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Author Topic: Bluebees Styrofoam Nucs  (Read 12680 times)
BlueBee
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« Reply #80 on: January 25, 2012, 10:45:53 PM »

Those are some nice looking hives Windfall  Smiley

Dehydration was definitely not an issue in my foam nucs.  They were/are very moist!  Plenty of condensation on the foam top cover.  I am currently using a screen inner cover (for easy observation) and that might have aggravated my moisture problem.  If I had used a wood inner cover like Windfall, the condensation on the foam cover would have dripped onto the inner cover as opposed to down into the hive. 

Unfortunately I havenít gotten around to instrumenting my foam nucs to see what is really going on inside.  Based on my experience with electric heat last winter, I have a suspicion that no matter how much foam you use in the winter, the bees are not going to heat it up above 60F/16C until they start raising brood.  My observation with electric heat is that above about 60F, the bees break winter cluster and stop making heat.

I also wonder a little rather this sizable amount of bees in a fairly compact and fairly air tight hive might have suffocated?  I really think I should have used a bigger top vent at the expense of heat loss.   One other thing to report; there was ICE at the top of the hive when I opened it on a relatively mild day of about 46F/8C.  Insulation can keep the heat in, or the cold in!
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windfall
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« Reply #81 on: January 26, 2012, 08:33:09 AM »

Cold being trapped in was along the lines I was thinking...I can imagine a scenario with small clusters (like mine) where the temps drop well beyond their ability to partially heat the space...the stores get super cold. Then the cold breaks, but now the insulation is working the other way and those cold stores cool the air inside well below exterior ambient. With a little cluster, maybe it is enough to stop them from being able to shift even the few cells over to reach new feed. Or maybe they just can not warm enough feed quickly to keep up with their consumption. Something like turning a day and a half cold snap into 3-4 days. Without the insulation, the stores would still get cold, but the air in the hive would warm sooner. A larger cluster might have the "troops (heat) in reserve" to overcome this and slide over to new feed.

It is just a thought, a little math might readily support or trash it. And really at my experience level I should be careful about hypothesizing, and focus on collecting data....but I just can't help myself.

Bluebee, when I cleaned them up one of my first thoughts was your electric heaters....I don't like the idea of using them regularly, but it might be nice to have had the option to turn them on those nights it dropped below 0; same as I give the chickens a heat lamp in that weather. Not at all practical at the large scale, but I have the time to baby them and power out there already for the bear fence. If 4-5 nights over the winter of plugging in would have carried these into spring that would have been mighty nice. When you only have a few colonies to begin with the losses sting a bit more. If I lose them all it is going to be battle with my wife to spend a pile of money on some more!
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derekm
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« Reply #82 on: January 26, 2012, 04:43:07 PM »

dehydration can occur simply if you have condensation where the bees cant drink it 
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If they increased energy bill for your home by a factor of 4.5 would you consider that cruel? If so why are you doing that to your bees?
BlueBee
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« Reply #83 on: January 26, 2012, 06:24:40 PM »

Derekm, you raise a valid concern about dehydration.  I do know what dehydration is like because I DID see that problem last winter using electric heat.  In fact I was planning to add a humidifier into my hives IF I added electric heat this winter or spring!  I have not added any electric heat this year.  

My foam nucs are very moist, they look nothing like my electric experiments from last winter.  Condensation has dripped down into the nucs.  I have little plastic bowls/feeders sitting on top of my frames that now have water accumulated in them.  There is plenty of water if the bees want a cold drink  grin

Windfall you raise a valid concern about super insulation potentially acting like an ice box.  Charles Dadant did a lot of experimenting with hives and insulation (chaff back then) at the turn of the century (see his book circa 1920) and concluded that in his location in Central Illinois too much insulation was a negative in the winter.  If you have any sunshine or warm spell, the amount of watts outside the hive available for heating is far higher than the meager few watts the bees can make.  Brother Adam also reported doing experiments with insulation and ended up with negative results.

