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Author Topic: My first home-made styrofoam hive  (Read 3737 times)
ugcheleuce
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« on: December 29, 2013, 11:41:06 AM »

Hello everyone

I've read some threads here and elsewhere of people who have made home-made beehives from sheets of insulation-grade styrofoam or art-and-craft types of styrofoam, but I have never seen any pictures of it.  Does anyone here have pictures?  Or drawings?

Although I plan to have some wooden hives in 2014, I'm also quite interested in the viability of using home-made styrofoam hives, even if the hive boxes last only two or three years.  I used insulation boards from my local hardware store, and the total cost of one brood box is EUR 3.00 (maybe EUR 5.00 if I paint it and include the paint price).  At that price the "buy durable hives" argument falls away, at least for the hobbyist beekeeper.

I made my first styrofoam hive box yesterday, and today I put 250 kg of bricks on top of it to see what would happen.  So far, the hive box doesn't show any signs of being aware that there is 250 kg of bricks on it.  My main concern is, indeed, whether such a hive box can support a lot of weight, because if it can't, then such a hive would be limited to e.g. two or three boxes.



I used no glue -- only duct tape. I also wrapped the sides that the bees will have access to with clear plastic film of the type that you wrap gifts or flowers in. Later I'll do a similar weight test without any frames in it. You'll notice that the frame rest from the upper box will rest directly on the frame ears of the lower box -- that is deliberate, in an attempt to let more of the styrofoam carry weight.

The styrofoam I've used is 40 mm thick, and by my calculation 11 kg/m3.

The "plan/drawing" for the hive is here.

Samuel
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« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2013, 01:01:24 PM »

Interesting....What's been your experience with duct tape exposed to the elements for a year?

My observations have shown it to be pretty unimpressive.

Let us know how it works out.
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« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2013, 01:14:47 PM »

 grin LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW  grin

If you build hives out of the soft Styrofoam the bees are going to chew it up and it will turn into a White snowy powder, I speak from my own experience  grin

You have to separate them from it or use the harder More dense kind usually pink or blue that is also used when insulating in the ground, and can withstand more pressure.

mvh Edward  tongue
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ugcheleuce
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« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2013, 01:24:09 PM »

What's been your experience with duct tape exposed to the elements for a year?

That is what I intend to find out until the spring arrives smiley but I'm told that duct tape should last.  If it doesn't, then I'll find out soon enough.  I'm just a hobby beekeeper and I can inspect my hives regularly and, if necessary, replace them with something more sturdy in an emergency.

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My observations have shown it to be pretty unimpressive.

Thank you, that is the type of information I had hoped to hear.

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Samuel Murray, Ugchelen, Netherlands
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ugcheleuce
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« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2013, 01:27:31 PM »

If you build hives out of the soft Styrofoam the bees are going to chew it up and it will turn into a White snowy powder, I speak from my own experience.

I've heard that before, and that is why I thought it might help to cover the styrofoam with plastic film.  On this first hive box, I used giftwrap type plastic, but I can also use thicker table-cloth type plastic which is what many beekeepers hereabouts use instead of an inner cover.  The bees don't eat that.
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Samuel Murray, Ugchelen, Netherlands
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« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2013, 01:41:21 PM »

 grin I also used plastic to separate them, but it is not sustainable in the long run, and does not wear well over time, the fist break or hole and they will bee at it and chew on it.

Also if the boxes a filled with Heavy frames of honey the wear and tear on the box where the wooden frames meet will be great , also the bees like to put propolis there and when you scrape it of the foam will follow.

If you make a thin wooden liner inside the box of plywood or thin Wood it will bee more stable and last.


mvh Edward  tongue
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ugcheleuce
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« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2013, 01:48:14 PM »

Also the bees like to put propolis there and when you scrape it of the foam will follow.

I've been thinking about that, yes.  I think this is the advantage of actually making such a hive box, because you can see things more clearly than on a drawing.  What I can do is to put a 40 mm x 10 mm plank underneath the frame ears -- that'll enable me to separate the ears from the box if they have been glued tight.  

Quote
If you make a thin wooden liner inside the box of plywood or thin Wood it will bee more stable and last.

Your idea of lining the inside with plywood has merit, but I'll have to find out what type of plywood will survive water.  Most of the stuff sold in local hardware stores are not meant to be used outside -- they dissolve when they get wet.

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Samuel Murray, Ugchelen, Netherlands
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ugcheleuce
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« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2013, 01:49:04 PM »

dupe
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Samuel Murray, Ugchelen, Netherlands
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« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2013, 02:11:55 PM »

masonite will work inside the hive.

