How to make a moisture quilt for a Langstroth hive

For years I tried to reduce moisture accumulation in my wintering hives. Then, after much reading about Warré hives, I decided to modify a Warré-style quilt box into something that might work on my Langstroths here in the Pacific Northwest.

I spent quite a while thinking about this and a long time building the quilts, but at this point I am ecstatic about the results. They are really working—no moisture at all is dripping down on my bees. The funny thing is this: the quilts are working in a way that is different from what I predicted—but more on that in a bit.

Here is what I did:

  • I bought a bunch of two-inch supers that were designed to be used as mountain camp rims.
  • Using a one-inch hole saw, I drilled four holes in each frame for ventilation.
  • After I painted the frames, I stapled a piece of #10 hardware cloth over each hole to keep out critters.
  • I bought canvas by the yard, cut pieces to fit the frames, and finished the edges so they wouldn’t fray.
  • I stapled one piece of canvas onto each rim, stretching it as tightly as I could.
  • I filled each “quilt” with wood chips leftover from brood rearing (chicken brood rearing, that is.)
  • I put one quilt frame on each hive. In most cases I placed it above the top brood box and below the telescoping cover. In some of the hives it is above a mountain camp rim and below the telescoping cover.

For some reason my brain was muddled on the next point. I thought the moisture would wet the quilt from the bottom up. In other words, I thought the warm moist air would rise and condense on the canvas and wood chips nearest the brood nest. So I was surprised and confused the first time I opened the hives and discovered that just the top layer of wood chips was wet and the rest of the quilt was dry.

Now that I have de-muddled, it all makes sense. The wood chips are light, fluffy, and basically the same temperature as the air above the brood nest, so the moist air does not condense on the wood chips at all. Instead, the humid air rises and goes right through the canvas and the two inches of wood chips until it hits the cold inner surface of the telescoping cover. Once it hits that cold surface, the moisture condenses (just like in a regular hive) and then rains back down. But instead of the drops falling on the brood nest, they land on the wood chips and are absorbed. It is just so cool!

I’ve opened all my hives several times since I installed the quilts and in each case the inside of the telescoping cover and the top layer of wood chips have been wet. When I stir the chips, it is easy to see that only the surface layer is wet because the wet chips are a yellowish-brown color compared to the dry ones which are almost white.

My original plan was to change the wood chips whenever the quilt became saturated, but so far I haven’t had to. It seems the ventilation holes are allowing the chips to dry in spite of all the rain. The moisture hasn’t seeped down more than one-quarter inch.

While building the quilts I was worried that the 2-inch super would be too shallow, but it seems to be about right for this climate. I think that a very cold climate would warrant a thicker layer—perhaps a three-inch rim like those used for baggie feeders.

I should also mention that the four ventilation holes are providing the sole top-of-the-hive ventilation for each hive. Four holes may seem like a lot, but the canvas and the wood chips prevent a cold draft from flowing across the bees—the air movement is more diffuse because of the quilt. I keep a very small entrance in winter, but I have the Varroa drawers removed so air flows in through the bottom of the hive and out through the ventilation holes.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

First I drilled holes in the supers.
I painted the supers inside and out.
I stapled hardware cloth over the inside of the holes.
After finishing the edges, I stapled the canvas to the rims.
Finished quilt box from inside.

Quilt box filled with wood chips.

Comments

Beekeeping
Reply

Thank you so much for sharing this and including the pictures. Every time I read somewhere about a quilt I picture something similar to what is on our beds. Soft and flimsy. But this makes so much more sense. This is easier to construct and maintain than what I was imagining. I’m encouraged by your success as well. Thanks again. I love your blog and everything you share here. Keep it up!

jess
Reply

You’re going to sell these, right?

Mike Fetting
Reply

I had the same idea, made four using shallow supers. I appreciated the additional information about the moisture, please post your results in the spring.

So far my bees seem to be doing great with the bee quilts I put in place.

Rusty
Reply

Mike,

That’s great; I’m glad to hear they are working for you. So far, my bees are looking good. We had a warm day last week and all the hives were busy.

I will definitely post my results and observations at the end of winter. Thanks for asking.

Freda Marlow
Reply

Could you please advise what type of canvass material
you used for the ‘quilts’. Thanks

Rusty
Reply

Freda,

I don’t know what weight the canvas was, but when I went to the fabric store I bought the lightest weight all-purpose canvas that they had. It is 100% cotton with no dyes. A heavier canvas would have worked just as well; I don’t think the weight matters that much.

I cut it to size, then finished the edges with an overcast stitch. Then I stretched it as tightly as I could across the bottom of the super before I stapled it.

These moisture quilts have worked unbelievably well. They eliminated all the winter moisture problems I used to have, and I have managed to go all winter without changing the wood chips.

Bryan Duncan
Reply

For the canvas, you should look at Lowes or Home Depot, or any paint store, and look for canvas drop cloths. They are usually inexpensive and are un-dyed. Just a thought for budget canvas.

Rusty
Reply

Bryan,

Good idea. I have trouble finding cheap canvas.

Margie
Reply

You can also use jute (gunny sack) material for the quilt bottom. I think what was used here is like a duck cloth. Check out http://thebeespace.net for what Nick H. in Oregon used for his. Jute can be obtained either online or a good feed/hardware store. I save the seams for using in the smoker or to stuff an entrance if moving a hive.

For the topbar cloth in the Warre fashion, I just make a wheat flour paste and brush the jute and hang on the line to dry. Keeps the bees from chewing, but they’ll propolise this.

I live in Interior Alaska, and have since have gone to Warres, but have converted my deep Langs into either end tables, apiary stands, or cut down into feeder ekes and the like for my Warres. My leftover Lang stuff I set up as bait hives, but have the quilt box element and a sump for the bottoms for them now.

Paul Guernsey Player
Reply

Margie,
Where can I read more about keeping “Alaskan” bees?
Paul
Clearwater, Florida

Manuel
Reply

What goes first, the inner cover or the quilt?

Rusty
Reply

Manuel,

Put the quilt box on top of the brood box. Put the inner cover on top of the quilt.

If you are using a baggie feeder, it goes between the brood box and the quilt. So, brood box, baggie feeder, quilt box, inner cover, outer cover.

Jeff
Reply

How do the bees get out for a cleansing flight this way then?

Rusty
Reply

The regular way, through their front opening. Nothing is changed down there.

Judd
Reply

Quilt question.

I have built my wood vented inner covers with a 3/16″ bee space so bees can go over top the top bars and move freely from between the top of the brood box and inner cover. If I build the quilts as you suggest then the canvas will rest on top of the brood frame top bars, correct? If yes, then did I build my inner covers wrong with the top bee space, or does it matter you think?

Rusty
Reply

Hi Judd,

I’m a little confused–maybe I don’t understand the question. The moisture quilt would go above the brood box but below the inner cover. Because the quilts can sag a bit, I usually put either a 3-inch feeder rim (eke) or a 1-inch Imirie shim between the brood box and the quilt. So directly above the brood box is the feeder (or shim), then the quilt, then the inner cover, then the outer cover.

The feeder gives the bees plenty of room to move around and solves the sagging problem. The bee space sounds perfect for summer, but the bees won’t be using that space in the winter if you use quilts.

