Some Pre-Winter Hive Adjustments

It was zero degree Celsius today (also known as the temperature at which water freezes). It was also extremely damp and miserable. Not a bad day to see if visual inspections of the clusters match the thermal images from my Flir One for Android camera device. Not a bad day to make some pre-winter adjustments to some of my hives too.

Hive #1. Other than dropping in some sugar over the top bars in a week or two, and maybe wrapping the hive, Hive #1 is just the way I like it.

Bottom to top:  Solid bottom board; 6mm / quarter-inch shrew-proofing mesh; 2 deeps; rim with extrance hole meshed in; moisture quilt full of wood chips; piece of scrap plywood / top cover. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

Bottom to top: Solid bottom board; 6mm / quarter-inch shrew-proofing mesh; 2 deeps; rim with entrance hole meshed in; moisture quilt full of wood chips; a piece of scrap plywood / top cover. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

A word about that top cover. Yup, it’s a piece of plywood I found in the corner of my shed. I put something heavy on top to keep it in place, but that’s it. I’ve had it on the hive for several months now, always meaning to replace it with a real top cover but never getting around to it. I may leave it on the hive all winter. Why not? The inside of the hive is warm and dry. Whether it’s a commercially made telescoping top cover dipped in wax with a metal cover, or a dirty piece of scrap plywood taken from a junk heap, it doesn’t seem to make any difference to the bees.

Top cover removed, moisture quilt open. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

Top cover removed, moisture quilt open. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

From this angle, it looks like the cluster is straddling the deeps.

From this angle, it looks like the cluster is straddling the deeps.



The top of the cluster (a big ball of bees) can be seen in the bottom right, which, looking at the front of the hive, is the top right corner. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

The top of the cluster can be seen in the bottom right, which, looking at the front of the hive, is the top right corner. Does it match the thermal image? I guess. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

By the way, all these images are low-resolution to match the low resolution of the Flir One.

Hive #2 is a new colony started up from a nuc in July and, like all of my nuc-colonies, it’s in fabulous shape. I’ll give it some sugar cakes in a few weeks, but I don’t think it needs them.

From bottom to top: Solid bottom baord; 6mm shrew-proofing mesh; 2 deeps, top deep with drilled entrance hole meshed over; rim, inner cover and a piece of hard insulation under the telescoping top cover. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

From bottom to top: Solid bottom board; 6mm shrew-proofing mesh; 2 deeps, top deep with drilled entrance hole meshed over; rim; inner cover and a piece of hard insulation under the telescoping top cover. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

The basic hard insulation set up that I've used in dryer winter climates. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

The basic hard insulation set up that I’ve used in dryer winter climates. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

The cluster, most of it probably down in the bottom deep, can be seen near the right side of the hive. (Oct. 28, 2916.)

The cluster, most of it probably down in the bottom deep, can be seen near the right side of the hive. (Oct. 28, 2916.)

A closer shot of the cluster, slightly larger than the cluster in the first hive. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

A closer shot of the cluster, slightly larger than the cluster in the first hive. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

The bees began to pour of the hive when they felt the vibrations of a human messing with this house. This is a defensive reaction and I usually view it as a good sign. With any luck, once I give these bee some just-in-case sugar cakes over the top bars in a week or two, I won't have to disturb them again until next spring. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

The bees began to pour out of the hive when they felt the vibrations of a human messing with their house. This is a defensive reaction and I usually view it as a good sign. With any luck, once I give these bee some just-in-case sugar cakes over the top bars in a week or two, I won’t have to disturb them again until next spring. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

The cluster seems concentrated on the right side, straddling the deeps.

The cluster seems concentrated on the right side, straddling the deeps.

I'd call that a hot spot.

I’d call that a hot spot. Is it the exact location of the cluster? Maybe.

It took some fiddling with my Flir One to get those hot spots to jump out like that. The image was not created with the default automatic settings. Anything other than the automatic settings, while eventually producing images that seem okay, probably require too much fooling around for people who aren’t tech-savvy.