Also treated outside the hive

but it starts to be a bit costly and will cost more than buying factory make boxes.

mvh Edward  tongue
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« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2013, 01:39:41 AM »

Iíve heard Duct tape was good for about anything Moots. Smiley

On a serious note, youíve made a good first prototype. applause  Now itís time to consider how to improve the design.  Itís rare to get a design perfect in the first revision.  Iím on about revision 8 of my foam hives.  As Edward says, the bees will eventually start chewing up your Styrofoam but that takes a while.  The more immediate problem youíre going to have is your foam frame rests.  The bees will glue the frames to the rests and youíll have one huge mess.  In order to remove frames beeks typically break a frame loose on one end and then slide the others to get them out.  Neither activity is going to work with foam frame rests.  I use wood for my frame rests. 

The duct tape on the mating surfaces is thinking in the right direction; just the wrong material.  It wonít last and the robbers have a tendency chew into the hive around duct tape.  When they find a discontinuity of material, thatís where they start chewing. 

Foam is stronger than it might appear as you demonstrated.  Here they build houses out of the stuff:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structural_insulated_panel  I build my hives out of extruded polystyrene that is rated for 15 psi.  They end up with a foot print of about 120 square inches which could support up to 1800 lbs (800 Kg). 

My suggestion would be to glue the foam sides together with a polyurethane glue instead of the duct tape.  You get a very strong bond and itís waterproof.  If you want the hive to last for more than a year or two, you also need to paint (or cover) the surface to protect it from the Sunís UV rays.  I simply paint my exterior with a latex primer and a latex top coat.  That is all the exterior needs IMO.   Not much more weather proof than painted plastic.

I agree with Edward that the interior of a foam hive needs some kind of cladding, or foil, because the bees will eventually start eating the hive away.  Iíve tried plywood and it delaminated.  I currently use masonite/hardboard because the stuff holds up pretty good INSIDE the hive and it can be glued securely to foam. 

Finally, I hate to admit it, but I would stick with wood for the supers.  The supers get a lot of abuse and I really donít see a great benefit to insulating them since (at least in my case) the insulation provides the most benefit to northern bees in the winter and early spring before the colonies get supers.

As for costs, I donít know what the costs are in Europe, but shipping big bulky things (like foam hives) is expensive in the USA whereas building things from the home supply store is pretty economical due to the volume of scale and shipping via rail.  The trick is finding a design that is sufficiently durable to your tastes and doesnít require too much labor to make; the materials are really pretty low cost.  Certainly lower cost than wood.
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RayMarler
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« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2013, 04:27:29 AM »

You might try using Duck tape instead of Duct tape. It's more water and weather proof and a stronger tape as well.
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« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2013, 05:55:21 AM »

You might try using Duck tape instead of Duct tape.

Can you please post a URL for that product?  So that I may know exactly what you're referring to, to find a suitable replacement product in my region.
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« Reply #12 on: January 01, 2014, 12:06:59 AM »

I got mine at Ace Hardware here in town.

http://www.acehardware.com/product/index.jsp?productId=1273392

Hope this helps
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« Reply #13 on: January 01, 2014, 12:18:10 AM »

I got mine at Ace Hardware here in town.

http://www.acehardware.com/product/index.jsp?productId=1273392

Hope this helps


I may be wrong, but that looks like standard old duct tape to me...just marketed under the "duck tape" name for Ace hardware. 

I haven't personally tried it, but Gorilla tape may be another option if it's available to you...It's marketed as tougher than duct tape.  Although it appears to be quite pricey!
Gorilla Tape LINK!
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« Reply #14 on: January 01, 2014, 03:36:34 AM »

I gotta agree with Moots.  Donít be fooled by DucK vs Duct.  Itís all the same stuff and itís all worthless for a bee hive.  Donít over think this one, use whatís DESIGNED for gluing foam to foam; namely Polyurethane glue.  A common brand of Poly glue is called ďgorilla glueĒ, but other companies also make it too. 

1 medium sized bottle of gorilla glue can probably glue together at least 2 dozen hives.  Itís cheaper than Duck or Duct and it is MUCH cheaper than using Gorilla Tape. 
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« Reply #15 on: January 01, 2014, 06:54:00 AM »

DucK vs Duct.  Itís all the same stuff and itís all worthless for a bee hive. 

What ever you call it I think it is one of a beekeepers best friends.

Not for building hives but for mending them in a bind, or when moving leaky hives, or sealing up the entrance.

Also to regulate the size or the entrance or ventelation.


mvh Edward  tongue
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ugcheleuce
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« Reply #16 on: January 01, 2014, 07:15:15 AM »

I gotta agree with Moots.  Donít be fooled by DucK vs Duct.  Itís all the same stuff...

