Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

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Nate K
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Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Nate K » Thu Feb 04, 2016 6:52 pm

Hi there Everyone,
Wanted to post my thoughts and findings into a thread which I plan to update this season as I progress and test out a few various methods of creating condensation in the beehive.
I plan to add citations to this main post as quickly as I can find them, and will add notes where needed. I hope to change peoples' perception of condensation and humidity in the hive from foe, to friend.
This is not the end all conversation on condensation in the hive, but me tracking my experience and information and my experiments soon to come this season. Stay tuned!

Condensation :o :o , that scary word in the beekeeping world. We beekeepers forget the entire planet and every being here functions primarily on water. Ourselves and our bees are no different. At peak times, some have speculated as much as 60% of the field force of a hive can be dedicated to water gathering. (p. 32, Constructive Beekeeping). Why don't we attempt to create a domestic water source for our bees to lessen stress on them and increase the amount of nectar gathers, and raise honey production?
How do we create a domestic water source?
All living creatures give off moisture in one way or another in everyday life. Through convection, we warm our surroundings and transfer energy to other surfaces, sometimes through thermal transfer or other means. Perspiration and exhalation are other means. Temperature differences between two objects or fluids(air acting as a fluid)causes condensation, as little as 20 degrees is enough to cause condensation to start (p. 31-32, Constructive beekeeping)

Dave Cushman explains it well..
"If you have a closed box with a heat source in it, a convection current will be set up. If that box is roughly cubic in form and the heat source is in the center the air will rise up the center and spread across the inside of the top like a mushroom, then fall down all outer surfaces before combining again at the bottom to replace the air that was displaced by the original rise. This is a dynamic process, the speed of which is governed by the energy input (heat from the bees), the density and viscosity of the gas, the "U" value of the box walls and the surface roughness of those walls."
- http://www.dave-cushman.net/bee/ventilation.html


So we have perspiring bees giving off water vapor, and many thousand field bees bringing in pollen, and nectar. Both laden with moisture, nectar being particularly wet. Our bees bring the nectar into the hive, put it into cells and wait for it to ripen. Others have speculated that the bees will manually ripen the honey, by various means, I won't dispute that, for its entirely possible. The nectar begins to evaporate, from heat convection from the brood nest below carrying moist, warm air to the top of the hive, and begins to cool along the sides of the hive. As the air cools, it condenses and the dry air mixes with the moist air from the honey supers and the process begins. Is this why bees store honey above the brood? Sounds to coincidental to me.

Now we have a domestic water source that we no longer need to utilize our field force to gather!


We have water, now how to we amplify this effect to ripen honey faster and keep our bees healthy?

Propolis! Or in this case Rosin! In my situation, pine rosin is most easily acquired. If you have none or no access to any, Shellac is a great alternative found at any hardware store.
From Ed. H. Clark's book Constructive Beekeeping, we see the value of rosin.
"Blackened tin has a high radiating power and is taken as a standard for expressing the radiating power of other substances. Give the radiating power of blackened tin as 100, rosin is 96 and wood is very low. Propolis, being a rosin its radiating power is almost perfect. But few substances approach this high standard. It is obvious that more condensation takes place on a hive lined with propolis than one where the wood is without a varnish. More condensation makes more evaporation, more evaporation makes more room. " (p.28, Constructive Beekeeping)

So what do we do with it? I dilute mine with alcohol, and filter it. After filtering I apply it to the inside of the hive on ALL surfaces. The point here is to create an impermeable barrier inside the hive for water vapor to condense on. We are doing what takes the bees several seasons to accomplish. They will of course add to it, which is what we want. The alcohol does evaporate off and we are left with a hard surface that water pools on.


Many others have discussed the validity of humidity suppressing Varroa mites, but I won't be digging into it right now.

