTube videos that Backyard Beekeepers have links to 

I wondering about the cedar chips getting too soggy after a few months 

Or using a moisture board ?

Do you need to install the canvas or use a screen bottom?

Last winter I used the quilt in a plastic bag ...don’t remember the technical term...but one of the hives still had too much moisture and was a loss

I will add the ventilation holes that may help

i am curious what others are doing this year

thanks  terri

 

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Posted : 09/10/2018 9:30 am
BM Staff
Member Admin

Hi Terri,

In the Inland Northwest, it's very important to have enough ventilation for the long winter. Your colonies will need the top and bottom entrances (for dual purpose of ventilation and also for the bees to go on cleansing flights).

In our apiary, we do close the screened bottoms. Some beekeepers don't close the screened bottoms, leaving the hive fully open at the bottom (for air circulation). You need to take into account that as some bees die during clustering months, the bottom screen will be fully covered by dead bees. So unless the beekeeper cleans that bottom screen at least once a month, there's not going to be air flow through the bottom screen (even if the tray is not closed).

The top entrance (usually a hole in the inner cover or similar piece of equipment) is very important. The bottom entrance could get covered with snow or ice, or clogged by dead bees for a while, so the top entrance could be the only access for the bees until you can get to open that bottom entrance.

The top entrance is also important to let the moisture out of the hive.

In some cases, if the inside surfaces of the hive are cold and reach the condensation point for the air inside the hive, you will get condensation and liquid water will form against the walls and the top inner cover of the hive.

We have never used quilts or moisture boards in our hives so the information below is from research and relying on experiences shared by other beekeepers.

If you see condensing water in the top of your hives (even after having the top ventilation open), you could use a moisture board to absorb that condensing water, removing the liquid water out of the hive (it wouldn't drop on the bees or cause molding).

The quilt would do the same thing, by allowing moist air to go through the cloth and having that excess moisture absorbed by your desiccant of choice.

We have heard that beekeepers use:

  • Pet cage supplies (the kind that is used in cages with hamsters, etc.)
  • dry leaves (like maple or other big leaf trees and not pine needles)
  • Wood shavings (usually cedar to prevent molding)

Whatever the desiccant you choose, please take into account that if at some point they are saturated, they won't be absorbing any more water and they could actually become a growing substrate for mold. We'd recommend checking the desiccant about once a month to see if you have to replace it (it would get heavier as it absorbs water).

Also, if you are making your own quilt, make sure to use a cloth that allows the moist air to get through. If it's not porous enough, the cloth will start condensing water that will drop on top of the bees (we have one beekeeper in our area that had this bad experience). Choose burlap or some rustic cloth that would allow air flow.

And lastly, the moisture from the air inside the hive condenses into liquid water over any cold surface. That's when insulation would be recommended. Adding a piece of insulation between the cold outside and the surface of the hive will help reduce water condensation. The higher the R-value (resistance to allow heat through) of the insulating material, the harder for the heat to escape the hive and the higher the temperature of the inside surface of the hive, which reduces the chances of condensation. 

If you see condensing water at the top of the hive you could add a layer of top insulation. The temperature of the inner cover will be higher and the moisture will be more likely to exit through the top entrance before having a chance to condense and form liquid water inside.

There's no single solution for getting your hives ready for winter and each bee yard could have different needs. Some areas have higher moisture levels and in others strong winds (and not moisture) are the main issue. Usually you gain experience from season to season. If you run into any problems one winter, you'd try some improvement for the next, until you have a setup that gives you good results in your location.

We hope the information helps.

ReplyQuote
Posted : 09/10/2018 10:07 am
africabushpilot
Eminent Member

Terri,

I love the response given above. But I'll add mine as well 🙂

Based on what worked for me last year and some "progress" in my thinking, I am closing my screened bottom board, I have small upper and lower entrances/ventilation holes, I have put "Blue Board" insulation on top of my top cover (1.5 inches) and on 3 sides (0.5 inches), and have a 1/2 inch moisture board on top of my inner cover.