On the other hand, as Derekm has pointed out before, the bees natural home is often tree cavities with lots of wood insulation.   Of coarse we also have Finski's long experience with foam!  You probably need some good instrumentation to really understand the dynamics going on inside a super insulated hive design.  

Am I going to abandon insulation.  No way!  Iím still experimenting with many ideas.  Maybe my double decker designs need a little tweaking for winter, Iím not sure.  Other than my 1 nuc deadout, my bees have really thrived in foam.  
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Sparky
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« Reply #84 on: January 26, 2012, 06:33:30 PM »

I have to wonder if the bottom had a way for the water to drain out and some sort of crowned diverter over the frames to send the condensate to the outer sides and more vented air space over the crown if it would keep them from getting wet and let them still get to the moisture if they wanted it.
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windfall
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« Reply #85 on: January 27, 2012, 08:43:06 AM »

I get your point about dehydration Derek. That was my one objection to bluebee's screened tops back in fall, and the reason I meant to cover up that hole.
For Bluebee, that did not seem to prove an issue. It may have been part of my problem. I don't know if the small amount of condensation available inside my nucs was present before they tanked. The way they were packed together at the end they would not have been able to reach it in the far corners even if it was.

Do we know what sort of signs a water stressed/starved colony exhibit?
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derekm
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« Reply #86 on: January 27, 2012, 11:50:16 AM »

...
It is just a thought, a little math might readily support or trash it. And really at my experience level I should be careful about hypothesizing, and focus on collecting data....but I just can't help myself.
...
Done the maths ... alas it trashes it.  Undecided   The maths also show tar paper wraps are a net thermal loss.

On dehydration  - both of my insulated hives seem tank up with water on every winters day they can...
Thus one may deduce they are short on water . (noted by observers for most hive types). And this is without top ventilation.

 Perhaps we should really look at the whole  problem of condensation as also being one of the colony losing water it needs  and it  not just being a problem of  "damp".

So rather than ventilating the moisture away, a  method of collecting the moisture in a place that will not chill the bees but so that  bees can elect to drink or not?
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If they increased energy bill for your home by a factor of 4.5 would you consider that cruel? If so why are you doing that to your bees?
windfall
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« Reply #87 on: January 27, 2012, 12:55:26 PM »

Derek you did the math for your hive or mine? Under what conditions?

Obviously size of cluster, size of space, and temperature differentials over time are the primary variables...along with degree of insualtion and air exchange rates. The more I consider it the more I think the simple math is not so simple. And I am begging to think there may be a tipping point among these variables when the insulation is doing a disservice to the bees.
But to be honest, I have not even made a stab at crunching the numbers....maybe if I get bored enough this winter!

I am grateful for your interest and input, but please remember we are dealing with very different climates you and I. I routinely see many nights and sometimes days at a time to -10F, several to -20, and a couple down close to -25 every year.
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BlueBee
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« Reply #88 on: January 27, 2012, 04:58:36 PM »

Derekm is going to love this reportÖ.

Itís just a shade above freezing here today (36F/2C) and there is snow on the ground.  This is snow fest weekend in Frakenmuth, MI.  The point is, weíre in mid winter right now even though it is not as cold as normal.

So I go out to check on my bees today.  In light of my double decker nuc deadout last week I was concerned about my other foam nucs.  Was there some sort of design flaw?  I took my IR thermometer with me to see what the hive temps are reading.  I crack open my other double decker nuc and the bees are super active.  The thermometer reads a WHOPPING 87F (30C) in the hive!!!!  I was utterly shocked. 

I have to surmise that this double decker has started raising some brood.   With 2Ē (50mm) foam insulation, the heat they would make to keep the brood at 95F/35C would indeed warm such an insulated box up in a hurry.  These bees will certainly not freeze at this point, but now Iím libel to have some new problems to deal withÖÖ   So now what Derekm huh

The one big difference between this double decker and the one that died last week was the top venting.  This one did NOT have a ďlipĒ on the cover that restricts air flow out the top and the vent was about 2x the cross sectional area as on the dead out nuc (see photo in earlier post).  I still wonder rather asphyxiation is what caused my deadout.