Joel
Reply

Rusty,

Just found your site a week or so ago, and have been a regular nightly visitor. Thank you very much for this great resource.

I made these quilts for my hives, but I am worried about the fact that the rolled and stapled edges of the fabric on the bottom of the quilt keeps a tight seal from being made between the brood box rim and the rim of the quilt . . . and what about sagging over time . . . if the fabric contacts the brood box top bars, wouldn’t that create a barrier preventing the bees from staying in a cluster as they moved around the hive for food?

Rusty
Reply

Joel,

The fabric itself forms a seal between the brood box and the quilt box, sort of like the cotton caulking they once used in ships. The fabric is soft so it deflects from the weight of the lid and makes a tight seal. I never had a problem with it, although I did keep my hem as thin as possible by zigzagging the cut edges rather than rolling them. Still, I think it will work just fine.

I like to keep a 3-inch feeder rim between the brood box and the quilt. This gives me a place to put candy cakes or dry sugar as the winter progresses, and makes some “sag space” for the quilt. For less sagging you can insert a cross bar in the center of the quilt box, which is what I’m planning on doing for my top-bar hive.

Joel
Reply

Rusty,

Thanks for the reply! I can’t wait to try these things out . . . I have a cousin who is president of the local bee club and my mentor, and he’s curious about how these will work before he makes some for his 30-plus hives. I’m the guinea-pig here.

I have some baggy feeder rims that I drilled holes in and covered with hardware cloth earlier this year to use for ventilation during the heat of the summer here. They look exactly like what you are using for your quilts. Instead of building more rims, I’m going to cut and fit some dense pieces of Styrofoam in the holes and cover with aluminum tape to seal out the weather . . . hopefully this will work.

Rusty
Reply

Joel,

Remember that it’s the ventilation holes that allow the canvas and wood chips to dry out. Without ventilation holes the quilts won’t work properly.

Joel

Hi, Rusty –

I understand about the ventilation . . . it makes sense when you read the whole original post . . . again, I am really excited to try these out, and appreciate very much you sharing this. As a first year beekeeper, I am really nervous about getting these 4 hives through the winter in good shape . . .

Living here in Tennessee, you cant help but understand the importance of ventilation when it comes to your livestock. The summers here are boiling with 100 degree days and humidity you can actually see in the air. I am completely serious when I say that even our milk goats have their own ceiling fan in the barn!

The rims I used during the summer for ventilation are still on the hives, sitting between the inner cover and the telescoping cover. Currently they have just had one hole open, however.

We have had a string of nights in the mid 30’s, so I have winterized the hives the traditional way (entrance reducer, flipped inner cover, closed screened bottom boards) with the exception of extra ventilation via the rims.

The quilts I built have screened holes in them, just as in your photograph, with the exception being I built mine with two 1.5 inch screened holes rather than the 4 you use . . . reading some of your other posts, it seems our winters get a bit colder than yours with many nights in the upper twenties and some in the low teens.

My plan is to remove the ventilation rims, cover their holes with Styrofoam and tape, then use them as rims to set the ventilated quilts on to prevent possible sagging blocking the tops of the frames . . . it’ll just save me spending an afternoon going through scrap lumber and knocking together more rims.

I wonder if instead of using rails across the bottoms to prevent sagging, maybe hardware cloth could be used? Say by creating a small ledge or rim on the INSIDE of the quilts, stapling the hardware cloth to it then covering the bottom with cloth . . . that way the wood chips rest on the hardware cloth which won’t sag, and the cloth on the bottom not only seals the bottom, but any condensation that might be caused by using metal hardware cloth would be kept from the bees by being caught or absorbed by the cloth . . .

What do you think? Don’t know if I have been clear . . . maybe I could knock one together and take photos?

Joel

Rusty

Joel,

I understand completely what you are saying. I was thinking of trying hardware cloth instead of canvas cloth on some of my quilts this year but I was afraid of condensation on the metal. I never thought of using both of them together. That’s an idea that might work.

I live in a USDA hardiness zone 8. If you look at a hardiness zone map, you can see how similar your low temperatures are to mine.

Anthony Planakis
Reply

Hey Rusty,

I know it’s been a while! Thanks for your wonderful posts! I built three quilts and did just that with the Imirie shims to accommodate for pollen patties. I also put a second support, 3/4×3/4×15 1/8 down the center and stapled the canvas to it to prevent sagging. Works great!!!!!!! Unbelievable how much moisture is transferred out of hive!!!! By the way, you can pick up #10 canvas untreated at Home Depot (painters drop cloth) 100% cotton chemical free. I can make 15 plus quilts per pack!!!

Keep up the good work!!

Tonybees!!

Rusty
Reply

Tony,

Good tip about canvas at Home Depot; I’ve been looking for some.

Don
Reply

I’m also building a quilt inspired by your website. It occurred to me that the sagging problem could be addressed by using foundation wire across the bottom of the quilt – maybe two strands in each direction. What do you think?

Rusty
Reply

Good idea. I’ve been thinking about the sagging problem and have run across several possible solutions. I’ll put them altogether in a separate post.

navi
Reply

Hello Rusty,

First time posting but stumbled on your site mid-summer. Thanks for the site and all the info. This was my first year keeping bees and I tried something similar to your quilt idea last spring and will use it this winter. I cut a hole approx. 5″x5″ in the inner cover. Stapled some wire screen over the hole. Put the inner cover on. Put a medium super on. Bought some polyester pillow cases, filled them with pine shavings and laid them in the medium super.

Made an “eke” with vent holes (holes covered with wire screen). Placed the “eke” on the medium super and then put my outer cover on. Of course I had no idea it was called an eke, I figured it was a cobbled up solution to a problem. I think it gave the girls a leg up on their honey journey. Of the 4 hives, 1 allowed me to harvest about 150 lbs., 2 produced approx 200 each of which I left for them to enjoy this winter, and 1 got demolished by a bear. I think he really enjoyed the honey because he tried getting to the hives a couple more times without any success. I went foundationless, seemed to work ok. I reside in north western Wisconsin. I am excited for year number 2. Thanks again for your site. Very enjoyable reading.

Rusty
Reply

It sounds like you did great this year in spite of the bear.

I can’t believe all the variations on moisture quilts I have read in the past month. This one is also clever. I imagine you could change the pine shavings, wash the pillow case, and go for another year. I’m planning on putting together a list of all these interesting variations, and I will be sure to include yours. Thanks for writing.

Rusty
Reply

Bruce,

There’s no need for an inner cover with a moisture quilt. I don’t use one, but they do lift the telescoping cover higher–a consideration if your vent holes are being covered by the telescoping cover. Your invention is totally different, though, so it wouldn’t need one.

Jon Harman
Reply

I have 2 comments. Last year a Polish gentleman overwintered 75 10-frame Langstroth hives in the orchard behind my house in east-central Missouri. He had quilts on all of the hives similar to yours. They also had upper entrance holes on all of the boxes. My wife and I have had a few Langstroth hives for a few years. I built two Warre hives this spring as a trial. I made a mistake by not placing a wire screen under the fabric quilt and both hives ate through the fabric in 3 days and dumped the chips into each hive. The wire screen helps hold the quilt above the top bars and keeps the bees down. A Warre is only about 12″ x 12″ inside, so a quilt for a Langstroth will be much harder to support with the extra area and wood chip volume. It definitely keeps the moisture level down when damp and acts as an attic insulation to keep cool in the hot summer.

