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Moisture control in beehives is important for all beekeepers, and this can be achieved using various equipment such as moisture boards or quilt boxes. Quilt boxes are a standard feature of Warre beehives that some Langstroth beekeepers sometimes use. Not many beekeeping equipment manufacturers have quilt boxes for Langstroth beehives, however, both beginner and experienced beekeepers can build a quilt box for their own use. The process requires some wood and metalworking skills and a few tools. This guide shows you how to build a quilt box for a beehive and its use in beekeeping.
The Beehive Moisture Problem
Moisture in the beehive is a big problem for beekeepers in nearly all seasons of the year. However, the problem is more pronounced in winter and other wet times of the year. Air that is warm and containing some moisture in it, rises to the top of a beehive and gets cooled. Its ability to hold moisture is reduced due to cooling. The moisture is deposited onto cool surfaces of the beehive. Water vapor meeting with a cold surface, also condenses onto the surface and can form droplets.
In beehives, the inner cover is the major condensation surface. Controlling the moisture in a beehive is necessary so that there is no harmful condensation. Cold water dropping on bees causes them to die. It can kill off an entire honey bee colony very quickly.
Traditional Langstroth Beehive Moisture Control
In a Langstroth beehive, beekeepers rely on ventilation for moisture control. The beehive design places an inner cover over the top beehive box and then a top cover. Moisture condenses on the inner cover and drips back into the beehive. Passing air from outside the beehive then into it, expels excess moisture from the hive. Throughout the day, the humidity of a beehive can change several times.
Bees ventilate the beehive to cool, or warm it, depending on what the weather is like. However, their action is sometimes not enough or not possible, such as during winter. Another way the moisture in a beehive is regulated, is through the wood to make the beehive. Dry wood helps with moisture regulation by wicking moisture from the air. When the air is dry, the wood releases moisture into the air. In a beehive, this action is present due to wooden beehive boxes and other components.
These two methods of natural moisture control in Langstroth beehives are often not adequate. In regions with cold winters, honey bee colonies face the problem of condensation very often. Wet weather also causes excessive moisture build up in the beehive. Assisting bees to survive winter and wet weather, is needed by beekeepers so that they can have thriving colonies for beekeeping.
Enhancing Moisture Control in the Beehive
You can use many different methods to enhance moisture control in a beehive. They include use of a quilt box, absorbent blankets and moisture boards among others. These methods apply the same principle. They rely on the fact that dry vegetation can absorb moisture from the air and wick it back out when the air is drier. In each of these methods of enhancing moisture control, a wooden component is held in a container within the beehive. The wooden component can be pine needles, wood shavings or newspapers. Hay and many other materials including grasses, can be used too to great success.
Beehive Moisture Control Using Quilt Boxes
In a quilt box, beekeepers try to adhere to the best build and use the best quilting material. Wood shavings are the preferred option for most beekeepers. Pine needles also work well. The quilt box itself is built using wood. A barrier on one side of the box holds the quilting material in the box so that tit does not fall onto the beehive frames.
Honey bees in the beehive cannot go through the quilt box. If you desire a top entrance for bees, you should consider using a feeding shim with your quilt box. The feeding shim allows for an entrance into the beehive through the upper section.
The quilting material in a beehive quilt box, absorbs moisture from the air in the beehive. The moisture is held in the material until it can be released back into the air. In very cold weather lasting for several days or more, the moisture is not released from the quilt box. It may build up in the quilting material and saturate it. A thick layer of quilting material is able to hold more moisture before it reaches saturation. Different quilting materials used to make beehive quilt boxes have varying moisture wicking and absorption capabilities. Some get saturated faster than others.
Using a Beehive Quilt Box for Insulation
The quilt box you use in your beehive over winter serves another purpose, in addition to moisture control. Quilting material is often not a good conductor of heat. It forms a layer of insulation between the inside of the beehive and the environment immediately outside and above the beehive. A top cover comes over the quilting box.
You may also use additional insulation above the quilting box. Where the quilting box serves as an insulator too, it is best if it is deep enough to provide significant insulation to the beehive. A deeper quilt box increases the separation of air inside and outside the beehive. It is better at preventing heat loss than a shallow quilt box.
- Your quilt box should not be less than 4 inches thick. It can even be more than 8 inches thick in the very cold climates where spring is wet and winters are severe.
- For such a quilt box in beekeeping where extremes are reached, filling the box with quilting material is advised. It helps absorb more moisture and stopping dripping by catching water droplets.
- Beekeepers in warm areas where humidity is easily controlled by bees, can use a thin layer of quilting material in their beehive moisture quilt boxes. 2 inches of properly packed quilting material is adequate for light use of the quilt box.
