There seem to be a number of ways to deal with moisture. Since I have 7 colonies, I may try two or three of the following methods to see what works best for me.
- Top entrances. A small gap is left open between the end of the hive and the first board to allow moisture to vent out.
- Vent bar behind the divider board.
- Moisture absorbing packets. Silica-gel packets will be placed in the hive to absorb moisture (instead of venting it).
- Just insulation & nothing else. A local expert beek with lots of TBH experience, does this with his nucs.
- Just top insulation. Nothing else. This is what Sam Comfort told me he does.
|Top entrance on Peach|
Top entrances, vent bars, and moisture absorbing packets are the methods I think I'll be most likely to try. The top entrances are easy to make, and I've already opened them for Hippolyte & Peach. The vent bars should be a snap, too. Just drill some holes in a bar and cover them with screen mesh. However, figuring out how to use moisture absorbers has been giving me a headache.
In Beekeeping with a Smile, Lazutin off-handedly mentions that he prepares for winter by attaching a board with silica-gel packets on it behind the divider board. The only other detail he drops is that the packets have to be exposed on one side to absorb the moist air. However, he fails to provide any other info. The main question that's been plaguing me is how many packets/grams of silica are needed??? How much water do the bees produce? How much water will the silica gel absorb? How much silica gel is too much? I have absolutely no clue. Bubblegum and Elsa will have to be my guinea pigs. So now I'm not only concerned about them drowning, I'm also concerned about drying them out, too.
|Some large food-safe silica-gel packets I ordered from Amazon.|
Another challenge of mine is deciding where to place the gel packets. Lazutin's hives are quite large. Each frame is about 18"-20" high, I believe, and hold something like 8 lbs of honey each. In his hives, the bees do not work backward toward the honey stores. Instead, they cluster toward the bottom of the frames and work their way up. In fact, when he harvests honey, he says that he leaves only one frame of honey next to the cluster. Then from what I can gather, he places his divider board and the board with the silica gel. In this arrangement, the gel is quite close to the cluster, so it makes sense that it would control condensation.
In a TBH, the cluster is quite far removed from the divider board, so if I add the silica behind the divider, will it actually do anything? Or should I consider moving all of the bars back a bit and placing the moisture-absorbing packets near the entrance so that they are nearer the cluster? This might mean modifying the entrance somehow, though to ensure the bees can still get in and out.
Decisions, decisions. These are making my head ache, so fortunately, my kids have just arrived home and want to go to the movies, so I can put this off for little awhile. ;-)