Sunday, October 23, 2011

Insulated Moisture Quilt

       It is a beautiful sunny October day in the garden (12 degrees celsius) and the girls are actively collecting pollen (mostly Calendula and Japanese Anemone).  Ryan, who borrowed our honey extractor gave me some fresh pressed apple juice today.  Wow is it good.  I finished my prototype Insulated Moisture Quilt and it was fairly simple to make.  The purpose being to eliminate cold condensation dripping from the inner cover onto the bees.

The bee hive in winter without any form of moisture reduction

      The theory is that the warm air will rise through the landscape cloth and wood chips to the insulated hive cover.  Any reduced condensation that forms will drip on and be absorbed by the wood chips.  The air vents will dry the wood chips.  The condensation is produced by heat, generated by the winter bees rising within the hive and contacting the colder inner cover.  Winter bees are produced at the end of the summer.  They are physiologically different from summer bees with a different blood protein profile and fatter bodies with the specific purpose to survive until spring.  Once the temperature drops below about 14 Celsius these winter bees begin to form a cluster within the hive.  The bees on the outside act as insulators with their heads pointed towards the center of the cluster.  On the inside of the cluster the bees move their wing muscles rapidly and the friction creates heat.  The center of the cluster, where the queen resides is approximately 32 degrees Celsius.  As the heat rises the bees in the middle of the cluster move outward to become insulators and the outer bees move inward to become heat generators. This movement of bees is continuous.  To build the Insulated Moisture Quilt  I first screwed together some 3 quarter inch (25 mm) plywood (6 inches wide) to create a box that would fit on a deep super (515 by 425 mm).  An easy alternative would be to use a medium honey super. 

    Then I screwed in 3 pieces of plywood 3 inches high.

        I stapled landscape cloth (porous) over the bottom of the frame.  More durable alternatives to landscape cloth are window screen or 1/8 inch hardware cloth.

The 3 quarter inch vent holes were drilled 2.5 inches above the landscape cloth.  Hardware cloth is applied over the holes to prevent entry.  

On the bottom I screwed on a 1 inch (2.54 cent) frame so the bees don't attempt to join the super frames to the hive cover. This space could be modified or reduced to meet the proper bee spacing (3/8th inch).  The extra space will allow room for pollen patties or zip lock sugar feeders in the early spring but could be replaced by a candyboard between the quilt and the super to prevent comb building.  Note the upper entrance chiseled improperly on the side of the eke.  I repaired this and added a front upper entrance. 

                                                                          Two inches of wood chips to absorb the moisture.

                                                  A quarter inch plywood inner cover with stapled rope for easy removal.

                            1.5 inch R6 insulation on top of the inner cover.  This could be doubled for greater insulation.

     I received a patent on this design which stipulates that anyone who copies this Insulated Moisture Quilt design must give me a jar of honey.  What can I say it's the law.  All honey related patents in Canada are strictly enforced by the C.H.P (Canadian Honey Police), Chief of Police Winnie (from Winnipeg) T. Pooh.

Chief of Police

     This is the hive with added moisture quilt.  I doubled the R6 insulation and after one week no moisture on the inner cover. The bees seemed to have excepted it without any problems.   Here is a PDF version of the insulated moisture quilt to download, Insulated Moisture Quilt.

 P.S.  After one long, cold, wet winter the insulated moisture quilt has held up and kept the hive dry.  For detailed instructions on making hive body parts check out the Beehive Construction section of our Beekeepers' Library


  1. I don't think you're getting any honey from the chief of police.

  2. Very nice. Is that a "World Wide Patent"? I'm in the U.P. of Michigan, USA. Any jar of honey I would send would have to go through customs, but due to N.A.F.T.A. there will be no tax.


  3. Yes Bob it is a World Wide Patent but no need to send the honey, our Chief of the Canadian Honey Police will pick it up. Only give him one jar, he will ask for more (he has a weight issue). He's a tad chubby.

  4. 2 jars of honey on it's way! keep in mind these are very small jars, don't need trouble from your pesky boarder people..... Bee brother from south of you.

  5. Thanks you. Much appreciated. You can never have too much honey.

  6. Danielle, I adapted your insulated roof idea by combining it with a gabled roof plan by Bill I owe you both a half jar of honey!

    How did the design work out over the winter? I am putting my own insulated roof in for the first time and am interested in how you would modify or not.

  7. The insulated moisture quilt worked well last winter (a particularly cold, wet winter). I was a little worried about using landscape cloth but it held up well (no deterioration). I also thought the gabled roof would work in combination with my insulated moisture quilt but I cover my hives to protect from the heavy winter wind and rain (2x4 and poly) so the gabled roof would just work as an asthetic improvement. I'm glad you improved my design. Good luck.

  8. Four years later... Is this design still holding up? I'm wondering about the 1 inch frame. Don't the bees try to build comb in that area since it's larger than the bee space (3/8 inch)?

  9. The original box has held up but most beekeepers use a 1 inch medium super. Yes the space can be modified to the 3/8th inch bee space but for the 5 months the quilt is on (November-March)for us there is little nectar or foraging until March when many place a candyboard between the quilt and super eliminating the extra space.


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