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Article: How Honey Bees Keep Warm


Discussion came about today of how bees keep warm and I was confused about Warm and Cool Hive layouts.

Cold or Warm Way?? http://www.dave-cushman.net/bee/cwww.html

Any thoughts??


Here is one I started a bit ago and got a few responses.


@adagna Thanks Adam. I did wonder if I’d seen a similar discussion.

I’m discovering though that there is a conflict of views as to which is cold and which is warm. Some say perpendicular (90° angle to entrance) is warm others say cool so even though the terms and descriptions are the same there is a conflict of which is which way around.

Having a quilt, slatted rack and the Verroa mesh all help to ventilate the hive. and I feel that weather warm or cold way good ventilation and placement of the hive in a protected situation all go to keep my hives free of condensation and warmer all around.

I believe if there is condensation or the hive gets too cold this can lead to Chalk Brood.



As long as you have a nice wide entrance, it doesn’t matter if the frames are parallel or at right angles to the entrance, as long as the bees are able to circulate air right around the hive, without any restrictions & with a strong population, you wont get much condensation.


People who live in drier climates have no clue how much of a problem damp weather can be. I plan on a quilt myself for the hive in the city. We have fog here. Lots of it. The hives in the central valley don’t need them as it is not as humid in the winter.

Here is how the ventilation works; If the frames are perpendicular to the entrance then the air flow is unimpeded in thru the entrance and up between all the frames. Every gap is exposed to the source of the fresh cold air. If you rotate the frames so that the first frame runs parallel to the entrance it provides a block to the flow of air and each frame is further removed from the stream of air.

Does that help sort out the air flow issue?


Yes Sara I agree. Unfortunately some articles disagree which is cold and which is warm.

Here in the UK we can have -15°C which would make us Antarctica to subtropical and temperate areas of the world. Yet on a snowy day we can have warm sunshine, blue skies and walk around in t-shirt and shorts.

I have hedged my bets:

  1. The frames are perpendicular to the hive entrance “cold” way but in
    winter the entrance will be reduced to prevent cold air rushing in.
  2. A slatted rack below the brood frames which will disperse the air and aid circulation.
  3. The Verroa screen and the board helps to again prevent the cold air rushing in.
  4. Ventilation is required nay necessary to prevent condensation many people think keeping all the cold air out is the way to go but there must, Must, MUST be a way for condensation and water vapour to escape.
  5. There is a foam quilt in the roof above the crown board to keep the hive cool in summer and warm in winter
  6. There will be an “observation” (clear) cover to prevent drafts getting in if the roof desperately needs to come off.
  7. I’m going to make an inspection or manipulation cloth for cooler damp days that require inspection - we can have quite cool days even in “summer”
  8. I have one hive that is Poly and 2 Poly NUC’s these are used in Finland where I believe they were invented and are supposed to be warmer than wood. I will also eventually have 3 wooden hives when all my kit arrives - to which I may be adding further insulation using insulation board I will be asking my local builder friend for - larger scraps can be used against the hive walls - it is coated in silver foil and will not interfere with the bees and used instead of Dummy boards
  9. I hope there are enough stores not to feed in winter but intending to use fondant rather than syrup to keep moisture down
  10. Most importantly - if there is sufficient ventilation then fungus is less likely to take a hold too much condensation in the hive will promote the growth of fungus which thrives on humidity

It may look like overkill but I will be making every effort to bring my bees through winter as far as I’m able to, while preventing the hive being too cold, too damp with plenty of fresh air circulating - Goldilocks would be proud!!


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