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Why does the humidity matter so much on a beehive and how do I control it?

Temperature itself doesn't affect bees so much, since they can regulate their own temperature and the beehive's temperature. On the other hand, humidity in the beehive has several negative effects on the well-being of the hive, the worst of all being that it endangers the honeybee colony living there, since with humidity levels below 50% eggs can't hatch meaning that the colony numbers will drop.

It's the 21st century, so it's time to put some technology to use, and get correct readings on temperature and humidity levels on my beehives, and I've been using a gadget manufactured by Ruuvi

I equiped every single one of my beehives with a Ruuvi Tag, and whenever I'm around I check how has the temperature and humidity been on the colonies.
The device is pretty simple to use, just get the Tag on the beehive, connect it to the app via Bluetooth on your phone and whenever you are within range you can check how the temperature and humidity has been on the previous days, since the device stores all the info that it has been reading.

This allowed me to improve the overall performance of my colonies and adapt every single beehive to have my bees confortable.
 

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I use screened bottom boards defended from drafts, it allows some ventilation without things getting out of hand. Since I have 2 hives and am usually around, and have been keeping bees about 11 years with very few losses, I'm not too worried about it. Bees do regulate humidity in the hive except when they are in cluster, which is why winter humidity is so much more serious. But I regulate that.
 

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A screened bottom board does not control humidity. You do not control humidity, the bees do.

Why are you asking about humidity?

Is it due to condensation?

Condensation is caused by a cold surface, not by humidity.

I have a 30 frame horizontal that is insulated and closed up with a 1/2" x 5" entrance. The humidity hovers at 75% regardless of what the outside humidity is.
 

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I must apologize for the tone of that post.

No, actually I have a stack of them for sale.
I suppose a screened board is good during summer, but its extra work to change them and redundant gear.

Anyway the heat and moisture rise so an open bottom is like forgetting to close up the trap door in your jammies, gonna chill your giblets. It's a big gulp, when the hive only needs a sip

Coins under the top cover will vent excess moisture when they are drying honey.
 
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I live in Texas. There are Texas beekeepers who keep their hives low to the ground and I bought a stack of SBB's from one for $3 apiece. I also sold half immediately for a profit. And kept the rest. In Texas we have both heat and fire ants. I keep my hives 18 inches off the ground, I can defend my stands from fire ants, the height keeps skunks out and the sbb's work very well at allowing ventilation without allowing robbing, I do obstruct them partially in winter, but they do help condensation escape the hive. I also insulate the top with a piece of styrofoam. We get intense summers and intense winters. Heat rises, coins under the lid let it out. I insulate the top, so condensation is attracted to the sides, and it ends up under the hive and vented via the SBB

Beekeeping is local. What works in the Pacific North West may not be the best thing for the rest of the country.
 

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For certain beekeeping is local! X10


I'm also in zone 8 25° this am!

And that is Pacific North Wet, the "s" is silent.... :^)

Finished this post the next day 55° and raining and the bees are not flying.
 

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While I have been in an intermittent drought for 10 or 15 years. The only humidity in my hives this winter came from the bees.I think I am zone 8b. We have maybe had an inch of rain this winter, and winter used to be our rainy season. But bitter cold winds with humidity built up in the hive can be an issue, so styrofoam on top, reflective bubble wrap crossing all box seams covering the north side, screened bottom board stuffed with some polyester floss to allow moisture to escape but not a draft. Complicated
Works really well for me, and no changing bottom board for winter / summer./ Our summers feature many days over 95 and often many days over 100
 

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I think I read somewhere that the bees are good to 116° before showing signs of distress?
Morning sun - afternoon shade.
 

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I don't know where you read that but we don't often get to 116 here and the ones in the hive if it is inadequately ventilated start dying around 110. You lose a few hives, you learn something. Want to commute and park a couple of hives in North Texas?
Thank you for your advice Rick. We have this thing called the sun down here. A plant that is full sun in the US is shade here. Or it's dead.

@Rick_Bee how many years have you been keeping bees all over the US? or is your experience confined to the Pacific Northwest? If it is, please confine your advice to the Pacific Northwest.

How many years have you been keeping bees since 2000? Our climate has changed. It is much hotter. I will not argue about why, it simply is. The bees told me so. I started keeping bees on a solid bottom board in 2011, the hottest year on record since 1980. We had about 70 days over 100 degrees that year.. In shade we have small hive beetles and moths, they got my solid bottom board hive after the swarm of Africanized bees left. I wasn't chasing the africanized bees that the Bee Charmer sold me. I let them go.

I went to a screened bottom board in the sun after that, and got better bees. The story is on the site somewhere.
 

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One of the guys that was working on cooking the mites worked out how high the hive temp can be before the bees are in distress.
Our bee species was originaly a tropical resident and can survive quite high temps.

I'm not poo pooing screen boards year round, just in the winter. If you stuff it, it's not really a screen board anymore, only in name.

