Girls basketball and my honeybees

My wife played basketball  in high school.

In case you’re wondering, she has always been able to kick my butt at a game of one on one. 🙂

(That’s her in white shooting the ball)

We like to watch the girls state tournaments and they were on again last night.  As I watched the awards ceremony,  my mind went to  bee keeping.   I had a huge victory myself this weekend I wanted to mark.

All three of my hives made it through the winter in flying color.  When I checked on them yesterday  for the first time since tucking them in for the winter,  they were milling around under the inner covers, like it was the middle of summer.

Side note- when I messaged my local mentor Jim, he said he lost 4 out of 6 of his hives.  My friend Nick  said he lost all 3 of his and Kevin, a bee keeper at the lumberyard lost all 4 of his.

We had a nasty cold streak a month ago, and I’m wondering if that had anything to do with their losses.

There are always so many factors.

This is my 4th winter tending bees. The words of my bee keeping class instructor regularly come to mind:  “You can’t call yourself a bee keeper, until your bees have made it through the winter…”

I tried something new this season.  I insulated the hives with a product  an 1/8th inch thick, with an R value of 8 which is 16 times more energy efficient  than black roofing paper.

Check out this link:

Honey bees keep the  temperature of the inner core of the cluster at 95 degrees F through the winter.

Insulation is measured in R value.  The higher the number, the more energy efficient. New homes  (for humans) are built with an R value in the walls around R 21.  And the roof with  minimum of R 40, preferably an R 60.

Imagine living in an old house without any insulation in the walls.  How easy is that to heat? Not very.  Bee keepers talk about the bees in the wild. Well, let’s do the math.   Wood has an R value of 1.41 per inch so, if you were a bee, living in an old hollow tree with 6 inches of wood around you, 6 x 1.41= 8.46 R value that means those wild bees are protected by an R 8 in their tree.  That is 8 times more energy efficient than what their domesticated cousins are having to deal with, living in a 3/4 inch thick box, wrapped with tar paper.

Bee keeping is no different that carpentry, or home schooling, or___________ (fill in the blank.)

Talk to 5 different bee keepers and you’ll get 5 different opinions  on every detail of the process. As a carpenter I think like a carpenter.   By me adding that one layer of insulation,  that means the bees do not have to work as hard/ nor use as many calories of energy to maintain the core temperature of the hive.  ( Honey= the fuel/ food  they burn to create heat, so they would probably not consume as much honey either).

When the weatherman said we were in for an extended cold spell, I thought, what the heck, as long as the hive is  properly ventilated, then why not add a 2nd layer of R 8 insulation.

So I did.

My girls were living in a box with 16 times the insulation protection as their peers who  were only protected by tar paper.

There were 5 main concerns I had going into this winter.

#1 mice- learned that lesson the hard way.  (Mouse guard over entrance.)

# 2nd concern  was adequate insulation and protection from the elements

#3rd concern was  condensation, and proper ventilation.

#4th concern was  running out of food.  I did not get too greedy harvesting honey last Fall, all three hives had close to two supers full of honey going into the winter.  I figured  we can always harvest any  excess  this spring or use it to help feed  new splits. I am in it for the long haul, not just selling honey.

#5th concern was mite control which I treated for in September.

Well,  that’s it.  I wanted to post something to mark the beginning of a great start to 2021.

My next job is to keep them alive until the pollen and nectar are available.


This entry was posted in bee keeping, enjoying life, life in the country, self sufficient, Uncategorized, wisdom and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Girls basketball and my honeybees

  1. So interesting. My thought of course is why hadn’t more experienced (until now) bee keepers thought of this. It’s so logical. Especially after you lose your bees more than once.

    • DM says:

      There are various products on the market, but I don’t think they are as widely used as they should be. I’m thinking of marketing my version. (Universal and reasonably priced) 🙂

  2. avwalters says:

    Congratulations! I’m not yet sure if our hives made it. They were pretty noisy up until the cold snap. Not so much after. I always worry about cold-starving–where there’s resources in the hive, but not directly above the bees, so they cannot travel laterally to the honey.

    • DM says:

      I’ve read about that problem. Do you think if the temperature was more moderate,they would be willing to move a little more than they do?

      • avwalters says:

        My understanding is that the bees consume what is directly above them in cold weather, so that they are protected by the warm stream of air generated by the cluster. Then, when weather warms, they can venture laterally. I have seen clear evidence of this in deceased colonies. I do insulate, but I don’t know what else to do to help.

  3. avwalters says:

    And our hives have a layer of rigid foam insulation–not the fancy stuff you used, but a solid R-9 or so.

  4. Deb says:

    I wish you could build a house for me… 🙂

  5. paulsprepping says:

    Good to read. Keep up the good work.

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