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 moisture 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.
Confusion about how they work
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 moisture 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.
The chips stay dry
My original plan was to change the wood chips whenever the moisture 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.
Please see my update to this post: “Tweaking my moisture quilts” Also, for a candy board feeder that can be used with a moisture quilt, see “A no-cook candy board recipe for wintering bees.”
RT @HoneyBeeSuite: [New Post] How to make a moisture quilt for a Langstroth hive https://www.honeybeesuite.com/?p=2751 #beekeeping #bees
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!
RT @HoneyBeeSuite: [New Post] How to make a moisture quilt for a Langstroth hive https://www.honeybeesuite.com/?p=2751 #beekeeping #bees
You’re going to sell these, right?
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.
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.
Could you please advise what type of canvass material
you used for the ‘quilts’. Thanks
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.
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.
Good idea. I have trouble finding cheap canvas.
Could you use old cotton tee shirts?
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.
Where can I read more about keeping “Alaskan” bees?
What goes first, the inner cover or the quilt?
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.
How do the bees get out for a cleansing flight this way then?
The regular way, through their front opening. Nothing is changed down there.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!!
Good tip about canvas at Home Depot; I’ve been looking for some.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Thanks for the moisture quilt plans. Here’s my modified form: (http://strathconabeekeepers.blogspot.com/2011/10/moisture-quilt-insulated-hive-cover.html). Is there really a need for the inner cover if you have the moisture quilt? Great site! Thanks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You are right about the wire hardware cloth . . . thanks for that.
What could you use in place of canvas if it’s not readily available?
I now use hardware cloth, but you can use screen or any kind of fabric. As long air moves through it and bees don’t, it will work.
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?
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.
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!
That’s great! I’m glad it worked out okay.
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
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.
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,
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.
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! 🙂
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
Thanks, Kyle. All the variations are instructive. I’ve switched to using 1/8-inch hardware cloth.
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!
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,
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.
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 🙂
Lots of hives are made of cedar including two of my Warre’s. The girls seem to love it.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!!!!!!
I’m definitely going to try this.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So glad to hear it’s working!
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!!!!!
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.
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.
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!
Just checking to see if you did get the photo links for the quilt box construction, sent on Dec.14, subject line “Photo links”?
Yes! I’ll contact you by e-mail.
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.
Great idea! Have never heard of this, but with winter loses up, will be making these for our hives!
These changed my overwintering success drastically. I swear by them.
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.
I’m curious to know how it works. Let me know.
Turns out I didn’t have to do much work. I already had a bunch of my patented ventilator rims banging around…
…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?
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.
I’m planning to make a few more today from scratch. I’ll send you some pics in case you can use them.
That would be great, Phillip. Thank you.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
I am using regular window screen.
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).
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
I’ve heard many similar reports. I’m truly a believer.
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.
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.
Thank you for the 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.
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.
Where did you find 2 inch supers for making your quilt boxes?
I got them from Walter Kelley. They were designed for Mountain Camp feeders.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
I now do that as well. I empty my moisture quilts in summer and use them as ventilated inner covers.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
I have had a serious problem with condensation inside my lang hives this year I have made quilts using the same concept as you have presented. Mine are 65mm with three 150mm saw slots in each of the four sides and polyester fly mesh in place of your canvas. I am using cane straw as the fill in place of shavings though I think the wood shavings will be better – I will visit a sawmill to get shavings for the next season. I will also fit spacers under the lid to give it a slope to the side to help dispose of the condensed water. The initial trial of 13 hives has been very successful and I will fit the final six quilts later today.
Further, I may leave the quilts on during the summer to equalise the temp. I may also fit lightweight ‘painters cloth’ above the polyester to eliminate droplets if warranted.
Thanks David. I love hearing of all the variations to the moisture quilts.
Could you give me the dimensions for making the mountain camp rims please?
They are the same length and width as your bee boxes. Mine are 2.5 inches deep, but many beekeepers prefer them a bit deeper, like 4 to 6 inches. The small depth works for me because our winters are not very cold. If you live in a colder climate, you might want to go deeper. Some folks just use a shallow super and then add the ventilation ports.
What do you think about using light fiberglass screen, rather than canvas, to cover the quilt boxes?
Thank you. Great blog!
Honestly, I would be skeptical because the bees chew it. The glass fibers may be harmful to the bees’ tissues. I would go for something that won’t hurt them to chew, such as unbleached and untreated canvas, or something they can’t chew, such as hardware cloth.
Hi Rusty. This is exactly what I was looking for, thanks! I have some leftover burlap and will probably use this in place of the canvas. One question though. If I place the outer cover over the 2 inch super won’t it cover the ventilation holes? I tried making Vivaldi boards this summer and encountered this. Lol
On my hives there is a gap between the inside of the outer cover and the quilt box. It’s about 1/2-inch on either side. This leaves plenty of room for air to get up there and pass through the wood chips. I like this arrangement because it keeps rain from blowing in.
However, if you don’t like that idea, you can use deeper quilt boxes and drill the holes closer to the bottom edge so they are fully exposed.
Just found this thread today and I have to try it. I notice a few concerns with moister blowing into the four vent holes and soaking the chips.
Has anyone thought to try hardware cloth the bottom, fill the box with chips, and nail 1/4″ shims to the top of the box before setting the telescopic cover onto it? The bees would be blocked in by the hardware cloth from below. The 1/4″ is too small to act as an upper entrance, luring bees into the chips after a cleansing flight. And the 1/4″ gap is protected from wind blown rain by the overhanging telescopic cover. The 1/4″ space X the perimeter of the box adds up to enough venting I would think. Pass the slide rule, please.
Would it work, or …………..???
Where I live we have a nine-month rainy season. So far, I’ve never had a problem with rain blowing into the vent holes, although mine are covered partway with the telescoping cover. I just don’t see it as a big issue. And if some rain does get in, it will quickly dry due to the cross ventilation right above it.
Rusty – Great blog, and thank you for putting the time in to share all this great information.
I am concerned that with the canvas stretched near the edge of the box, water may wick into the canvas while running down the side of the quilt box body. What has your experience been with this occurring? I’m in western Oregon, where we often receive a lot of rain. I keep wide plywood covers on top of each hive, covered in tar paper and secured with a cider block, but some water does tend to blow in even on the upper components.
Well Brian, I have a lot of rain here in western Washington as well. I’ve never had a problem with the canvas, even in those hives with no rain covers. There is usually some wicking around the edge, maybe 3/4 of in inch toward the inside, but it quickly dries due to the heat from the cluster and the ventilation ports.
That said, why not use 1/8-inch hardware cloth instead? I’ve gone to that in recent years because it lasts longer than the canvas which occasionally gets chewed by the bees. The bees don’t chew wire and it doesn’t absorb moisture.
I just finished building a hive quilt yesterday. To solve the sagging problem, I used #8 hardware cloth stapled to a recessed frame inside of the main frame. I then stapled landscape fabric (which wicks moisture and holds wood chips in). My question is this: Do I need to staple another piece of fabric to the other side, so it’s like a wood chip sandwich, or can I just set the quilt on the hive, wood chip-side up? Thanks for this valuable blog ~~ I too, follow it daily and enjoy all the stories/advice you have to offer!!
I would leave the wood chips exposed on the top so they have a better chance of staying dry . . . like an open-face sandwich.
Thank you for all the good information.
I am a new beekeeper and this is my first winter. I have 3 hives in eastern Washington.
I am building my quilts and place 2 1-inch hole in the front and 2 holes in the back of the quilt. Does it make a difference which sides the vent holes are located?
No, it doesn’t matter as long as the holes are on opposite sides so the air can pass through. Yours sound fine.
How about the shavings from my chainsaw for the quilt. I have a lot of it
Perfect. Just use a tight enough weave that the shavings don’t rain down on the bees. Like maybe use canvas instead of hardware cloth. I don’t know if shavings raining down on bees would be detrimental or not, but they might feel compelled to clean them up which would waste energy. Just speculating.
