beekeeping equipment

Tweaking my moisture quilts

Of all the changes I made to my hives over the years, nothing has helped more than the moisture quilts. I’ve used quilts for five years now, and on average, I went from overwintering 50-60 percent of my hives, to overwintering 80-100 percent.

Many people have criticized my design. Most of those who criticized said my wood chips were not deep enough to be effective. Mine are only two inches deep, and in the beginning I, too, thought they should have been deeper. But the fact remains that my survival rate shot up and, in any case, the moisture collects in only the top one-quarter to one-half inch. I’ve never found the moisture to go deeper than that, even in very large triple-deep hives.

However, all beekeeping is local and my winters are not that cold, just wet. My quilts are designed primarily to capture moisture, but if you are also using them for insulation, there is no reason not to go deeper . . . four inches, six inches, it really doesn’t matter.

Changing canvas to wire

The other common criticism was the use of canvas to hold the chips. They said it wouldn’t last a season. I elected to use canvas after I read that Warré beekeepers use burlap. Canvas was easier for me to get, so I used that. I figured I could rip it off and replace it every year.

As it turned out, most quilts lasted three years before I changed the canvas. I didn’t see this as a big problem, but nevertheless, this year I replaced the canvas with #8 hardware cloth. Why #8? Simply because I had a roll of it on hand.

The thing I didn’t want was wood crumbs raining down between the frames. I figured the bees have enough to do without cleaning up sawdust, so I cut a piece of cotton fabric to fit just above the hardware cloth. With the fabric in place, I poured the wood chips on top.

So far, I like what I see. No chips are falling into the hive, the moisture is collecting in the surface layers, and so far I’m still at 100% of my hives.

Simplicity is key

As before, I keep a feeder rim just below the quilt. If I want to feed, I simply raise the quilt on one end, slide in the sugar, and close it back down. It only takes a few seconds, which allows me to do it on a cold and rainy day, if necessary.

As I mentioned previously, I now aim for simplicity at every step. If the chore is simple and easy, I am much more likely to get it done on time . . . and that is the important part for me.

Meanwhile, other beekeepers in other climates have made all kinds of ingenious variations on the moisture quilt, often with awesome woodworking to match. I will soon share photos of some of the designs . . . and in the meantime, the comb honey series will continue.

Tweaking my moisture quilts by using hardware cloth on the bottom instead of canvas.

I stapled hardware cloth to the bottom, placed a piece of cotton fabric inside, and then filled the quilts with wood chips.



  • Thanks for the update! Finished a quilt frame but hadn’t stapled the cloth on. I have some #8, so you’ve saved me from taking off the cloth. I’ll put the #8 on then cut some cloth to fit. My husband had suggested just stapling some hardware cloth on it, but my dense brain didn’t think about then putting cloth on the wire. Duh.

  • Thanks for sharing Rusty. I fashioned my quilts after reading one of your other posts about them. Which by the way was the first blog of yours I read after being linked to it from By the way, honeybeesuite is now my first online stop for bee education and fun reading.

    For my quilts I used black aluminum window screen stapled to the bottom. Because of my Michigan winters I made mine 3.5 inches tall with three 1″ screened ventilation holes on each of 2 opposites sides. I added 3″ of cedar shavings to it leaving a .5 inch of dead space and the side vents cleared away to breath.

  • Very Nice! Those of us in Western Washington know how important it is to assist our bees with ventilation to counter excessive moisture. I use thin shims between inner covers and my telescoping lids with a small fold of burlap over the inner cover hole. It’s very simple way to help… burlap wicks the moisture away from raining back down on the cluster. I should point out that I also have an upper entrance on all my hives to increase ventilation.

    • Brad,

      More good ideas. This is what I like to see: if you understand the principles, the ways to implement them are endless. Thanks!

  • Hi Rusty,

    I have quilts on Langs and Warre hives and built them exactly like you. Hardware cloth with cotton over and chips above that. Even though it gets cold here in Central WA, the depth of chips doesn’t seem to matter.

  • The hardware cloth I have on hand is galvanized. Is that a problem for this design, or should I track down some stainless steel?

    • Gretchen,

      Mine is galvanized. Galvanized won’t last as long as stainless, but it should last at least five years or so.

  • Great idea….do you prefer any special wood chip? Are they the wood chips you’d buy at a pet store? Do you think it matters if they are cedar chips or not? I’ve been using shredded paper but this makes more sense.
    I’m that “knowledgable” 2-3 year old beekeeper you’ve written about….still learning, still loving it.
    Thank you for sharing,

    • Hi Frank,

      I use wood chips from the feed store, animal bedding. Cedar makes no difference, cedar beehives are quite popular in some parts of the country.

      Good to know you are one of those. Now I know where to look in case I need help!

    • John,

      Everyone seems to do it differently. Usually, I put them on at the end of October and take them off at the end of March, but it depends on the weather. I do not use an inner cover, just a telescoping cover over the quilt. But you could use an inner cover if you wanted to.

  • Using your idea, I made my quilt boxes from shallow boxes. Made a ‘frame’ using 1 x strips with window screening stapled to both sides. The frame was recessed 1″ from the bottom of the box for the feeding space. In sw CT I am not finding a lot of moisture collecting on the chips. I’ve learned so much from your blog, Rusty. Thanks.

  • Thanks so much! I’m a visual learner, and seeing is the key. What a great idea! I’ve read about this in the Warre materials, but your way to do it is perfect. Simple is often so hard to do…. I’ll be making up some frames with hardware cloth tacked on right away. My late winter/early springs are cold and wet here. That’s when I seem to lose my bees. Come the next nice warm day, I’ll be ready to pop the covers and put on these quilt boxes. Keep up the good work! Love your posts.

  • I converted what I call ventilator rims into moisture quilts, but I have a couple holes in the back as well as the sides. Does anyone know if that would make any difference? Would a holes on in the back mess up the air flow? Do matching holes only on sides create a more directional, better air flow?

