Wonderful response Webclan
In our cold climate I observed a swarm sucessfully survive our brutal temperatures in an auger hole in a grainary. The farmer called me up in the spring and said he couldn’t remove his grain from that bin because of the beehive…so I removed it and it had a small but perfect brood area…I’ll never forget it as that swarm survived -40C temperatures and would have become a powerful colony by summer. I discussed this with other beekeepers and was told that they had only seen swarms winter in full graineries…never empty ones. So the point I became to understand was that hives love a solid mass around them because it allows them to have a cushion on rapidly changing conditions…if the temperature changes too rapidly, that’s problematic.
So I think what you are proposing with mud walls will work very well. And for those that think that stress diseases like chalkbrood could be an issue because of a shade-factor, keep in mind that those hives produce a lot of heat…and will warm up that mass to help them through cooler times…like a garden brick wall radiating heat throughout the night and the plants nearby growing better…but the ventilation has to be matched. I bet any chalkbrood issues will dissappear.
I artificially can dampen temperature fluctuations inside my beehouses with heaters, ventilation fans, and just plain insulation in the walls and roof of my beehouse…so I simulate what your mud walls will be doing.
I just posted this on another forum:
Ambient temperatures tagged -47F this week in northwest Alberta…windchills were in the high -50Fs…and it looks like it will stay cool for most of February. Checked on the wintering beehouse…wireless temperature transmitters were indicating that it was +40F to +41F inside and the ventilation fan had shutdown…but now just a natural convection of warmer, moist air leaving…and it is surprising just how much moisture they do produce. All is well…
But’s that’s the northern hemisphere…in the far north. You have the opposite challenge and am very intrigued with your project and would love to hear of the results.