Would like to thank Phil Chandler and his group at Biobees for some of this information.
Literature Links;
https://archive.org/details/cu31924003100306 - Constructive Beekeeping


More to Come!
What's good for the beekeeper, isn't always what's best for the bees.
http://Mylibertyhomestead.com

Imker Ingo
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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Imker Ingo » Thu Feb 04, 2016 10:23 pm

I have heard Phil Chandler talk about this. He also mentioned that there will be propolis in the water condensing on the hive walls and that this may be a very important part of bee immunity when they drink it. Are bees that produce more propolis healthier and have beekeepers who have bred this trait out harmed their bees?

Mycroft Jones
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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Mycroft Jones » Thu Feb 04, 2016 11:09 pm

Please do write more.

I read Ed Clarke's book. It was interesting, and it makes sense. However, there is some confounding data. Here in the north, on the coast, we have extremely high humidity, especially in winter, and the temperature is somewhere in between freezing and the bees dormancy temperature. I used coroplast, which is an excellent condenser, but a poor insulator. I get lots of mold in the hive.

Others in my climate, west coast AND east coast, have reported that the quilt box cures mold, dampness, AFB, and EFB. The quilt box lets the moisture out.

If you can show me an alternative to the moisture quilt I am really interested!

For now, I've been considering the Rick Williams approach; R30 of insulation under, over and on the sides of the hive. His hives in the prairies overwinter spectacularly. He averages 600 pounds of honey per hive. The prairies are a lot colder and a lot drier than the coastal regions though. Here on the coast, we are damp chilly rainforest. With all that insulation, in midwinter, he measured his broodnest temperature at 21C. That is warmer than my house!

Mycroft Jones
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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Mycroft Jones » Thu Feb 04, 2016 11:11 pm

Also, I have been using long hives. From looking at the pattern of moisture, I am certain that the bees are controlling WHERE the moisture condenses. They aren't really smart about it; they moisten the dry sugar into a syrup, but then drown in it.

Is it possible the mold itself is grown by the bees on purpose, to control varroa etc?

Nate K
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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Nate K » Fri Feb 05, 2016 2:10 pm

Imker Ingo wrote:I have heard Phil Chandler talk about this. He also mentioned that there will be propolis in the water condensing on the hive walls and that this may be a very important part of bee immunity when they drink it. Are bees that produce more propolis healthier and have beekeepers who have bred this trait out harmed their bees?

I believe what he may have been trying to say is that bees that propolize the hive walls have are healthier. Generally speaking bees that propolize more are healthier, so breeding that trait out works against the bees. I don't believe the water itself makes any significant contribution to bee immunity, but the propolis certainly does.

I read Ed Clarke's book. It was interesting, and it makes sense. However, there is some confounding data. Here in the north, on the coast, we have extremely high humidity, especially in winter, and the temperature is somewhere in between freezing and the bees dormancy temperature. I used coroplast, which is an excellent condenser, but a poor insulator. I get lots of mold in the hive.

I also live in the North, just south of Pittsburgh, PA, so i do understand the issues it can bring. The few times I have mold is when i don't rosin my boxes, or when I have a cluster to small to heat the box its in, be it a nuc or full hive.

If you can show me an alternative to the moisture quilt I am really interested!

This is what I plan to test out this season. Cant speak to the effectiveness just yet, but the principles apply.
- http://www.beegoldhoney.com/innerview-inner-covers2.html

For now, I've been considering the Rick Williams approach; R30 of insulation under, over and on the sides of the hive.

It sounds like its working for him, but I would not use insulation on the sides. I would on the top, and lets the sides be colder than the top to allow condensation to happen on the side walls of the boxes, instead of over top of the bees.

Is it possible the mold itself is grown by the bees on purpose, to control varroa etc?

I don't think so. If left unchecked I think you'd be left with a dead hive.
What's good for the beekeeper, isn't always what's best for the bees.
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Nate K
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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Nate K » Fri Feb 05, 2016 2:26 pm

I want to discuss Troughs in this post.

What I mean by troughs in this case, is a small slot for moisture to accumulate in inside the brood nest. We now can accumulate moisture, but with a high amount, it will just run down the sides and on to the bottom board and maybe outside the hive. This could be accomplished in many ways, some of which may easily harbor pests.