Rusty
Reply

Hi Jon,

I’ve had so many people write about supporting the quilt from underneath that I will have to re-write my how-to post. As I’ve said earlier, I think the feeder rims that I keep between the top brood box and the quilt kept the bees from eating through the quilt. But for people who don’t use a feeder rim, something is definitely needed to support the fabric. And as you point out, the Langstroth arrangement requires a longer span and, therefore, better support.

Thanks for writing. I’m surprised quilts aren’t more popular. Those who use them seem to overwinter their bees really well, just like your neighbor. I haven’t heard about them being used in summer before–definitely something I need to try.

Mark
Reply

Hi! I’ve been thinking about doing this for my hives – I am in zone 7.
I thought I could just use my regular screened inner cover and pile a layer of shavings on it, then a shim with ventilation holes above it, then the telescoping cover.

Thinking through my problems:

Seems like you think the metal may make the moisture condense there before it reaches the shavings?

Maybe this will be a mess? Would the bees start messing with the shavings for some reason? In that case, I could put cloth in between the metal screen and the shavings.

I’m worried the shavings will just harbor lots of bugs – I have roaches, spiders, weird beetles – all sorts of things coming out of the woods that my hives are located next to!

Can’t wait to try this, because I think the moisture is my whole problem in winter, I’ve had bees freeze to death, right next to a full super of honey.

Rusty
Reply

Hi Mark,

I like the idea of using the screened inner covers because it gives you a multiple use for that piece of equipment. I haven’t actually tried using hardware cloth to retain the shavings because I thought moisture might condense there and drop down on the bees. But maybe the wood chips would absorb it. I just don’t know. But if you try it, please let me know how it works.

I haven’t had a problem with bugs, although I do use cedar shavings and many bugs don’t like cedar. It didn’t seem to affect the bees; in fact my bees have done exceptionally well since I started using the quilts. Like yours, my hives are at the edge of the woods and there are plenty of bugs around, but so far they haven’t moved in. The worst problem I have is black spiders that like to live just under the inner cover, but not in the shavings.

If you haven’t read the post Honey bee quilt show, it contains a lot of alternative ideas for the moisture quilt. One of the readers confines the shavings in a pillow case, an idea that both corrals the shavings and keeps out many of the insects.

The bees themselves don’t seem to mess with the shavings. In the spring they cart out the few that fall down into the hive, and I sometimes see them wrestling with a piece on the landing board.

Tom
Reply

Just found the site and am enjoying it.

I am in central WA (Ellensburg) so east of the Cascades with cold winters. Last year was my first with two Langs, one package and one captured swarm. Both successful but honey harvest only on the package.

I now have built two Warres and am wondering if any of you folks can give me some suggestions of how to transfer my colonies from the Langs to the Warres.

I plan to use the Langs to hopefully entice wild swarms but would like to go entirely to Warres.

Thanks for any comments.

Rusty
Reply

Does anyone have an ideas on this? Phillip? Personally, I would shake the bees into the Warres and then cut any brood comb from the Lang frames and tie them onto the Warre top bars. I would sequester the queen during the transition (put her in a cage) so she doesn’t fly off during the confusion or get injured. I might leave her caged for a couple days until things settle down.

Tom
Reply

Thanks Rusty. I am hoping someone has a simpler way to do it.

There was concern on this blog about wire mesh under the quilt to keep the fabric from sagging because water might condense on it. I doubt that is a worry because the sawdust or whatever above the fabric will insulate the wire. It should be the same temperature as the hive so condensation should not occur.

Tom

Rusty
Reply

Tom,

You are right about the wire hardware cloth . . . thanks for that.

Tom
Reply

Hmm. Tried putting a lang on top of the warre with a gasket to match the openings. No, the girls would not go down to the Warre.Then stacked several warre hive boxes and put the lang frames loaded with bees on end into the warre with the box with the bars on top.

The girls loved it but would not go up to make comb on the bars.

So, took the frames out and shook the ladies into the warre. So they were all in the warre with the top bars on top….

They all came out of the opening and spent a chilling night outside in a clump. Next day, they are still outside and don’t even want to escape to the former home lang next door.

These girls have an attitude!

I fear that I will lose this colony. What to do?

Rusty
Reply

Tom,

You don’t mention the queen. Take the queen, put her in a queen cage, and put the queen cage where you want the bees to be. They will go where she is. So if you put her in the Warre and then shake the bees into the Warre, they will stay there and build their home. Let her loose in a few days when things calm down and the workers are building comb.

Tom
Reply

Thanks Rusty

I went out this AM to do as you suggest but with doubts that I would be able find the queen as last night the bees were in a larg ball on the exterior of the warre.

So, after getting prepared with tools, smoke, sugar h2o sprayer, etc, I went to the hive.

Voila! The bees had gone in on their own!!! I presume the queen must be in there. Peeking in the window on the side of the hive one can see that they are busy building comb!

Tom

Rusty
Reply

That’s great! I’m glad it worked out okay.

Jay
Reply

I like this idea of a quilt and think I am going to try it out this winter. However, my setup is a bit different as I use a top entrance just like this: http://www.bushfarms.com/images/TopOnHive2.jpg

My setup, from the bottom up, is: screened bottom board with bottom entrance fully closed off, slatted rack, deep boxes 1 & 2, 1-2″ shim for baggy feeding, shimmed migratory cover for top exit as in image above.

Not sure how the quilt placement would work here…. any ideas?

Thanks & regards, Jay in the burbs of Buffalo NY

Rusty
Reply

Jay,

If your shim is not attached to your migratory cover, I would put the quilt between the two so the bees go in under the quilt at the top of the baggy feeder. If the shim is attached then I don’t have an answer. I think I would go deeps, then baggy feeder, then add an Imirie shim with an opening, then quilt, then the migratory cover. The opening in the migratory cover wouldn’t be used by the bees but it will help to keep the quilt dry.

Alternatively, you could drill an entrance in your baggy feeder. Then you could just skip the Imirie shim. It would go deeps, then baggy feeder with opening, then quilt, then migratory cover.

Nancy
Reply

Rusty,

Got my own “quilting bee” going here on the kitchen floor – sorry, I am old enough to remember quilting bees – and trying to use materials I have on hand, old comb shallows for the frames and mattress ticking for the canvas.
So, question: since the bees won’t come into contact with it, can I use non-acrylic paint? I.e. Rustoleum, since I figure the reason you’re painting the insides is because of the moisture. There are always half empty cans of spray paint around a farm for some reason. Or be safe and stick with acrylic? Thanks,

Nan

Rusty
Reply

Nancy,

If you are just using them for quilts, the bees won’t be able to munch on them. So as long as they completely dry and don’t smell like paint, they should be fine. I used spray Rustoleum on something once, screened inner covers, I think (the wooden part). No problem. On the other hand, you don’t have to paint the inside. I just did it so they wouldn’t mold.