The only concern I would have with the chainsaw shavings is ‘ if ‘ it was contaminated with a lot of bar oil. If it was, would this effect the health of the beez threw the winter?
A little oil won’t hurt. You don’t want a lot because oily shavings wouldn’t absorb moisture. But the bees don’t come in contact with it and the hive air flow pattern directs the fumes out of the top of the hive. Good judgment plays a role here.
I built moisture quilts last year following your instructions, and enjoyed seeing them absorbing moisture, and keeping my bees dry. The material I used was from an old screen door, so a finer gage mesh than the hardware cloth recommended. It ended up sagging in places. More recently I was surprised to find my bees had actually propolized all of the mesh to the woodchips to fully seal the quilt.
The bees seem to be saying they don’t like this much ventilation, and maybe this is because I have screened bottom boards, and the hives are 1ft off the ground. I’m going to replace the soft mesh with hardware cloth and keep an eye on whether they propolise that too.
Ill out cloth on top of the screen, for the chain saw shavings. There is very little oil in it.
I know you posted this 3 years ago, but I came late to the party! I live in Eastern Washington and this is my first year using a moisture quilt. I used an old deep box, duck fabric and wood slats for support. Do you think a deep is too big? Is duck fabric too thick? How deep should I make the shavings?
The deep will work fine. I think duck will work as well; it’s very similar to canvas, a little tighter weave perhaps, but warm air will pass through it. I’d say the savings should be at least four inches deep, and more won’t hurt.
I had made insulated covers for my hives. After I got done reading the posts in here I made the quilt covers and they will be going on tomorrow. That might be our last warm day until spring. I made mine out of medium supers.
I put 2 cross braces into each one up 1 inch to leave room for the sugar and pollen patties. I used the black tarp material they use on flatbeds. I also put it over the vent holes on the outside of them. It will stop the rain and snow from entering but allow the moist air to get out. It should be too tough for the bees to eat it. That left me room for 3+ inches of shavings. I will still use the insulated outer covers to try and stop any water from freezing to it. Thanks everyone for all your help in helping me learn to keep my bees warm this winter.
Thank you for adding to the list of variations. Very helpful.
Thanks Rusty working on the quilt boxes as we speak, And thank everyone for all your input!!!
I need some help with design for my moisture quilt. I have medium supers and I have 1.5 inch ships with a single ventilation hole which can be plugged with plastic. I also purchased some sugar bricks about 2.5 inches thick. Finally I have some plastic queen excluders and also some canvas. Should I use the shims directly on top of the frames and then put the super on top with either canvas or the queen excluder as a floor with a whole cut for the sugar block? If so, do I still need additional vent holes in the super with the chips?
Or should I put the shim on top of the super using either the canvas or the queen excluder on top of the frames? In either case, do I need the additional vent wholes?
Also, I have screened bottom boards with metal trays that I could either leave in or out. Right now I have them in but inverted to keep moisture out when it rains since they seem to gather it in the trays. Should I take them out? I live in Massachusetts.
Thanks for all of your suggestions!
To the first question, yes. Put down the shim, then the quilt.
Do you need extra vent holes? Yes, you need the chips to stay dry and one small hole is not enough.
I don’t understand what you mean by cutting a hole for the sugar block. The shim is used as a feeder. If it’s not deep enough, use two.
You can go either way with the trays. Probably leave them in where you live.
Did you receive my message?
Are we in a hurry? Been without power, internet, and flush toilets for the last couple days. And the time stamp on your requests are two minutes apart!
Please advise. I have I’m imrie shims with a single vent in front. I also have medium supers with no vent yet. If I use the shim on the bottom do I still need vents in the super holding the wood chips? I don’t know whether to use the shims on top of frames or vice versa. I also have canvas and plastic screen to use as floor for the wood chips. Finally I have sugar bricks which are a little taller than the shims which could keep canvas from sagging if I use the shims on top of frames. Any thoughts?
Where in MA are you located? I’m in New Britain, CT and have been using Rusty’s moisture quilt for several years, coupled with a candy board beneath the quilt. They work great. Rather than drill holes into spare mediums, I make my moisture quilts from 1″ x 3″ pine. Other local beekeepers here have started to follow my example. I can show you if you are interested.
As for the queen excluder, I think the openings will be too large to keep the finer wood shavings from falling through, onto the frames below. I used salvaged fibergalss nylon window screen on the underside of my quilts and staple sections of old bed sheet to the top side so I don’t have to worry about the wood shavings falling out if I happen to tilt or drop the quilt box.
Fwiw, my candy boards are made as demonstrated in the video link at the end of the Bee Candy recipe posted at this Indiana beekeeper website: http://www.indianahoney.org/Resources.cfm
SO Sorry Rusty:
I am new to the blog. This was my first post. I didn’t know if it went thru since I did not see it post on the blog.
Thanks for your prompt response.
Hope you get your power back soon.
No problem. I monitor all posts to keep out the garbage and make sure they get answered, but I try to limit the hours per day I spend on it. The power has come and gone all week and with it the cable and the phone. It’s actually kind of nice—peaceful—except for the sound of the generator.
Getting ready to make my moisture quilts. Please let me know if you think this will work. I am going to use a 1.54 inch imrie shim on top of the frames. I bought fondant bricks from Mel Disseldorf in Wisconsin. (I thought they were reasonable: 12 bricks for about $90 including shipping) These will go in the shim. I plan to use shallow supers for the quilt. I plan to use plastic queen excluders as the floor of the quilts (with or without canvas–not sure please let me know what you would suggest) This will give the floor some stability to prevent sag but enough flex to cover the sugar bricks which are slightly higher than the shim. What size would you recommend for the vent holes in the super? Could I put the vents on the sides instead of the front and back (which is thicker due to the lip for the frames)? Should I put them near the corners or more toward the center? I would really appreciate your advice if you get a chance. Thanks!!
I would use canvas over the excluder to limit wood chips falling through (although this is not critical).
I prefer vent holes on the side, but it doesn’t really matter. I would put two on a side. Divide the side roughly in thirds, and put the holes one-third of the way in and two-thirds of the way in.
I like one-inch diameter holes, but smaller or larger will work. Screen them from the inside to prevent small animals from moving in.
If anyone is interested in the sugar bricks the correct name is Mel Disselkoen. The bricks are 6x6x2 and the cost for 12 is $93 including shipping. I figured it was worth it to avoid the hassle and work in making them.
Thanks for your response. I am about 35 miles south of Boston (1/2 way between Boston and Cape Cod.) Thanks for your suggestions but I might as well use the shallow supers since I probably won’t have another use for them. Also I found a place to purchase fondant bricks. I just didn’t want the mess and hassle of trying to make them.
I am wondering with all this balmy weather if I should be feeding them syrup until it gets colder. What do you think? Is it as warm in CT as it is here??
Yes, Peg, it is unusually warm here in CT. I see dandelions in blossom and my bees have been out daily, still bringing in more pollen. I wouldn’t feed syrup now though, as the bees won’t be able to process it before the cold temperatures return and they go back into cluster. If you need custom built hive equipment, there is beekeeper/craftsman/gardener who does 1st rate work in Oxford, MA. I used his services before building my own and was pleased with both his work and prices: http://www.barkersbeehives.com Good luck with your hives this Winter.
Just finished making the quilt boxes today. Here is what I ended up doing. I started with shallow supers. I used the plastic queen excluder as the floor but I sandwiched in a piece of plastic screening in between the excluder and the box and then trimmed all around. I put 4 one inch vent holes in the box (two in front and two in back) and covered the hole ends from the inside with pieces of the plastic screening. I plan to put the shims directly on the upper frames with the sugar bricks inside then cover with the quilt box. Any suggestions of whether or not to use the inner cover? Thanks
I don’t use an inner cover with a quilt, but you can do it either way.