    • Phillip,

      More holes will increase the amount of ventilation. As long as you aren’t getting blowing rain in the holes, and as long as the insulation is thick enough for your climate, I don’t see a problem.

  • I wonder, Rusty, if the use of quilt boxes explains some of the wide variation in overwintering statistics in my bee club…losses ranged from 0% to 90% last winter. This year I hope we compare not only numbers, but poll the membership for why they think their hives went down, and what overwintering techniques they used.

  • I use a similar top quilt here in the uk (autumn very wet then cold) but with no side vents. I use a breathable membrane used under roof slates in the construction trade on the top and bottom of the box. I still use wood shavings, the membrane lets moisture out but no water back through. Seems to work well.

  • Nice info. I think these are essential! I’m in Western Washington and use 2-1/2″ of cedar shavings in a 4-1/2″ box with a fully-vented air space above the shavings (so moisture can really wick out). Plus I use filter fabric, the sort you put over weeds (and I think it is fiberglass) as I found it was tougher, didn’t sag over the frames when I loaded it, didn’t sift shavings down into the hive, breathes great, and now my bees have totally moved up on to the undersurface of the fabric and seem to like it (dry and warm, I assume).

    I also installed the fabric inset, not flush with the bottom, so the fabric doesn’t just sit on top of the frames below. My hives are totally dry inside, after years of having to find them dripping in the interior. Wish I had done this when I started! (My friend, who knew the Aebi’s in Santa Cruz, says they use to do use cedar shavings as well).

  • My quilt boxes are about like yours. I leave mine on year round. I think it helps
    insulate from the hot summer sun.

  • I don’t use a cloth and have noticed the bees hauling out a few smaller wood chips. Not many get through with the size of cedar shavings I use, but I might add a cloth liner in future years.

    One unexpected benefit of the quilts is that it gives me a noninvasive way to compare hive populations in the winter.

    No moist chips on top: Cluster is small. Food should be adequate (all of my hives go into winter with at least 80 lbs of honey) but higher risk of deadout.

    Moist chips across 1/3 to 1/2 of quilt: Cluster is a good size for winter.

    Moist chips across entire top of quilt: Cluster is very large, bees must have some Italian blood. Need to keep an eye on food stores heading into spring.

    • Hey Mark,

      Indeed, that’s a great way to keep tabs on your colony strength. Before quilts, moisture inside the lid really annoyed me; now lack of moisture on a quilt freaks me out.

  • If you search any of the big box stores or just on line, the search for ‘breathable roofing membrane’ will get hits. Look at the application for those search results for ‘roofing’ applications. You could also try ‘breathable roofing membrane’ as your search phrase. As odd as it sounds, the manufacturers seem to call it thus. There are some variations, the best I’ve found so far would be a ‘waterproof, breathable roofing membrane’ such as,

    Sadly, the roofing industry in the US hasn’t taken up nifty terms for stuff as have beekeepers. I offer ‘Ekes’ as such a beekeeping term. Loves that one, I do. On the other side of the pond, ‘Sarking’ is apparently the generic term. Don’t you think ‘Waterproof, breathable sarking’ has a much more mystical ring to it? 🙂

    While perusing the roofing goodies, take a look at ridge venting fabric. Essentially a porus mat, typically looks like heavy duty scotchbrite pads and is available in rolls. Should make a nice breathable membrane perhaps?

    Kent WA

  • Hi Rusty – My question vanished, so posting again. I built the frame form the quilt and went to Target got the pine shavings they sell for pet bedding. Is that appropriate for bees in the moisture quilt? They smell very strong pine and I am concerned it might be too much for the bees. The label says its all natural and can be put to compost pile after pet use.

    I thought of airing it out for a few days, but then it would pick up moisture and would be of no use to the bees, I would think (?)

    Please advise : )


    • Hafiz,

      It’s fine. Bees live in all different types of trees which, I’m sure, smell like wood. Funny thing about that.

  • A quick update on the moisture quilts I installed on five of my six Langstroth hives in a cold, windy, foggy and wet environment: So far so good. The wood chips in one of the hives are a slightly damp, but all the bees seem to be dry inside, dryer than they were back in December when they were virtually soaked.

    I was concerned that some extreme cold and wind that persisted for about two weeks (-25°C / -13°F was not uncommon) would freeze the bees, especially since I removed the hard insulation above the top cover in favour of the moisture quilts. But the bees seem fine.

    Pretty cool.

  • The moisture quilt looks like a fantastic idea. I live in the upper Midwest where this winter we had overnight lows as low as -25ºF / -32ºC and multiple days where the high temperature never reached 0ºF / -18ºC.

    Here the “standard” overwintering practice for Langstroths are putting the inner cover over the top hive body, then one or two boards of Bildrite fibre sheathing used as moisture absorbing boards.

    Also recommended to leave a vent hole open on the top deep along with the entrance reducer having the small setting open down on the bottom.

    However, using the inner cover in this manner only leaves that small hole hole in the inner cover available to pass moisture laden vapor through to the moisture board above the inner cover.

    A few questions for anybody who cares to answer. Rusty, I used to live in Seattle, so have a decent idea about the winter conditions west of the Cascades, but if anybody else comments, it would be helpful to know your general region/location so I have an idead of your climate.

    1) What did you do for moisture absorption before the quilt?
    2) Has your over-wintering success continued for multiple years?
    3) Have you noticed a decrease in food consumption over the winters since using quilts?
    4) How many vent holes are you leaving open in your hive bodies for bees to take cleansing flights? (and specifically where are these holes located?)
    5) Do your hives use solid bodies?
    6) How are you wrapping the hives? Have you thought about increasing the wrap?

    I saw on a Calgary beekeeping site where they use Reflectix(TM) insulation as part of their over-winter wrapping.

    I’d like to cut down on moisture risk to the hive and also cut down on honey (fuel) required to keep the hive warm. I know that quite a number of beeks around here lost hives because their food stores ran out. Making the hive environment more efficient would be a nice way to go.