I'm envisioning a couple different methods to accomplish this. One being a cut length down the inside walls of the hives with just a table saw(1/8). Or we could use a router table with any different size bit.

1/8" cut is too small to let a bee full access to. Possibly 1/4" width by 1/8" deep should give enough area and allow bees to chase mites from the trough, or small hive beetles if you're further south than I am.

I would place these around the brood nest, or above the brood nest below the honey stores. The brood needs water and the bees need water to combine with pollen to create bee bread(contested whether they use nectar or water). Having this water near the need makes our hives more efficient.
What's good for the beekeeper, isn't always what's best for the bees.
http://Mylibertyhomestead.com

Imker Ingo
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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Imker Ingo » Fri Feb 05, 2016 9:14 pm

A tree bee hive acts as a natural condenser. The propolis coating ensures this. The colony will be able to recycle water especially when a flow is on. Less foragers collecting water allows more colony energy to be directed on other tasks. Similar with better insulation by the tree trunk. It all adds to small marginal gains that do make a difference.

Mycroft Jones
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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Mycroft Jones » Sat Feb 06, 2016 2:43 am

Nate K wrote:
For now, I've been considering the Rick Williams approach; R30 of insulation under, over and on the sides of the hive.

It sounds like its working for him, but I would not use insulation on the sides. I would on the top, and lets the sides be colder than the top to allow condensation to happen on the side walls of the boxes, instead of over top of the bees.


Without insulation on the bottom, the sides will be colder than the top, even with R30 of insulation. Condensation can happen with even very small temperature differences; something the bees are expert at controlling.

Mycroft Jones
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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Mycroft Jones » Sat Feb 06, 2016 2:49 am

Nate K wrote:I want to discuss Troughs in this post.

I'm envisioning a couple different methods to accomplish this. One being a cut length down the inside walls of the hives with just a table saw(1/8). Or we could use a router table with any different size bit.


You talking about a horizontal dado, or a vertical dado? My first bet would have been a dado on the floor, a flat trough. The comb itself is a marvelous catcher for condensation.

lharder
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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby lharder » Sat Feb 06, 2016 2:48 pm

Keep us posted on your results. Are you going to do any head to head experiments to directly compare hive systems.

Mycroft Jones
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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Mycroft Jones » Sun Feb 07, 2016 7:16 am

Just saw this link on Facebook. It seems to back up the idea that when the hive is insulated really well, humidity isn't an issue.

https://oxnatbees.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/warm-hives/
Warm hives
Posted on January 25, 2015 by Paul

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brothermoo
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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby brothermoo » Sun Feb 07, 2016 10:12 pm

What about a plastic floor with a series of troughs to catch the water droplets (shallow enough for bees not to drown of course)?


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Nate K
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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Nate K » Mon Feb 08, 2016 1:34 pm

lharder wrote:Keep us posted on your results. Are you going to do any head to head experiments to directly compare hive systems.


Yes sir, I do plan on Head to head, hopefully devoting 2 on each side to have a solid base.

Mycroft Jones wrote:You talking about a horizontal dado, or a vertical dado? My first bet would have been a dado on the floor, a flat trough. The comb itself is a marvelous catcher for condensation.

I mean a horizontal dado. On the floor would would well too for someone who uses solid bottom boards. I'm switching over to eco-floors so that doesn't work for me. You are correct about Comb, a research paper I found cited;
"Old comb containing cocoons absorb 11 % of its own mass in water when placed in high humidity and this water can readily evaporate into the atmosphere when humidity decreases." - Homeostasis: Humidity and water relations in honeybee colonies, Michael B. Ellis, Abstract
What's good for the beekeeper, isn't always what's best for the bees.
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Nate K
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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Nate K » Mon Feb 08, 2016 1:57 pm

Mycroft Jones wrote:Just saw this link on Facebook. It seems to back up the idea that when the hive is insulated really well, humidity isn't an issue.

