In our area, it is very important to keep the hives dry over winter. One way to do this is to add a moisture wicking material to the top of the hive so that the hot moist air created by the bees will not condense on the cold top and drop back down on the bees. Ventilation is also key to keeping the bees dry in our area. An upper entrance and/or ventilation holes in the top boxes are a good idea.
For the last two years, I have used cheesecloth pillows stuffed with wood chips. Unfortunately the pillows I made are too fat to fit on my Vivaldi top – and they interfere with the bees access to the drivert sugar that I put on the inner cover in winter. I was having to add a screen over the drivert sugar and an empty super to the top of the hive for the pillows. The pillow caught on the screen when I tried to move them to check the drivert and I did not like the idea of adding more volume to the hive in winter.
Before that, I stapled screen to the bottom of a super and filled it partially with wood chips (and later with the cheesecloth wood chip pillow). I placed this box over the Vivaldi. That worked well, except that it was messy to change out the wood chips if they got too wet. I have too many hives at this point to use a special quilt box component.
So, this year I came up with another idea – why not use actual quilt batting for the moisture wicking material? It won’t take up too much space, can be held up by the hive top, and is easy to swap out. If you have a friend who quilts – they are certain to have a box full of leftover ends. Use 100% cotton though, not the polyester batting. If you decide to buy the batting, check for sales at JoAnn Fabrics; they frequently post coupons for batting. I was happy to find a use for all those batting ends that did not involve a new sewing project…
I cut a doubled piece of batting to fit the hive box, draping it just to the outer edge of the box so that the top would hold the batting up and prevent it from resting on the drivert sugar.
On top of that I put a thin piece of insulation that will rest against the top. Note the vent at the end of the Vivaldi inner cover, and the upper entrance in the top super. Many of the Vivaldi tops I have come with an entrance built in.
You could use burlap instead of quilt batting, but make sure that the burlap is free of pesticides – used bags are often sprayed and contaminated. A towel should work just fine too.
I use telescoping tops on my hives. If you use migratory tops, you would want to trim the batting more carefully so that it fits inside the hive and does not get wet.
Now, I could just open the pillows and remove lots of wood chips and make them thin enough to work. Or move the chips into old socks that I fit around the drivert. But, well, that’s such a messy job! Maybe next summer…
Besides, using quilt batting for a quilt box is fun. I just bet that’s where the name came from!
More Information on Quilt Boxes/Moisture Quilts:
Rusty at Honey Bee Suite has more ideas on moisture quilts: Tweaking My Moisture Quilts
BeeBehavior has some interesting pictures and statistics on using moisture quilts: Temperature Humidity Self Control Unit (THSCU) or How to keep bees health
Interesting design for a separate quilt box from Strathcona Beekeepers in Vancouver B.C: Moisture Quilt Insulated Hive Cover.
Contributed by Ellen Wright