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To insulate or not to insulate


I am in southwestern CT and I started my one hive in
the spring of this year (2016). I have two deep hive boxes going
strong. The bottom box is almost exclusively brood and the upper box is
virtually all honey. I added the Flow super in early July. I have
seen moderate to good bee activity in the Flow frames, but no honey as
of last inspection a week ago. I am not expecting to get a
harvest this year and will likely have to pull the Flow super off for
the winter before there is any honey to harvest.

Has anyone considered insulation? There is an interesting top
insulation solution at beethinking.com (I believe these are the folks
who make the hive material for Flow in the US):

I am inclined to insulate, but concerned about moisture/condensation. This product claims that the design/material will wick away excess moisture.


Here is some advice I got from @Dawn_SD Hope this helps. I am going to insulate my hives and build the quilted roofs for my hives. I like the ones from the article because of the venting on the sides. Without proper ventilation this leads to moisture buildup.

  1. Rusty Burlew has some comprehensive advice here:
    Personally I wouldn’t open the screen of the bottom board, but she did it successfully for a few month, presumably to deal with any condensation. It seems that her husband (an energy conservation expert) persuaded her to close the screens back up during the winter.

  2. In addition to a quilted roof, I would consider putting insulation around the outside of the hive. You can either buy this from a beekeeping supplier, or you can make your own by cutting rigid home insulation to shape: http://www.homedepot.com/p/R-Tech-2-in-x-4-ft-x-8-ft-R-7-7-Rigid-Foam-Insulation-310891/2025328563


The warmer the better…less energy expended means a stronger hive.


Warmer isn’t exactly better - the higher the temps the more active bees become, consuming more stores & then the queen might even start laying eggs, leading to more stores being consumed & running out before spring flow. Make your hives snug against drafts & moisture & let the bees keep themselves warm enough to survive until it’s hospitable outdoors :sunglasses::rainbow:

Here in SE Pennsylvania I plan to use sheets of styrofoam around the outside walls of my hive, and a moisture quilt under the outer cover as in John’s post. I figure that if my bees had their choice of homes in this climate, they’d be in a tree hollow - so the walls might be a little thicker than my Langstroth box, plus higher up & maybe with punky wood inside that would prevent moisture buildup. Or else they’d be in the eaves of someone’s house - also up higher & with decent moisture wicking.


I think the warmest they are going to get in the winter is what heat they can produce, no matter how much insulation you have. I think we are saying the same thing in a different way. I still have to go with the the least amount of energy to keep a nominal temperature the better.



If you’re serious about insulating, look into aerogel (which I believe is much more readily available in the US than here in Australia)


Last year I didn’t insulate (NJ) and overwintered 50/50 successfully. One was as small as a frame and a half of bees. What I did do was provide a wind break against the NW winds and made sure the front of the hives got as much morning sun as possible. I do use moisture boards from Mann Lake or Brushy Mountain as well. The year before I insulated with 30# felt paper:


Here in the Rockies, I use a ‘Bee Cozy’ around each hive, and a moisture board above the inner cover, below the telescoping lid. So far ::knock on wood:: it’s worked well for me. Others here use blue constriction foam with duct tape, tar paper, pallets, wood panels and some use straw bales.

Older, low resolution picture. We’ve grown a bit, since.


The Paradise Honey BeeBox polystyrene beehive system has been evolving to meet the challenges of Scandinavia’s harsh winters and also appear to work well in Australia’s heat. The drawback at this stage is that the Flow frames will not fit. I have three of these hives and the bees seem to do well in them. Links provided below.


Thanks to everyone for their replies. In the end, I did not insulate the sides, but did use the top insulation and moisture wicking product in my original post. Unfortunately, my bees swarmed without me noticing in the late November / early December timeframe. I will be posting a question about this in a separate post. So, I don’t know how effective my measures were.


As we all know beekeeping is local. Rusty Burlew lives in the Pacific northwest and has a totally different winter than I do in the western Catskill Mtns of NY. I insulate my hives with roofing tarpaper and put the insulation on 3 sides of the hive and in the outer cover; the sugar board is made with a shim with an entrance and hardware cloth on the bottom to hold the sugar mixture which acts as a moisture board. This works for me where I am.


Kelsey Grammer at a honey tasting we did and a FLIR image of two hives this past winter.


Great pictures! I assume these were from different days? Looks like the bee ball shifted a bit…I assume to go where the honey stores were.


They were two different hives…we overwintered 8 and all made it through. I keep thinking what did I do different? :wink: