I know experimenting isn’t everybody’s cup and tea, and I respect that, so I’ve posted this here in the EXPERIMENTATION forum as opposed to the general forum section. Yesterday I mentioned in a post there, the idea of maybe using some plumber’s heat tape in an emergency situation.
My thinking is, If your bees are going to croak anyways (low numbers, can’t get to stores, etc), why not try some heat? What’s the worst you can do? Kill them twice?
To follow up, I looked up the info on plumbing pipe heater tape last night. You can buy the stuff at home depot and other hardware stores (about $25). It comes in various lengths (6’ to 24’) and outputs 7 watts of heat per foot of cable. These things also come with a built in thermostat. I could not find the exact trip point for the thermostat, but from some past experience with frozen pipes, I think the trip point is around 40F. I could be wrong.
Anyways, with their fairly low thermometer trip point, it would seem to me (I could be wrong) you could not overheat a bee hive using one of these IF the thermometer part is pushed in the hive too. It sounds to me like the heater would keep your bee hive at about 40F to 50F. According to the old timers (see old google bee books) and some new timers (Bullship in MN) 40F to 50F is the ideal temp for wintering bees. As always, opinions vary here!
Since the heater tape outputs 7 watts per foot, I suspect you could “tune” how much heat you want to deliver to your bees by how much of the heater tape you stuff in the hive. I would keep the tape away from the wax and read directions for the tape carefully. All tapes have to be wrapped around, or in, some medium to conduct the heat away from the wire (or the heater wire may melt).
I personally don’t use AC heater tape. I’m more of a proponent of insulation. I seem to recall even Finski is using foam hives? Always keep in mind that 120VAC is DEADLY and dangerous. You have to treat it with the ultimate respect when working outdoors! (Outside, the ground IS ground. You don’t want your heart in that circuit to ground!!!) It only takes 50mA to stop a heart. Read all instructions and don’t do anything that does not follow code and good electrical safety habits.