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The temperature of the beehive is an important factor in the survival of honey bees through winter. Various methods are used by beekeepers to keep the winter clusters warm and able to move to the honey stores. One of these methods is the use of beehive heaters. This guide takes you through the best beehive heaters available to modern beekeepers. They are specially developed and made by their manufacturers to give you great results and a well heated beehive over the winter period.
The powering of beehive heaters running on electric energy is often required to be portable. For this reason, development of beehive heaters has gravitated towards direct current. While alternating current systems can be successfully rigged, getting the power at the apiary over the winter period proves a challenge in many cases. Both experienced and beginner beekeepers with skills in rigging up such systems can make their DIY systems to keep the beehive warm. The most common and commercially produced models of electric beehive heaters are powered using DC power. You can use them with a properly charged car battery.
Heating elements are a standard feature of beehive heaters. The element can be placed at various places in the beehive. There are those placed between the frames while others are suited for the larger cavity of the beehive box. You may need to adapt the beehive in some ways to use the heater of your choice. A missing frame, an extra beehive box or placement on the top of frame are the major ways beehive heaters are used. Beekeepers can also place the heaters at the points where they feel it will work best, without posing a risk to the bees or the integrity of the beehive.
How to Keep a Beehive Warm
Keeping the beehive warm in winter is best achieved by using a combination of beehive management practices. The properly managed beehive does not suffer much in winter and emerges in spring with a fully functional colony. Too many losses of honey bees in winter can on the other hand leave a poorly managed beehive, with a very weak or dead colony by the time the end of winter comes. You can have more than one of these measures in use at a time. Even when you cannot practice all, it is great for the honey bee colony when you have several of them keeping the beehive warm in winter. The various things you can do with the beehive to keep it warm include:
1. Moving the beehive to a warmer location
In winter, the beehive can be moved to another location to protect it from the cold. Indoor beekeeping is a great way to keep your bees from being too cold in winter. The indoor space prevents snow from falling onto the beehives. It can also be kept warm so that the bees in indoor beehives are also warm. Most indoor beekeeping structures are made to allow movement of the bees to the outside, so a mesh often features. The mesh is also useful to the ventilation of the indoor apiary space. When you have many beehives in your beekeeping operation, it may not be possible to move them all. It is still fine to let these beehives winter out in the open if managed well.
2. Using a beehive windbreak
When you cannot move beehives from the field, it is great if you give them a windbreak. This can be any structure that prevents winds from hitting the beehive directly. Any winds that come into contact with the beehive can tremendously cool it. Turning the beehive entrance away from the direction of the prevailing winds is advisable. It can be done together with the reduction of entrances for best results. Air currents into the beehive help with ventilation, but must be at a scale allowed by the beekeeper.
3. Sealing entrances
In the warm months of the year, entrances are allowed open so that honey bees can come and go from the beehive at once. In the cold winter however, bees are not very much interested in venturing out of the beehive. They only need periodic cleansing flights. A reduced entrance is therefore necessary to improve hive security and reduce the flow of air currents into the beehive. Sometimes, it is necessary to seal some entrances at the bottom of the beehive and open those in upper regions. Lower entrances can be blocked by fallen snow, and can be routes through which small animals and water from melting snow enter the beehive.
4. Providing proper ventilation
Ventilation of the beehive is important and must be allowed for when winterizing a beehive. The air in the beehive must not remain more humid than the air outside the beehive. If that happens, condensation can easily happen in the beehive. The water in the air cools on upper beehive surfaces and freezes or forms droplets. These droplets then fall on the bees and chill them. Colonies of honey bees have been lost in this manner when the condensation is too severe.
Ventilation and the use of humidity regulators such as quilt boxes helps beekeepers avoid condensation happening in the beehive. Dual purpose ventilation holes are provided for in winterized beehives. The hole serves to allow the flow of air in and out of the beehive. It also doubles up as an entrance for bees when necessary. In warmer regions where winters are not too severe, more than one opening can be availed to the beehive for these varying needs.
5. Providing enough space
Provide enough space for wintering honey bee colonies. The space should not be too much, and neither should it have trouble housing the entire colony. A box or two can be removed from the Langstroth beehive stack to reduce the space for winter. You should however not remove too many boxes and leave the bees without enough space. Sometimes, it is necessary in winter to add an empty box to the beehive for feeding or other needs.
6. Insulating the beehive
Insulating a beehive in winter is one of the ways to conserve heat. Various methods are using including specialized wraps and covers. The wraps go round the sides of the beehive stack of boxes. They remain on for the entire duration of winter. The beehive wraps may be colored dark to warm the beehive when there is some little sunshine in winter. Covers of various types are also available to beekeepers. The covers insulate the sides or the top of the beehive. Insulated top covers prevent heat loss from the top of the beehive. Other DIY covers can be slip on, and go round the entire beehive to provide insulation. The best beehive covers provides a barrier of at least 10 millimeters between the air outside and the outer surfaces of the beehive boxes.