I had to make one modification. The bricks were just a bit tall to use with the shims so I ended up using deep supers for the feed. It still should work but it’s just a bit of a hassle having the hives so tall (I am only 4’11”). When I went in to install everything, I noticed that the upper deeps were pretty full of honey.It may be overkill for feeding them but I would rather they have too much than too little. I didn’t want to take a look at the lower deeps due to impending showers. I just hope there is enough brood in there to winter over. I did lose two hives out of six–one of them is an Slovenian AZ hive which I am looking to sell if anyone is interested.
Rusty, how would you make a quilt for a top bar hive? And could you touch on how they are ventilated? Mine has an end entrance, but near the top. The vent holes at the other end are 2 ” down from the top.
It would depend on how your tbh is constructed. For my tbh, I just made a frame three inches deep and the length and width of the hive. (Mine is about 3 feet long and about 15 inches wide). Then I drilled eight one-inch holes for ventilation, covered them with hardware cloth on the inside, and put the same cloth on the bottom to hold the wood chips. Then I just set it above the top bars and put on the lid.
First of all, I love your blog and have referred to it so often when I’m freaking out about something. I’m a first-year beek and so this happens often, but I can always gain some assurance and advice from reading your blog! I’m having a bit of a dilemma here with my moisture quilt/mountain camp rim setup. Was wondering if you had any thoughts. I live in Southeastern Michigan and I only have one hive. It’s a Langstroth built with all 8-frame medium supers.
I followed your instructions here to make a moisture quilt. I also got two mountain camp rims and put them in this order from top down: telescoping cover – mountain camp rim (to prevent the ventilation holes in the moisture quilt from being covered up by the cover) – moisture quilt – mountain camp rim – supers. I think my mistake was not putting in a candy board at this point. I figured that I’d just supplementary feed in the case of an emergency.
What I didn’t foresee is that the bee cluster would stay only on the front (east-facing) side of the hive as they moved up, leaving half the honey untouched. I’ve been checking weekly with a stethoscope, and two weeks ago I heard them at the top. We had a fairly warm day that weekend and so I opened up the hive and saw the cluster near the top of the frames. I slid in a quarter page of newspaper with a pile of 1.5 cups of superfine sugar spritzed with water and a few drops of Honey-B-Healthy. I also put in two sugar cakes that I’d made using the no-cook method; approximately 2 cups of sugar each in those.
I felt like they might be running low again and so I checked today. It was only 40 degrees, but sunny and relatively calm wind. I meant to just prop open the cover and slide in another sheet of newspaper with sugar, but as soon as I cracked open the hive, bees came boiling out and I was immediately stung through my pant leg. It turns out that all of the bees are now occupying the space in between the top of the frames and the underside of the moisture quilt. They are actually building comb on the canvas underside of the quilt!
My dilemma is, how do I continue to feed them when I can no longer just quickly slide a newspaper or sugar cake in there without risk of crushing the queen?
Here’s my thought: wait for a warm day, preferably close to 50 degrees, and take off the topmost super (with the bees) and everything above it. Set it aside on a dry piece of cardboard on the ground. Remove the other supers and take out all empty frames, then consolidate the remaining honey-filled frames into one or two supers. Take the super with the bees and put it on the bottom board, then remove the moisture quilt and brush/shake all the bees into the super. Put the honey-filled supers above, then the quilt and cover on top. This way the bees would be starting over from the bottom with their unused honey stores. Does it make sense to do this? It can’t be good to keep opening the hive, and gingerly trying to place sugar cakes in there without crushing masses of bees. Not to mention how angry they are at the intrusion right now. Any advice much appreciated!
While you can certainly do what you suggest, my feeling is that less disruption would be better. I would lift the quilt a half-inch, drop a small stone in the mountain camp rim (big enough so it won’t fall between the frames) and than slide a candy cake into the space. One side of the candy will rest on the frames, the other side will rest on the stone. This means the candy is suspended at two points and you are not squishing bees.
I’ve been doing this for years. Come spring, I always forget doing it and then wonder where the stones came from. (Mind like a sieve). But don’t worry about the queen; she will stay down on the combs and won’t be walking around in the feeder rim.
Thanks so much, Rusty! That sounds like a much better idea. I’ll drop a stone in there next time for sure. It won’t be this week, though. The temperature is dropping steadily and will be below zero by the weekend! I have privacy fencing as a windbreak and have wrapped the hive with landscaping fabric. Hoping they stay toasty warm in there.
I live in Issaquah and will be trying this next year–I’ve lost too many hives to moisture over the years. One question I have that I haven’t seen asked is how you keep rain from entering the vent holes, particularly when it’s windy. They seem very exposed. Am I missing something?
On the contrary, that is probably the most frequently asked (an answered) question about moisture quilts. I’ve used them for ten years with no issues. If you have a blowing rain, a little might get in, but the chips collect it and the quilt soon dries out in the same way the collected moisture dries out. Plus the vent holes are not large, so you would really need a hurricane to drive much moisture in. The really big difference for me, is I went from overwintering 50-60% of my colonies to 90-100%, rain and all.
Hi Rusty and Doug,
I made moisture quilts for six hives last fall, after hearing good things from this blog and elsewhere. I unfortunately had a very different experience with the moisture quilts on my hives. Half of my hives had 4×4 ft. sheets of plywood covered in tar paper to act as a rain cover over the standard top, the other half just had a standard pine top. I used a knit nylon weed blocking cloth over a very fine hardware cloth to hold in pine shavings. After the first couple of rainstorms, I checked the quilt boxes to see if shavings were dry. On the hives without a secondary raincover, I found that the pine shavings were completely saturated with moisture, and on two of the hives I found small puddles of water on top of the weed block cloth. Shocked, I discarded the saturated shavings, dried the quilt box area, and put down new shavings. I quickly put together new 4×4 ft. tar paper covered plywood sheets where they were missing, and used duck tape to fix small tar paper flaps over the quilt box vent holes, to try to keep rain out. I ended up losing the three hives where the rainwater got in shortly after (and I don’t suspect another culprit… no signs of disease, strong populations, two full deeps of stores, mite treated (apiguard) in fall). I’ve checked with other local beeks… no one else seems to have any idea why these hives would fail, beyond the moisture introduced during this event.
Anyway, I wanted to leave a quick note as feedback, and to encourage others to plan for rain saturation. Looking back, I should have used a telescoping top, or installed a plywood rain cover, etc., prior to using a quilt box.
I should mention that my telescoping covers partially cover the ventilation holes in my quilts, but there is plenty of room for air to go up there and keep things dry, but rain seldom, if ever, goes in.
Wow, I’ve had the best experience ever with my quilts. I open them up there’s a little moisture on top, completely dry underneath. The cloth underneath is completely dry, my bees are very happy, I’m very happy.
After reading what seemed like a zillion ideas on the quilt I felt compelled to throw one more iron in the fire, GoreTex fabric,lol. Great site, thanks.
For those that are concerned about blowing rain entering vent holes, just angle your drill bit up slightly as you drill from the outside to inside.
Spring is coming slowly here in the Adirondacks and it looks like the quilts on my two hives have done a very good job. The bees are out flying when the temperature is 35°F as long as the sun is out and I have never seen this before. They come over to the barn and around the chicken house and bury themselves in the crack corn where they are able to gather some powder in their pollen sacs and bring it back to the hives. The temperature right now is 19° and the wind is been blowing between 50 and 60 miles an hour all day so I am sure that they are not out today.
I’m glad to hear the quilts are working for you. Very good.
I’m wondering about putting an inner cover on top of the brood box (so there’s correct bee space on top of the brood box), then put the 2″ shim with vent holes on top of that and put the wood chips in that – basically, use the inner cover as the bottom of the quilt instead of the canvas. Thoughts? Also, wouldn’t you want to leave a super of honey on top of the brood box for winter? I’ve read that this can help with water dripping issues also. (I don’t have bees – just still learning! Love your site!)