    Sorry about combining ‘wrapping’ with ‘quilting’ but oh well… it’s all towards the same goal. :))

    Thank you!

    • Clinton,

      1. I used rags to dry the underside of the lid and the top bars about twice a week.
      2. Yes. I don’t really worry about overwintering with my setup.
      3. No.
      4. Zero holes in my hive bodies. The main entrance has one hole about one-inch by 3/8-inch throughout the winter.
      5. Yes.
      6. I do not wrap my hives, nor do I plan to. Although I’m on the 47th parallel I’m in a hardiness zone 8.

      • Thank you for the fast reply.

        I looked at my number 5 question again and realized it was late when I wrote it and it made no sense. What I meant to ask was:

        5) Do your hives use solid bottoms? :))) (vs. screened or open bottoms)

        🙂 haha!

        Regarding question #1, you did not have anything inside the hive for active moisture absorption. Instead were relying on re-active wiping the moisture away after it developed.

        The only reason I ask is because since we are already using the moisture boards *above* the inner cover, we have a certain level of moisture absorption and insulation already.

        And the biggest thing is the climate here (very cold and drier winter air) is totally different. So I understand it’s not comparing ‘apples to apples’ 🙂

        An interesting point is you use a single entrance into the hive plus the ventilation above the quilt. I like this approach.

        Those upper vents would allow the cool new air to filter through the wood chips and take on some of the heat of the exiting air.

        Not only would this condense out excess moisture into the chips, but the blanket would function like an air-to-air heat exchanger… not all the heat from the hive would escape while still providing fresh oxygen laden air.

        Overwintering is a big deal here… Hardiness Zone 4B and I hear of a lot of hives starving out because beeks did not providing enough fuel (food) to run the furnace (bees).

        I think there is clearly a solid role for a modified quilt in this area.

        • Yes, I have screened bottom boards. If it stays cold for an extended period, I slide in the drawers, but generally I leave them open. I should also mention that I occasionally sweep out dead bees that may block the lower entrance. I just pull out the reducer, run a long stick in there to sweep out the dead, and then close it back up.

      • Just a little to add… I successfully wintered 23 out of 24 hives in 7 yards (so far – knock on wood) this last winter in my 3rd year of beekeeping in very wet western Washington (Skagit County lowland and foothills). I believe you must have upper entrances in your inner covers front edge to allow for ventilation and access (if lower entrance becomes blocked). I do shim my telescoping lids up just a little bit and put a fold of burlap to act as a moisture wick over the center hole in the inner cover. This seems to help keep condensation from dripping back down on the cluster. I pull out my screen bottom board inserts, remove my entrance reducers and mouse guards in the middle of March. I have a moisture barrier on ground beneath the hive stands also. I have thought about using the moisture absorbing box method, but have yet to make the leap… :^) I don’t wrap or insulate my hives, as that seems to increase the moisture in the hive?

        • Hi Brad,

          QQ here: do you (or anyone else) do anything special to get rid of the kerosene-like smell of the burlap? Mine stinks quite a bit and I am concerned it may off-gas bad fumes. I read online that this is normal for burlap, so maybe it’s a non-issue. I’m using it to line my quilt boxes.



          • Tyvek is not a vapor barrier and might work fine (I’m an architect and builder). It’s an air barrier, and water barrier in liquid form, but it breathes vapor, which is what you want. It’s designed to breath so that houses do not entrap moisture, which is why a similar material is used underneath mattresses (I think this is where Tyvek was originally used).

            I think it is worth a try (I might).

            I am successfully using a fabric that is used to cover weeds; it breathes great, has no odor, and is relatively stiff so does not sag onto the top frames. It seems to be made out of a fiberglass like material, which entangled a few legs of a few bees, but very few. I also use cedar shavings rather than pine or other, from a feed store, which are cheap, possibly have some positive smell (in my area of the PNW we sometimes find wild hives (of those that remain) favoring red cedar trees), and are also great smoker fuel when needed.

            The pine is too fine and dusty, and seeps through the fabric. I also found that window screening works, but has to be supported with some bracing, as it sags.

            I believe totally in these for my area, which has a lot of rain and moisture. I had zero losses out of 15 hives last year, which is very unusual, and I think much to do with a healthier internal environment.

          • Matthew,

            Interesting about the vapor vs liquid form of water. I used to work for a water treatment company and one of my jobs was to crawl under people’s houses and map the water piping. We always wore Tyvek suits because of the puddles of water (and other liquid matter?) in those spaces. Dead things too, and cat pee. Anyway, Tyvek kept it all out. But as you say, it was liquid not vapor.

            As for supporting material, I like the hardware cloth the best (#8) although it does allow cedar particles to drop through.

          • How odd? I always get my burlap from the big coffee roasting distributors (for free) – food grade burlap never been treated. I have never had any smells come from the burlap I use in my smoker to work the bees.

  • I have got to try this quilt system. I am new this year and have never lost a colony of bees so I have a reputation to maintain. First, Rusty, you asked if anyone knew what Sean was using near the top portion of this thread. Would that be like Tyvek? That is a trademark name so there are several brands out but that is the common brand in Oklahoma. I was sitting in our beekeepers meeting last evening and the president of our chapter was touting the use of quilts and how he built his. It occurred to me that this is like the insulation in the walls and ceilings of our homes. The vapor barrier is always on the heated side of the wall. I think your canvas does this. Some insulations comes without the vapor barrier so it doesn’t matter as much (screen). Just sitting there picturing this in my mind. I don’t like the idea of making holes in the sides of my boxes. We get blowing rains where I live. Why can’t we lift the telescoping cover and let it vent like a screened cover? Nothing can get in if I have this pictured correctly. As for the chips, you are correct about bees living in trees and they all smell like wood. Some different that others. I think the cedar chips are readily available because we use them with our dogs and cats to keep fleas off them. I plan to use the pine chips from my woodworking shop. I would caution anyone about walnut shavings. I read on another thread that it probably wouldn’t matter but I have a reputation to maintain. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experiences.

