Hello, I’ve finally gotten two healthy colonies here on the coast in West Cork, Ireland, and put the supers on the 3rd, 5 days ago. Today I see both hives are busy with activity, but the amount of condensation on both the side windows and in the flow frames is a concern. It seems so damp as to be a potential breeding ground for disease, and might otherwise discourage workers from using the Flow cells for storage.
Are there any people familiar with such damp climates and Flow supers to know:
How big a concern this is, and
What can be done to mitigate it before it becomes a problem?
We’re expecting a good bit of rain tomorrow, so we don’t usually have long stretches of arid days. Both my Flow hives are stock with no sort of ventilation.
When did you install the bees? How are the numbers in the hive?
Is this in the middle of the day or just the morning?
The bees actively ventilate the hive via the entrance. If you feel that is insufficient, and you want to open things up more, you can put the vent cover on the back of the tray slot so the holes are up or just remove the tray altogether. You can also remove the plug in the inner cover and drill holes under the gables.
Hive 1 overwintered in the Flow brood box, Hive 2 arrived in an overcrowded 6-frame nuc the same day the spers went on, both colonies working away, both queens laying, a few drones but mainly workers, no sign of Varroa pressure or other disease. The supers had been in a high-humidity shed before being put on, so there’s some maybe small chance that the cedar walls were saturated in the shed and will dissipate with time. There’s definitely no roof leak.
Middle of the day, but I’ve only spotted this once so far.
I was really wondering if removing the inspection tray in this climate is a net benefit, or if the loss of that source of information is worse. I’ve heard of traditional bottom boards here being replaced with open screens, probably because it never gets very cold but is always quite damp.
I also read about quilt boxes that trap rising moisture in a wood-chip-filled region about the super with 1" screened holes around the sides of a 2" eke and plain canvas under the chips, so there is evaporation without much heat loss.
But all of these ideas would take a back seat to local experience (I think) of mitigating excess moisture in the super. Just beginner’s thoughts…
I’m wondering if your colonies are strong enough to have the super. If the bees are able to occupy the super, there shouldn’t be so much visible moisture through the windows.
Moisture + cold is dangerous for the bees, so be careful. Perhaps remove the supers until the colony is super strong in the brood and you know there is a flow on, which will be the support the colony needs to expand into the super, thermoregulate the whole hive and keep moisture at bay.
I realise it’s pretty wet where you are but is there also an opportunity to get more direct sun on your hives? Such has by cutting back branches or even relocating them?
A too-thick paint job can also trap moisture in the hive, such as 3 coats of oil-based paint.
I’m only five days in with the supers on top, and an experienced beekeeper thought it was a good idea knowing both colonies. We have several local species in flower right now, and swarm risks are high, so would this bear re-assessing once we have some good weather again (rain today)?
Both colonies are in as much sun as we can get here, and only the roofs are waterproof painted, while the sides are raw linseed oiled and maybe only lightly at that.
Thanks very much for your advice. Hopefully someone with some direct history with or reports of Flow hive beekeeping in Irish weather might have any thoughts?
A Flow 6 (8 Langstroth frames in an 8-frame Flow brood box). I think the reasoning of the experienced beek with me was that the nuc colony had built comb under the frames, in the feeder tray, etc., so they were struggling for space, and while they got a fresh frame of foundation on either side of the six, their need for space was going to get even higher. Thanks for your insights, @chau06!
Going by the info you’ve provided, it sounds like things are looking positive and you may notice some real progress and less trapped moisture soon. If you had a look at the middle Flow Frames you may even be able to notice them building the wax foundation and storing nectar already.
I’d also suggest keeping a close observation on the landing board and take note of the activity or lack of it. Lots of bees coming and going quickly and in a direct bee-line out of the hive and back is a good sign that they’re bringing in lots of nectar. Look out for pollen pockets and how many different colours you see too. This is also a sign of progress and expansion
Hi John, I have an observation hive. The only moisture is what the bees bring in. That is: there’s no leaks in the roof to compound the issue. I notice condensation on the perspex late in the afternoon, however it’s always clear by the next morning. Would this be what’s happening with your hive?
Extra moisture could be entering through the roof, via capillary action under the gable ends or between the gaps in the roof.
A good test would be to temporarily swap the roof for a migratory roof. Then completely dry the roof inside & out. After that, simply sit the roof out in the weather. Then after a lot of rain, look under the roof to see if it’s still dry. If it’s still dry, you’ll know that all the moisture is the bees own doing. If it’s wet, you’ll know that the roof is contributing to the moisture.
Thank you very much for your input, @JeffH. I can be sure the rooves are not allowing moisture in beyond unimportant levels. I will need to make more observations and at different times of day to better understand if I’m looking at a long-term concern or if it was just related to factors of the first few days of having the supers installed. I will report my findings here later if it might help someone later. Much appreciated!
Hi & you’re welcome John. To my mind, it should be normal to see condensation at the end of the day during a honey flow. Then by next morning the condensation should be gone, after a night of the bees dewatering the honey & cycling the dampness out via the entrance. If you’re seeing condensation first thing in the morning, to me that would indicate excessive moisture which needs to be remedied.
Excessive moisture in a hive is not good, because apart from mold, it can also increase the incidence of chalk brood disease.