Location location! We are in the same zone but have totally different weather!
If you take wet, and make it a lot wetter you will be close,
April showers bring May flowers, but May showers flood the fields.
Then someone flips a switch and the clouds go away and it jumps to weeks of 100+ with high humidity except during the winter freezes.
We don't hardly see any hive beetles here and winter is cold enough to stop the moth from being too much trouble.
 

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my uncle used to live in Portland. And allowing moisture to exit without allowing the north wind in is not the same as a solid board.

Hive beetles and wax moths are not half the problem. Can you leave a wide entrance on your hive any time when there is not a super flow? I have drought most of the time, drought means robbing, by other honeybees, wasps, yellow jackets etc. I need the ventilation without the access. I am familiar with the varroa cookers. I'm a skeptic, I've followed a couple of these flyers, I'll watch and see. Back to how long you have been actually physically been keeping bees.
 

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Why did the hive not have adequate ventilation?
You can close up an entrance without messing with air flow, by folding a piece of #8 screen and inserting it in the slot.
Spring pressure will hold it in place. You can have a 1" entrance and the full width open for venting.

I built slatted bottom boards for this season, 1.5" of air space below the slats.

My Horizontal colony has moved away from the only entrance (5/8" X 5") maybe 4 frames of honey between the cluster and the entrance now.
I set only 2 frames of honey and then the brood when I installed them.
it feels like they want separation from the entrance.
I may take that hive apart this summer and change the bottom to a slatted bottom.
Maybe as a drawer, that would solve the cleaning issue.
And It could still potentially house 3 colonies, a drawer front center and one on each side.
 

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Why did the hive not have adequate ventilation?
You can close up an entrance without messing with air flow, by folding a piece of #8 screen and inserting it in the slot.
Spring pressure will hold it in place. You can have a 1" entrance and the full width open for venting.

I built slatted bottom boards for this season, 1.5" of air space below the slats.

My Horizontal colony has moved away from the only entrance (5/8" X 5") maybe 4 frames of honey between the cluster and the entrance now.
I set only 2 frames of honey and then the brood when I installed them.
it feels like they want separation from the entrance.
I may take that hive apart this summer and change the bottom to a slatted bottom.
Maybe as a drawer, that would solve the cleaning issue.
And It could still potentially house 3 colonies, a drawer front center and one on each side.
I am going to be working a lot this month, so I will let you experiment with your horizontal hive and have a great time. In 10 or 11 years you know things can get hot and humid and bees can die. When you have 10 or 11 years in Texas heat you might comprehend. so anyway have fun with your solid bottom board
 

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I got excited and made a very custom, snug no cracks or drafts sheet tin (powdercoated) and foam wrap, and it stays on all year. Last winter I noticed bees drinking the few drops of rainwater that had collected in one of their entrance holes (hives have Filipe Salbanys bee baffle/ portal entrances, on the outside you just see just a 25mm hole halfway up box). The inside 'baffle' stops any direct drafts entering). So the warmer walls were preventing condensation and preventing it dripping down the walls. That said, even though there are other factors, I have not yet gotten nosema or any other pest or disease, so the high humidity is not serving them too badly. The base is a Blueboard, an Australian frenchman Jean Mercador designed, which is like a 3mm plastic board sort of undulated. At the bottom of the waves are 2mm slits, moisture and small debris can fall through. So it stays on winter and summer. Temps here -5 to 25 deg C, that's 23 to 95 F. We get a lot of fog here for about 8 months of the year, and high winds as well (alpine). Hive is 30 cm off ground, open underneath. I like the base because i suspect, like a slatted base, the airflow coming in is distributed, but I think that despite our high winds, high rainfall and fog, the narrow slits don't let in much air, but is consistent all year. They have vent holes (plug-able- corks) for summer venting/ honey curing - this unplugging of vents is the only change in the hive makeup apart from adding more of the same box and insulation. A stable, consistent environment, methinks is very important, bees know how to take care of themselves, and providing consistency is helping not hindering them. Have thought a lot about humidity and think i have settled on no heat loss at top, all air inflow from bottom. thoughts? (most of my thoughts regarding humidity is about the cold part of the year- here most of it- not summer). This coming spring I hope to put temperature and humidity sensors, 4 per box, in all my different style hives and get some comparative data and will share.will be interesting to see what insights may be gained. sorry i always write an essay
 

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I like essays Amanda. interesting. I have screened bottom boards with a cover board, but the tops of my hives at sealed tightly this year. Haven't had to feed so I removed the feeder lids and just put inner and telescoping covers on. My bees propolize a great deal, so they take care of cracks and vents. It was over 100 degrees here for about 9 days in June. They beard a lot on those really hot days
 

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I like essays Amanda. interesting. I have screened bottom boards with a cover board, but the tops of my hives at sealed tightly this year. Haven't had to feed so I removed the feeder lids and just put inner and telescoping covers on. My bees propolize a great deal, so they take care of cracks and vents. It was over 100 degrees here for about 9 days in June. They beard a lot on those really hot days
You're very kind ; ).
How do you feel about propolis? Can you notice benefit on social level immunity and health? The hive I'm currently making I bought rought cut lumbar for so the bees could propolise the walls. I have a theory that maybe if they can proplise all of the walls they won't proplise anything they can ( i.e. the painful bit for beekeepers). I will know at the end of next season. note: Don't buy rough cut if you're going for any sort of precision fit, was a pain to machine up, so next time I'll buy DAR (dressed all around it's called here) and rough up the inner walls myself.

