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Author Topic: keeping colony warmer  (Read 4133 times)
bee-nuts
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« on: October 26, 2009, 08:01:05 PM »

I have done a little reading on the winter cluster and some of what is known on how it functions, expands, contracts with the changing weather etc.  I have been a little obsessed with my interest of honey bees and have ideas all the time.  One Idea is as follows:

A solar thermal hive heater

There are many ways one could construct such a thing.  Being that 45 degrees is supposed to be the optimal temp in a hive for conserving on stores, I have been wondering if it would be of benefit to increase the temp inside the hive when temps dip well below optimal temps to help the bees conserve stores and move to them.

Anyway I was thinking of building a box to put on top of hive with a clear panel facing due south and a dryer hose painted black inside which would warm up on sunny days.  With the aid of a small battery and a computer fan you could blow warmer air into the entrance.  With a thermostat you could blow the warm air in when the temp inside the solar box was say 15 degrees or more above the temp inside the hive as long as the hive was not over 40 degrees or whatever marker you set.  I know the cluster is a complicated thing and such a device may only screw the colony up.  That said however, if you did blow fresh warm air in from the bottom and have a ventilated top such as a layer of insulation over the inner cover, you would help rid the hive of moisture that would drip on the bees.  You could help the bees move to honey when it is thirty below zero for two weeks if it were nice and sunny out and whatever other benefits one could think of.

This is not something I would make and try on a hive this winter but something I would make and test for fun.

Any thought or opinions are welcome

thanks
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« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2009, 08:24:58 PM »

I'd be hesitant to utilize a technique that involved actively blowing air even warmer air into the hive.  Too much air movement within the hive might actually cool things more even though you're using warmer air.  I might be inclined to try something that involved heating a thermal mass that would then radiate it's collected heat back into the hive somehow.  It would be lower tech(with less to go wrong) and wouldn't involve possibly problematic drafts.  Just some thoughts though.

Adam
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« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2009, 11:55:47 AM »

Sounds like an ok idea,,but I'm not too thrilled on moving air through hive.  Try to bring hive as natural as you can, insulation board over inner cover helps when cluster reaches top supper.  Cover hives with black treated cardboard and leave in sun but out of wind, build windbreak around north northwest of hive.  Good luck it is a long brutal winter for them.
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« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2009, 01:27:38 PM »

don't some use terrarium heaters in spring to help brood build up?  bees should winter ok if they are strong and have plenty of food. 
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« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2009, 07:23:09 PM »

Thanks for replies

This is something I don't think I can resist tampering with and testing.  One could also build a large solar thermal unit and heat several hives with it.  If I get around to making this thing which I believe I will, I will post pics and any data I come with on an empty hive.  Even if something like this were useful, I doubt it would be worth the effort for the average hobbyist due to expense and labor investment but if it saved enough feed maybe it would pay.  I understand a contraption like this goes against the survival of the fittest colonies in there local environment and breeding from them but if you could get earlier spring build up (especially way up here) and make splits earlier then maybe it would be of real benefit.

I duno!!
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« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2009, 07:37:23 PM »

It might help, but you are limited by the amount of available sun.  At night is when the hive would get the coldest, and it would also be the time you would not be supplementing them.   Do a search on "supplemental heat" and you can see what I have been doing with 7 watt nightlights.  I do see a tremendous advantage with winter survival and spring build up.
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2009, 08:22:05 PM »

I worry anytime you mess with the ventilation of a hive actively by blowing air in that you think is needed when the bees are quite capable and much better equipped to decide what they need in that way.  If you want to increase solar gain, paint the boxes black or dark green or cover in black tar paper (which I haven't liked much because of the moisture).  Part of your mistake is assuming that cold is bad for bees.
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« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2009, 11:40:38 PM »

Michael

I dont doubt it is a mistake.  If I dont try it how will I know.  As said before, reading is one thing, knowing by ones own trial is another.

Next spring (if I still have bees) I am ordering some carnie queens from an apiary that has not used any treatments for 10 years (so he says).  I want to move all my italians from my favorite yard and have only these carnies there without treatments and see if it is feasible not to treat this strain.

I enjoy this stuff to much.  I decided last spring that I was not going to be all worried about doing everything by the book or being paranoid about making mistakes but learn as much as I can by experience.  I have learned allot in one summer and I hope to learn even more by end of 2010.