    • Clifford,

      You don’t want the fabric in the bottom of your quilt to act like a vapor barrier. Quite the opposite: you want the moisture-laden air to pass through the fabric so it can be absorbed by the chips and/or leave through the ventilation ports.

      • I agree that it can’t be water tight. It has to breath. All barriers used on insulation has to breath. I am not sure that Tyvek is water tight. I am just trying to decide what Sean used. It sounds much like Gortex although that would be far too expensive. Gortex will allow moisture to pass through it as a vapor but not as a liquid. The body heat from your foot or wherever you have it heats the moisture so it can pass through. I will check this.

      • “The unique ability to resist air and water penetration, while allowing
        moisture vapor to pass through makes DuPont Tyvek® extremely popular
        for providing protection, comfort and energy efficiency when used
        in residential and commercial construction.” This is the claim on their website. I believe it will allow the moisture from the bees to pass through while warm then the moisture will condense under the upper cover and fall into the wood chips. Canvas will also repel water. As a child I watched the irrigation system in Arizona use it as temporary dams to contain water in a ditch. For the record I plan to use window screen wire and place a cotton cloth on it them my wood chips. I think this is a sound idea and I am glad you have tested it for us.

  • Matthew and Clifford,

    I consulted with an engineer on the Tyvek question. His thought is basically the same as mine, that Tyvek is not a good material for moisture quilts. And here’s why:

    Yes, Tyvek is allows water vapor to pass. However, the moisture load inside a healthy beehive is too great for the surface area of a moisture quilt. The bees’ respiration will overwhelm the tiny amount of Tyvek. At first, the vapor will pass through slowly. But as the amount of moisture in the hive air increases, or the temperature outside decreases, some of that moisture will condense on the underside of the Tyvek. Once a thin layer of liquid water covers the surface, it will no longer allow water vapor to pass through. In time, the accumulated moisture will rain down on the colony.

    He gives as an example the discomfort of wearing a Tyvek suit. If you wear one for long, you will sweat profusely. This is because the amount of water vapor you are producing cannot diffuse through the Tyvek fast enough. You get hotter and hotter because there is no evaporative cooling: moisture cannot evaporate from your skin because the air inside your suit is already saturated. It is saturated because vapor diffusion through Tyvek is a slow process.

    This slow process works wonders for certain applications where the moisture loads are not huge, but where a slow and steady process does the trick. That is why it is perfect for wrapping houses.

    If you decide to try it anyway, keep a close eye on your colony. In my own humble opinion, the Tyvek will defeat the entire purpose of a moisture quilt.

    • Yes- that sounds to me like good reasoning on Tyvek, and I could see it being overwhelmed by the vapor load. I am happy with the material I am using (woven weed covering) so I will stick with that- but might try an experiment with Tyvek just to confirm- its always worth experimenting (unless your engineer has actually tried it). Thanks for checking!

        • I haven’t used Tyvek and I don’t plan to use it. It just sounds like the product Sean said they used under roofing tiles in Great Britain (I think that was his location). I plan to use #8 wire and a light cotton fabric. I might try something like the paint drops someone else mentioned. I see the need for the moisture laden air to go up through the wood chips so it can condense on the under side of the cold cover then vent to the outdoors. As a part time home inspector I know the need for venting or exhausting to the outdoors. Thanks for checking on Tyvek since I even mentioned it. Might have saved the life of a bee out there.

  • Hey Rusty,

    I recall you mentioning that you don’t bother with upper entrances after you install a moisture quilt. But do you think carbon dioxide build up could be a problem if the bottom entrance gets blocked by snow? Have you had any problems so far?

    I ask because one of my hives with the same configuration is likely buried in snow and I doubt I’ll have a chance to dig it out any time soon. I’m not too worried, but I’m wondering…

    • Hi Phillip,

      I figure that the CO2 will leave through the ventilation ports in the quilt, but that is assuming I have an air supply coming in through the lower entrance, the screened bottom board, or gnarly spaces between the boxes. But if all those entrances are sealed with snow, then it seems that both CO2 and moisture would build up inside the hive.

      I don’t know how sensitive insects are to CO2 concentrations, either. Can they withstand more than humans? I’m clueless.

      Also would a top entrance help, or would the air circulate in through the top entrance and out through the quilt vents without airing out the brood boxes? My guess is it would help to some degree, but enough? I don’t know.

      You’ve got me on this one. It’s a really good question, but I’m sure many colonies have been buried in snow and lived to tell about it. Let me know what you decide.

      • I decided to leave the buried hive alone. Icy roads, freezing rain and the 10-foot-high snow drifts I would have had to climb through made that an easy call. If all the entrances to the hive were buried, it was probably for about 3 days. We’ve had enough rain to wash most of the deep snow away. I’ll be checking for survivors in about 24 hours.

  • Checked about Tyvek with the civil engineer in the house. He pointed out there are different types and that they have different qualities. But he would, from personal experience, not recommend them given how sweaty he finds the Tyvek suits he wears for hazmat ; -D

  • hi rusty. can I put my moisture quilt ( no. 8 hardware cloth) without shavings in top of my empty deep that has a feeder in it for ventilation? its for a package I installed a week ago . thanks . great site !!!

  • Does the hardware cloth stapled to the bottom of the quilt prevent a tight seal between the quilt box and the box below it?

    • Kim,

      I have the hardware cloth sandwiched between wooden slats so it doesn’t snag on things. I’m sure some air gets through, but not nearly as much as goes through the ventilation ports an inch above it.