1) In the situation you describe, much of the vapor would condense on the solid inner cover and drip back on the bees. To some extent, the solid wood prevents the quilt from doing the thing it is designed to do.
2) I seldom leave a super of honey on a hive over winter. Usually there is at least 80 pounds of honey in the two brood boxes.
I also wonder if not painting the boxes would allow them to “breathe” better and release moisture in the winter? I know they won’t last as long, but less work and money for paint … might be worth it if the breathability helps. (I’m also in the PNW.)
Perhaps breathability is enhanced, but unpainted boxes here soon get covered with thick black mold.
Hello and thank you for this excellent post!
New beekeeper here in VA. Noticed some mold and condensation on the bottom board pullout. This started earlier in the week. Here is my dilemma and a question. It’s been less than two weeks since my packages of bees were installed into Langstroth hives with the bottom entrances (reduced for the time being). Bottom board pullouts are on its tightest setting as we’ve had a lot of rain and fluctuating temps. Bees are using round top hive feeder, which sit on top of the inner cover hole. http://www.beethinking.com/products/round-hive-top-feeder
In fact, each feeder sits in a vented 2 inch frame, as you describe here, with a roof over it.
How can I design this quilt and supply bees with access to the feeder? I don’t see anybody asking about spring feeding of newly installed bees. One of my hives, installed 4 days prior to the second is experiencing higher degree of condensation, so my guess is that the other one is going to catch up.
I also have a top bar hive at 16 days since the install, no issues there.
Your guidance would be much appreciated!
Both a quilt box and a varroa board are winter things. I would not use either one this time of year. Unless it is down in the 20s for a week or two, I never use the varroa board at all. Removing it will probably cure most of the moisture problem, and adding a screened inner cover would take care of the rest. In the late fall when you add the quilt, you just place it right over the feeder rim.
Firstly a quick thank you Rusty. I consider yourself and Michael Mush my mentors as I’m an Englishman living in Poland and the locals are very set in their ways when it comes to keeping bees and seem to be suffering devastating losses because of it. This means I rely heavily on your writings which have been most helpful in guiding and shaping my thinking.
So I have a question – with your moisture quilts, do you think there are any advantages or disadvantages to using fine aluminium mesh (you call it hardware cloth) instead of canvas?
Many thanks in advance from Poland
In the years since I wrote that post, I have indeed switched to using 1/8-inch hardware cloth and it works great. It doesn’t sag as much and the bees don’t chew it (or if they do chew it, I don’t know about it).
Hello and thank you so much for your great site.
I have screened bottom boards and slatted racks under my 4 Langstroths hives.
Based on your advice I am going to staple 1/8-inch hardware cloth to the bottom of a vented super I purchased at Kelly (I have no woodworking skills). I plan to use it for ventilation now, and in winter add a layer of canvas and wood chips on top of the screen for moisture control.
I’m curious as to why you painted the quilt frames on the inside–wouldn’t the unpainted surface help absorb moisture? I’ve just never painted any inside surfaces of my wooden ware.
Normally I don’t paint the inside of my woodenware either. I did it because the damp wood chips in the quilt were causing some rot on the inside of the wood. Since the bees don’t come in contact with it, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to paint it. But it certainly isn’t necessary, just something I wanted to try. And it did stop the rot.
Hi again Rusty,
Possibly better to impregnate the wood as Michael Bush does with his boxes (and frames) with a wax/resin mix?
(being a bit skeptical about odor from paint in the hive).
You can do that if you like. I prefer to just paint the outside of the brood boxes and honey supers, let them dry thoroughly, then let the bees propolize the insides themselves. Unlike wax or purchased resin, propolis contains bee-chosen antibacterial resins that inhibit many pathogens. In nature, that’s what the bees use to coat the inside of their homes. If you rough up the interior surfaces of the boxes, it encourages the bees to add the propolis.
Thank you—makes perfect sense 🙂
I just made a modified version of the quilt from an unusable medium. I have not added fabric, as yet, as I am using it for ventilation at the moment. I have No. 8 wire mesh (hardware cloth) on the bottom, and was thinking to add the fabric and shavings above the mesh when the time came to do so. The possibility of condensation on the wire was mentioned. Do you have any data on this now that you’ve had quilts in use for some time, and had mentioned possibly trying the mesh to prevent sagging? Thank you for your time, as always.
Yes. I now use the No. 8 wire mesh with no condensation issues. I still put down some fabric above the wire in order to keep wood “crumbs” from falling through. That may not be necessary if your chips are large enough.
I definitely plan on trying a moisture quilt this coming winter. My hive had mold on the inner wood surfaces as well as mold on some of the capped honey frames. My question/concern is how do you keep the rain out when the wind is blowing? Is this even a problem? I thought I might try to make some “dormers” out of PVC pipe by cutting them at a 45 degree angle and then inserting them into the ventilation holes. I may use hot glue or wood glue to hold them in place.
I’ve never seen it to be an issue. The small amount of rain that gets blown it gets caught in the wood chips and eventually dries out.
Some of my hives have ventilation ports that are partly covered by the telescoping cover, which also helps.
One way of reducing the problem (if you have it) is to drill the holes at an angle instead of straight in. Drill them at an upwards angle so the water drains back out.
A honey farmer in BC I met uses carpet under the lid instead of an inner cover!
Been doing it for years! I want to try that!
The carpet lays on the top frames right side up like it lays on your floor.
Can you use a candy board AND a moisture quilt at the same time.
What would the order be?
This is a great site and I am learning a lot from you and the other beeks across the USA. Nice resource and people. Thanks bunches, sk
Yes, you can do both. See this post for an explanation. On top of the brood box I add an Imirie shim, then the candy board, then the quilt.
First year beekeeper in Western WA. Can someone explain my options with feeding and using the quilt? Perhaps share some pics with your set-up? I don’t understand how to feed and use the quilt at the same time. I am feeling confident going into the winter and I really want to get them through.
See this post: No-cook candyboards. You put the candy board above the brood box. On top of the candyboard, you add the quilt.
Got it. Thanks. Brood, shim, candy board, quilt, and then inner cover.
Is there a rule of thumb temperature wise for using the quilt? It doesn’t seem to be too cold in mid/late fall — right now.
Appreciate your advice and the website. Great stuff.
I add the quilt when moisture begins to condense on the covers.
Thank you Rusty!
Have you noticed any corrosion of the metal screen exposed to oxalic acid?
No — but I don’t know what I don’t know. I am still building my quilt, candy board and shim. I hope to have the quilt on within a week from today but the forecast in western wa is not cooperating.
I plan to use aluminum window screen for the quilt. I picked it up at my local hardware store. Pine shavings from TSC. Candy board from Rusty’s recipe above.
I used Hopguard II in the spring, summer and fall for mites. I don’t expect any adverse consequence with the quilt screen using that treatment. But I presently consider myself a “bee-haver” vs a “bee-keeper” because I got my bees this past April and have yet to get them through a winter. So — as a novice — I don’t know what I don’t know! (An old timer at a bee meeting used the “bee-haver” reference — I thought it worked!)
I’m happy to report results as I see them. Thanks!
I have Warre hives on Vancouver Island and I’ve used canvas for quilts but also coarse jute from coffee bags from our local coffee roasters. It’s nice to see the blend of hive design happening. I’ve started to use full frames in my Warre to better manage swarming and of course the screened bottom board to manage mites and improve ventilation for our frequently damp winters.
If I put the quilt box directly on top of the brood box, won’t the bees propolize it onto the top bars? Would it be wise to put a queen excluder down first, then the quilt box? Or maybe an Imirie shim? If I did use the Imirie shim that would give them an upper entrance.
A quilt box is used in winter and honey bees don’t do much propolis work in winter because it becomes brittle and difficult for the bees to handle. Propolis is a warm-weather thing. However, if you leave the quilt on too late in the spring they will add propolis.