Rusty

Rob
Reply

You can make a hive quilt out of a vent shim (already drilled and screened holes) pretty easily.
I posted a blog entry about making them. Same process as this one (awesome resource by the way!) with the exception of drilling, screen, and painting. No painting required for cedar! :)
http://www.evanscedarbeehives.com/read-ecb-blog.html

Kyle
Reply

Hi Rusty,
Thanks for the how to on the moisture quilts. This fall I made three for my hives, but made a few changes. I used 1/4 wire hardware cloth rather than burlap, and incorporated space below the hardware cloth for feeding. This seems to be working well, although the wood shavings were filtering through the hardware cloth too much, so I had to put a layer of T shirt material on top of the wire to catch the shavings. If I build more I’ll use a tighter screen. I posted pictures of the project on my blog: http://kyleandwhitneymt.blogspot.com/
Thanks for all the great info on your blog, I enjoy reading it often.
Kyle – Plains, Montana

Rusty
Reply

Thanks, Kyle. All the variations are instructive. I’ve switched to using 1/8-inch hardware cloth.

Evan
Reply

Hey Rusty,

Thanks for posting this information. I’m on Vancouver Island and built a couple of these in just a couple of hours and feel much better knowing that my bees will be a bit more warm and dry over the winter! As with many of the variations, I used heavy cotton stapled to the inside of the super and 1/8 hardware cloth stapled to the bottom rim for support. Thanks again!
Evan

Jave
Reply

I’m curious about what “animal bedding” you used in your quilts. I tried pine shavings last year with thick canvas, but it didn’t seem as tho’ much moisture absorption was occurring. So this year I changed the cloth to a more porous thickish muslin, and I changed the bedding to a premium cellulose crumble pet bedding. (Don’t know how that is working as yet.)
Since installing my quilts for the winter I saw a posting on youtube about using cedar shavings in a quilt similar to yours (except with a screen bottom.) The cedar was chosen as a deterrent to varroa “because cedar repels bugs.” Aren’t bees technically bugs? I steered away from cedar last year because I didn’t want to repel my bees. What are your thoughts/experience on the subject?
Thanks for your help,
Jave

Rusty
Reply

Jave,

Interesting, but I don’t know if I have an answer. The bag of wood chips I use just says, “White wood shavings. 100% natural animal bedding.” It doesn’t smell or look like cedar. But I know there is a company in New Jersey that makes cedar beehives and they are still in business. I have no idea how well the bees do in them.

It’s complicated though. The word “cedar” can refer to dozens of different species, not all of which are really cedars. As for someone saying, that cedar shavings are used for varroa control because cedar repels bugs, doesn’t make much sense. The word “bug” usually refers to insects, but varroa are not insects. Bees however are insects. So I’m not sure the person knows what he is saying. Certainly cedar doesn’t repel all insects, just some, and I have no idea what it does to arachnids, including varroa.

I just use the white shavings and heavy duty cotton canvas. The wood chips get wet on the top, not the bottom, and I can see the color change where they are wet. The water vapor rises to the top, condenses against the inside of the roof, and then drips back down. I think screen or hardware cloth would work just as well as cloth and is less likely to sag.

Anthony Planakis
Reply

Hey Rusty,

Me again. I bought a large bag of pine shavings from Tractor supply. I stayed away from the cedar because of the aroma/scent it gives off. I personally don’t like the idea of a) using something that naturally repels and b) mixing pine and cedar. Again, only my opinion. Please, if someone has tried it, let us know :)

Tonybees.

Tom
Reply

Jave

Lots of hives are made of cedar including two of my Warre’s. The girls seem to love it.

Tom

Herb
Reply

I have used winter quilts on my Langstroth hives for the second year … Using Rusty’s pattern with heavy beige canvas with animal shavings bought at the local farm store … Does a great job of controlling moisture and providing good ventilation. The cedar shavings have not been a problem for my Russian hybrids. I have them on 20 hives.

Parks
Reply

Rusty, I’m totally enjoying your website as I head into my 2nd year of beekeeping. I lost 3 hives this past fall due to moisture (my ignorance) and am preparing to start 6 new hives this spring, 5 Langs and 1 Warre. The quilt box is something I plan to add to my Langs. The thing that has me puzzled is that most of the discussion here is about the quilt box as a solution to moisture in the winter, whereas on the Warre Hive, it is a part of the hive during all seasons. Is there a reason for removing the quilt box from Langs in the summer?

Last summer, in the Hot & Humid Washington, DC Metro/Northern Virginia area, I used the screened inner covers and was very pleased with the result, but I’m seriously fascinated with the quilt box as an all season component of my hives.

Rusty
Reply

Parks,

You can use a quilt box all year if you want to. I don’t use them in the warm months because I don’t have moisture accumulation in the hive at those times. To me, if it is not doing anything useful then it is just in the way. I have three brood boxes and three honey supers, so I don’t want the extra height either. But certainly there is no harm leaving it on if that’s what you want to do.

Jen B
Reply

Wonderful website! Thank you. Just a thought on the discussion about quilt fabric sagging … Cottons and linens both absorb and release moisture to roughly 10% of their own weight. This causes stretching (sagging) and shrinkage. Pre-shrinking the fabrics by boiling them in plain water before fitting them as part of the quilt would make them more dimensionally stable and minimise the sagging problem. Just a thought and worth a try!

Rusty
Reply

Excellent idea, Jen. Also, that ability to absorb water is one reason I prefer to use fabric instead of wire . . . the whole system can absorb more moisture.

Anthony Planakis
Reply

Hey Rusty,

Just dropping a line on the sagging problem. I install a 3/4 x 3/4 x 15 1/8 inch sleeper across the width of the quilt box. After installing and stretching the canvas (#10), I staple the canvas on this sleeper with zero sag!!!! Works great!!!!!!

Tonybees

Rusty
Reply

I’m definitely going to try this.

Kathy Hattori
Reply

Dear Rusty,

We made a really nice quilt for our hive, but it appears as if we also made a fatal error in how we stacked the hive layers due to our lack of beekeeping experience. We didn’t use baggie feeders and instead made a big granulated sugar mountain on top of the inner cover, which was just above the upper deep frames. Well, it’s more like a flat layer of granulated sugar, but it’s about an inch thick; the inner cover opening was left uncovered. The reason for this method was our beekeeper fed the bees this way last year. Then the quilt went on top of that. The hive was two deeps, an inner cover and a telescoping cover.

Everything seemed fine until the recent cold snap (we’re in Seattle). A few days ago, we noticed that our hive was pretty quiet, and on inspection, discovered that the bees had died. After re-reading your post, I think we made two mistakes. The first was that we did not remove our solid hive base and replace it with a wire bottom, which impeded airflow. The second was that the dense sugar layer blocked the moisture from rising through to the the quilt, preventing the wicking action. When we inspected the hive, it was wet inside.

So, a question: what would be the best way to feed the bees next winter? Should we put the food in the form of patties or baggies on top of the frames on the bottom level so they can reach it? Or should we put them on top of the upper deep frames under the inner cover? Your thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks, Kathy

Rusty
Reply

Kathy,

You can’t assume your bees died because of the moisture problem, but it may have contributed. The hive may also have lost their queen, had a virus, or experienced any number of health problems, but certainly wet bees are going to have a harder time than dry ones. It is hard to diagnose a dead hive.

That said, I agree that you were probably blocking the airflow through the hive. The bottom drawer, the sugar layer, and the inner cover could all contribute to that. Read “Physics for beekeepers: How does ventilation increase honey production?“. The context is a little different because it is talking about drying nectar, but the physics is the same: without airflow the moisture cannot be removed.

