They say if you ask 10 beekeepers the same question that you will get 11 answers because one beekeeper will change his mind. This leads me into two questions of 1.) in cold weather what is the actual temperature that bees start to cluster and 2.) at what temperature do the bees break cluster? A google search gave me many different answers and it seems nobody has the real answer, only an opinion. I have over 35 beekeeping books in my library and most of them differ on this subject. Some researchers have used an infrared camera to take pictures of the inside of a hive but an infrared camera does not yield an instantaneous temperature answer because as soon as you enter the hive and remove a frame the temperature changes. Another problem is an infrared camera only shows shades of different colors for temperature differences but no actual measured temperatures. The infrared camera pictures are left to the interpretation of the person analyzing the pictures.
My problem is I want to fix my hives so my bees don’t need to cluster in the winter except for very short periods of time so I thought adding a heater to the hives would be a good possible solution. It takes a lot of energy and honey stores for bees to cluster to raise and maintain the temperature of the hive. I am not the first person to try this approach of using a heater but with my ‘unique inner hive cover’ I can check the temperature in real time of my hives, check on my bees, and evaluate if my heaters are working and not disturb the bees in the process.
I originally made my first heater using an insulted aluminum tube attached to a board with a 60 watt bulb in the bottom of the tube. After all this work, I discovered the D-FLIFE heaters on amazon so I switched over to them. (link to heaters on Amazon).
The description of my heater idea and results is demonstrated in the attached youtube link at the bottom of this blog entry. I decided to place the D-FLIFE heaters below the screened bottom board of my beehives since heat rises so there was no need to place heaters inside the hive. I installed heaters for 7 hives (6 hives with bees and one empty hive). I used an empty hive to test what the temperature of the hive would be without bees for a comparison. The heaters are turned on/off with a thermostatically controlled power source set at 55 degrees.
I have taken the actual temperature measurements of my 7 hives over a period of time, here is the youtube link to my heaters and the result of a test on Dec 13, 2017. I only show the results of one hive because all 7 hive temperatures were pretty close.
As shown in the video, I have had no issues with condensation in my hives, else the plexiglass top would have condensation on it. I will monitor my hives frequently from December through April and I will post the final results in April 2018.
This weeks project is I am propagating hardwood cuttings of Rose of Sharon. This will be an interesting test since I will put half of the cuttings in rooting hormone gel and the other half in my honey. I plan on making >125 cuttings.
Next week I will start building a heated propagation bench that I saw on youtube. I plan on starting all my pepper, tomato, cucumber, and squash plants from seed using my propagation bench.