Here’s the HAL-9000 view of my “bee yard” (a.k.a. my “backyard”).
My two latest nucs are on the far right. It’s a tight squeeze.
UPDATE: See the comments (from Rusty Burlew of HoneyBeeSuite.com) for information on how ventilation rims work.
February 2019: Here’s another view that shows how crowded my neighbourhood was and how small my backyard was when I first started beekeeping:
This was close to downtown St. John’s, just up the hill from St. Clare’s Hospital for those who know the area.
Like the bird perched on the hive! They’re looking big :)
The hives aren’t as big as they look. Each have only has one honey super. Then a ventilator rim and empty medium super. Though at least one hive looks like it might need another honey super soon. We’ll know in a few days.
Ah, got ya. What’s the reason for the empty super?
I’ve installed the empty supers over the ventilator rims. Otherwise, the telescoping top covers seem to cover most of the holes in the rims. I don’t have any direct evidence yet, but it looks like the bees are moving into the honey supers faster since I added the ventilation rims with the empty supers on top.
It’s a similar set up to a ventilated inner cover:
Here’s another similar set up:
I think these easy to make ventilator rims achieve exactly these same effect, only they’re cheaper. If I make them again, though, I’ll use wood that’s a couple inches higher so I don’t have use an empty super to keep the telescoping cover from covering the ventilation holes.
I’ve always read that proper ventilation is crucial to honey production and the health of the colony. I hope these little rims do the trick. I don’t think they’ll do any harm.
Interesting, thanks. But wouldn’t the extra ventilation make the hive colder, making it harder to draw wax on the super frames/cap the honey?
Good question, Emily. I think the answer is no. The extra ventilation pulls moisture out of the hive faster, thus accelerating the honey curing process (if that’s what it’s called). If it makes the hive cooler, the extra cold is negligible and doesn’t interfere with the capping process.
But I’m not an expert, so I’ve asked a beekeeper with more practical experience to answer the question too. Stand by…
Hey Emily & Phillip,
Thanks for letting me answer.
Emily has a reasonable question, but it is based on the mistaken belief that heat is responsible for drying the honey. In fact, itâ€™s not heat that dries the honey, at least not directly. Honey is dried when air with a capacity to hold moisture flows over its surface.
Forget your hive for a moment and think about your clothes dryer. It has a barrel in the center that goes round and round so the clothes donâ€™t lie in a heap. This exposes the clothes to as much air as possible. Your dryer has an air intake, a vent to the outside, a heater, and a fan. Air comes into the machine and is warmed by the heater. Warm air can hold more moisture than cool air, so the warm air absorbs some of the water from the clothes. The fan expels this moist air through the vent as new air comes in. In turn, this new air is warmed so it can hold more moisture, which allows additional evaporation from the clothes. This keeps happening until the clothes are dry.
If you were to block the air intake or the vent to the outside, the clothes would not get dry. They would get even hotter, but they would stay wet.
This may have happened to you. If your vent gets plugged with lint the first thing you probably notice is that your clothes take forever to dry. They go round and round, they get hot, but in the end they are still wet. In fact, the lint may get so hot it ignites. Vents plugged with lint are a common source of house fires.
Now, back to the hive. Instead of wet clothes you have wet honey. It doesnâ€™t need to be rotated because the bees have hung it up to dry in neat rows much like parallel clothes lines. Each honey cell is exposed to the air. Instead of a heater you have heat from the sun (directly or indirectly) and heat from the bees, and instead of a fan you have thousands of bee wings. You have an air intake (front entrance) and, we hope, a vent to the outside, which may be an upper entrance, a vented inner cover, or just a loose-fitting, leaky hive.
Air around the honeycombs is damp just like air around the wet clothes. To dry it, the bees fan their wings and bring in outside air. This new air has a lower relative humidity than air inside the hive and, as it passes through the hive, it gets even warmer due do the many hard-working bees. As a result, this air has lots of capacity to absorb moisture from the honey, which it does. The air current from the beesâ€™ wings expels this humid air to the outside.
With good ventilation through the hive, the bees can dry the honey quickly. Once the moisture level reaches about 18% the honey is capped and the job is done.
However, if the vent to the outside is plugged with something like a lid, the moist air cannot be expelled and the honey cannot get dry. No matter how hot it gets, no matter how hard the bees work, it just stays wet. Once the air around the honey absorbs the maximum amount of moisture, no more can evaporate, and the honey cannot be capped.
Just remember it is air with a capacity to hold moisture that dries things, not heat. The take-home message is that more summer ventilation means the bees can dry more honey faster. In the end, thatâ€™s what we all want.
Hi Rusty, thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed reply for me. And Phillip, thanks for your reply and for asking Rusty. I think next year I will try experimenting with an extra super to provide space on one of my hives.
I was thinking more of the bees’ ability to draw wax than to dry out the honey. I’ve read that it’s easier for the bees to draw wax in the warmer parts of the hive, which is why the super frames above the brood nest are drawn out and capped first. But perhaps the advantages of the ventilating air outweigh any disadvantages from the cooler temperature making it a bit slower to draw wax.
Btw being British I don’t use a clothes dryer, I take the long but cheap route and hang out clothes to dry on a rack. Similarly no dishwasher, all washing-up is done by hand the old fashioned way. Obviously plenty of people here do use dryers & dishwashers but I think maybe less than in the US, we’re a bit more low-tech!
I’m building two more ventilator rims for my two nucs this week, hopefully in a day or two. This time, though, I’m making them taller so I don’t have to use a medium super as a prop for the top cover.
I was able to check the honey super in one of the hives today. The comb is slowly coming along, but there’s no nectar, no honey on the way. We’ve had cold wet weather for the past week. The bees haven’t had a chance to get out. I hoping that’s all it is.