  • Rusty

    I am a new bee owner as of this year. I have 2 hives and would very much like to see both of them make it through the winter. One of the things I have to help them along is a moisture quilt that I put white shavings in that I also use in my horse stalls. My questions are, do you use your moisture quilt during the summer? If so, do you use it with or without the shavings? Upside down or put on like you normally would? Right now I have mine upside down without shavings using it for ventilation. Hope that’s a good move. Thanks Linda

    • Linda,

      Yes, I sometimes use my empty moisture quilts in place of screened inner covers. I put them on the regular way (but empty) so the bees can’t build burr comb above the frames.

  • Hi Rusty

    Another question. When you use your moisture quilts in the winter do you put your inner cover over or under the quilt. Or not use one at all. I’m thinking the inner cover would gather moisture on it if under the quilt but not sure if it would be necessary on the top. If you don’t use the inner cover at all, would you put a small spacer rim with a small entrance hole in it between the moisture quilt and the top super? Thanks for all your help. Linda

    • Linda,

      I do not use an inner cover in winter. I also do not use an upper entrance in winter. I put a feeder rim between the top brood box and the moisture quilt.

  • Rusty

    A couple more questions. If you put your moisture quilt on during the summer, minus the shavings, do you use an inner cover? If so is it above or below the quilt box? Also what size is your feeder rim? I purchased 3 inch wood to make one. However, turns out the wood actually measures to 2 1/2 in. Would that be high enough?

    • Linda,

      1. I do not use an inner cover with the summer moisture quilt because it serves no purpose, but it wouldn’t cause a problem if you did. Just in the way.
      2. If you do use it, put it above the quilt box, otherwise it will block the airflow.
      3. My feeder rims are a little shy of three inches deep.
      4. The rims only need to be deep enough to slide in hard candy, fondant, or pollen patties. Two-and-a-half inches should be fine.

  • Here’s a short video clip I posted on Twitter that shows how I use my empty moisture quilts during the peak of summer. I think you’ll like it.

    My moisture quilts are 3-4 inches deep. I use window screen instead of canvas. And I have a rim (or shim or spacer) screwed into the bottom of so the screen isn’t laying completely flat on the top bars. Those are my little tweaks.

    I love my moisture quilts.

  • Haha sorry Rusty I guess I was thinking but not writing it all down.
    In the Mudsongs video that you shared, I believe there is a spacer rim attached to the bottom of the moisture quilt to keep the screen from sagging on the bees. I think it is a 1 inch spacer but am curious if a 1 1/2 might be too wide because of the space that bees like to have. I just happen to have a 1 1/2 in. Thanks Linda

    • Linda,

      The 1.5-inch rim will work, but the larger the space up there the greater the chance of the bees building burr comb. You may find you have to remove it periodically. Even one inch is great enough to get some burr comb, so don’t be surprised to see some in either case.

  • Hmm, not sure if you got my last e-mail or not. I explained what I meant by my last comment on the spacer rim. Did you get it? My computer was acting strange. Linda

  • Hi Rusty

    I can see you get many questions and it takes time and energy to answer as many as you do. I for one, and I am sure many others, greatly appreciate all the help and information you give us. I know you check content before posting so I will share this with you. It’s a small world. My partner…and your husband know each other. Your husband dropped off one of your cards…the other day. Long story short, I was talking about your website to [my boyfriend] and he hands me your card. Take care, and again, thanks for all your help . This bee business can be overwhelming sometimes. linda

    • Linda,

      That is so funny. Yup, my husband has been hauling off my cards lately. I will contact you via email.

  • Can consider getting aluminum screen wire (sometimes called New York wire). Vastly cheaper than hardware cloth. It isn’t welded at the seams, so isn’t as durable, but isn’t going to be facing heavy scraping or exterior use.

    I’ve used it for bottom boards, but would be perfect use in this case.

    3’x25′ at Lowes for only $22 right now, but you can find it at most hardware shops. Some have it in narrower widths as well. I’d avoid the fiberglass screen. Don’t want them gnawing on that.

  • I have an inner cover as well as a moisture quilt and a telescoping cover. My moisture quilt has 3 screened 1 inch holes in the sides. Will the moisture quilt be enough insulation for the top or should I insulate the telescoping cover some how. If so any suggestions?

    • Linda,

      In this area, I don’t think you need more insulation that what the moisture quilt provides. I use just a quilt and a telescoping cover without an inner cover. But if you feel like you want more, you can always cut a piece of insulating board (something like Homesote) and fit it into the telescoping cover.

  • Rusty,

    When you use a moisture quilt do you use an inner cover with it? If so, do you place the cover under or over the moisture quilt. I used an inner cover under my moisture quilt. My bees were doing fine until a few weeks ago. (Beginning of April) I noticed my Peach hive had plenty of bees coming out on a warm day but nothing from my yellow hive. My yellow hive was a large booming hive going into winter.

    I checked my yellow hive and had a ton of dead bees scattered everywhere. There was maybe a frame of bees left and they were in little groups on the wall and a few on the frames. There were no eggs but a little bit of pollen. I was thinking I had a dead queen so looked all over what bees I had left. Couldn’t find her but she wasn’t marked either. Didn’t find any sign of disease or anything that would point to a reason for them dying. I reduced down to one brood box. The next weekend I peeked in the yellow hive again. There was no activity at all. I looked inside. 2 dead bees and no other sign of bees. It looks like the bees that were left took off. Maybe there was a queen after all?? The only thing I can come up with is that too much moisture built up in the hive and not enough was able to escape through the inner cover hole into the moisture quilt. What do you think may have happened? All opinions welcome.

  • A little more info.

    My bees in the yellow hive still has plenty of honey left on the frames. Even on the frames they were on. I only found 10 dead bees with their heads in a cell and those were on the far outer frames. I also had a bee cozy on my hives because my hives are out in the open. I had a top and bottom entrance and kept the bottom entrance cleared of any dead bees. I wonder if the dead bees I found between the first and second brood box could have restricted the air flow.

    • Linda,

      First, I don’t use an inner cover with a moisture quilt. But if you want to use one, it goes above the quilt. If you put it below the quilt, the moisture-laden air condenses on the inner cover and can fall back down on the bees. In other words, the inner cover is blocking the moisture quilt from doing its job.

