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The amount of moisture in the beehive can cause problems to bees, if it is enough to condense on beehive surfaces. To prevent moisture in the air from condensing in the beehive, the air is scrubbed of the moisture. This is done by wicking the moisture from air using absorbent materials. A beehive moisture board is made using such materials. You can purchase this beekeeping equipment or make one. This guide takes you through the importance of a beehive moisture board and how to make a DIY beehive moisture board. It also highlights important moisture and temperature control needs for the beehive in beekeeping operations.
A beehive moisture board is only one of the many moisture control options available to beekeepers. The board works absorbs moisture from the air in the beehive and releases it to the air outside the beehive. When the beehive is not humid enough, the moisture control board allows for absorption of water from the air outside the beehive, and release of the moisture inside the beehive.
This ability to regulate the humidity of air in the beehive, makes a beehive moisture board great for both small and large beekeeping operations. Making and using a beehive moisture board is easy for both beginner and experienced beekeepers. The materials needed are few and easy to source for. Additionally, the process is simple. You do not need a lot of equipment and tools to make a simple DIY beehive moisture board.
How to Use a Beehive Moisture Board
A beehive moisture board is placed under the inner cover in winter. You can also do away with the inner cover when using a moisture board. In winter, you might also want to have an insulation board on top of the moisture board. The telescoping cover of the beehive comes on top of the insulation board, to protect the entire beehive stack from the elements.
Moisture in the beehive tends to be more when the air is warm. The warmth in the air causes it to rise to the top of the beehive. This informs the decision to use beehive moisture boards at the top of beehives where they can be most effective. At the top of the beehive, cold temperatures makes the air unable to hold moisture in it. Condensation forms on cold surfaces and could drip on bees. The lower surface of the inner cover in a Langstroth beehive, is one of the surfaces where condensation often occurs.
When a beehive moisture board is in use, warm air rising to the top of the beehive releases water into the moisture board material when it cools. The moisture is absorbed and kept from forming droplets. When dry air hits the moisture board later, excess moisture is released from the board into the air.
Can a Beehive Moisture Board Get Wet?
It is possible that a beehive moisture board gets saturated with water. Often, it is only a small layer of the moisture board gets very wet while the rest remains relatively dry. It is not often that a moisture board is fully saturated. Checking the moisture board for proper functioning and dryness is important. If you find it is saturated with water, replace the moisture board with a dry one. You should place the wet moisture board in a place where it will dry out, before using it again in a beehive.
Materials and Equipment
Making a DIY beehive moisture board requires you to source for some materials, tools and equipment. In this project, you will be cutting through homasote material. Not many other tools are needed for the job, except measuring and marking tools, such as a ruler. You should also have a chisel with you or some other tool, that you can use to gouge out material from some section of the moisture board.
The material you are going to be using for the beehive moisture board is homasote. This is a material made from recycled paper. It is easy to work with and available in most building supplies stores. Homasote boards come in sheets that are 4 feet by 8 feet in dimension. The board is about ½ inch thick.
- Working with various materials, equipment and tools is made easier by having dedicated working areas. Provision for gripping should be made so you have easy time making your DIY beehive moisture board.
- Where you can access power tools, use them to your best advantage. Using power tools to make beekeeping equipment allows you to work fast and have great results in the quality of the final product of your work.
- Working fast is especially important for the beekeeper with a large beekeeping operation. They need more pieces of equipment and thus cannot afford to work slowly. Getting some additional labor for the project can sometimes help speed things up and therefore increase production.
Making a DIY Beehive Moisture Board
Homasote boards come in a large size. The final piece to aim for is a 16 inches wide and 20 inches long. You may therefore purchase a full board of homasote or just a smaller piece. The size of board you go for depends on the number of beehive moisture boards you want to make. One full board of homasote gives you approximately 14 beehive moisture boards when cut up in the most efficient manner.
In the middle of each beehive moisture board you make, you should have a groove that is 1 inch wide and 3/8 inch deep. You can mark the groove onto the board before or after cutting it. Making the markings before cutting the board, allows you to clearly see everything you need to do and prevents wastage of materials. The groove is at the center of the moisture board and is 20 inches long. It is made along the longest length of the moisture board.
This groove must be made on the beehive moisture board you make. It allows for controlled expansion, contraction, swelling up and thinning out of the board as it gets cyclically dry and moist.
Important DIY Beehive Moisture Board Measurements
- When working with a full board of homasote, you will start cutting it up on the longer side. From one end, measure 20 inches and mark the point along the edge of the board. Repeat the measuring until you have 4 marks. They leave you with an end piece of the board that is 16 inches thick.
