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climate control for bees
6 jan 1997
paraphrasing some email du jour...

>case in point, two equal bee yards (apiaries) working almost the same site,
>but the one on the sunny hill doubles the production of the other...

this might be even more of a difference with some man-made microclimate
control help. what climate do bees need to be most productive? it might be
easier to do more than one hive at a time--put several hives under a 24' wide
x 32' long greenhouse, with some openings for bees to fly in and out. you
might smoke the whole greenhouse at once, and use half of it for honey
processing, storage, etc. or maybe each hive should be treated individually,
which might be more expensive. how much heat do bees make in a hive with
their bodies? 200 btu/hr/pound of bees? 400 btu/hr/hive? about the same
as a 100 w lightbulb?

what are hive and super dimensions? what are they made of? we might modify
them by adding insulation or cooling fins or a solar air heater or shading.
they might have a shallow roof pond, with or without a layer of poly film
or shading over that, which might change with seasons. the pond might be 
thermally connected with a thin hollow wall or ceiling filled with water
inside the hive that acts as a heat sink, to cool the bees in the summer
and protect them from freezing in winter, as in a zomeworks cool cell.

there are lots of ways to control the air temperature inside a hive. for 
instance, it might rotate like a spacecraft and change its orientation to
the sun. how would that affect bee behavior? make one side dark and the other
white and hang it from a rope or float it in a shallow pond, and attach a
small motor with a rope to the east or west to change the orientation of the
dark side towards or away from the sun, depending on whether the air in the
hive needs to be warmer or cooler. track the sun on a cold day? why don't
people do this with their houses? :-) we might control the air temp more
easily and mundanely with a fixed hive and sunspace and tiny fan...

do beehives need thermal storage for cold nights or cold cloudy days? would
bees try to go out and gather nectar if the hives were artifically warm but
the air outside were cold, on a cloudy day? how many hives can usefully go
together in a cluster? do you move them often? where do you live? 

>what is different? mostly, air flow and sun light. while one will be on
>a hillside the other will be in mostly deep shade. 

so airflow makes a difference in air temp and humidity inside the hive.
_first lessons in beekeeping_ says bees don't leave the hive much in cold 
and cloudy weather, and they need supplemental feeding of honey or sugared 
water to help stay warm in the winter. how about growing a nectar crop in
the greenhouse in winter, so these could be year-round bees?

>ok, why not just put all of them in the sun?

sounds good from that point of view.

> that's the interesting part, it depends on what time of year?  on the real
>hot days or very dry periods, those on the hills spend their energy (fanning)
>cooling down the hive, those in the deep shade have the advantage.

so it's good to keep the hive from getting too hot, or too dry. what's wrong
with too dry? humans would like that, if the air were hot, to help with their
own evaporative cooling. do you mean too wet? do bees sweat? what temperature
and humidity range do they desire? for humans, it's something like 65 to 75 f
with 40-60% humidity. how does honey production depend on these numbers? 

one might raise the humidity level and lower the air temp in a hive with a
sunspace to the south by dripping a little water onto the warm dark sunspace
floor, eg a black rock, using a humidistat and solenoid valve to release some
water from an overhead supply, replenished by rain. a greenhouse might be
humidified by sprinking the floor or letting capillary water evaporate from
grass, until earth moisture reaches a point of about 6%, if the greenhouse
is fairly airtight, and it can be dehumidified by ventilation. a greenhouse
containing lots of thermal mass can be vented at night to the cooler outside,
and buttoned up during the day to stay cooler. a greenhouse with a shallow
pond on the floor as thermal mass could have lots of evaporative cooling in
hot dry weather. in winter the pond might be covered with of bubblepack. the 
south glazing needs to be rolled up or covered with shadecloth in summertime,
with large openings in the ends for natural airflow through the tunnel. 

>what's humidity got to do with it?  once the bees ingest nectar and return to
>the hive they regurgitate their modified product into thousands of cells for
>curing.  from what we can tell, most of time spent in this process is waiting
>for evaporation of excess moisture in each cell.  once that's completed, they
>seal each cell off with bees wax and move on to the next one.

a solar still surrounding the hive might help with dehumidification, on a
cold sunny day. the sun warms up the air inside the enclosure, eg greenhouse,
and water vapor condenses on the cold glazing and runs down and out the
enclosure, or warm air and water is ventilated to the outdoors, if the air
inside is warm enough. if the greenhouse is divided down the middle, with an
ew vertical partition, the water vapor can condense on that partition and
the bees and condensing water can keep the other half of the greenhouse warm
with less heat of condensation being lost directly to the outside through the
glazing, and no bees in half of the greenhouse. one might store solar heat in
a pond with a layer of poly film on top during the day, with no condensation
reflecting sun out of the greenhouse from the south glazing during the day,
and somehow allow the pond water to evaporate and condense at night to keep
the enclosure warm. one way to remove moisture from sun-warmed air on a warm
day is to use a small fan to circulate air from the peak of the enclosure
through a condensing cool tube loop in the ground, eg 4" corrugated black 
perforated plastic pipe buried a foot underground. this might also be used
for winter heat storage.


it's a snap to save energy in this country. as soon as more people become
involved in the basic math of heat transfer and get a gut-level, as well as
intellectual, grasp on how a house works, solution after solution will appear.

                                          tom smith 

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