I make sure there are no solid surfaces between the bees and the quilt. If you want to use an inner cover, use it above the quilt. As for sugar, in the winter I like to use either sugar cakes or granulated sugar in shallow containers. You can use paper plates or something similar. I usually put two of these on the top bars of the top brood box which allows plenty of room for air to move between and around them. These go in a feeder rim and I put the quilt directly on top of that. Bees will move up in winter, so you always want to put the feed above the cluster, not in it or below it.

Evan
Reply

I built and added quilt boxes to two Langstroth hives this fall. I was checking them yesterday and adding sugar cakes when I noticed that the bottom of one of the quilt boxes had some water drops on it – when I took it off, I saw that most of the canvas fabric was moldy. The bees seem to be ok, and I’ve removed it from the hive.

When I looked at the second hive, everything seemed to be fine with the blanket box.
I’m a bit stumped why the moisture would have stopped at the bottom of the quilt box on the one hive – do you have any ideas? Not enough ventilation at the top of that hive perhaps?

Rusty
Reply

Evan,

I’ve never seen water drops accumulate on my canvas, although I have seen it get a bit moldy. You are most likely correct about the ventilation. Do you have holes in the quilt box that allow for cross ventilation?

Another possibility is that the canvas may have sizing on it, which prevents it from absorbing moisture easily. Different manufactures use different types and amounts of sizing, which aids in handling fabric but also makes it more water-resistant. In any case, the mold won’t hurt anything. Try increasing the top ventilation.

Norton
Reply

I was not sold on the canvas idea. They use canvas to make tents. I want moisture to get through to the wood chips easily. That’s why I used window screen. You can see my comments in another post below.

Rusty
Reply

Norton,

I switched from canvas to metal for durability, but in the three or four years I used canvas, it worked just fine. I was actually hesitant to change because it worked so well, but the screen seems to work too.

duncan
Reply

I have made quilts and am very satisfied. I used black metal screen door mesh, which is great because you can see through it and perform a quick inspection. You must sift fine sawdust out. By having a couple cross members for more support and making it out of 1×8’s you can also top feed through the mesh with mason jars. Next time i make one i will make a separate chamber for the mason jar to prevent wood shavings from getting sticky and i would like to block a little bit off for a top entrance too.

Eve Sheridan
Reply

We used screen mesh (as did Duncan, above, but not metal), same as for windows and screen doors, under the canvas fabric on the quilts we made for top bar hives; It keeps the bees from propolizing, it seems, and lets air through. I am going to follow the idea here for my hexagonal Warré, with the vent holes on the sides. Thanks!

James
Reply

As the condensation happens where the cold roof meets warm air, what effect would it have to insulate outside the hive, e.g a thick layer of expanded polystyrene fixed to the top? So the roof itself stays at internal hive temperature and doesn’t attract condensation. And maybe a jacket of water tank insulation round the outside? Are absorbent materials inside the hive a big advantage? Clearly ventilation and entrance holes would be left clear. Also, does a sloping inner surface help by allowing any drips to run down the side, rather than falling on the bees in the middle?

I have had my bees for a total of four weeks now, so what do I know? They are in a cedar hive, building and laying and bringing in pollen, seeming pretty happy. The next job is to pull them through the winter, so I’m doing all the research I can.

This website is hugely helpful. Thank you.

Rusty
Reply

James,

Yes, lots of people wrap their hives in insulation, especially in the northern states. People also use inner foam insulation, and yes roofs that slope re-direct the drips. There are many, many posts here on ventilation, condensation, overwintering, gabled roofs, etc. Use the search box or, better, use Google by typing in the search term, then the site name like this: ventilation site:honeybeesuite.com.

Mike P
Reply

We use dry pine needles, pine straw in our smoker, and have far more than we need for it. Any issues with using pine straw instead of wood chips? We can dry them in the spring, and use them to smoke with first, if they do mold, or get overly damp. Best to sort out sticks and pine cones, and leave straw as clean as possible, or will the bees mind? Free smoker fuel, and insulation possibly. Been hanging drying even more in garage rafters in burlap feed sacs for over a year. I made a smoker fuel bin from a 15 gallon food grade barrel, dremeled in door, hinges drilled after hinge side cut. Easy to take to hives, to refuel if needed, and not leave a trail or have to go back for more. We use less than half of one of those full in a year.

Mark
Reply

Hi Rusty. Wonderful website, but I was confused by your responses dated December 10, 2011 at 8:33 am and December 22, 2012 at 9:24 am. In the former you said you have used cedar shavings, but then switched to pine in the latter post. Was the cedar aroma offensive to your bees? Thanks.

Rusty
Reply

Mark,

The shavings I use depends on what is available at the feed store at the moment. Remember, there are many manufacturers of cedar beehives. They wouldn’t be in business if cedar had any negative effect on bees. If fact, feral colonies are often found in cedar trees.

Bill Maes
Reply

I purchased the 1 5/8″ (2″) Mountain Rims:
– Installed an interior cross bar
– Drilled four each 3/4″ holes in each section (division of cross bar)
– Cut and stapled synthetic window screen material on the bottom and each hole
– Purchase wood chips from Petco and loosely filled both sections
– Placed the revamped Mountain Rims on top of the brood chamber
– Installed the telescoping lid

One day later (today) I decided to check if the ladies had eaten at the synthetic screen material and I did not seen any chewing. I will check in one weeks time.

To my happiness, the top layer of chips was moist to the touch and the new box appears to be doing it’s job, keeping the moisture away from the brood.

Thanks to the author of this idea and to others who tried.

I have had my success and will shout from the mountain to my fellow beekeepers.

Rusty
Reply

Bill,

So glad to hear it’s working!

Anthony
Reply

Rusty,

I can’t say enough about the moisture quilts and can’t thank you enough for bringing to our attention!!!! The addition of these quilts to my hives here in NY, resulted in a record 400 lb plus harvest from my four hives!!!!!

All my hives made it through last winter with over 100 lb (honey not sugar) stores!!!

I used the #10 cotton canvas (painters tarp), constructed a mini super out of 1×3 pine, cross member support down center, stapled tarp, drilled 2″ holes (screened) and back-filled with horse bedding pine shavings from Tractor Supply, huge bag for $14.00 enough for many seasons!!!! Petco shavings way overpriced . . . bought once, never again. Their shavings needed multiple bags! The amount you spend you can buy 2 40lb bags which will last!!!!!!! Depending on how many hives and how deep your quilts are, you get way more bang for your buck from Tractor Supply!!!!!

TONYBEES

Rusty
Reply

Thanks for writing, Tony! I love hearing good news about the moisture quilts. I still think they are the biggest improvement I’ve ever made to my hives. They make overwintering (almost) easy.

Nick
Reply

Rusty,

I’ve been puttering with a quilt box variation for a couple of seasons. I won’t say it is a simple variation, but there are some nice things to be said for it.. maybe. :) I’ll see about getting some pictures to follow on with. The latest version description follows.

I made boxes deeper, almost a medium at 6-1/4″, from western red cedar. On the bottom of the box I glued a shim/frame that protrudes into the box 1/4″. (In another reference, 3/16″ thick, 1″, wide mounted flush to the outside of the box.) The ventilation holes are 1-1/4″ about 2″ down from the top edge, drilled upward into the box at 20-degrees to limit the precipitation ingress. I put one hole on each face of the box but just a couple inches away from the corner to, hopefully, minimize precipitation ingestion.