It's so interesting to hear other peoples stories, as is said, without context of location and climate, it's harder to contextualise peoples actions. Yes that is stinking hot, I'd get out of the house too. 9 Days is not enough to change hive set up; was the closed covers by conscious choice or just didn't get around to changing? We only get hot summers (days over 40 deg C, 105 F) every few years or less, normally rarely over 30/ 95 where I am so I haven't really had any observations or developed many thoughts on heat. I have built a 38mm wall cedar hive, slovenian type style, (where I'll remove the frames not the boxes, phew..), bees to be installed this season coming. I'll have 3 hives to compare, a normal langstroth, my foam/ tin langstroth and then this cedar 'langstroth' and hopefully I build my 38mm wall horizontal lang this season too. I.e. 3 of 4 four will have fairly serious year round insulation- I hope to be able to gain some insights on the insulation factor. I'm wondering if in something really well insulated if it stays cooler, like double glazing or an underground house, or if equivalent metabolic effort is required of bees, after all, fresh air must enter. I guess there's no way to tell, as colonies are genetically different, unless you did a LOT of hives in a few different locations. Apart from the hive shape, all my hives have same treatment, bottom boards, entrances, and roofs (i make mine). I'm going to put sensors in one hive this year but it's more about trying to find further insight into the humidity/ airflow/ temperature concept.

How to evaluate anything like this? I must be doing something right- we had a terrible nectar flow this season and everyone ( hobby beekeepers) in my club and friends down near the city fed sugar syrup all season. I didn't feed mine at all, and they were v strong going into winter. Also people in my bee club talked about SHB, but I had barely any if any. It has been similar story for last few years. Everyone's hive set up different, like comparing apples with pears, however I suspect the contributing differences in mine might be the entrances and the insulation. ah well time may tell. or not. ( bees have been one bought queen, a few raised queens and a few swarms)
 

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How to evaluate anything like this? I must be doing something right- we had a terrible nectar flow this season and everyone ( hobby beekeepers) in my club and friends down near the city fed sugar syrup all season. I didn't feed mine at all, and they were v strong going into winter. Also people in my bee club talked about SHB, but I had barely any if any. It has been similar story for last few years. Everyone's hive set up different, like comparing apples with pears, however I suspect the contributing differences in mine might be the entrances and the insulation. ah well time may tell. or not. ( bees have been one bought queen, a few raised queens and a few swarms)
I am not sure how to do a scientific evaluation, I don't have time anyway. My bees with screened bottom boards have less bearding, and in the winter I do block those off so they don't get wind but I'm sure they get a little ventilation. I never use a top entrance, even during a flow, because we have drought fairly constantly with intermittent downpours every couple of months, a single entrance is best and I put it at the bottom, where they seem to expect it. A top entrance invites wasps and bees from other hives to come steal the honey. Robbing is a huge problem during drought and dearth, I make it easy for my bees to defend their hive.

I knew a beekeeper once that suddenly closed her bottom entrance and put a top entrance and bees piled up at the bottom and died of heat. solid bottom boards too, so no ventilation at all. When I was doing removals I did have a top exit one one freshly removed hive, because the screened box coming off of the bee-vac was blocking the bottom and I started to have a similar problem. I lost a few bees but not the whole hive, I swept them out into regular equipment fairly quickly.

I didn't put my top ventilating box on this time because the stacks were getting too tall when I added another super and I am short. My hives sit about 18 inches off the ground, as skunks like bees and the height helps the bees defend themselves. I will rob the bees probably on Monday the 4th, and when I do I may change lids, but for now the telescoping cover keeps the theoretical rain out. I got a nice downpour a couple of days ago, almost 2 inches, and bees aren't a fan, it came in sideways too.

How do I feel about propolis? My best bees always propolize heavily but I don't have any rough cut boxes to compare anything to. They propolize the cracks between boxes, glue the frames in place and if I leave the ventilated feeder top on in winter they propolize the screen where the jar sits fully. If I don't have time to change that top for winter I put a sheet of styrofoam on top of that lid, held down by a brick, with the box and telescoping cover over it, so they probably aren't getting much draft. They are just insuring their privacy and safety.
 
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