The bees in the next hive, that we’ll call Hive #3, seem to be avoiding the bottom deep completely. I hope it doesn’t mean the bottom deep is empty or a mouse is scaring them up. It could be a tricky situation either way.

Side view, top to bottom: Solid bottom board; entrance covered with 6mm shrew-proofing mesh; 2 deeps; inner cover; a rim; hard insulation; top cover. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

Side view, top to bottom: Solid bottom board; entrance covered with 6mm shrew-proofing mesh; 2 deeps; inner cover; a rim; hard insulation; top cover. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

Not my standard set-up, but we're getting there. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

Not my standard set-up, but we’re getting there. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

The cluster breaking through the inner cover hole.  I wanted to put the rim beneath the inner cover, but I'll leave this hive alone for another day, hopefully a colder day when the bees are deeper down in the hive. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

The cluster breaking through the inner cover hole. I wanted to put the rim beneath the inner cover, but I’ll leave this hive alone for another day, hopefully a colder day when the bees are deeper down in the hive. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

I guess the cluster is in the top deep near the front?

I guess the cluster is in the top deep near the front?

Clustering in most of the top deep?

Clustering in most of the top deep?

I may remove the hard insulation on this and all the other hives and replace it with a moisture quilt if I notice any dampness building up inside.

Hive #4 with the cluster favouring the top deep as well for whatever reason (I’m not too concerned):

Side view from bottom to top: Solid bottom board; 6mm shrew-proofing mesh attached with tacks; 2 deeps; inner cover; rim with entrance hole; moisture quilt full of wood chips; top cover. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

Side view from bottom to top: Solid bottom board; 6mm shrew-proofing mesh attached with tacks; 2 deeps; inner cover; rim with entrance hole; moisture quilt full of wood chips; top cover. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

I supose this arrangement could work. Moisture would go up through the inner cover hole, through the moisture quilt and outside, though both upper entrances would also allow moisture to escape. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

I supose this arrangement could work. Moisture would go up through the inner cover hole, through the moisture quilt and outside, though both upper entrances would also allow moisture to escape even without a moisture quilt. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

Moisture quilt removed, revealing inner cover underneath. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

Moisture quilt removed, revealing inner cover underneath. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

The bees clustering below the inner cover hole but not attached to the bottom of the inner cover. That makes life much easier. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

The bees clustering below the inner cover hole but not attached to the bottom of the inner cover. That makes life much easier. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

The cluster pretty close to the centre of the hive, just poking above the top bars.  It's a good sized cluster, most of it being out of sight. (Oct. 28. 2016.)

The cluster pretty close to the centre of the hive, just poking above the top bars. It’s a good sized cluster, most of it being out of sight. (Oct. 28. 2016.)

The inner cover removed, replaced with just the rim with a drilled-hole entrance that will be covered with mesh soon and a moisture quilt holding a thick layer of wood chips.  Would a hard piece of insulation hold more heat than a moisture quilt?  Probably.  Would it keep the hive bone dry like a moisture quilt?  Nope. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

The inner cover removed, replaced with just the rim with a drilled-hole entrance that will be covered with mesh soon and a moisture quilt holding a thick layer of wood chips. Would a hard piece of insulation hold more heat than a moisture quilt? Probably. Would it keep the hive bone dry like a moisture quilt? Probably not. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

The cluster is mostly in the top deep? (Oct. 28, 2016.)

The cluster is mostly in the top deep? (Oct. 28, 2016.)

From this side view, I'd say the cluster is in the top deep. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

From this side view, I’d say the cluster is in the top deep. I’m not sure how well that matches the thermal image. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

Hive #5 is a big 3-deep colony full of honey and packed with bees, most which seem to be in the bottom deep:

From bottom to top: Solid bottom board; quarter-inch mesh; 2 deeps, one with a drilled-hole entrance covered in mesh; an inner cover; a piece of hard insulation; a top cover. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

From bottom to top: Solid bottom board; quarter-inch mesh; 2 deeps, one with a drilled-hole entrance covered in mesh; an inner cover; a piece of hard insulation; a top cover. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

Told ya!

