Ventilation…Insulation? We’ve Found an Intriguing Solution!

Susan here. If you are a bee club member, you already know that we have been talking about hive insulation all this past year. How do we, with wooden hives, get these flimsy-walled things to be good for bees? Some of us can’t afford new hives whenever we learn of new innovations that are healthy for bees, so is there a way for us to “modify?”

We’ve been looking at this issue from the outside of the hive, mostly. There are foam and also bubble insulation wraps available, and all require basically encasing your hive box top to bottom with these panels.

Some of us are adding another layer of wood, tacked to the outside of the hive. we’ve discussed encasing our hives in straw bales, which Jacqueline tried—and discovered it is a great way for growing mushrooms between hive and straw.

Then, in Holland, I saw this: a Warre’ hive with a circular interior, packed with plaster, cork chips, and straw. Wowza! Insulate from the inside, instead and solve more problems than just warmth and cooling!

This innovation offers the bees round space, which is so much better for them than cold corners that contribute to mold. And it offers them a natural substance to work with. This process could easily be transferred to Lang hives, too.

All that is needed is to create a tube of something slippery that is of a size that will allow for some good insulation all around the circle. The “tube” can be inset to allow for simple bars of wood to be placed across the top of a Warre’ or a Lang. A hole can be bored with a drill for an entrance (lower are best).

We thought we would try using a mixture of clay, chopped straw, and cow manure—something akin to adobe—to stuff between the tube and the wooden hive body. Then, we allow it to dry, and we welcome the bees, who we can rest assured will be warm and cozy come winter, and cool in summer.