Robo

As far as the 7 watt night lights which I will read into again and have asked you about before is not an option for me.  My main bee yard is close to a quarter mile away from a plug in power source.  I asked you about running this of a battery and you said It has to be plugged in (this is my recollection anyway).  I realize that it is at night when they will be the coldest and heat would be most beneficial (theoretically) but if I am not mistaken, many colonies starve to death when the temps drop to the point where a cluster can not move for a week or more to food.  I do not believe this is some great genius idea, just an idea that I want to play around with and see what happens.  If insulating a hive results in to much moisture and condensation in the hive, then maybe this would solve that problem while easing the consumption of stores.  And all the while I will have fun making this thing and seeing how it works.

I have also thought about heating with heat tape or whatever with a solar or wind charged battery.

I dont even know if enough solar energy can be gained in a box above a hive.  I think the proper angle is 78 degrees (i have to look it up again for my  area).


Thanks you for the replies.  I always look forward to them.

bee-nuts
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« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2009, 01:50:01 AM »

Robo

I checked out your supplemental heat topic.  I like the idea.  For some reason the pics do not show up on my pc.  I tried google chrome and explorer.  I will check from another pc when I get a chance.

Question

What is the difference in colony strength say at the end or april or may between a heated and unheated colony that you have noticed.

Thanks.

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« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2009, 09:35:49 AM »

Robo

I checked out your supplemental heat topic.  I like the idea.  For some reason the pics do not show up on my pc.  I tried google chrome and explorer.  I will check from another pc when I get a chance.

Yes, I had troubles with my hosting provider the last couple of days.  Seems another site was pilfering my images and causing excessive usage of the server.  All should be fixed now.

Quote
What is the difference in colony strength say at the end or april or may between a heated and unheated colony that you have noticed.

It is hard to give a definitive answer as I haven't done a legitimate compare study.  I can say that I believe it has allowed some very weak hives survive that would have died otherwise.  I also believe the average beekeeper could distinguish the difference in strength and build up of those that where given heat and those that weren't.   With that said,  super strong hives probably get little to no noticeable advantage from it.

Keep us posted on what you end up doing,  I'm always interested in hear of others' experimenting.
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« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2009, 07:14:44 PM »

     I too have given some thought to suppemental heating for hives.  Here in NE Indiana every few years it gets -10 and stays that way for a week or longer.  My hives are within comfortable reach of an extension cord, and one of the thermostatically controlled heat tapes looks good to me.

     If I didn't have 110 volt AC available, I would consider a storage battery with a solar charger and a resistor or rheostat to enable the use of a tape designed for alternating current to work on direct current. ( a resistor would be cheaper than a device for converting 12 volt DC to 110 volt AC and should work on a purely resistance load)

     The cost would likely be prohibitive for other than an experiment, in my opinion.

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William H. Michaels
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« Reply #11 on: November 24, 2009, 09:21:22 PM »

Even though I am an Electrician and have had many ideas about methods of providing heat as needed but would have to be of the solar variety. Because of being, not practical distance for cords and not to keen about running tacky looking cords that could be a hazard even if they were fed from a GFCI protected circuit, on top of ground. I would have to agree with Michael on what makes us think that we know better than the bees of their needs. That being said I am taking a more conservative approach of keeping some of their own heat in by adding the 1' thick, foil side in of the high density insulation that has some slots cut in to still provide some ventilation under the SBB. The only thing that I am doing outside of the hive is a snow fence with heavy plastic fastened to it to provide a wind break. I am trying not to be like our Govt. and control everything.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2009, 10:28:50 PM by Sparky » Logged
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« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2009, 06:03:51 AM »

That being said I am taking a more conservative approach of keeping some of their own heat in by adding the 1' thick, foil side in of the high density insulation that has some slots cut in to still provide some ventilation under the SBB.

I doubt that will help retain any of the heat, especially if you have any type of top ventilation.  It is like putting the best insuleated windows in your house and leaving them cracked open.

Quote
I would have to agree with Michael on what makes us think that we know better than the bees of their needs.
Then why provide any openings besides a small entrance?  That is what the bees will do if given the chance.


