A Dempster Pillow, or a hive pillow, is a pillowcase filled with wood chips and/or straw that sits over the inner cover and inside a ventilation rim (or any kind of box with ventilation holes in it) to absorb and wick away condensation from inside the hive, as well as provide some insulation. The pillowcase can be made from cotton or burlap. It’s an experiment.
I dumped 4 kgs (8.8 lbs) of dry sugar in one of my farm hives on the way to work today. I was in a hurry, which is not a good thing to be in while beekeeping. I should have cut the newspaper precisely before I arrived instead of roughly tearing a piece of it there on the spot and quickly placing it over the top bars. I should have put something in the middle of the paper, like the roll of duct tape I had on me, to make it easier to create a hole for the bees crawl through too.
I wouldn’t call this the greatest example of the dry sugar method of feeding (a.k.a. the Mountain Camp Method), but I’ve seen (and done) worse. It could have been windy and the newspaper could have blown away. It could have been warmer and the bees could have been flying in my face. The bees could have poured out over the sides of the hive and I would have had to scoop them up with my hands and flick them back in the hive — if they weren’t flying in my face. So maybe it wasn’t pretty, but I got ‘er done.
I’ve enjoyed being able to check on my bees during my lunch breaks over the past while since Omicron shut down my normal office work schedule. What a lousy way to learn the Greek alphabet, eh? I’m burnt out from the pandemic like most of us, but being able to take a break from my office job and hang with my bees has provided a huge mental boost. Today, for instance, all I did was give some comb honey to a colony I suspected was hungry. It only took about five minutes, but it was so relaxing.
I did this so fast, it didn’t require smoke, a veil or gloves. The bees were too busy staying clustered to worry about me. The sun is beating down on the black hive now. What heat was lost will be regained quickly. I’m also planning to wrap the hive with silver bubble wrap to see if that helps.
My first time wrapping a hive in silver bubble wrap. I probably should have attached it with screws instead of heavy duty tacks that might pop off in high winds. But we’ll see. It was a lot cheaper than buying officail hive wraps made from the same material. The hive wraps would have been about $40 for a full-size Langstroth hive, but this came in at around $10, maybe a little more.
An experiment. I’m making hive pillows using old cotton pillow cases. The pillow is full of wood chips and straw. I’ve been toying with these for the past couple of years because moisture quilts — or quilt boxes with upper ventilation — aren’t as convenient as I’d like them to be. They don’t hold in heat well either. My bees in Flatrock, where it’s unusually cold and damp compared to many places in Newfoundland, seem to need all the heat they can get, and moisture quilts, heat-wise, just don’t cut it. Continue reading →
While ventilated quilt boxes and moisture quilts can do a great job at keeping beehives dry in the winter, they can be a pain to maintain… in the rain on the plains with stains on my cranes. You know what I mean. I’m looking to simplify what I do. So instead of dumping wood chips into a quilt box or moisture quilt, I’ve been dropping what I call a hive pillow over a slightly insulated inner cover, hoping for the same drying effect of a moisture quilt but without the loss of heat.
I know it looks like I’m working without a plan these days, but there is a method to my madness. Continue reading →
So it’s looks like the hive pillow is doing its job. Moisture is rising up through the inner cover hole, passing through the wood chips, condensing on the cold top cover, dripping down on the top of the pillow, where it then evaporates through the holes in the ventilation rim. Hence, the bees inside are kept dry.
As much as I love moisture quilts (or anything that keeps my bees warm and dry over the winter), sometimes I think, “There’s got to be an easier way.” And when I say sometimes, I mean every single day. Instead of using moisture quilts, I’ve opted to try out these Dempster Hive Pillows. They’re 2 or 3 inch (~7cm) thick burlap pillows filled with wood chips that sit over the inner cover and inside a ventilation rim (or any kind of box with ventilation holes in it) to provide some insulation for the bees but also help absorb and wick away condensation from inside the hive.
Here’s a basic intro to the Dempster Hive Pillow:
It’s another experiment, but I think (I hope) it’ll work. I think it’ll be a lot easier to drop pillows into my hives instead dumping wood chips or some other absorbent material inside the hive. That’s the aforementioned easier way I was talking about. Considering that my bees have gone through the winter so far with zero insulation and zero moisture-absorbing material in place, my feeling is, yeah, what’s the worse thing that could happen?
Here’s the extended version of the above video that goes into a lot more detail about other things related my winter beekeeping: Continue reading →