7. Feeding bees
Feeding honey bees is another way to ensure survival of the colony and warmth in the beehive. Well fed honey bees are able to produce heat in the beehive and keep the winter cluster warm. The cluster moves through the stored honey slowly. When the stored honey is not enough for bees, they exhaust it and die due to starvation. Sometimes too, the cluster cannot move to the next part of frames where there is honey due to very low temperature in the beehive. A well fed honeybee colony is able to keep the beehive sufficiently warm so that the cluster can move around the beehive onto new food resources. Feeding also helps with controlling some pests or parasites in the winter period. This can sometimes become necessary if the pests and parasites such as mites, start overwhelming the honey bee colony.
8. Checking on the health of the colony
When it is winter, always be keen about the temperatures outside. It pays to winterize bees before it is too cold. Do not wait to insulate or put winterization measures in place when the beehive is already too cold. Once winterized on time, you should also make sure to check on the well being of the honey bee colony. This can be achieved by doing a few quick checks spread out over the time winter lasts. If you see reason for more frequent checks, carry them out in the shortest time possible. Quick checks prevent too much loss of heat from the beehive.
Benefits of Heating a Beehive
Heating a beehive comes with some benefits to the beekeeper, the beekeeping operation and the honey bee colony in the beehive. These benefits are best realized when heating is accompanied by other heat conservation measures on the beehive. Insulation and entrance reduction are most recommended to supplement heating. The benefits of heating a beehive include:
- The beekeeper is able to have a strong honey bee colony in spring. This increases the yields from the beehive and the profits the beekeeper enjoys. Additionally, you will be proud to have successfully taken a honey bee colony through a production year.
- A strong colony coming out of winter is good for the beekeeping operation. Beehive products from a colony that is strong at the start of the production year are in higher yields. Management of the beehive through the rest of the year is also better when you have a strong colony to start with. The colony can get through challenges such as mite infestations later in the year better when it is strong. A weak colony could get wiped out, forcing the beekeeper to look for a new colony. When that happens, the beekeeping operation and its profitability suffer.
With that said, let us know discuss the best beehive heaters.
Best Beehive Heaters
5. 12V Electric Beehive Heater
This 12V electric beehive heater is a is designed to keep beehives warm in winter. It runs on direct current and has a consumption rating of 10 Watts. It is a cermet heating element suitable for use in beehives. The heater measures 100 x 100 millimeters; its small size allows it to be placed in many different places within the beehive. It is an environmental-friendly heater and does not give off harmful electromagnetic radiation. The heater increases the temperature inside the beehive with ease and quickly. It does not consume too much power and drain your batteries quickly.
Both experienced and beginner beekeepers can use this heater once it has a suitable battery. It can be run periodically to allow the wintering cluster of bees to move to the beehive frames with honey. The heater does not warm up too much; its highest temperature is 400 C. You can connect more than one heater in series or parallel to a battery. Many heaters can be connected to alternating current supplied through mains electricity supply grids. The versatility of this device makes it one of the best electric beehive heaters. It is designed for continuous operation and lasts for long.
This electric beehive heater comes in a pack of 10 with a weight of less than 0.15 kg. Its small size and weight make it easy to carry around. The heater helps the beekeeper make sure bees do not get too cold but does not raise the temperature of the beehive too much. The cluster of bees can therefore move to stored honey and not starve.Check Price on eBay
4. Electric Beehive Heating Element
For various systems used to heat beehives, you can buy additional parts. The electric beehive heating element are a replacement and additional component of beehive heating systems. They are sold in a pack of 10 heating elements. Each of the elements is usable in a 12V DC beehive heating system. It consumes power at a rating of 10 Watts. These elements can be used in one beehive or spread out through many beehives in an apiary. The elements are well made and have nicely positioned contacts. They are also light and easy to place in a beehive that you want heated. The rating of these heater elements makes them compatible with various beehive heating systems.
These heating elements are great for use in beehives during winter. They can also be used for spring build-up. They can achieve a temperature of up to 400 C. It is recommended that the surface temperature of the heating elements does not go higher than 400 C. You should use a thermostat in the beehive to shut down the system and stop heating when this surface temperature is reached. A temperature of 400 C is hot enough for most beehive heating needs in winter. Raising the temperature beyond that cap could be harmful to bees or take away some of the benefits of heating beehives during winter. The elements are designed for continuous use. They are made using robust materials and connections so that they last long.