That said, I put either an Imirie shim, a feeder rim (eke), or a candy board between the brood box and the quilt box. Any of those will prevent the quilt bottom from sagging onto the brood frames.
I “inherited” a never-used moisture blanket box from a beek going out of business, and it looks like the cloth bottom is some type of muslin, or at least not as heavy as the canvas of a painter’s drop cloth. I’m going to drill vent holes in the sides as you have done. Regarding others’ comments about methods to keep the cloth from sagging and/or keeping bees away from it, wouldn’t one get the same effect from laying a “propolis collector” over the top box, or the top of your feeder box, and putting the quilt on top of that? I have some plastic propolis collectors from Mann Lake and they’re great in place of an inner summer cover, on our hottest days here in Seattle.
Yes, anything like that would work. I’ve switched from using canvas to using #8 hardware cloth, put a propolis trap is basically the same idea.
Dear Rusty, Merry Christmas. You rock. I’ve spent hours and hours on your site reading. This is after reading numerous books. I live in far northeastern WA close to Sandpoint—cold country. Will start two hives this spring (do you have recommendations for organic bee supplier? Looking for Russian Hybrids because of their fastidious tendencies) and will incorporate so many of your tips. I’m trying to get back to the part of your blog that has pictures from the guy who does a candy board and inverts a jar until the candy solidifies. I think this is the way I’ll go. Brood box, candy board with the vent created from the jar neck, (providing a place to drop patties) then the quilt box, then the telescoping cover.) So much on your site, I have many more hours of reading. Thank you VERY much. Sincerely, Elena
I do not keep track of bee suppliers, but I highly recommend bees adapted and raised in your local area.
Speaking of winter and wintering bees, we had an unusually warm day in SW Michigan yesterday so I took this as an opportunity to put the candy board on the hives. One hive, a swarm and a dink, was doing well. This was the hive I expected to have the most trouble, but so far so good. The second hive a strong hive was doing well as well. The third hive, the most robust of the three appeared to have trouble so I took a really good look and discovered them dead. Lots of bees on the bottom board and after reading this blog I have adjusted the way I am taking care of my bees and am doing things now that I have not in the past. So, they were treated with mites using HopGuard 2, fed heavy syrup this fall with fumagilin (sp), wrapped with a bee cozy, left the bottom ventilated and ventilation on top for good air flow, insulated inner cover, and now put a candy board on them. The hive was not wet inside and there is tons of capped honey in there. Something happened in there. This is kind of surprising since I figured these girls would sail right through the winter given their strength in the fall. I called that hive Bertha’s Big House. Any ideas?
I’m a little confused. It sounds like you found the one colony dead, and then you treated the others with HopGuard? Or did you treat with HopGuard before the one died? I think knowing when you treated is the most important question. Colonies that die from mites are usually the largest and most robust simply because larger colonies have more mites. But to be sure, I would check the brood frames for guanine deposits and I would sort through the dead bees looking for deformed wings. Also read the post, “Absconding bees or death by varroa?” I realize you’re not saying they absconded, but that post has a lot of information in it about determining cause of death.
Another thing could be your queen. When was the last time you saw her? Was there any brood in the hive? I’m assuming there was nothing obvious like foulbrood or dysentery, but queen failure remains a possibility.
Hi. Thanks for the reply. I treated all of the hives at the same time, late October to November, 3 treatments, one week apart. All hives were doing well. It got cold, so I wrapped them and left them alone. When I placed candy board this week is when I discovered the one hive dead. I will check the things you suggested. Sk
October and November are late for mite treatments in Michigan. It’s important to kill the mites before the winter bees are hatched because the winter bees are the ones that care for the colony until spring. If the winter bees are infected with viruses, there is a good chance the colony won’t make it.
Generally, it is good to have mite treatments finished before the end of August. This works well because the winter bees begin to emerge in September and October. If many of your winter bees are born before the treatments begin, it means that even though you kill the mites in the hive, the winter bees have already been infected with viruses.
I go into more detail in “August in a critical time for mite management. And in The hardest part of beekeeping I mention how difficult it is to anticipate these steps in advance. It is completely counter-intuitive to treat hives in the middle of August. It just doesn’t seem right. But when you work the numbers on a calendar it comes out that way.
If it does turn out that mites (viruses) killed your bees, don’t feel bad about it. Most of us have lost hives this way; it’s just part of the learning process.
It is in the 30s today (20s last night) and as I was walking around the yard I checked in with my bees and I heard quite a buzz coming from within the hive. I have a moisture quilt on and also a frame of sugar (they have used it but plenty left) and a screened bottom board. Are they buzzing to keep warm? I have not heard this before in the winter.
Maybe something disturbed them? I would check again to see if it continues.
Do you ever use insulation in the roof in addition to the wood chips, or would that prevent the water condensing on the cold roof and falling into the chips?
I’ve never tried it so I don’t know what it would do.
Also, Rusty, do you have a photo of this on your hive? I would like to see how it looks with the roof on top.
When I put it on mine, the ventilation holes are right up inside the roof (telescoping cover, I think you call it) so they won’t be very effective. I wondered how yours works.
My lid covers the holes as well, but there is a space of about 3/8-inch between the rim of the lid and the quilt that allows the air to pass through. The small clearance has always been sufficient to keep the chips dry and has the advantage of keeping out the rain.
Hey Rusty, This has been a long running post!! Just came across it, thinking about making this quilt for my bees. In previous years I have run both screened bottoms and screened inner covers. I think it would be much better for my bees to build them this quilt.
My question…I have supers that are taller than your 2 inch ones. Mine are probably 8 inches tall. Do you think that I could use those and just put more wood shavings in them or not fill them as much?
No problem, and you can fill them as deep as you like.
Hi Rusty, I just got the blankets on and insulated covers for outside three walls plus over the roof. They’re placed loosely now because the temp variation is going from 22 early am to 65 in the afternoon. I’ll tighten up the outer covers late fall and have holes in them that match the drilled holes in the blanket boxes.
If you have a precious minute, I have a question re: a remark from you above: deformed wings. I’ve seen absolutely NO sign of mites, but today saw a single bee with wing tips that appeared frayed. It clearly couldn’t fly correctly. None of the other bees exhibited this after 20 minutes observation. Is this the first sign of trouble in your view? I’ll keep checking, but am wondering about the alarm bells that might go off in your head if you saw this. Thank you.
Worn wing tips are nothing to worry about. Wings wear as a bee ages, and worn wings are a good way to estimate the bee’s age. I’ve seen honey bees still flying where the wings were half gone, while others stop flying much earlier.
Thank you, Rusty. Phew! I’ll study more about how deformed wings resulting from the virus look. I should have done that before bugging you.
Do you not use the inner cover when using the candy board/quilt box combo?
I do not, but you could.
You say you use wood chips, would wood shavings as found in a pet store for bedding work as well? What was your source wood chips?
Love your website!
My source? Bedding from the pet store.
I’ve made a Lang hive ventilator similar to yours. but I stapled a plastic queen excluder to prevent the hardware cloth from sagging. I then put a layer of thin burlap, the shavings. the frame has hiles drilled with screen on them. im having a tough decision on one thing. do I put my ventilator ontop of a inner cover, or should I put it directly on the frames. ive always struggled with this choice. what do you suggest?
I’ve made a Lang hive ventilator similar to yours. but I stapled a plastic queen excluder to prevent the hardware cloth from sagging. I then put a layer of thin burlap, then shavings. the frame has holes drilled with screen on them. I’m having a tough decision on one thing. do I put my ventilator on top of a inner cover, or should I put it directly on the frames. I’ve always struggled with this choice. What do you suggest?
If the inner cover is directly over the brood nest, warm air may condense on the inner cover and rain down on the bees, defeating the whole purpose of the quilt. I leave my inner covers completely off in the winter. If you must use it, put it above the quilt.