Yes, and what's more, the different brands of "duct tape" also make them different.  I found that the duct tape that I bought at the village hardware store was a lot more sticky and less plasticky than the tape I bought at the town hardware store, for roughly the same price.

Quote
Donít over think this one, use whatís DESIGNED for gluing foam to foam; namely Polyurethane glue.

I'm concerned that glue might have been designed specifically for large surfaces.  When styrofoam sheets are used in insulation, you don't glue it or things to it at 90 degree angles, but flat against it.

I'm also worried that glue might only work on smooth surfaces. I don't cut my styrofoam with a hot wire -- I saw it with a handsaw, so the edges aren't smooth.  Even if you brush the edges to get rid of loose pellets and rub it with your hands to smoothen it out, the edges aren't "smooth" in the same sense as the large, flat areas of the styrofoam sheets.
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« Reply #17 on: January 01, 2014, 02:37:02 PM »

Iíve built over 100 homemade foam hives and nucs from home building foam sheets.  Nothing bonds better than polyurethane glue in my experience.  I cut my polystyrene sheets with a table saw but I do use extruded polystyrene, NOT the white expanded polystyrene youíre using.  A table saw does not leave a super smooth cut, but the surface is more or less sound. 

You might have a legitimate concern with the white expanded foam.  Ripping it by hand might make too many of the surface nodules mechanically unsound and no glue will totally fix that.  However gorilla glue expands as it cures so it might expand in and behind the surface nooks and crannies to make a strong bond.  My guess is it would, but I canít say Iíve ever tried it with the white foam. 

Apart from the other problems I noted above with duct tape, there is the issue of paint.  If you donít paint a Styrofoam hive, the suns UVs rays will disintegrate away 3 to 5mm of foam a year.  Maybe thatís ok for a 40mm thick box, but it just seems like destruction that can be easily prevented with latex paint.  However latex paint isnít going to stick on your Duct tape. 

There is also the aesthetics of using duct tape.  It just doesnít look very professional.

Bottom line:  I donít like Duct or Duck tape on a bee hive.  grin
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ugcheleuce
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« Reply #18 on: January 01, 2014, 02:48:41 PM »

If you donít paint a Styrofoam hive, the suns UVs rays will disintegrate away 3 to 5mm of foam a year. ... There is also the aesthetics of using duct tape.  It just doesnít look very professional.


Heh-heh... yes, as for protecting the hive from the outside:



It doesn't look professional at all.  But I realised that I would have to protect the styrofoam from fingers, at least.  I know that the sun will damage it, but poking damage is a more immediate concern (I can't poke a hole in it with my finger, but I can do severe damage with just a finger).  The milk carton prevents that.  But... it doesn't look very professional.  Not that that bothers me at this time smiley
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« Reply #19 on: January 01, 2014, 03:10:39 PM »

Wax propolis,honey, dead bees and friction will not bee kind to the top sides and undersides of your boxes when they meet and repeatedly have to bee pried apart.

Sadly all your time and effort will most likely end up in a mess if you don't have sustainable Surfaces that can sustain the beating and wear and tear.

mvh Edward  tongue
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« Reply #20 on: January 01, 2014, 04:50:08 PM »

Wax propolis, honey, dead bees and friction will not be kind to the top sides and undersides of your boxes when they meet and repeatedly have to be pried apart.


Actually, now that you mention that, it was one of my first concerns, but I think I have a solution for that.  I apologise for not mentioning it previously.

Note also that since the frame rests of the upper box rests directly on the frame ears of the lower box (i.e. with no bees space between the frame ears and the box above it), I would have had to come up with a solution to prevent the bees from sticking the frames to the upper box anyway.  My idea was to place two 100 mm wide strips of plastic foil (one on top of the other) over each row of frame ears where they would be in contact with the box above them (indicated in red in the image).  This would enable me to stick the hive tool between the two strips and easily separate the hive boxes without having to cut them loose.



By "plastic foil" I mean the stuff you make restaurant table cloths from.  We also use that foil between the top box and the hive cover to prevent the bees from sticking frames to the cover board.

Samuel
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Samuel Murray, Ugchelen, Netherlands
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« Reply #21 on: January 02, 2014, 03:56:25 PM »

LOL, you do have a unique looking box. Smiley  I canít say Iíve ever seen a hive with milk jug cladding.  Where are the handles?

I was originally concerned about the surface hardness of my painted polystyrene hives too, but it really hasnít been a major problem for me.  The extruded polystyrene has a more consistent surface which becomes modestly hard with a couple layers of latex paint.  If you go with an oil based enamel, the surface hardness also goes up. 