https://oxnatbees.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/warm-hives/
Warm hives
Posted on January 25, 2015 by Paul

Interesting read. I have considered insulating the tops of my hives in summer for experimental sake.. This may push me over the edge.
What's good for the beekeeper, isn't always what's best for the bees.
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Chuck Jachens
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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Chuck Jachens » Mon Feb 08, 2016 9:36 pm

I have been following this discussion and earlier discussion on this forum (Bottom Boards - Screened or Solid). I don't think there can be too much insulation for a hive but it must be properly balanced in respect to the above hive and the sides. Other considerations that are extremely important are where will the water go once it has condensed and how much energy must the bees use to maintain the atmosphere (temperature and humidity) in the hive.

Going back to the tree cavity, the insulation value above the cluster/hive is much larger than the insulation value of the sides. The bottom is wood and likely to be a very absorbent of any water that condenses on the sides and runs to the bottom. The bees have propolized the sides so very little water soaks into the sides (the trunk surrounding the hive).

For the bees to effectively manage the atmosphere of the hive, the insulation above the cluster need to much greater than the sides because the heat generated by the cluster rises and creates a temperature gradient through the roof of the hive due to convection and conduction. The sides need to be the point where the air need to be cooled to the dew point so water condenses. This condensation can be reused by the bees as a water source for brood rearing. In a drier climate, there may not be an great excess of water that the bottom boards can wick it away and the bees can maintain the proper atmosphere with a minimal additional energy expended.

Excess water from high humidity and or evaporating nectar should condense on the walls and run down to the bottom of the hive. This water need to be removed from the hive. Remember the tree cavity has a large mass of wood below the hive to wick water away. However, our man made hives typically have a relatively thin board on the bottom that will absorb the water or worse, let it puddle up the bottom. Often our bottom boards are painted which restricts the transfer of water through the board. So even it is not painted, the water must be evaporated off the outer surface of the wood. Please note the bottom is also near the ground and often has poor ventilation so it really makes it tough to get rid of that excess moisture.

The point is, if you have excess water on the bottom board or the hive in general (if you see mold, then there is too much moisture), the bottom board need to naturally drain that water out of the hive. A few holes or slits won't be a hindrance to the bees maintaining the atmosphere in the hive. Or course, lots of holes is a screened bottom but that discussion can come later.

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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Mycroft Jones » Tue Feb 09, 2016 8:22 am

The Delon hive has a sloped bottom so water condenses, then leaves the hive by gravity assist. No puddling.

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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Chuck Jachens » Tue Feb 09, 2016 6:54 pm

The sloped bottom board is a good option. I would be concerned about keeping mice out of the hive and a low/near to the ground entrance is too enticing for skunks and other cridders.

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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Nate K » Wed Feb 10, 2016 4:27 pm

As long as your hives are completely rosined inside, water collecting in certain areas is not a problem.
Rosin is completely impermeable to water, and we are providing domestic water to the brood and normal functions of the hive.

If there is to much, the bees can take it out of the hive.
What's good for the beekeeper, isn't always what's best for the bees.
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Nate K
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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Nate K » Wed Feb 10, 2016 4:54 pm

For the bees to effectively manage the atmosphere of the hive, the insulation above the cluster need to much greater than the sides because the heat generated by the cluster rises and creates a temperature gradient through the roof of the hive due to convection and conduction. The sides need to be the point where the air need to be cooled to the dew point so water condenses. This condensation can be reused by the bees as a water source for brood rearing. In a drier climate, there may not be an great excess of water that the bottom boards can wick it away and the bees can maintain the proper atmosphere with a minimal additional energy expended.

Agreed Chuck, I use going away from solid bottom boards to Eco-Floors, so in my case water will have a place to go.
What's good for the beekeeper, isn't always what's best for the bees.
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Chuck Jachens
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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Chuck Jachens » Thu Feb 11, 2016 1:48 am

If there is to much, the bees can take it out of the hive.