      But your bees didn’t die from moisture or restricted air flow. I have no doubt they died from viral diseases carried by varroa mites. I’m guessing here, but I’m going to assume that you either didn’t treat with a reliable method or that you treated too late in the year (after August would be too late in this area).

      There are several indicators including the time of collapse (late winter/early spring), the size of the colony (bigger colonies have larger proportions of mites and are more apt to collapse), honey remaining on the frames, no obvious signs of disease, and the last group of bees disappeared (that is, as the bees got sick, they flew out of the hive to die). The queen probably died and was carried out and dumped by some of the remaining bees before they, too, died.

      I’m so confident because I’ve seen this hundreds of times and the symptoms are always the same. It is very predictable. Beekeepers make the mistake by seeing a huge, booming, active colony in fall and think nothing could go wrong. But they are exactly the colonies that die. New work by Thomas Seeley suggests we go back to keeping smaller colonies (one deep) because they seem to do better in the fight against varroa, especially for those who want to be treatment-free or treatment-minimal.

  • Hi again Rusty,

    Well, I forgot to tell you that I treated with 3 doses of oxalic acid vaporizer in the early fall and then again in Jan. When I checked there were maybe 3 Varroa mites on the board below the screen. Whatever I did I don’t want to make the same mistake twice. :o(

    • Linda,

      Oxalic acid is an excellent choice. So the real question becomes exactly when you treated. I’ve written about this extensively in other posts, but the key lies in the birth of your winter bees. The winter bees in our area appear in September and October. They live the entire winter and are the bees that see the colony through until spring. If they are born already infected with viruses, the colony won’t make it till spring.

      In order to assure the winter bees are virus-free, you need to kill all the mites before the eggs for those bees are laid, which puts you back in August. That is why August is crucial for mite management. The rule of thumb is treatment should be complete by August 31, but lately people are saying August 15.

      If you don’t treat until after those bees are born, you can still kill the mites, but the bees are already diseased, so the treatments can’t save the colony. The thing to remember is that it’s the viruses that are the killers, not the mites. Once bees are infected, killing the mites won’t help those bees.

  • Rusty:

    That’s interesting about smaller colonies. I lost my larger, robust hive in late winter. I was diligent about monitoring and treating for mites, and by the looks of the mold etc. in the lost hive, I’m pretty sure the cause was moisture. The smaller hive I constantly fretted over (and re-queened last August) actually made it through the winter.

    The main difference between the two was that in late fall of last year I reduced the weaker hive to one brood box, thinking it was simply less space for them to heat. Is doing this a huge factor toward winter survival?

    I have four hives now and am considering reducing all four to singe brood boxes this winter. In any case, I plan on using quilt boards next winter.

    Thank you.


    Portland OR.

    • Jerry,

      Of all the management changes I’ve made over the years, the moisture quilts made the most startling difference. My bees have been warmer, dryer, and mold-free since I went with quilts. They are like magic.

      As for singles, Thomas Seeley’s new article states, “Consider using just one deep hive body for a broodnest and one medium-depth super over a queen excluder for honey. You won’t harvest as much honey, but you will likely have reduced disease and pest problems, particularly varroa.” This coincides with things that people have written to me over years. Like you, they say their large colonies collapsed and the smaller ones (much to everyone’s surprise) made it through.

      After thinking about this a lot, I have cut down all my hives to singles this year. Some were doubles, a few were triples, but now they are all singles. I’ve decided it’s worth a try, especially coming from Seeley. As he points out, feral colonies occupy about 1.5 cubic feet, while managed colones in North America average 3+ cubic feet. I’m eager to see how it goes.

      • Rusty, looking at Seeley’s suggestion in your post above, it doesn’t seem hardiness-zone specific. I’ve read elsewhere on HBS that using single deeps has worked out well for you over in Zone 8, but here in Zone 5b I would be worried about them being able to reach the honey all winter long. Since the excluder prevents the queen, and therefore the cluster, from moving up into the second box, that means that bees have to leave the cluster to go up and get food and then make it back to the cluster without getting torpid. If they have to go too far when it is too cold, because they already ate all the honey that was just above the excluder, I am afraid they might not make it back. Do you know if Seeley has any suggestions relative to using single deeps in different hardiness zones? Do you have any suggestions yourself?

        Seeley’s idea of having a single deep + excluder + medium box of honey wouldn’t allow enough honey for all climates, right? I am afraid that, even with a small colony that fits into just one deep, one medium of honey might not be enough where I am. (That is why I am worried about the distance they will have to go at the end). But I would like to try this out. This will be my first winter with my bees.

        Thanks again so much for your helpful site and all your helpful advice. I have learned so much thanks to you.

  • So by going to single deeps do you increase the chances of swarming? My understanding is that if you don’t want to increase the number of your hives by doing splits, you should create more space? Also, I’ve read pros and cons about queen excluders, but maybe with with bees condensed into a single deep they are more necessary?

    To be honest, I’m not it for just the honey, so reduced amounts of it would be fine. I’m seriously thinking about following your example of single deeps year-round, and I’m definitely building some moisture quilts for this coming winter.

    Thank you.


    • Jerry,

      Yes, single deeps are more likely to swarm, which is the thing that confers more mite control. More space sometimes lessens swarming, but not always. But again, swarming is the thing that most aids varroa control (because it causes brood breaks). There are pros and cons to queen excluders. Whether you use them depends on your tolerance for brood in your honey frames. Like children, queens enjoy going where they’re not wanted. I believe the need for an excluder will increase with a single brood box.

      Beekeeping is a give and take; you don’t get something for nothing. Every decision has its consequences.

  • While it’s not necessary, I’m going to include a hearty endorsement for the use of moisture quilts as Rusty has described above. The main difference I have seen is in the state of a hive after a dead out. You can look elsewhere on this website for a postmortem I did a few years back, and you can see there was a tremendous amount of mold and other grossness on those frames and inside the boxes. And those pictures were taken about 4 to 6 weeks after the last time I saw any bees flying.