I’m making three quilts right now. I’m covering the side holes with regular screen – any reason to think this won’t be sufficient? Or is there a strength reason to use #10 hardware cloth?
Screen is fine. Beekeepers often have hardware cloth laying around for other purposes, so that’s what is commonly used.
I am curious as to the size of wood shavings being used. I may be over analyzing this but it seams the real small bedding would be to compact to allow the air to flow through and would the larger shavings be a better choice. I also like the idea of a Imirie shim under the quilt when winter temperatures are in 20’s or 30’s too allow an increase of air flow out of the hive but it would seem like a good idea to plug the Imirie hole during near or sub zero temps. Your thoughts?
Unless your colony is dead, cold air does not go into the upper entrance. The colony generates lots of heat. Being lighter, hot air rises and leaves through the entrance. You can see this by yourself using an IR camera or a simple cooking thermometer.
Will be nice if the new technology will come with some solar heating pads for hives.
Two years ago I made some quilts out of super boxes and used a plastic queen excluder on the bottom covered by screen cloth. I believe I used an Imrie shim underneath with some fondant cakes. Two of my hives did amazingly well with this and came out super strong in the spring. Last year when I put the hives to bed I left supers on under the Imrie shims and none of my hives survived. I am guessing that the hive may have been too much of an area to keep warm or perhaps the cluster may have been too far away from the fondant cake food if the supers got empty. There were still cakes or parts of them on top of the super inside the Imrie shims. Three of my hives are looking strong going into winter and I have two full supers on one and one full super on each of the other two. I am debating whether to take the supers off and I am leaning toward doing so but I am wondering your thoughts about this.
Based on your explanation, it sounds like the death of your colonies had nothing to do with the placement of the supers, or warmth, or food supply. Did you do postmortem? Did you check your mite loads before winter?
No I did not do a post mortem. Not sure exactly how to do that. I did treat with oxcalic acid vapor last year before putting on the quilts. I just treated these girls last week and will do again this week. I have screened bottom boards so not sure how to check to see if mites have dropped. Any suggestions? Also would you recommend leaving supers on or taking them off? As I mentioned one hive has two supers and the other two have one each. I also have a very weak hive that probably won’t make it. Not sure if I should try to combine it with one of the stronger ones and if so what is the best way.
Okay, oxalic acid vapor is good, but make sure you do it early enough that you have healthy winter bees. How to do a postmortem is covered several times on this site. Your screened bottoms usually come with a varroa board, otherwise you can make one from corrugated plastic. You can combine two colonies easily with a sheet of newspaper or you can keep the small one above the large one with a double-screen board.
As for the supers, I would leave one on each hive and keep the others in reserve in case they need them in early spring.
Also, I have a search box in the right-hand column of every page, and an index.
Hello. So, I’ve got some extra medium boxes and I plan on cutting them in half and using them for quilt boxes. I’m going to put two 1″ × 1″ pieces of wood in the box long-ways to support my pine shaving-filled pillow cases. On top of the cases, I’m thinking of putting 2″ rigid foam board. My question: if the success of this box is because of condensation collecting on the cold cover then dripping back onto the chips, do you think having the foam board on top will screw that up? I can’t seem to think of what will happen if the foam is the same temp of hive. I’m assuming it’ll still be colder, but not much, and the foam won’t affect the physics. Thoughts?
I don’t know for sure, but I agree with you. The foam board will probably still be colder, and I think the system will continue to work just fine. Try it and let me know what you find. You can always change it if it doesn’t work.
The opening provided by the solid bottom board beneath the screened bottom board seems like too much cold air but I don’t know. Will the reduced entrance not be enough air flow coming in at bottom of the hive?
It might be enough. It depends on your climate, the height of your hive, how much ventilation you have on top, the size of the colony, etc. The moisture quilt won’t work if there is no air flow from the bottom of the hive to the top, but how much you are getting is dependent on these other factors. Try it. See if the quilt is working and measure the temperature in the hive above the cluster. You don’t say where you are, so I can’t say more.
What do you think about heating a hive with low voltage heating with solar power? I have seen some use low-powered heating with low voltage/solar power to power it. I am all for helping those little things to survive but not sure if this is something that would really work. I have only one hive so have every reason to be looking at something like this among other things to keep them alive…winter preparations. I have reduced the entrance, gave them another treatment of formic acid. I live in South East Michigan not the far north but the hive I have is Italian bees. I made a mistake early on not aware since I am new to this. Instead of putting another 10 frame brood on my hive I added a super with a queen excluder. Keep in mind this was a 3 lb box of bees Ii started with. I started with 3 lbs of bees, one 10 frame deep brood box, fed them with mann lake pro sweet and pollen patties that stimulate their brood and the hive grew fast. Added another brood box and being a noob added supers after that with a queen excluder between the top brood and the supers …later thought about if the queen needed more space to lay eggs since i been feeding them all season and they may be making more honey/feed stores so that’s why i added the 3rd brood was afraid they might split. They pulled comb in all the brood boxes of course and both supers population seems strong considering my epic fail mistake. Since then I have kept feeding them no intention of pulling any feed or stores at all aware of the fact that this is their first year was trying to help them even looked into winter heating for them and inquired with you about your invention and made one today to prevent condensation from dripping on them this winter. I put everything into helping them all this season if I lose them this winter its because of me but I will do my best to aid them every way I can. Have you heard of heating hives?
Heating hives is a “new beekeeper” thing. Not understanding how colony thermo-regulation works, new beekeepers want to micromanage the temperature in the hive. In my opinion, it is nearly always a mistake. Honey bees are masters at maintaining the temperatures they need, and artificial heat mucks with their set-up. They become overly active and eat more, which can lead to starvation. They raise brood prematurely, which also uses up stores. They may think the outside is warmer than it is, so they leave the hive and then die of cold. The warmer air provides an ideal environment for overwintering hive beetles, wax moths, voles, and mice. If you want a healthy hive in the spring, let them manage their own temperature. A colony that is well fed and kept dry will not die of cold.
That makes a lot of sense its similar to when we have irregular temperatures and hibernating animal species emerge and get hit by cars crossing the road. Honey bees emerging from a hive to forage meet a similar fate to the freezing cold not to mention the unwanted pests thriving in a hive. Yes I see your point and thank you for giving me a second opinion on this topic. Also I want to thank you for giving me the link to that quilted blanket plan. I made one the next day.
A word of thanks from a regular reader but first-time poster on your blog. Its hard to imagine that 6 years after your original (brilliant) post, you are still taking time to respond to questions and comments here. Your diligent work for the beekeeping community is greatly appreciated. Thank you!
Thank you, John.
I have been using various versions of the quilt box for two years. Condensation occurs any where the temperature is below the dew point. Relative Humidity (RH) may vary by location so the dew point temperature varies also, typically vertically and around the cluster. In a deeply bedded pine shavings quilt box, 6-8 inches, come early spring and increased brood rearing which increased RH, I found wet shavings in the middle of the shavings! I am trying a shallow quilt box with R10 foam insulation cover, no top vent and a screened bottom board with reduced winter exit. I can easily raise the cover to vent the shavings if necessary. Essentially, I hope to emulate a tree colony while holding heat loss to a minimum and condensing around the bottom of direct vapor exchange to outside air. Crazy?
Experiments are not crazy. You never know what you might learn. I hardly ever get wet chips more than 1/4-inch deep, but I have four vents in the quilt box. That said, our winters here are relatively mild. Finding the perfect setup in any location will require some tweaking.
Hollow trees tend to be spongy on the inside and are great at collecting moisture. That part is hard to emulate. Also, tree hives tend to be tall and narrow, and I recently read some findings that tall and narrow spaces yield healthier bees (wish I could remember where I saw that). Anyway, last year I did the opposite by wintering in single deeps (short and fat), but they did great at 100% survival. Who knows?