I am totally convinced that insulation on top will help reduce heat loss. Reducing heat loss will reduce honey consumption, and therefore reduce condensation.I am not a fan of plastic insulation inside the hive, so I have it on top.

I am lesser convinced that the sides need to be insulated, but I am insulating the North, East and West sides, leaving the South uninsulated (hoping for a little solar gain). My goal is to have the sides colder than the top, so that most condensation will occur on the sides and run down, rather than the top and drip down.

I also have a slatted rack on the bottom above the bottom board, which I always have, summer or winter.

I also have a ship (about 2 inches) betwen my top box and the inner cover. Right now that area is empty, but next weekend I will put raw white sugar in there, 8 lbs per hive. Google "mountain camp" feeding if you want to have a better idea of what that is about. I believe it serves as both emergency feed, and as a dessicant for moisture. Both are good.

Greg

 

ReplyQuote
Posted : 10/10/2018 12:07 pm
africabushpilot
Eminent Member
Posted by: africabushpilot

I also have a ship (about 2 inches) betwen my top box and the inner cover. Right now that area is empty, but next weekend I will put raw white sugar in there, 8 lbs per hive. Google "mountain camp" feeding if you want to have a better idea of what that is about. I believe it serves as both emergency feed, and as a dessicant for moisture. Both are good.

Correction - I have a "shim," not a "ship" ... I wish I had a ship, though.

ReplyQuote
Posted : 10/10/2018 2:48 pm
BM Staff
Member Admin

Thank you for your contribution Greg!

ReplyQuote
Posted : 10/10/2018 3:04 pm
Terri Johnson
Active Member

Thanks Greg for providing a description of your process...

 

The closing of the screen bottom board and using the slatted rack is something new I will try this winter.

You said   "I have put "Blue Board" insulation on top of my top cover "  Does that mean on the outside of the top cover?  and the plastic insulation also?

 

And  "and on 3 sides (0.5 inches), and have a 1/2 inch moisture board on top of my inner cover"    Does that mean you have cut strips of this 1/2" board for 3 sides?

"I have small upper and lower entrances/ventilation holes"   Your only ventilation is the bottom entrance and the inner cover ?  or you added more holes?

I did look up Mountain Camp feeding  I like the fact it serves 2 purposes, emergency feeding and desiccant. and it is easy no more cooking sugar

thanks for all your input

terri 

 

ReplyQuote
Posted : 23/10/2018 9:50 am
africabushpilot
Eminent Member

Hi Terri,

I use 1/2 inch blueboard (styrofoam) because I salvaged it for free. If I had thicker (up to maybe 2 inches) for free, I would be using that instead.

All of my insulation is outside the hive, I have none inside. So I have it strapped to 3 sides (not the South side) and the top (triple layered to 1.5 inches).

Inside the hive, it is standard except the moisture board (Beemaniacs sells these for about $6.00) above my inner cover, my homemade mountain camp feeder between my upper super and the inner cover, and the slatted rack on the bottom.

The only ventilation is the notch in the inner cover (notch down), and the lower entrance, reduced to the minimum size. That is not entirely accurate, because the screened bottom board leaks even when closed, so it adds ventilation and drainage as well. I don't add holes to my boxes.

About mountain camp feeding, sometimes bees will see the sugar as trash and throw it out. That can be avoided by not adding it until the weather is too cold for them to do that, or my moistening it a little (with a spray bottle with light sugar syrup) so that they will see it as food. Of course, that adds moisture to the hive as well, but not much. I have added the sugar already (moistened) and they are not throwing it out. I put about 6 pounds on each hive. Last year I did 10 pounds, and most of it was still there at the end of winter.

I hope this helps.

Greg

ReplyQuote
Posted : 23/10/2018 7:43 pm
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