My other foam nucs and hives were more in less in winter slumber and looked healthy.     
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derekm
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« Reply #89 on: January 27, 2012, 05:08:44 PM »

someone wrote bees are masters at HVAC

they have very good coping mechanisms ... you do the calcs for two rates of bee heat output ( forgot the numbers) and 3 significant temps
34c, 18c and 10c.

The ambient temp where the lowest bee input gives 34 c is the threshold bees have to cool or you top ventilate.
you should design that the insulation allows 18c with the high bee output at the coldest winter temps and prevents 10c with bees on high output

My hive irc is 20c and -15c
Arrange a draft free 20 cm sq bottom entrance so they have enough air to do their HVAC thang
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If they increased energy bill for your home by a factor of 4.5 would you consider that cruel? If so why are you doing that to your bees?
S.M.N.Bee
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« Reply #90 on: January 28, 2012, 12:34:40 PM »

intresting information guys.
Between a few beekeepers here we have three differant venting options.

Derekm uses a bottom vent,BlueBee uses a top vent and I use a hybrid center vent.

I call it a hybrid center vent because the vent in my hive is actually at the top of the hive but the air is exhausted into a space [1.5"inches]
that is between my insulated cover and the hive. The air must than travel down to a point about midway between the upper and lower deeps
to another vent were it can then exit the insulated cover. This is my second winter running this system. so far so good but this winter has been a lot warmer than normal here in Minnesota. I have two full size hives and one nuc I am trying to winter.

We will see what happens.

John
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derekm
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« Reply #91 on: January 28, 2012, 01:07:22 PM »

intresting information guys.
Between a few beekeepers here we have three differant venting options.

Derekm uses a bottom vent,BlueBee uses a top vent and I use a hybrid center vent.

I call it a hybrid center vent because the vent in my hive is actually at the top of the hive but the air is exhausted into a space [1.5"inches]
that is between my insulated cover and the hive. The air must than travel down to a point about midway between the upper and lower deeps
to another vent were it can then exit the insulated cover. This is my second winter running this system. so far so good but this winter has been a lot warmer than normal here in Minnesota. I have two full size hives and one nuc I am trying to winter.

We will see what happens.

John

my PIR hive has has 30sq cm (300mm long 10mm high 75mm deep 45 deg slope) entrance blocked down to 20 sq cm for winter  AND 12 floor slots 350mm long  by 3mm wide 50mm deep thats about 5 times the  bluebees total area
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If they increased energy bill for your home by a factor of 4.5 would you consider that cruel? If so why are you doing that to your bees?
BlueBee
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« Reply #92 on: January 31, 2012, 04:31:43 PM »

Photo update from my newest foam nuc design.  These are single story 8 frame deep nucs.  Despite some condensation issues in this design, the bees are still doing well.



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BlueBee
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« Reply #93 on: January 31, 2012, 04:59:37 PM »

I saw Windfalls Ice Box effect in action again today. 

Our day temps have been below freezing for a week or two now, but today it got up to 50F.  I went out to check on my super insulated bees and found a lot of bees out pooping all over, including on me.  The hives with top entrances were very active while most of the hives with bottom entrances (and small top vents) were virtually dormant.  Those appear to be experiencing an ice box effect.  They were perfectly alive, just mostly in cluster.

Interestingly it appears to me that the bees can easily heat up a super insulated hive if they want; be it a top entrance or a bottom entrance design.  When enough bees decide to get active (for whatever reason) they can heat these super insulated hives up to 87F/30C in a hurry (even when itís 32F/0C outside).  So maybe the ice box effect I see with the bottom entrance hives has more to do with those bees deciding not to get active when the top entrance bees do? 