Rusty, While you made no claim of invention, I thought you might find it interesting that in the May 20, 1897, issue of The American Bee Journal the writer speaks of adding a super filled with straw with a piece of cloth between super and brood nest. http://bees.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=bees;cc=bees;idno=6366245_6477_020;node=6366245_6477_020:2.2;size=l;frm=frameset;seq=3
I do have a couple of questions for you. First, should I place my quilt above brood box and then put inner cover over it? It would seem wrong to put the quilt on top of the inner cover, as then all the air to be dehumidified would have to get through the small hole in the middle of the inner cover and may yet condense on the underside of the inner cover. You don’t use an inner cover at all with your quilt boxes? Second, Warre speaks of using a second piece or burlap, just under the cushion, that has been “seized” by coating the burlap with a paste of water and rye flour. Apparently water vapor can get through but the hardened paste it is difficult for the bees to chew holes in the treated burlap. I have burlap under my cushion, so it adding the second, treated piece a good idea–or are winter bees so inactive that their chewing is not to be worried about? Thanks!
If you read you my post, you will see that I credited the Warre beekeepers for the moisture quilt in the very first paragraph. My purpose in experimenting was to adapt the idea to the Langstroth configuration.
I never use an inner cover with a moisture quilt because I believe it interferes with it’s function. I’ve tried the burlap/canvas with sizing, but the bees still clung to it and chewed holes in it. After a few years I replaced all cotton fabric with 1/8-inch hardware cloth as explained in “Tweaking my moisture quilts.”
I have never found winter bees to be inactive. It seems to me they are always busy with something.
Thanks Rusty, I read your post and know you referenced the Warre. Like I said, you made no claim of invention. Elsewhere (other sites) I read about this idea of putting a quilt on a Langstroth as if it is new, so I found it interesting that in 1897 people were putting quilts on Langstroth hives. It makes me wonder about what is lost and what is reinvented in beekeeping, since it has been around for thousands of years. Thanks for the tips!
I just finished making my quilt boxes. I used burlap that I had in the garage. The girls are gonna be so cozy!
I live in the Bay area, and they are still bringing in plenty of nectar as it rarely gets so cold they can’t fly and there is a eucalyptus bloom on right now. Because of that, I still have supers on top of both hives and they are filling them up.
I should put the quilt on top of the super but BELOW the inner cover, right? Any reason I shouldn’t use this piece of equipment with supers in place?
That’s right. It should go above the supers but below the inner cover. Supers in place are no problem.
Using burlap or pine shavings in Vivaldi board, is one better than the other? My only ‘concern with the pine shavings was smaller pieces going into the hive through the hardware mesh.
Other question I have,,, what is a good source of burlap (where do you buy a reliable source) for use as a moisture absorbing medium in a quilting box or Vivaldi board?
Lastly, I read a lot of posts that mention cutting a medium in-half so that one has something about 2″ high (apprx). Is there any reason that one couldn’t take an unused super, bore some 2″ or so round holes on the side of the super and cover the holes from the inside with some screen of the kind that is used on windows and do the same on the bottom of the super box? If one used wood shavings (like the pine shavings I use for my hens’ nesting boxes) in a super that was modified as I described – would a two inch layer of shavings be the way to go? I assume one wouldn’t want to fill it up higher than that to assure some level of moist air flow through the shavings up to the inside of the inner cover?
1. I use wood shaving with a piece of cotton fabric underneath to contain the particles.
2. I don’t buy burlap.
3. You can use any type of super, any size you want.
4. I use two inches of shavings, but some people like them much deeper. It’s up to you.
I tried moisture quilts for the first time this year. Usually I put an insulating board over the inner cover to keep heat in, it also absorbed moisture. Hard to say if moisture quilts would have worked or not given that my bees were all dead before the really hard winter hit. That said, my order is 2 deep supers, candy board, Imirie shim, quilt. Here the snow gets too deep and the bees would never be able to get out of the hive for a cleansing flight on those (this year super rare) warm days without the upper entrance. The whole lot of it gets covered with a bee cozy. I have heard that it is OK to leave the bee cozy on all year bc it helps the bees keep the internal temperature of the hive regulated in the summer, but I don’t know. Seems like it would get really hot in there.
My set up is similar. One deep, one medium of honey, Imirie shim, candy board, quilt. My bees only use the upper entrances in winter, even though I leave a reduced lower entrance for them. This year I left the robbing screens on the lower entrances all winter because they are never down there guarding them. Unlike last year, I didn’t get mice or shrews this year. Maybe the robbing screens helped with that.
Would it be appropriate to use sawdust from a table saw or planer as filler in quilt box?
As long as the dust didn’t come from treated lumber. Also, I would use a cloth or canvas to keep the dust from sifting down on the bees.
It was 48° on Sunday so I checked my hive and the quilt was working perfectly. I noticed a darkened area of wood chips directly above where the cluster was. I felt them and they were moist. Then I looked at the underside of the top cover and noticed a large wet area with giant drops of water that looked like they would fall as soon as the cover was placed on the hive again, but not fall on my girls. The only concern I had was when I put the top cover back on and noticed that it covered about 95% of the ventilation holes. Since it was warm out I added the inner cover on top of the quilt so the holes would be exposed and allow air to come in and dry out the chips. Did I drill them to high? Should the hole have been on the bottom part or did I misread and not realize the inner cover should have been on the whole time?
No, you did not misread or misunderstand. Most times, there is space between the quilt box and the sides of the top cover. I try to center it, so air can pass through both sides. I’d say mine has about 1/4-inch of space on either side.
My thoughts on this was to prevent wind-blown rain from getting into the ventilation ports. I continue to use mine the way I designed them, and I’ve lost track of how many years that’s been. They still work just fine.
That said, if you live in any area with less rain, then maybe giving them more exposure is a good thing. An inner cover works to increase exposure, just as you say. I tried that one year, but didn’t see any difference in performance, so I went back to the old way. I think doing it either way is fine.
Understood. Perhaps my top cover is a tad more snug than yours which is why it looked like the air would have a tough time getting in. Makes sense you wouldn’t want wind driven rain getting in, perhaps my addition of a piece of plastic on too to create an snow/rain awning for the front entrance will help prevent rain from getting in those holes since the plastic overlaps the top cover on all sides. Either way, your method is working perfectly to keep the bees dry. So glad I decided to do it. Thanks again.
My quilt boxes are similar to the ones you built. Odd how great minds think alike. There are two things that I do different.
I use the router and cut a 1/4″ deep slot that is as wide as the vent holes, from the hole to the bottom of the side boards. This insures cross venting, no matter how close the sides of the cover comes below the holes. It can even lay tight to the side and not restrict flow. By having the outer cover the holes there is no worry about rain and snow entering.
The second thing is the filler. I found that cedar chips work a lot better than pine chips. The bees love them and the small hive beetles and wax moths hate them. The difference in cost is very little. The chips are removed in the spring, stored for next winter. If they began to to look a little worn, they make good smoker fuel.
What I love about moisture quilts is that in the early spring when making nucs you put the moisture box on top of the small newly made nuc and it keeps the nuc warm. In the past I have noticed the bees clustered and cold in the spring with the up and down temps and the spring rains, when adding a moisture box to it the bees are moving around within a few minutes of adding the box to the hive and can eat freely and take the sugar water. It really keeps the nucs warm so that the bees can move around and get down to business. For winter, they are the best. I would not winter a hive without one. I don’t remove my winter moisture boxes until the temps stabilize, the bees love them too ! Great idea ! and when added to the sugar boards, what more can a beehive want ? A warm and toasty place to live when the winds of winter set in. I have noticed, tho, on some of the larger colonies, a super is needed, a three inch shim is just not enough to catch all the moisture. Last year on some of my production hives, I had to add three or four three inch shims and this year, on these huge productions hives, I will go back to using supers. Thanks Rusty for sharing such a wonderful idea !
Hi, just wondering if the vented quilt boards are usable in Alberta, Canada. We get temperatures down to -35 C at times. Do I risk freezing my bees out?