Does this look familiar to your designs?



Bottom brood box is jumbo sized made from extruded polystyrene with just paint on the surface.  Top supers are wood.
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« Reply #22 on: January 02, 2014, 04:48:56 PM »

Where are the handles?


I haven't gotten that far -- I initially assumed that I would not be able to add handles, due to the weak strength of the wall material.  One solution for handles may be to use rope that goes into re-enforced holes.  It would be best if the ropes go through the entire hive, so that the hive walls are squeezed towards each other when you pick up the box.  If the ropes only go through the one wall, when you pick up the box, it will have the effect of pulling the walls away from each other.

In a previous version of this box (which existed only on paper), each styrofoam box had a 1 cm thick wooden shim underneath it that stuck out about 5 mm from the side of the hive, and it would have been possible to pick up the boxes by grabbing the shim as if it was a handle.  I may still do a version that uses the shim.

Quote
I was originally concerned about the surface hardness of my painted polystyrene hives too... a more consistent surface which becomes modestly hard with a couple layers of latex paint. 


I had the same experience with my one poly nuc box -- paint hardens the surface:



Samuel
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« Reply #23 on: January 02, 2014, 05:01:35 PM »

With regards to your plastic gaskets between the boxes; that might work.  However I would have a couple of concerns.  First it can get pretty windy where I live.  A strong wind might be able to shift boxes with plastic gaskets.  A bigger concern would be animals pushing on the upper boxes and pushing them off if they are too slippery.

I canít say Iíve tried your idea of plastic gaskets yet, but it might be worth experimenting with.  applause
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« Reply #24 on: January 02, 2014, 06:07:57 PM »

It can get pretty windy where I live.  A strong wind might be able to shift boxes with plastic gaskets.  A bigger concern would be animals pushing on the upper boxes and pushing them off if they are too slippery.

Fortunately my hives are all placed in bee stalls (bee club covered apiaries), and if worst comes to worst, I can use tarp tie-downs to secure the hive.
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« Reply #25 on: January 03, 2014, 04:06:42 AM »

The Duct tape I've used is not as long lasting or waterproof as the Duck tape I mentioned. I don't know about who makes what under who's name. Duct tape is for taping up ducting work, which is normally indoors or covered inside a building or attic. Duck tape is more of a rubberised or plastic type tape with much stronger waterproof glue on it than the duct tape I'm familiar with. Perhaps it's all in a name or manufacturer or distributor. All I can say is I do not use duct tape any more. I'm sorry for any confusion or concern I may have caused by posting about my duck tape.
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« Reply #26 on: January 03, 2014, 10:39:41 AM »

You shouldnít use cloth based ďduct tapeĒ for actually sealing HVAC ducts; itís not designed for that purpose.  You should use foil backed tape or mastic.

The cloth stuff doesn't hold up over time and doesn't normally have the UL listing against flammability.
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« Reply #27 on: May 06, 2014, 01:00:51 AM »

While I commend the effort to create improvements and possibly recycle EPS,  Polystyrene(Styrofoam is a brand name) bee hives are not a good idea for a variety of reasons.  Several of those reasons are here:  Google "The Great Stryrofoam Boycott" article in The Park Record and see if that changes your mind about using that material.  Great creativity nonetheless. 
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« Reply #28 on: May 06, 2014, 09:42:53 AM »

I disagree for a variety of reasons.  A Harvard study found styrene molecules in strawberries, beef, wine and cheese.  Have you given those up too?  Foam is a long polymer with very few free styrene molecules to leach out.  While data suggests leaching of those few styrene molecules is possible under heat, I donít put my bee hives in the microwave.  Unlike in the food service industry, the life space of polystyrene hives is measured in years, not minutes.  Hence this is one use that does not contribute to filling up landfills like foam coffee cups.  Furthermore, the bees will chew right through foam if you donít face the honey side with some more mechanically robust material.  Mine are faced with wood.  So the only thing my honey is exposed to is wood, propolis, and the natural flora occurring in a bee hive.  The foam just acts as a thermal blanket around the bees; like a thick tree does in nature. 