The quilt fabric (burlap) is mounted on a pine frame, stretched and glued. I used coffee bean bags picked up free from a local restaurant, picked the seam on the edges and had easily enough material for the 6 ‘frames’ I needed. To combat the ‘sag thing’ I made a frame from baltic birch plywood strips that are notched to rest on the fabric frame’s top surface. I was going to stitch the fabric up to the ‘beams’, however, I wound up just gluing the fabric to them. Titebond III woodworking glue seems to work really well for this.

I did notice that the burlap on some of these frames seemed to have loosened, so earlier this evening I gave both faces a decent brushing of a thin water/flour paste (a bit over a tablespoon to ~1/3 cup of water, per side).

We’ll see if it dries up tight, but currently the burlap has tightened up enough that it will vibrate from a finger tap. There may be more to the flour paste wash than keeping the bees off of it??

At any rate, I’m targeting a tight fabric screen held at ‘bee space’ dimensions.

Nick,
Kent WA

Rusty
Reply

Nick,

This sounds really cool. If you have some pics, I could do a little write-up about your version. People are always fascinated with the quilts and variations on them, so I know the interest would definitely be there. You can e-mail photos to me: rusty[at]honeybeesuite[dot]com. Thanks!

Nick
Reply

Rusty,
Just checking to see if you did get the photo links for the quilt box construction, sent on Dec.14, subject line “Photo links”?

Nick
Kent WA

Rusty
Reply

Nick,

Yes! I’ll contact you by e-mail.

Gerry
Reply

Outstanding. Just when we thought that beehives had reached their developmental limit (or at least nearly) you come up with this great idea. Well done.

Jeannie Saum
Reply

Great idea! Have never heard of this, but with winter loses up, will be making these for our hives!

Rusty
Reply

Jeannie,

These changed my overwintering success drastically. I swear by them.

Phillip
Reply

I’m building a bunch of moisture quilts this weekend. Until now I’ve simply placed a piece of hard insulation over the inner cover and I haven’t had any problems with moisture. But I checked my hives this week and all of them had moisture in them. Some were fairly dry but one or two were virtually soaked inside. We’ve had rain and high winds that could have driven the rain into the hives at a 90° angle, I suppose, but I think it might be the new location where I put my hives this year: lots of fog.

I’m curious to see if the moisture quilts can pull away all the moisture that’s already built up inside the hives — in a foggy climate, heavy duty North Atlantic Newfoundland fog. If they work in this kind of climate, they’ll work anywhere.

Rusty
Reply

Phillip,

I’m curious to know how it works. Let me know.

Phillip
Reply

Turns out I didn’t have to do much work. I already had a bunch of my patented ventilator rims banging around…

http://goo.gl/rdQAI

…and I just added some screen to the bottom (instead of canvas). My variant has a few more extra holes. Hopefully that won’t hurt it. I also have a rim underneath (with an entrance) to make room for sugar feeding.

I’m not sure if anyone’s asked this question yet (lots of comments to this post), but couldn’t a moisture quilt (the screened version anyway) be used for ventilation in the summer as well? Just dump out the chips and place it over the inner cover?

Rusty
Reply

Hey Phillip,

Yes, that’s exactly what I do. Just dump them and put them back on, especially since I went to screen instead of canvas.

I’m about to run a three-part post on variations to the moisture quilt with photos. One is of my own changes and two are from other regular readers. If you would like to add your version, I would love to run that as well. I’m hoping these variations will inspire those who are unsure.

Phillip
Reply

I’m planning to make a few more today from scratch. I’ll send you some pics in case you can use them.

Rusty
Reply

That would be great, Phillip. Thank you.

Norton Baum
Reply

I made my quilts out of Baltic birch plywood I had around from other projects. I put one center cross member in. I used only aluminium screen on the bottom. I put a 1/4″ shim on top the screen so that I had a bit of head space between the screen and the hive. I was concerned that the screen might condense moisture on it so I took a piece of the screen and held it over a boiling pot of water. It felt damp but never condensed enough moisture to drip. I used 3″ of wood chip bedding from Petco. The frames were approx 6″ deep with 4 vent holes that were screened. It’s -4 degrees here so I’m not going to check how things are working for a while.

Rusty
Reply

Norton,

That was an ingenious idea, holding the screen over boiling water. I always wondered if metal screen would condense the water and let it drip down, but I never thought of testing it like that. Good job.

Jave
Reply

Are you using regular window screen mesh, or a larger mesh? I went from a thin material which sagged even with a cross member, to a lightweight canvas material. And I have a fiber pet bedding which I hoped would suck out more of the moisture. I’m not quite sure about how it’s working.

Also wrapped my hives for the first time, in the dead of winter, as we are experiencing the first -15 to 0 weather in years. (Then we have warm-ups or sunshine and I’m afraid the poor girls are going to cook.)

Norton
Reply

This is an update on the quilts I made. We have has a real bad winter her in the Chicago area. Many below zero days, some -20. I was concerned about how my bees were getting along. On several of the days it was not that cold I took off the telescoping top and dug into the wood chips. I never felt any moisture. Then last week it got into the 40’s. I dug into the chips again and they were quite wet for the first 1 to 1 1/2 inches. You could see the chips had absorbed water because of the color change.

Last year I lost two of my 4 hives in March. I am now thinking that the real problem with moisture occurs in the spring when the temps moderate some. I am no expert but my experience thus far tells me this. I did open the hives today to add some winter feed patties just to be sure they had food. The bees looked great. A good ball and no moisture on the top bars like I had seen in other years. Right now I’m sold on these top quilts.

Rusty
Reply

Norton,

Yet another convert; that is great!

You are correct about moderate temperatures. Warm air holds more water than cold air. That is why summers feel humid and winters feel dry. That is why a warm green house can be absolutely saturated inside. So even a few degrees increase in the outside temperature means the air will hold more moisture. Then, when it hits the cold underside of the hive top, all that moisture condenses and falls back down on the bees . . . or the quilt. Good observation on your part.

Norton
Reply

I am using regular window screen.

cgrey8
Reply

I live in the Atlanta area. In the summer, it gets quite hot here, so I plan on running a screened bottom board (this will be my first year having bees). And a screened top board would also work well too particularly since I want to restrict entrance to the hive to the bottom (no top entrance).

However we also do get some fairly frigid temps, fortunately just not sustained frigid temps. However cold is cold and short periods of cold can still produce condensation. So a moisture quilt just makes a LOT of sense. But is there a chance to combine the functionality of a screened top board and moisture quilt together into 1 device?

So I want to propose the thought of using hardware cloth mesh in the bottom instead of canvas. In my head, I simply don’t put wood chips in the box in the summer and I have a nice ventilation through the hive. But as the temps drop, fill the box with chips. The chips will act as insulation, moisture capture, and slow the flow of air through the hive (along with an entrance reducer and solid bottom board on the bottom of the hive).

My questions:
1. Is there a compelling reason why canvas is used instead of mesh? I get that canvas will hold more water thus being a final defense against rain in the hive. But it sounds like the wood chips do a pretty good job of that to start with. Rusty’s mentioned a few times that only the top 1/4-1/2″ of her chips are actually moist with the bottom chips being perfectly dry.