- On the shorter side of the board, measure 16 inches and mark the point. Repeat the measurement to get 2 points on the board. They give you 3 sections on the board; each 16 inches wide.
- Mark the cutting of 12 pieces of 16 x 20 inches boards from your large board of homasote. They leave you an end piece from which you can get 2 more pieces that are 16 x 20 inches.
- After all marking, you note that you will be left with a piece of board that cannot be used in this project measuring 8 x 16 inches.
- Using the cutting tool you have, cut up the large board of homasote into smaller pieces. A fine-toothed saw or cutting tool is best for this job. The board of homasote is made using recycled paper and wood. It is easy to fray it out and have a rough edge after cutting if you use a big-toothed tool.
- In the middle of each board, make the groove that is 1 inch wide and 3/8 inch deep. A chisel is best for removing the material from the groove. You can also use other implements at your disposal.
Beehive Moisture and Temperature Management
Management of beehive temperatures and moisture is necessary in beekeeping. Honeybees are active in a temperature range that must be maintained in the beehive at all times. Deviations from the temperature range result in the death of honeybees in large numbers.
In normal situations, honeybees ventilate the beehive in various ways for temperature and moisture management. Flapping their wings while standing at the beehive entrance helps with air flow into the beehive and through it. When it is hot, bees collect water and release it in the beehive to cool it down.
For temperature control, there are many measures you can take to make sure bees are comfortable in the beehive. In winter, wraps are great for keeping everything a bit warmer than the outside environment.
- The beehive winter wraps come off in mid spring when it is warm enough. As the temperatures get higher, measures to cool the hive are put in place.
- Screened bottom boards are often in use in summer in many beehives. They allow for heat loss through the bottom of the beehive.
- Providing a shade for the beehive is also a means to cool the hive. The shade prevents heating by the sun and also shields the beehive from other weather elements such as rain.
Beehive Moisture Control
Moisture in a beehive has a tendency to create more problems than good. It can be from drying pollen, nectar, feeding troughs or moisture brought to the hive by bees for cooling purposes. Bacteria, fungi and some parasites of honeybees find it easier to establish themselves in the beehive when there is excess moisture. Honeybees ventilate the beehive to control moisture inside it. By bringing in air from outside the beehive, they cause it to reach the same humidity level as the outside environment. Excess moisture in the beehive is removed as air circulates and is expelled to the outside.
Beekeepers use various devices to ensure proper moisture control in their beehives including the use of moisture boards. Other items used are quilt boxes, moisture blankets and fiber board among others. The use of wood for beehives is a passive moisture control. Wood absorbs water and releases it to the environment at all times. In a beehive, the wooden beehive boxes and beehive parts all contribute to regulation of beehive humidity. Replacing wooden beehive components with those made using other materials, can have an impact on beehive humidity. It causes honeybees to work harder at ventilating the beehive.
How Much Winter Beehive Ventilation do I Need?
Despite its many advantages, ventilation in winter and early spring can cause some problems. If you overdo it, you cool the beehive too much. The levels of heat and humidity in a beehive vary throughout the course of a day, due to activities being carried out by the honeybee colony. The amount of ventilation that works in one instance may not work in another. It is also possible that bees adapt to some degree to humidity and temperature fluctuations.
Heat retention using air is better when the air has some moisture in it. It is therefore possible that removing a lot of moisture from the beehive leaves it vulnerable to chilling out. Additionally, bees sometimes benefit from not having ventilation. They have been observed to make an attempt at closing up major beehive openings and entrances in fall. This behavior points to the need for minimal ventilation in winter.
When there is no beehive ventilation, the levels of carbon dioxide in the beehive rises sharply. It affects Varroa mites in the beehive and kills them. Carbon dioxide also kills many Varroa mite eggs.
Research has found out that the high level of carbon dioxide in such a beehive is maintained for some time to clear out all Varroa mites. The level has minor effects on honeybees but has major and lethal effect on Varroa mites. However, ventilating such a beehive denies honeybees the opportunity to control Varroa mites by themselves.
A Final Word
Humidity in beehives is an important factor that beekeepers should monitor and control. Using wood to make beehives and their components is a good first line measure for moisture regulation. Moisture boards help beekeepers maintain moisture levels in the beehive where condensation is not possible. In the event that condensation does happens, the water droplets that form fall back into the beehive. The moisture board traps these falling drops of water and absorbs them. It prevents the drops from falling onto bees and chilling them out. You can make a DIY beehive moisture board using locally available materials and use it to great success in your beekeeping operation.
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