I can’t say for sure because each set-up is different. Lots of northern beekeepers who wrap their hives in insulation also provide at least some upper ventilation to get the excess water out. I would imagine they don’t use nearly as much ventilation as I do because cold is the primary concern rather than rain. Do you have some local beekeepers who could show you want they do?
Thank you for he quick response. Yes, I have looked at some other beekeepers set ups and I too have the wrap. We are going to try it out, and if it gets too cold I have some plugs for it. We added some vent covers to deflect rain and snow, but to allow for air to still pass through. We will give it a try and see how it’s going. I will let you know how it goes.
I popped onto your site to learn about quilt boxes. I started reading the original posts from 2011, but then jumped to the end. Things to do! Hopefully, this issue hasn’t already been covered! My former mentor had me make a quilt box for overwintering, and I’ve been wondering if he was correct. (I’ve lost 2 hives in the last 3 years. I’m trying again; I’ll bring home my new bees Saturday.)
My former mentor sadly flaked out on me. My new mentor is old school and has never heard of a quilt box. My former mentor had me use a super box, which is, I think, about 6 1/2 inches deep. I stapled burlap tightly across the bottom, filled the box with pine bedding, and stapled more burlap across the top. He did not have me drill any ventilation holes in it, and that might be something I should do. As for preventing sagging, I simply use a queen excluder. My new mentor has talked about using a candy board in winter, which I haven’t needed to do yet. (I had lots of honey-filled frames from my old hive) He talked, I think, about creating a sugar cake in the candy board and then simply turning the board upside down to feed. I now see that this might cause a problem with ventilation, and also with the placement of the quilt box. Thoughts? Suggestions? Thanks!
See How to use a quilt with a candy board and A no-cook candy board recipe for wintering bees
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Trying a quilt for the first time on two hives in Virginia this winter. Just found your site and mine is amazingly similar. I use a shim between the brood box and the quilt box which has one hole drilled for an upper entrance. Above this shim is a medium super with a cotton floor and wood shavings for the quilt. On top of the medium super I use another shim, also with a hole covered by window screen to keep insects out, while allowing any built up moisture a place to vent instead of building up on the bottom of the top cover. Seems to work beautifully so far.
I have been using my blanket boxes for years. I use an inner cover with a vent hole and a Rapid round feeder on it. In the winter the feeder has dry sugar. Moister from the hive is absorbed by the sugar (the bees make their sugar candy). Warm air and moisture go out to the blanket box through the vent and is wicked up through the cotton cloth that keeps the fine wood chip pieces from dropping into the frames. The cloth is supported, on number eight hardware cloth that is stapled up inside the box far enough to allow for bee space. A 3/4″ X 3/4″ wood piece is installed across the center below the hardware cloth for additional support.
I use cedar chips in the box and not pine chips. The small hive beetles and wax moths hate the cedar and they stay out. The bees love the cedar.
Above the vented blanket box is a roof assembly. It has an attic with open screened eyes and vent holes on the front and back at the top of each end. The floor of the attic has a three or four-inch thick Styrofoam insulation sheet on it. The floor is 3/16″ aviation plywood. The sidewalls extend down below the vents in the blanket box to keep the snow and rain out.
Being in the soggy PNW and having my hives down in a low-lying area near a watercourse, winter moisture management has been key for me, along with a good mite-control strategy, of course. I, too, saw the immediate improvement in internal wetness when I installed moisture quilts largely per your design. Had upper entrances before and after I began using the quilt boxes. But, the next few years still left me wishing I could address the honey left on the outside frames by the bees, and the excess moisture produced by the occasional prolific colony for which the shavings in the quilt box would get saturated after long periods of rain and 100% humidity in the depths of what we call “winter” around here.
Then, in 2018, I stumbled across a reference to William Hesbach’s article on “Winter Management” in Oct 2016 Bee Culture. It was too late in the year to try his approach to the “condensing colony” but I got things together to give it a go last winter. Starting with 12 colonies, I put 2″ EPS insulation on all 4 sides, extending above the top box 4.25″ so as to accommodate my 2″ eke (for sugar brick space) and room to place a 2″ piece of foil-sided EPS board as an internal cover. For half of the 12, I did it this way and for the other 6, I put the moisture quilt box on top of the 2″ eke The ventilation holes on the quilt boxes were exposed above the EPS insulation on the sides of the hive. On top of either arrangement, I put a piece of 1″ EPS board that was about 4″ larger than the outside dimensions of the insulated hives, to give some overhang to reduce rain getting between the insulation sheath around the hives and the hive boxes. I set my normal telescoping cover on top of this 1″ EPS board to weigh it down and give a harder surface to cinch my hive strap across.
All the entrances were severely restricted to about 2 square inches and the bottom boards were a random mixture of normal solid ones and screened ones that had the screen blocked with a piece of coroplast and the insertion slot occluded with foam backer rod.
Of course, I was concerned that the 6 that I’d set up without the quilt boxes as full-on condensing colonies would experience internal rainstorms and rapidly perish so I was peeking in them from the top after 2 days or so. Then, I got more relaxed about it and went to check them weekly.
By the end of March 2020, I’d lost one colony; a double-decker 4-frame nuc that, along with another, had the footprint of a double-deep 8-frame hive, and that was probably due to the very small entrance (1 square inch) getting clogged with dead bees late in the winter. The identical-sized nuc on the other side made it.
When looking into the top of the hives during the winter, I noticed that the bees were not in a tight cluster as they very often were in past years without the EPS insulation. They were typically in a loose one with plenty roaming around, even to the outermost frames. I always put some sugar bricks on top of the frames because the hive heft test is pretty general and I’ve lost a couple to starvation in the past. And, it’s always problematic for me to go into the boxes in the winter to check food resources due to risk to the queen so I’d rather stay out of there.
The 10 hives that weren’t the two double-decker nucs were all single deeps with a medium super full of honey or capped syrup to start the winter. When I did my spring inspections, all colonies had honey/syrup left to some extent. And, it was evident that all had been going to the outermost frames, even the outside surface of the outermost frames, to retrieve it. That was a considerable difference from what I’d seen in prior years with no external insulation. In those years, it was very typical to find (moldy) full frames of honey in those outermost positions. Not only had the bees been accessing their stores on those outermost frames, but there was also little or no mold on them.
And, I also saw a notable difference in the populations of the colonies that did not have the moisture quilt boxes. They were larger. The bed of shavings in the moisture quilts allows considerable vertical airflow through the hive (otherwise they wouldn’t work). I think the colonies in the hives that were completely sealed on top with the foam boards got down to brood-rearing earlier than the ones with the moisture quilts, possibly because they were less challenged by heat loss.
So, this winter, I’m running all 16 hives as full-on condensing colonies and so far they’re all doing great! You may want to try it.
Seeking advice…I installed a quilt box using straw. I don’t have air vents installed in the sides of the quilt box though. I peaked in today and the straw was quite damp with condensation hanging out on the inner cover. We used a piece of Styrofoam as the inner cover…do you all think that is necessary or making the condensation built up worse/unable to wick? Also, I left the actual inner cover underneath the quilt box…should I have removed it? I’m worried it’s just getting too wet in there. Last year we used a layer of sugar as the insulation and feed but wanted to try something different need feed them with sugar anymore. I only have that method to compare to. If anyone has advice I’d love to hear. Thanks
First, I don’t think straw is especially absorbent. Other materials would be better, especially wood chips. Secondly, the vent holes are recommended for the purpose of allowing the absorbent material to dry. It’s normal for water to condense on the inside of the lid and rain down on the quilt box, but then the quilt box will dry as ventilation passes over the top of it, yet the brood box stays warm. The foam insulation board shouldn’t matter. Third, I get better results without the inner cover. I take it out of the hive completely. That said, I think some people leave it in and have not had problems. Every set-up is slightly different, so you may want to experiment with both methods.