2. Are small wood pieces falling on the bees really that big of a deal? I get that it’s not ideal, but does it hurt them? Or is it just work for them to have to clean the pieces out of the hive when it warms? Keep in mind, even in the dead of winter, we get 50-60 degree days inter-mixed with sub-freezing days. As many of you know, Atlanta got hit was a whole 2″ of snow which shutdown the city. Quit snickering. But yesterday & today…50s. Tomorrow, 60s even though each night it gets back below freezing. Point being, the bees will get plenty of maintenance & cleansing flight opportunities through the winter even when we are getting nights in the teens. So I wouldn’t think the effort of having to take pieces of falling wood would be that big of a chore. But I’m a newbie so I’m asking…

3. We commonly get hard rains in heavy winds. If the telescoping cover doesn’t cover the holes sufficiently, I may need to put some kind of rain guards on the telescoping cover. Has anybody had issues with “horizontal” rain causing wetting on their moisture quilt?

4. Does anybody see any major issue with what I’m thinking given my location and intention?

Rusty
Reply

Chris,

I think most of your questions are answered in the post “Tweaking my moisture quilts” and the 30-some comments that follow. The subject of that post is that I changed from using canvas to hardware cloth.

Now I place the canvas on top of the hardware cloth to prevent bits from dropping down. Is this a big problem? I think it depends. Often in spring the debris on my bottom boards is quite thick with dead bees, bits of wax, and other hive junk. Essentially the bees keep a tunnel open through it so they can get out. I cannot see the point of making this debris pile even deeper by adding wood chips to the mix.

If I get a warm day I sometimes pull out the entrance reducer and, using a stick, pull out a lot of the junk. But I don’t always have a warm day, or else I forget completely. So for me, I will stick with the piece of fabric because it is working great.

And, yes, in spring I dump the wood chips and use the quilts for ventilation. When they had cloth bottoms I turned them upside down but that allowed room for comb building. Now that they are screened bottoms, I will just dump them, remove the feeder rims, and use them in place of screened inner covers.

cgrey8
Reply

Perfect! I’m feel reaffirmed that I was on the right track in my thinking. Thanks for the response and I’ll read over the thread you linked to for additional ideas and content.

Thanks again…

Phillip
Reply

I made a few moisture quilts by stapling window screen to the bottom of my ventilator rims. I hammered together a few more with wood from some old baseboards. As it turned out, the design of each moisture quilt was slightly different from the other. Some were a couple inches high with only one ventilation hole on each side. Some were four inches high with two or three ventilation holes on each side. I didn’t worry about the screen sagging down because all the moisture quilts had feeder rims underneath to raise them up. All the feeder rims provided an upper entrance except for one. Bottomline: the design and installation of my moisture quilts is all over the map.

We had severe cold, then lots of rain, wind and fog for most of December, and my hives got soaked inside. They were a mess. A month after I added the moisture quilts — after another month of cold, wet, windy weather — all the hives were dry inside. The moisture inside the hives had been wicked away. I was slightly astonished. I used to put a piece of hard insulation over my hives in the winter because it worked well enough and was dead easy to do. But the extra effort it takes to make the moisture quilts is worth it, because is a relief to know that even under the coldest, wettest conditions, the moisture quilts can keep the hives dry and cosy. One less thing for me to worry about.

My data set is still too small to jump to conclusions, but my initial results are pretty damn impressive. Thanks for passing this one along, Rusty.

Rusty
Reply

Phillip,

That is really good news. I’ve been really impressed with them as well. My hives used to be soaked all winter long; there was condensation under the roof that dripped on the bars, down the sides, and directly onto the bees. It all disappeared with the quilts. But what I think is really neat is that there is still enough moisture to allow the bees to eat hard candy. Some moisture condenses on the sugar, but the excess is captured by the wood chips. Sweet deal.

Karine Pouliquen
Reply

Rusty,
What a great reference blog! I jut love it:)
We had a very cold and long winter in Minnesota, and I lost all my bees. The hives were full and heavy with honey and pollen, but the bees could not get to it…I saw some bees frozen only 2 inches from their beautiful honey.

If you are using a moisture quilt (new for me for next winter) can you still place a candy board? and where do you put it in the hive in the fall then?
Thank you,
Karine

Rusty
Reply

Karine,

I put a 3-inch deep feeder rim (a shallow super or eke) between the top brood box and the moisture quilt. I put hard candy or granulated sugar in the feeder. Enough of the hive moisture lands on the hard candy to make it palatable, and the rest is absorbed by the quilt. I’ve used this system a number of years with great success.

Norton Baum
Reply

Here’s my results after putting moisture quilts on my 4 hives last fall. After losing 50% of my hives each of the last two years I lost ZERO this year! We has a really bad winter here in Chicago but the hives have all come through it with flying colors. A friend who had 30 hives last fall has only 5 left now. He did something wrong. In any event I’am sold This will be a standard fall addition for me from now on.

Rusty
Reply

Norton,

I’ve heard many similar reports. I’m truly a believer.

tyler harvey
Reply

I used quilt boards on my Langstroth hives this year and found a lot of mold upon inspection in early spring. I can’t tell if the moisture overwhelmed the wood chips due to lack of ventilation or if it condensed on the bottom of the canvas. Other thoughts are the canvas is too finely woven although if you hold it up to the light you can see through it, so I’m skeptical of that. I did use shallow supers with three to four inches of wood chips and it was a terribly long, cold winter. I’m leaning toward inadequate ventilation as the reason for my semi-failure.

Any thoughts?

Rusty
Reply

Tyler,

I agree that it was probably lack of ventilation. Although I don’t know how much ventilation you did have, I know this system won’t work without air flowing up through the chips. If the air doesn’t (or can’t) move, the moisture will just condense any old place. I don’t think the weave has anything to do with it; air doesn’t require much space to move around. I wrote a lot about the movement of moisture-laden air and the post, Physics for beekeepers: how does ventilation increase honey production. The processes in winter are very similar.

tyler harvey
Reply

Thank you for the reply

william allen
Reply

I read where Mr. Walt Wright used a hive body and a shallow, not sure if he used one or two shallows for the winter. He did not recommend two hive bodies. I would like your opinion.

Thanks,
William Allen

Rusty
Reply

William,

My opinion is that the configuration of the hive depends on where you live (your climate) and the size of the colony. Mr. Wright kept bees in Tennessee. I keep bees in the coastal Pacific Northwest. I don’t know where yours are, but it makes a world of difference.

For the past few years I have been overwintering in triple deeps, not because of the cold but because our rainy season is so long (about nine months) that even if it is warm outside, the honey bees may not be able to fly. So basically they need nine months worth of food or they need to be fed.

Even then, if a colony is smaller than average, I give it a smaller hive. All colonies are different, just as all families are different, so I don’t like rules for how to house them.

My opinion: The number of deeps, mediums, shallows or whatever should be determined by the needs of your particular colony. It should not be based on what was successful in some other apiary in some other part of the country.

Kate
Reply

Where did you find 2 inch supers for making your quilt boxes?