I disagree with bees taking the water out, anytime but especially in winter.
Otherwise, they would take moisture on the top cover away.

I believe the ecofloors from Phil Chandlers design have solid bottom so they
Should wic excess water out and most likely leak water ponded in the ecofloor
Materials. I would drill holes in each corner.

I have thought about ecofloors but my tbh design makes it difficult to install
And a bear considering long term maintenance. Someday I may change my design
So I can try it out with a couple hives.

Nate K
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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Nate K » Thu Feb 11, 2016 8:23 pm

Chuck Jachens wrote:
I disagree with bees taking the water out, anytime but especially in winter.
Otherwise, they would take moisture on the top cover away.

I have thought about ecofloors but my tbh design makes it difficult to install

I'll try to find the video, but the creator of the innerview covers regularly sees his bees drinking the condensation inside the hive on the glass surface.
What's good for the beekeeper, isn't always what's best for the bees.
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Chuck Jachens
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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Chuck Jachens » Thu Feb 11, 2016 9:00 pm

Ok, the bees will take advantage of the water in the hive and use it within the hive. The bees use the water to create bee bread, and cool the hive, etc. I have read that up to 70% of the foragers may be collecting water at times. That is a lot of resources that could of been out collecting nectar instead.

The point is, if the hive walls act as a good condenser and we have not designed drainage into the hive, that excess water upsets the balance in the hive. The hive design and management needs to create an environment that allow the bees to efficiently maintain a balance in the hive.

Nate K
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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Nate K » Fri Feb 12, 2016 1:33 pm

I completely agree Chuck.
A sloped entrance or some type of drainage is needed, To be clear I'm not advocating for a swimming pool for our bees :lol:
What's good for the beekeeper, isn't always what's best for the bees.
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Mycroft Jones
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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Mycroft Jones » Sat Feb 13, 2016 1:52 am

I really like what I read about the Delon hive. If I can figure out how to transition from Delon to Perone, I'll do it. I love the Perone concept, but it seems really important to have an already established hive to put in it, otherwise it can't ramp up enough in the first year.

Mycroft Jones
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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Mycroft Jones » Sat Feb 13, 2016 8:57 pm

Mycroft Jones wrote:I really like what I read about the Delon hive. If I can figure out how to transition from Delon to Perone, I'll do it. I love the Perone concept, but it seems really important to have an already established hive to put in it, otherwise it can't ramp up enough in the first year.


Sorry. The relevance of Delon and Peron is this; the Perone uses the large cube shape to minimize heat loss. The Delon goes very small, but the goal is to make it easier for the bees to control and regulate their environment. Delon includes a sloped floor in his design.

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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby kalama_beek » Wed Feb 17, 2016 12:59 am

Are people experiencing more mold/condensation when using lower entrances? Seems like using top entrances could mitigate some moisture issues up front and perhaps reduce the need for alternative runoff measures?


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Re: Condensation and Humidity Manifesto

Postby Chuck Jachens » Wed Feb 17, 2016 2:23 am

In a natural cavity, the entrance is in the middle third but more likely to be above the midpoint. In modern hives the commercial default is a lower or bottom entrance. If the hive is tilted forward slightly then any water will drain out the front.

Based on what I have read, the top entrance hives certainly have an advantage to limiting mold in the hive. Condensation seems to be less of a problem (thus less mold). The top entrance is more efficient at venting warm moist air from a hive but not enough to ignore that the sides of the hives still need to be the primary surface where condensation takes place. So screen bottom holes for drainage are needed to make sure water does not pond at the bottom. The bees will propolize the screen if too much ventilation is occurring.

Other advantages to top entrances include they won't get blocked by snow, skunks exposé there stomachs to bees when eating bees coming out of the entrance, mites are less likely to drop onto a bee when they fall off, etc. also the bees are forgiving when you add or subtract boxes from the hive. A 2 foot vertical change will cause less confusion or drifting than a similar horizontal move.


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