An English manual is included for the user of these heating elements. It helps you to use the heating elements in the right way. The manual is also useful in the care and maintenance of the device. Properly connected heating elements are durable In the event that the heating element is not working, dispose of it in the right manner so as not to cause any harm to the environment. The heater itself is also made using environment-friendly materials.Check Price on eBay
3. Electric Infrared Beehive Heater Film
Technologies that are used to heat beehives vary. One of these technologies is the use of infrared heating film, which gives off a soft heat that cannot burn bees or parts of the beehive. The infrared electric heater elements are held in a film. The film strip holds 10 such elements which can be used together at the same time, or separately. The film strip holding these heater elements measures 250 x 300 millimeters.
This electric infrared beehive heater film is should be placed at the bottom of the beehive for best results. The elements heat the air directly above them. A convectional cycle of airflow is created and it heats the entire beehive. This achieves uniform heating of the beehive and the winter cluster of honey bees. They can move around the beehive with ease due to the warmer temperatures. You can solder wires to the heater film and run them to the next beehive. This is easy to do and the heater elements can be successfully deployed in apiaries by both experienced and beginner beekeepers.
Electric infrared heater element films are economical to use. They are efficient in heating beehives and do not consume a lot of electric power. These elements are capable of running on 12V DC power for long. They give uniform heating of the beehive and can be used with a thermoregulator. The infrared heat given off by the heater element films also clears the beehive of microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria and fungi. They accelerate the growth of the honey bee colony while at the same time keeping it safe from freezing or starving in the winter cluster.Check Price on eBay
2. Electric Beehive Heater with Temperature Controller
Electric beehive heating systems need a temperature controller. This is also called a thermostat. The temperature controller turns the heating system on and off depending on the settings chosen by the beekeeper. It is made to allow various temperature settings. It works very well and prevents overheating of the beehive and the heating elements. The controller is also very sensitive and powers up the electric beehive heating system when temperatures drop below a set minimum. The beekeeper is responsible for setting the controller to the desired temperature of the beehive. When the controller is supplied with an electric current, it then decides when current should flow. The controller works with a temperature sensor.
This electric temperature heater with temperature controller comes with 20 heating elements. It is a good solution for beekeepers setting up electric beehive heating systems in their apiaries. The package only needs few additional pieces of equipment to be complete. This temperature controller is built with excellent technology and craftsmanship. It is long lasting and works very well. The regulator works with both 12V AC and 12V DC. It is light in weight and has a low consumption rating. The temperature controller can run continuously without breaking down.
What’s more, this is environmental friendly. It regulates the heating of beehives and helps conserve electric energy usage. The temperature controller helps raise the temperature of the beehive with ease and efficiency. It does not give off electromagnetic radiation which some beekeepers are afraid will harm their honey bee colonies. The controller is compatible with most heating elements and power sources such as batteries used by beekeepers to heat beehives. It even works with heating elements that are purchased separately. This temperature regulator is easy to set up in a beehive heating system and can be used by both beginners and experienced beekeepers.Check Price on eBay
1. Automatic Electric Beehive Heating System
This is a heating system sold as a set of equipment to keep beehives warm. It contains heating elements, wire leads and regulators. The beekeeper connects the various components of the system and places it in the beehive. Each set of this system is designed to be a unit that can be used in a beehive with up to 30 heating plates. It warms the air in the beehive and can also be used to speed up the spring build-up desired in honey bee colonies.
Both experienced and amateur beekeepers can assemble the system and deploy it in an apiary. One set can be used with up to 10 beehives depending on the sizes of the hives and the preferences of individual beekeepers. Upon purchase, the set comes with 10 heating plates. For more plates to take advantage of the full capabilities of the system, you would need to buy additional heating plates.
The Automatic Electric Beehive Heating System uses direct current. It uses 12V at a 300 watts rating. It comes with a digital thermoregulator which shuts down the system when a set temperature is reached in the beehive. This electric beehive heating system is made even better due to its detachable thermoregulator that can be installed anywhere in the beehive. Connecting the system is made very convenient since it is sold with sufficiently long wires for connections. If so required, you can operate this beehive heating system using alternating current. A power supply unit to the system rectifies and steps down AC electricity to the required 12V DC power.
The heating plates used with this electric beehive heating system are best used at the bottom of the beehive. The air they heat rises to the upper regions of the hive while cooler air comes to the bottom. The cycle of air circulation sees the entire beehive heated up in a very short time.Check Price on eBay
A Final Word
Heating beehives has many advantages and benefits in beekeeping. Above all, it greatly increases the survival rate of honey bee colonies going through winter. A beekeeping operation benefits from investing in beehive heating. Beehive heaters can be deployed when heating is necessary to prevent starvation of the winter cluster of honey bees. By being used periodically, beehive heaters do not add too much to the total cost of running the beekeeping operation. Use the information in this guide and the review of the best beehive heaters to get more out of wintering your honey bee colonies.
Do you own any of the beehive heaters on this list? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think of it.