Told ya!

The cluster is so deep down in the hive, I can barely see it. Nothing wrong with that.  The top deep (of 3 deeps) is full of honey. I think we're in good shape. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

The cluster is so deep down in the hive, I can barely see it. Nothing wrong with that. The top deep (of 3 deeps) is full of honey. I think we’re in good shape. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

I'll probably tape over one of these entrance and push mesh over the other one afterwards. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

Rim added. I’ll probably tape over one of these entrance and push mesh over the other one afterwards. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

From this angle, it definitely looks like the hot spot / the cluster is in the bottom deep.

From this angle, it definitely looks like the hot spot / the cluster is in the bottom deep.

Is that hot spot a cluster of bees?

Is that hot spot a cluster of bees?

All of that looks great to me. The bees are deep down in the hive with about two deeps of honey on top of them to keep them alive all winter. The final hive, Hive #6, didn’t get any adjustment, but maybe later in November.

From bottom to top:  Solid bottom board; 6mm mesh; 2 deeps; a rim with drilled-hole entrance; a moisture quilt full of wood chips; a slapped together top cover. "Slapped together" describes most of my home-made hive components. (Oct. 28. 2016.)

From bottom to top: Solid bottom board; 6mm mesh; 2 deeps; a rim with drilled-hole entrance; a moisture quilt full of wood chips; a slapped together top cover. “Slapped together” describes most of my home-made hive components. (Oct. 28. 2016.)

A large cluster attached to the bottom of the moisture quilt.  I'm not messing with that today, though I'll probably clear away the burr comb and add some just-in-case sugar cakes in a week or two when the bees, I hope, are clustered below the top bars. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

A large cluster attached to the bottom of the moisture quilt. I’m not messing with that today, though I’ll probably clear away the burr comb and add some just-in-case sugar cakes in a week or two when the bees, I hope, are clustered below the top bars. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

From this side view, I would guess the cluser is in the top right section of the hive. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

From this side view, I would guess the cluser is in the top right section of the hive. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

From this front view, I'd say the cluster is fairly spread out over the top deep, favouring the right side slightly. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

From this front view, I’d say the cluster is fairly spread out over the top deep, favouring the right side slightly. (Oct. 28, 2016.)

All of this probably seems boring to casual beekeepers or wannabe beekeepers who tend to idealise beekeepers like we’re all a bunch of Zen Buddhists totally at peace with the world, unhurried on a some serene mountain top where the sun always shines and the bees never sting us in the face. But most of the time it’s this kind of thing, basic beekeeping chores that amount to keeping a close eye on mundane things.

2 thoughts on “Some Pre-Winter Hive Adjustments

  1. I haven’t messed around with mine since I uploaded these photos, but yeah, I had similar results. I don’t have the app in front of me at the moment, but off the top of my head… let me think… I had to turn off one of the automatic settings. I think it’s under the icon on top that looks almost like a mixing board, if you know what a mixer look like. Tap that and turn it off. After that, when you move the camera, it doesn’t adjust the image like a regular camera on auto-iris would, or auto white balance. Once that’s off, then point the camera at something warm (like your leg) and then tap the icon on top that looks like a thermometer (if I remember correctly). That’s the re-calibrate button. That will cause the Flir to set a new baseline for the temperature readings, so only the hottest objects will show up on the camera. If that doesn’t work, point the camera at something cold and re-calibrate and see what you get.

    That’s how I’ve done my adjustment so far. If there’s some other way to go in and manually adjust the sensor with more precision, I haven’t found it.

    I’ve seen demos of the Flir software that seem to give the user the ability to change the sensitivity in the images (it looks great), but I couldn’t find a straightforward download link on the website, and I didn’t have time to poke around and look for it.

Comments are closed.