Have you ever checked the chemicals generated when you light a smoker Smiley       
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« Reply #29 on: May 07, 2014, 11:05:18 PM »

Touche, then I think the point is moot if bees are not in direct contact with the polystyrene.
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« Reply #30 on: May 08, 2014, 01:35:55 AM »

But the commercial polystyrene boxes arenít faced with wood so I suppose you have a point.  grin

Not to belittle your concern, but what isnít toxic in our environment these days?  Not saying that two wrongs make a right, but there is no escaping exposure to toxins.  I hear we all have molecules of Teflon in us too.  What do you do. I dunno
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« Reply #31 on: May 08, 2014, 10:38:26 PM »

I will try to take some pictures of my foam boxes and post them.  I have never INTENDED to use these boxes as hives (I made them as swarm traps) but when the girls are planning on swarming, what to do?  So some of them have been out in the weather for a season.  Here is my experience.  Without paint, UV starts degrading the foam.  Paint helps.  I used paint inside and out, and the inside paint did not seem to bother the bees, and did seem to deter them from chewing.  Lids will start to warp with time.  So will the walls unless firmly attached to each other.  I found that even glue alone wouldn't stop it, but that glue (There is special glue just for rigid foam) with big, long deck screws would. Duct or duck tape WILL break down (I have tried different types for winter proofing).  The biggest problem is, as others have stated, that some spots are just not strong enough.  Mainly where the lids meet the body, and especially where the ears of the frames rest, even with a wood or metal protective strip.  It is impossible not to rip up the foam over time.  That said, they make great swarm traps, and even better "I'm off to get a swarm or do a cut out." boxes as they are extremely light and plenty sturdy in the short haul.

JC
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« Reply #32 on: May 13, 2014, 09:27:56 AM »

duck tape is good for temporary jobs only no UV inhibitors. aluminum foil tape works the best, UV's do not penetrate

also one already has wooden ware keep it just wrap this for cold with foil covered (backed) foam.
we can get it here in 3/4, 1, 2 inches

i see ducktape used to repair screens all the time it does not last a season outdoors
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« Reply #33 on: May 13, 2014, 12:28:37 PM »

The foil tape is probably a good idea.  Are you talking about the stuff used to seal HVAC ducts?  The only problem with that stuff is the expense. 
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beesNme
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« Reply #34 on: May 13, 2014, 01:28:06 PM »

not sure if this will help or hinder, i remember in school we use to make coolers from cardboard boxes, line them with foam and fiberglass them over, you got the benefit of the insulation and the durability of the fiberglass, how bees would react to it well that is unknown to me. i do like blue bees hives though. i asked a club member about poly hives and he said that they would be slow to warm up in spring, true but also the bees would be heating it up as well and over time i think it would balance out. as insulation works both ways.  but thats just my ramblings
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BlueBee
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« Reply #35 on: May 13, 2014, 11:48:07 PM »

i asked a club member about poly hives and he said that they would be slow to warm up in spring, true but also the bees would be heating it up as well and over time i think it would balance out. as insulation works both ways.  but thats just my ramblings
You are correct.  Too bad Finski isn't around to debate that point Smiley

The problem with asking beeks about poly hives is most beeks in America don't use poly hives and are quick to just make up an opinion and belittle anything done differently than in the last 100 years.  Just see any of my posts  laugh

My bees build up much quicker in my foam hives than the few wood I have left IF the winter population hasn't been decimated by mites.  If there are lots of winter bees in a foam hive, they have no problem keeping the hive warm day and night.  A wood hive will get substantial solar gain on a sunny spring day, but then night comes and the heat is quickly lost.
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Robo
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« Reply #36 on: May 14, 2014, 08:04:53 AM »

i asked a club member about poly hives and he said that they would be slow to warm up in spring, true but also the bees would be heating it up as well and over time i think it would balance out. as insulation works both ways. 

slow to warm up?   They are already warm.

I'm with bluebee on polystyrene hives.   I have had nothing but great results with them.   I must admit,  I was skeptical when I first tried them, but quickly changed my mind.
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"Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison


edward
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« Reply #37 on: May 14, 2014, 09:07:10 PM »

In Scandinavia we like are bees to sit still in the Winter.

Solar gain will Wake them up to early and make them break the Winter cluster.

When this happens they will use more Winter stores filling their bowls, in an even worse case start egg laying causing the hive to start to early.

If they start laying eggs they have to keep the brood warm, witch demands a lot of energy.

This can cause starvation because the natural necktar - pollen haven't started.

When the willows start to bloom, we Close most of the ventilation so they don't have to work hard to keep the insulated hives warm.

I hope you understand it all a bit more.


mvh Edward  tongue
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beesNme
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« Reply #38 on: May 15, 2014, 09:22:42 AM »

anyway of getting more pictures ?
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jayj200
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« Reply #39 on: May 21, 2014, 06:25:25 PM »

Sam
try using that foil coated tape looks like a roll of aluminum foil with glue.

people us the duct tape to repair screens cause they think its good. to a point it is the UV  's destroy this product down here.
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