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January 28, 2018

Bee hive exterior insulation

If you are using beehives with exterior insulation around all sides of your hive you should look back at history and beware.

Years ago, there was a time when hives with insulation became very popular and were used, you can see them on this site.  These hives had double walls filled mainly with wood shavings but sometimes other materials.  But you have to know WHY them came to be.  During this time frame bees were often stored in the cellar during winter or special insulated buildings were being built.  Neither of these approached were bleased.  I'm not saying they did not work, only that they had labor and more issues.  What happened?

Over time, beekeepers learned that the insulation was both a plus and a curse.  The insulation did offer protection to the hive and the cluster, but it came at a high price.  The insulated sides PREVENTED the bees from reacting to the changing weather.  This is part of the reason black tar paper became popular.

Bees gain insight to the outside weather by the sun hitting the hive.  Air flow temps does not effect them as one might think because air flow during winter is restricted and the ball of bees are not directly effected by it.  The side of the hive being heated by the sun provides radiant heat that is FELT by the bees.  You can see this both in winter and summer.

The bees in an insulated hive would often be tricked into cleansing flights only to find temps below 55 degrees which would then paralyzed them external to the hive, thus never returning. Sometimes it was the reverse, them not realizing the warmer weather had began, which lead to a late start.

So what to do:
Remove any external from the sunny side of your hive now (near end of winter).  Adjust air flow (enlarge).  Check for food stores, don't let them starve.  If the hive is turned funny or wrong, turn it so the front faces the sun.  If out of level, fix it.  Check for availability of water, no water equals dead bees.  If nosema is present, serve only white sugar with no additives.

There also are ways to make the cluster break, but that's another posting.  Once the cluster breaks, food and water must be present or they will die in days.  Watch out for breaks in winter of warm days.

Don't forget to get those wasp traps ready either.  Consider raising quail or adjusting your chicken/fowl runs under your hives.  If you are in a windy area, install some wind protection but not to close to the hives.

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