Seems like you are willing to decide what you think is better for the bees but condemn others' ideas.......To each his own. Figure out what works for you and use it.  Good luck.
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« Reply #13 on: November 25, 2009, 09:31:42 AM »



[/quote]
Then why provide any openings besides a small entrance?  That is what the bees will do if given the chance.


Seems like you are willing to decide what you think is better for the bees but condemn others' ideas.......To each his own. Figure out what works for you and use it.  Good luck.
[/quote]
Don,t take me wrong. I did not intend to step on any toes. I will be the last to squash creativity to experiment. I did not intend to make the hive tight. My part of the country is not as severe as some for the winter and only plugged up the major part of the SBB to keep the air from blowing directly into the bottom and let the bees move the air. I will look forward to hearing the results of any that do things outside the conventional way of thinking. Good Luck!
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« Reply #14 on: November 29, 2009, 08:08:35 PM »

Bee-nuts take a look at phase-change materials.  These release heat as they freeze.  If you place a sealed container of a phase-change substance under your hive, within the draft proofing but with the bottom exposed to the outside environment, it will provide heat when the temperature drops to its freezing point.  Water is an example, releasing heat as it forms ice.  Choice of material determines both the freeze point and the amount of heat released.  Examples of phase-change materials include:

# disodium phosphate dodecahydrate
# sodium thiosulfate pentahydrate
# paraffin
# Glauber's salt (sodium sulphate dcahydrate)
# calcium chloride hexahydrate

I believe all of these release more heat than water on freezing.  If you Google "solar greenhouse" you will likely find the information you need to give this a go. 

I'd be very interested to here from anyone who has tried this.

SH
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« Reply #15 on: November 30, 2009, 06:52:12 PM »

    "Although we now and again have to put up with exceptionally severe winters even here in the south-west, we do not provide our colonies with any additional protection. We know that cold, even severe cold, does not harm colonies that are in good health. Indeed, cold seems to have a decided beneficial effect on bees."--Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey, Brother Adam

    "Nothing has been said of providing warmth to the colonies, by wrapping or packing hives or otherwise, and rightly so. If not properly done, wrapping or packing can be disastrous, creating what amounts to a damp tomb for the colony" --The How-To-Do-It book of Beekeeping, Richard Taylor
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« Reply #16 on: November 30, 2009, 08:01:47 PM »

I believe all of these release more heat than water on freezing. 

Water is hard to beat.  100 calories/gram to bring liquid 0C degree water to the boiling point.

To phase change from solid to liquid at 0C degrees takes 79.7 calories/gram.
The amount of heat released on freezing is the same amount of heat that would bring liquid water from 32F (0 C) to 176F (80 C).



To phase change from liquid 100 c to vapor takes 539 calories/gram.
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« Reply #17 on: December 01, 2009, 11:58:12 PM »

weird!
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« Reply #18 on: December 16, 2009, 03:15:33 PM »

I bought my first research equipment for testing hive temps and humidity.  Its a Springfield Precise Temp, wireless multi-zone thermometer and hygrometer.  I also bough another unit that tells inside and outside temps.  The first one mentioned tells the inside and outside temp, and inside and outside humidity.  First I will set up two empty hive with frames and empty comb.  I will wrap one with felt to see how much difference this make on inside temps.  Both units record high and low temp times.  I will then insulate one with foam and record the differences.  Of course this is a far cry from a hive with a colony of bees living in it, especially with humidity but It will give me an idea of the temp differences.  I now have to get going on a solar heater system.  I think I will start with a black dryer hose to start with because it will be much easier to build for starters.  I will keep you all posted.

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« Reply #19 on: December 19, 2009, 02:46:49 PM »

You would probably get good results just making a black hard slip cover with a hole at the top (bee and air escape) and one in front at the bottom for ventilation and clensing flights. Best would be one made of Lexan and clear. The ideal one would be stiff so it stands up and off of the hive body, thus creating an airpocket of space around the hive to get a convection type heating going.  

Or on your bottom board you could place a reptile heater pad... They are water and dirt proof so long as they are not punctured as reptiles can poop on them in their cages, but you would need a power source.

I would worry about it getting too warm, so a thermostat of some kind should be installed between the cover and top to shut it off if it gets above 50.
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