Speculating here; but maybe the bees in a top entrance hive detect the outside weather (and sunlight) quicker than their sisters in a bottom entrance hive.  The bees move up in the winter and hence they are more likely to be around a top entrance than a bottom entrance.  Maybe the top entrance bees see good flying weather sooner, communicates that with the cluster, and wake them up.  Once the cluster decides to become active, they can easily heat up a super insulated hive and start flying all around.

(This hypothesis probably wouldnít have applied to Windfallís bees since he just didnít have enough bees to make enough heat over overcome the heat capacity of the cold slabs of honey).

My jury is still out on top vs bottom entrances for my super insulated experiments, but so far I have seen nothing but good news from my top entrance designs. 


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S.M.N.Bee
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« Reply #94 on: January 31, 2012, 08:04:14 PM »

I've notice the same issue with my hive/insulation design. It seams that outside temperatures need to rise to 50 degrees or so before the bees will fly.

Seems like they can't tell it's warm outside.

John
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windfall
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« Reply #95 on: January 31, 2012, 08:49:29 PM »

Very interesting.
Bluebee,
Did you pull temps on any of the large hives or just observe them? It would also be very curious to know the cluster position in the different hives, and if the entrance location has an effect.
Thanks for the updates.

SMN, My nucs didn't last long enough to give much data. But in the fall, they were consistently more active at lower temps than the adjacent hives. or I should say they showed comparable activity with 4-5 frames that 16 frames were showing in the same weather. Do you see the temp lag all year or winter/spring only?
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derekm
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« Reply #96 on: February 01, 2012, 02:30:42 PM »

the flying might be to do withthe height of the entrance and its direction more than its position in the hive.
The observations on my bottom entrance hives is it is the amount of UV light they see.(have done experiments with a mirror and a north facing hive)  Try  southfacing with a bit of elevation. Is there an allergy inthe US for hive stands taller than a fag packet?

btw -3c outside here and 16C at floor 20C at top, sunny days
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If they increased energy bill for your home by a factor of 4.5 would you consider that cruel? If so why are you doing that to your bees?
BlueBee
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« Reply #97 on: February 01, 2012, 03:13:16 PM »

LOL, I have no idea what a fag packet is, but Iím assuming itís not very tall grin

Most people here seem to use hive stands.  It is the recommend practice to keep the skunks from bothering the bees.  Iím a bit of a contrarian though.  Maybe thatís why Iím using super insulated hives when everybody else here uses wood.

In the photo above you can see the sun has gone past noon and shaded the entrances on the hives shown.  So under equal conditions, my tops were flying and my bottoms were not huh  The hives in the photo are facing east, I have other hives facing west and south.  I agree with your hypothesis about UV.
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« Reply #98 on: February 01, 2012, 04:01:21 PM »

Fag packet = cigarette box.
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BlueBee
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« Reply #99 on: February 01, 2012, 04:06:22 PM »

Thanks Buzz, learn something new every day around here.

Windfall, I didnít measure temps yesterday; too many bees in the air.  Today itís cloudy (as normal here in the winter) and 39F/3.8C (+10F above normal).  Here is what I found.

My bottom entrance hive temps are all over the map.  Some are 47F/8C at the entrance while others are 75F/24C at the entrance.  The bottom entrance hives that were dormant yesterday are more active today where as the top entrance hives are properly in phase with the environment.  There seems to be a much longer thermal time constant in the bottom entrance super insulated hives.  That is not necessarily a good thing IMO.  Itís 10F colder today and NOT a good day for a bee to be outside.

The top entrance hives are reading 65F to 75F/24C at the top entrance but the bees seem (and sound) calm.  Some of the bottom entrance super insulated hives are concerning me because they sound agitated for some reason.

I found this alarming amount of mold growth on the side of PV=nRT today!  Unfortunately this photo doesnít do it justice.  There is a nasty amount of white mold in this nuc.



Derekm, it sounds like our super insulated hives are experiencing similar temperatures.  What about condensation over there?  I fear itís becoming a big issue in my nuc design.
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