    Fast forward to this winter, where I had a similar situation, where – even though I treated the bees with OA in December – one of my hives that was weaker did not make it. That hive sat for probably 2 to 3 months before I finally got around to opening it up, and there was almost 0 mold. In fact, the only things that were moldy were the bees themselves, and while sad, they were easy enough to just brush away. In short, when I got my new package last month, all I had to do to prepare the hive for them was to brush out the dead bees and make sure there were no other critters inside, and package installation was a snap (please read up on the easiest known way to do a package installation, also on this website!). Now that colony has drawn out comb to work with and, given the late spring that we have had, it has a very good chance of becoming a strong colony.

    And if I am lucky enough to capture any swarms this season, I will definitely run those as singles because this make sense to me as well.

  • Thank you for all the great guidance Rusty. I’m currently using your examples to build my own winter, moisture quilts which I plan on also using (empty) with screened inner inner covers for increased summer ventilation.

    Just to double check, do you try to keep the screen ventalation holes below the level of wood chips, or is it OK to fill past them? Also, do you locate the holes so they are below the edge of the telescoping cover?

    It seems like if the cover edge could restrict air flow but I live close enough to you to worry about sideways rain.

    Thanks again.


    • Jerry,

      I think I answered this above, or is it below? I’m working backwards (most recent first) which is the way these things show up. Sorry.

  • Actually, scratch the screened inner cover during the summer if I’m using an empty moisture quilt. Also, the more I review your photos, it looks like you simply fill them past the screened holes, to the top, with the wood shavings. My guess is that with the depth of your QB your telescopic cover ends up covering the screened, ventilation holes….?

    Much appreciated.

    • Jerry,

      Initially I fill the quilts above the holes, but the chips settle as they get damp. Also, the telescoping cover partially covers the holes, but there is plenty of space for air movement. There’s about 1/2-inch between the quilt and the lip of the cover on both sides. This is what I like because there is ventilation without a wind tunnel. Air exchange is slow but steady.

  • I am a 1st year beekeeper near Snohomish. I am loving your site. Thank you!
    I am going to add quilts but being a lazy woodworker, was able to find a “moisture box” on the Dadant website

    Have you seen it? It has a narrow door below the recessed screen to add sugar. Just wondering if you think it will do the job as well a home made quilt.


    In the foothills above Machias Wa.

  • Rusty,

    This is my first winter beekeeping. I have added moisture quilts as you describe them in your blogs. I was anticipating doing an OA vap in a few weeks, but got to wondering if the quilts being on would decrease the efficacy. I suppose I would tape over all the vent holes, but do you think the wood chips would absorb some of the vapor so it doesn’t circulate and coat the hive bodies/bees as well? I could take the quilts off, but I was looking forward to not disturbing the girls when I treated, especially since my IR camera, and when I peek, has them sort of high and still on the top boards. I know vaping isnt the method you use but hoped someone else has an answer.


    • Carol,

      These are good questions, but I don’t know the answers. I suspect that the wood chips would absorb a good bit of the vapor. After all, that’s what the quilt is designed to do. Perhaps someone else has experience with it.

  • I don’t remove the moisture quilt boxes when using my Varrox OA vaporizer. Some of the OA mist must get into the shavings in the quilt box but I suspect it’s minimal and doesn’t significantly reduce the dose for the bees. The layering of the shavings prevents rapid air flow through them, which it seems would have to be present to carry much OA. My quilt boxes are 4″ deep with 4, 1″ diameter holes, 2 on each long side. I’ve never noticed any OA mist leaking out of the side holes. Just vaped them all yesterday, in fact.

    • Cal,

      Excellent. Thanks for letting us know that it’s working for you. You’re right about the timing. The vapor most likely doesn’t rise through the chips very fast and it’s probably heavier than air as well.

  • Wonderful, thanks for the response. I will be vaping before Christmas.

    Sounds like a holiday song.

  • I inherited a moisture quilt last year and used it for the first time. Even though it had kinda weak cloth (muslin) and no vent holes, it worked extremely well. So I’ve become positively evangelical about quilt boxes as a key winter moisture control tool.

    I made new ones for all my hives this year and used “canvas” cloth from a fabric store. I didn’t have the fancy drill chuck with the side handle for making large vent holes, so just used the biggest bitt I had (5/16th) and made more holes. I use the quilt box with a 1-1/2″ feeder shim that doubles as a top entrance.

    Checked the sugar cake levels yesterday, and wish I could submit the photo I took of my very happy bees, unclustered all over the feed and festooning like crazy off the insulation box cloth. Seems like a cozy place for them to hang out on our mild winter days than cold wood frames (~45-50 today in the city).

  • Hi Rusty,

    One of my hives came out of winter (temps have been on the 70’s for two weeks here in the Bay Area) with a mite count of 45 and obvious DWV. They are getting their second Mite-Away treatment now. (I am doing the 1 strip at a time method). I just had a terrible thought that perhaps the moisture quilt will decrease the efficacy of the formic acid? Any thoughts? I haven’t been able to find any information on this.


    • Paula,

      It’s possible that the quilt is absorbing some of the chemical. I don’t know for sure one way or the other. Be sure to count your mite drop after the treatment is over to assure it was effective. It’s hard to save a colony that already shows significant DWV, so best of luck.

  • Rusty, I love that you use the moisture quilts for your hives. I had also been reading a lot about Warre hives, and determined to make quilts for my own. I live in northern coastal California, and the winter rains and mold were just brutal on my hives.At the time I was switching most of my deep boxes to mediums, so I had quite a few frames to “play” with. I drill 1 inch holes in each side, on a slant from low on the outside to higher inside. It helps keep the rain out. I screen the holes so the bees and other critters can’t get in. I staple hardware cloth across the bottom, and then line that with cotton duck or canvas. I haven’t found that the kind of woodchips makes a difference. I do recommend 2 layers for the bottom, because my girls actually chewed through part of the duck during a season!
    Thank you so much for all you teach us on your site! I always look forward to your blog.