Rusty
Reply

Kate,

I got them from Walter Kelley. They were designed for Mountain Camp feeders.

cgrey8
Reply

My first set of screened top covers I bought from a bee equipment supplier on the Internet. But I made the top covers I plan to use for next year’s additional hives. I used 1″x3″ pine wood nailed together and screened with #8 screen across the bottom and vent holes. Since they go on the top of the hive, I wasn’t concerned about how much weight they’d need to hold. They basically just need to hold the weight of my telescoping cover. I did paint them since the wood is cheap pine, not a higher quality wood. They weren’t difficult to make at all even considering that I’m a fairly terrible carpenter.

JanePeters
Reply

Hi Rusty,

Well, it’s that time of the year here in the interior of BC. Frost, frost, and heavy frost……. I am going to introduce moisture boards this winter. Can you tell me what kind of canvas you used for your boards. Many thanks.

Jane

Rusty
Reply

Jane,

Thanks for the reminder. I’m getting ready for my annual camping trip to Chilliwack. I will pack accordingly.

I went to the fabric store and asked for heavy canvas. They had several different weights, and I purchased the heaviest they had in stock. Since then, I’ve switched to using #8 hardware cloth, so you might want to consider that as well. It doesn’t sag as much, it lasts longer, and it worked just as well.

Shane
Reply

I made a bee quilt last fall out of a honey super box, some extra upholstery fabric and wood shavings. It worked great. Mid-winter I took a peek and the shavings were damp an in up from the bottom. The colony came out if the winter roaring and we had a really good year. Thanks for the great idea. I wrap the hive in tar paper to aid in solar heat gain, but otherwise, that’s all I do. I’m in central Ontario, near Peterborough – pretty harsh winter this past one. Cheers!

Kelton Temby
Reply

Hi Rusty,

I really, really enjoy your site! Thank you for your humour, as well as you service to new beekeepers as the kind explainer of so many things!

I started beekeeping about a month ago, and have had many amazing adventures including rescues, merges and meeting some great people in the Santa Barbara Bee Keeper Association! I’ve now read through all of your “how to’s” and many of your other posts.

Just a quick note – after building my own hives the past couple of weeks, which are sealed with melted beeswax mixed with canola oil – today I completed and installed my 2nd hand-made moisture quilt! Noticing the similarities to the screened top cover, I actually made a dual purpose adaption which is both a ventilator rim, screened inner cover, and moisture quilt! I just pushed away my wood shavings around the ventilator holes. This has already greatly helped on the hot days of late summer (less ‘exiting’ the hive when hot) on my first hive. Now both hives are happy and healthy and ready for more weather conditions!

What a wonderful applied science animal husbandry hobby this beekeeping thing is!

Thank you!

Kelton

Rusty
Reply

Kelton,

I now do that as well. I empty my moisture quilts in summer and use them as ventilated inner covers.

Cherie
Reply

Rusty,
Do you think burlap would work instead of the canvas? I have lots of it and would prefer to use that rather than purchase something else … but only if it would be a good substitute.
Thanks!
Cherie

Rusty
Reply

Cherie,

Yes, burlap would work fine. In fact, the original instructions I got from Warre beekeepers said to use burlap. Since I didn’t have any, I used canvas.

Robin
Reply

Thanks for the how to and pics! I’m thinking I need to try these here. Our winter temps can really fluctuate here in southern Indiana. Last year they swung 100 degrees over just a few days [No survivors], but a 50 or 60 degree swing is more common with lows getting down to 10-15 below zero.

In the past I’ve left the sticky boards in the bottoms of my hives over winter to help cut down on draft from the screened bottom boards. Do you leave your bottom screens wide open in the winter?

Rusty
Reply

Robin,

Yes, I leave my screens wide open, but we do not have wild temperature swings like you do. Basically, it’s 40 degrees F and raining all winter long. Sometimes it gets down in the low 20s but not often.

Robin
Reply

Thanks for the follow-up! I’m in my third year and I know less and less every day about bees. This location is turning out to be a bit challenging, but my gut says I can figure it out with patience – and sage advice from people like you. Thank you!

Randy
Reply

Rusty, I am going to build a couple quilt boxes tonight and place them on my hives tomorrow (I hope) my burning question is do I eliminate the inner cover and top entrance or place the quilt box on top of them? I looked for pictures with them installed and all I see is the quilt box directly on the brood box and the telescoping cover on that.

Rusty
Reply

Randy,

You want lots of airflow through the wood chips. The inner cover, with it’s one little hole, would impede that, so you don’t want it below the quilt. If you put the inner cover above the quilt, it doesn’t do any good because it just acts as part of the telescoping cover. So, I just don’t use one.

If you want a top entrance, I recommend you use an Imirie shim (with entrance) directly below the quilt. Or if you are using a feeder rim below the quilt, you can drill a hole through that as an upper entrance. Or many people drill an entrance hole right through the brood box, near the top.

Matt
Reply

Hey Rusty,

I saw that you mentioned a small entrance and that you had your screened bottom board open. I think your winters are more temperate than mine (I’m in western Montana). Our temps often hit single digits in the winter, and sometimes into the negatives. I just switched to screened bottom boards last year. If using quilting boards, should I leave the screens open? My instinct is to close them up or possibly leave a 2″ gap open. In fact the more I think about it the more I like the idea of a small 2-3″ gap. What do you think? Enclosed SBB, open SBB, or small opening in SBB (if using smallest entrance possible).

Thanks so much for your blog, time, and humor!

Rusty
Reply

Hi Matt,

All beekeeping is local and indeed your winters are much colder than mine. I think the idea of a small opening under the screened bottom board is a perfect idea. It will allow airflow (thus removal of moist air) without overdoing it. With a quilt, you already have a top opening for the moist air to leave, and a thick quilt will slow down the air flow so it’s not like a wind tunnel through your hive. I like it.

Monica
Reply

I seem to be having a weird problem – or at least one I have not had to deal with yet.

I have several hives that have the bee quilts boxes added to them. I am slowly adding one to all my hives. I noticed the hives that have a quilt are stronger and bigger than the ones without.

Recently I added one to a hive that I noticed an unusual amount of condensation build up on the inner lid. (I think the wood used to build the super was a bit green – that super has warped all to heck!) The bee girls in the other hives really don’t bother the quilts. However with the newest quilt added to the problem hive, the girls are going to town on it. I was standing a couple feet away from the hive talking and I could hear a noise like they where trying to chew through something.

I walked over popped the lid and then the quilt. Sure enough maybe a hundred or so girls where just going at it.
None of the other hives behaved that way. And I made the quilt exactly the same way. It’s a all natural organic cotton, unbleached, and thick like denim.

So I don’t know what to do. I don’t understand why these girls are upset about the addition. I put a little bit of lemon grass oil on the quilt cotton before putting the quilt back on. I guess was hoping the smell would make them like it.

What should I have done in the beginning? So do I take it back off? Do I leave it on for a few days and hope they stop chewing it? Can they kill the hive by destroying the cotton? I don’t know if the fine fragments can suffocate the brood or something. I don’t know what to do. Alls I know is that they are loudly declaring they are irked about it being there.

Thanks so much.

Rusty
Reply

Monica,

Have you checked to see they have lots of winter stores? I find that bees tend to chew more when they are hungry, so check that first. The other thing you can do is use hardware cloth or metal screening instead of fabric. In the meantime, the cotton fabric won’t hurt anything. It will just drop through the hive or the bees will cart it outside. That’s the reason for using 100% cotton . . . so there’s nothing toxic in there.

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