Friday, April 1, 2016

Persephone Gets a Facelift

Persephone is the Greek goddess of the underworld, but she's also associated with spring and renewal. Therefore, it seems appropriate that my Persephone got a makeover these past few days.

I'm all over building insulated hives these days since Elsa, my original insulated hive, has been doing so brilliantly. Because Persephone's bees absconded this past winter, an opportunity for retrofitting her with insulated walls & roof presented itself.

Honestly, I found the process of retrofitting her much easier than the process I used to build Elsa.  There were two big obstacles in putting Elsa together.

  1. I built the walls -- in all their crazy, heavy, insulated glory - first. Trying to attach these monster walls to the hive ends was a Herculean task. It took all my strength and skill to keep them in place long enough to screw in the boards.
  2. It was a puzzle figuring out how to get the bottom of the hive in place.
By comparison, adding insulation to Persephone was a breeze. Putting a basic TBH together is a snap, and that was already done. To retrofit her, I only had to build onto her already existing frame.

Step 1: Make frame to hold insulation.

Step 2: Add insulation.

One thing I did differently this time around was using 3/4" thick insulation board with and R-4 rating. Last time I used 1 1/2" thick R-7.5 insulation board. The thinner board is a bit less warm, but it allowed me to use scrap wood to build the frame from Step 1. Also, the finished wall will still have a rating of R-7-ish, which is way warmer than 2" thick wood.

Step 3:  Attach exterior wall.

Step 4: Insulate roof.

I actually prefer how I made Elsa's roof, but I didn't want to start all over with this one. I was also trying to use what I had on hand, so I first lined it with some scraps of roofing felt. 

Inside of roof. 

Lined with roofing felt

I had to make a bar that fit lengthwise between ends of roof.
Stapled paper to bar.
Insulation got added next, and another layer of roofing felt went over it all. I don't know what happened to the rest of my photos of this process, but it's similar to Elsa's roof.

Step 5: Attach roof to hive with hinges.

I would have liked to use the some process that I used before, but I didn't have the right pieces of wood. I ended up cobbling together something instead. Scrap pieces of wood extend the ends. A bar runs between them. Another chunk of wood in the center of the bar provides extra attachment. Not pretty, but functional and surprisingly sturdy.

A cobbled together attachment that will let me attach hinges.

In the future, I'll probably attach a horizontal piece on the ends near the top. Then I can attach an apron like I did for the retrofit along the sides. This will save me from having to figure out too many angles. Ok, this description is rubbish, so an only slightly less rubbish sketch is below to illustrate.

Idea for how to create a surface to which I can attach a hinge.

Step 7: Replace shingles

This actually was not part of my original plan, but I noticed that the crummy cedar shingles had separated, and there were huge gaps in the roof near the bottom edge. Though I've never seen water on the bars, I didn't want that to become a future issue. Some more overhang all around the edges (and thinner plywood) would have been preferable, but again... using what I had.

Step 8: Add finishing touches.

I added some rope to keep the hinges from overextending. Some copper keeps rain from penetrating that seam in the roof.

Well, she's not the prettiest thing on four legs, but she's ready for bees!


  1. Just wanted to say I've started reading your blog recently and it's a joy to discover each new post in my feed reader! I can't think of any other blogs that show the week-in-week-out top bar challenges and tasks in such great photographic detail and with such a wonderful storytelling quality. Thanks for taking the time to share your beekeeping journey with us.

    I'm a new beekeeper who's been baby sitting a friend's langstroth hive for the last 6 months and I've fallen in love with bees. Just finished building my first top bar, can wait to try and catch a swarm in the spring to give them a home. I'm in Australia so we have different environmental challenges (eg. no bears) but I reckon the insulation idea will come in really handy during our hot summers - I'll be stuffing some wool insulation into my Top Bar roof now.

    Thanks again and keep up the amazing blog!

    1. You have no idea how you've just made my day! I try to be optimistic, but this week really was a nightmare, and today was promising to be more of the same. Then I woke up and checked my mail first thing as usual, and your kind words were waiting for me to put a great spin on my morning! Thank for that!

      I'm so excited for you and you new adventure with bees! Fingers crossed for you that you catch a swarm -- or if that doesn't work out, maybe in appreciation for all the babysitting you've done, your friend will let you draw a few bars of comb/brood in the lang that you can transfer to your hive :-) Hope you continue to share the details of your new hobby!

      Thank you again for the lift! I really needed that today! :-)

  2. Nice retrofit! I'm sure the girls in Elsa's hive are glad they have some extra insulation during your current cold snap! I'll have to look into the hinged roof for some of my hives.

    1. Thanks!

      I couldn't believe it when I woke up to snow today. Winter has had its chance. It's time to move on. Hey -- you work for NOAA -- can't you make it stop? Isn't there a dance or something that can be done??? ;-)

      Definitely recommend hinged roofs. I don't know why I went so long without them!

    2. You've never seen me dance - not a pretty sight. Fortunately, the sun is getting higher in the sky and winter can only hang on for so long.

      It always seemed complicated to me to add a hinged roof, but you make it look easy so I'll have to try it!


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