Building a Quilt Box for a Beehive
The best quilt box to build is one that uses 1/8 inch hardware cloth over the bottom of a shallow beehive box. The box is also called a spacer, rim or mountain camp feeder among other names. The wood used can be a little thinner than that of beehive boxes. It allows the telescoping cover to go easily over the quilt box.
You should have your materials, equipment and tools ready for the process of building a quilt box for a beehive. You need some of the following tools:
- A hammer
- Wood staples and stapler
- 1/8 inch hardware cloth
- Screen mesh
- Drill and bits
- Shallow beehive box
Labor for the project can be provided by the beekeeper and assistants brought in where necessary. Building your own beehive quilt boxes is very rewarding and assures you of the quality of the box.
In your quilt box, you should consider adding a supporting rib to add strength to the box. It also helps with better stretching of the hardware cloth so it does not sag in the middle.
The pillow and quilting material you use are important for the functioning of the quilt box. Wood shavings are the best for use as quilting material. They can be held in the quilt box using burlap or a cheesecloth bag. Dumping your quilting material into the quilt box, causes the material to fall onto beehive frames under the box. Using other materials on the floor of the quilt box can help reduce this problem. Even then, using some pillow makes management of the quilting material easy for you. Removing the pillow in summer leaves the quilting box to be a very effective ventilation box.
- Cut the hardware cloth for your quilt box at least 1 inch larger than the dimensions of the shallow beehive box you use. It allows for easy tacking of the hardware cloth into place. When tacking, fold ½ inch on each edge to make a pan.
- Drill some holes into the sides of the quilt box for ventilation purposes. The holes should be angled up so that rainwater does not drain into the quilt box when it is in use.
- On the inside of the box, use some mesh to screen the holes, so that insects cannot crawl inside through the ventilation holes. You can have two holes on each long side of the quilt box, and one hole on each short side of the quilt box.
- Paint the quilt box as necessary when completed.
Advantages of Using a Quilt Box for a Beehive
- A quilt box is designed to a specific size that corresponds to the size of the beehive it will be used in. It fits nicely onto the beehive and stays on with ease. A properly built, painted and installed quilt box adds to the beauty and aesthetic appeal of the beehive. You can leave the quilt box on the beehive all year round, as long as you frequently inspect the box.
- This is a very effective equipment used in beekeeping for moisture control. With proper quilting material used, a beehive quilt box controls moisture levels so that condensation does not occur in the beehive. It is great for adding to the efforts of honey bees to control moisture.
- A quilt box keeps the moisture down and doubles up as useful insulation for the beehive. It keeps the heat in the beehive from escaping. Even a small difference in the temperature of the beehive can have profound effects on the survival chances of the honey bee colony in winter. Using a quilt box with insulation properties, saves honey bees the food resource they would use up as a result of increased energy use brought on by the need to warm the beehive.
- When you build a quilt box for a beehive, you use several materials and wood. With proper workmanship, a quilt box lasts many years before needing replacement. This is unlike most other methods of moisture control in the beehive that need replacement after one or two years of use. Using a moisture control quilt boxes saves money for use elsewhere in the beekeeping operation.
- Langstroth beehives are very standardized. They come in standard sizes that beekeepers adhere to. Manufacturers of beekeeping equipment also make sure to meet the design requirements occasioned by use of their products in Langstroth beehive. A beehive quilt box works with other beekeeping equipment used in winter beekeeping, such as beehive heaters and beehive insulation wraps.
Disadvantages of Using a Quilt Box for a Beehive
- Beehive moisture quilt boxes require monitoring for wetness. Moisture building up in the quilting material can cause decomposition of the material to begin. This is not good for the health of the beehive. Periodically, you are required to change the quilting material. This requires you to source for fresh quilting material every time you are carrying out this maintenance task.
- The beehive quilt box can be a habitat for pests, parasites and other organisms that are harmful to honey bees. The space in the quilt box is not accessible to bees and provides a great hiding spot for beehive intruders. When treating beekeeping equipment, you should treat the beehive moisture control quilt box as well.
- Assembly of a beehive quilt box can be difficult for some beekeepers. Even using one that comes ready to install on the beehive can be a problem when the beekeeper does not understand the quilt box. This is because the completed box is built using several components including cloth and metallic components brought together to make the beekeeping completed equipment.
A Final Word
Quilt boxes are great beekeeping equipment for moisture control. They help ensure condensation does not happen in the beehive. Honey bees also enjoy insulation for the beehive provided by the quilt box. Proper care and maintenance of the quilt box are needed. You should inspect it often for structural integrity and to ascertain no insects are hiding in the quilt box. You can make quilt boxes for use in your beekeeping operation. Materials for the box are easy to source locally. A variety of materials can be used to make a functional beehive quilt box. This guide on how to build a quilt box for a beehive can be done by both beginner and experienced beekeepers.