  • Had 4/5 hives die last year. The one that made it I thought it wasn’t going to make it because it had not much stores and not a lot of bees. I put a 4-inch rim on the top of the hive, put a piece of cardboard on the top of the top box frames and piled a bunch of sugar on it. That also had a couple of 1-inch holes drilled on one side for an entrance/exit. The moisture would hit the roof and rain on the sugar but not hit the bees. I felt they were exposed to drafts due to the two large holes in it. That is the hive that survived whereas my other ones without quilt boxes or other moisture reduction methods died out. They were damp when I opened them. I believe in controlling the moisture. I’m going to put a two inch rim on this year with holes for an entrance and put cardboard and sugar like last year and on top of that, I will do the quilt box like described above. I probably will seal off the bottom entrance to avoid mouse problems.

  • We have been getting lots of rain here in NC lately and I see this seem so help with moisture. What about using it in the summer. I like the vent idea on top and with a thin layer of cedar to help with the ants. I’m using .25 metal cloth instead of canvas. Bees are spending a lot of time bearding in the rain and I think this may help. Here is a pic of my 6 to start.

  • Greetings. I like what you are doing, and your approach. I have more experience with solitary bees than honeybees, but I will soonish be building honeybee homes. With no experience. I am trained in engineering, and have a bunch of biology stuff in my background. Maybe some of it works? — Someone mentioned Goretex (Tm). As I understand goretex, the holes are conic, with the side having the small holes being the water repellant side allowing water vapour to transit from large hole side to small hole side. If I want to approximate that, I would get two layers of spunbound plastic, and to one layer I would apply a hydrophobic coating. That is the side towards water (the outside). Maybe that approximates a poor version of Goretex? —- Anyway, ventilation. If one face of a bee house is within 20 degrees of south (in northern Hemisphere), I wonder if a “solar chimney” might not work? Essentially a cavity about as wide as the bee house, on the south face as black as you can make it. Probably best if the cavity is made form metal, yes you can make copper black, I haven’t done it (yet), so I don’t know how difficult. It should be offset from the bee house by a little bit. On the non-black side (closest to bee house), air inlet holes (denser at bottom). My feeling is the NACA air inlet shape is best. This air cavity extends above the top of the bee house, but above the bee house it gets narrower in a smooth way. The idea is that air enters (near the bottom mostly), and as it rises it gets heated up because the south face is black and absorbing the runs rays. By the time it gets to the height of the top of the bee house, there should be a distinctive upwards velocity to the air. We put a “notch” into the top edge of your quilt, and install a plenum from the top of the quilt to the solar chimney. Faster moving air is at lower pressure, and so the solar chimney should draw air from the top of the quilt airspace into the solar chimney, where it is carried out the top of the solar chimney. Except if the sun isn’t shining. Probably best if the plenum has a slight (10 degrees?) downward tilt, so that if it is raining (and rain coming in the solar chimney top), water doesn’t run into the bee house. Do solar chimney’s work on the scale of 2 feet wide and 4 feet tall? I don’t know (yet). But it is passive ventilation.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I’ve folded the hardware cloth up around the outside of the rim, so it’s essentially exposed to the elements. should I be doing something special like sandwiching a thin shim of wood, or keeping the wire mesh away from the contact surfaces between the supers? I may be overthinking things, just worried about air leaking through along with rain water.

    • Isaac,

      If you’ve made the quilt properly, it already has big holes in the sides. So a little leakage around the base won’t make much of a difference. My telescoping cover partially cover the ventilation holes, but I’ve never had water come in around the screen.

  • Hi Rusty,

    Do you staple the hardware cloth on the underside of the wood (that will eventually sit in the shin) or do you fold it and staple it on the inside? I find the hardware cloth difficult to bend but wonder if it is okay if it separates the feeder and shim.

  • I was looking for materials to make one of these and discovered $1.29 burlap bags at Tractor Supply. I bought some of these and stuffed them with pine shavings for the quilt box. Easy to manage and contain the chips. I built the box from some 1×4 scrap wood and drilled holes, covered them with hardware cloth and also made a floor of hardware cloth. Now I just lay my burlap woodchip sack in it and shake it a bit to fill in all the space. Works great!

  • Hi Rusty –

    My youngest and I decided to spend her final year of homeschooling (before entering the public school for personal reasons) to study, then start our first attempt at beekeeping. After studying as much as possible last fall and winter, we built our hive and installed a nuc in the spring.

    Despite the meetings and research, I still made a couple stupid mistakes and lost our queen in early July. Somehow the universe is on our side and after they didn’t replace her themselves, it was mid August before we introduced a new queen and the colony survived. (There were several days of expecting the worst!) Anyway, we are now in the throws of getting things in order for their first winter.

    I have been reading and watching videos (figures I am almost never on YouTube, then tried to use it last night during the worldwide outage) and today I stapled window screen material to the inside of a super and filled it half-way with pine shavings. I debated on using fabric in the bottom, but decided to shake out as much dust as possible instead before placing it on the hive as another site suggested. I am in NH where we had actual temps of -18 last winter plus a windchill (schools were delayed an hour while FL schools were canceled the same day for 50 degree weather! lol)

    Anyway…I am planning to wrap the hive also, but not sure I need to after reading so many of your articles and the posts on this page. What I am curious about now is the bottom of the hive…you mentioned in one reply that you insert a drawer during longer cold spells for your area. Given that heat rises, I hadn’t planned to cover the bottom other than with the screen bottom that is there. Do you recommend covering it? I don’t have a drawer, but could probably slide a piece of plastic or cardboard in there easily enough.

    On another note, do you have an article on here about mouse guards? I’m curious if you use one over your entrance reducer or not. I’m still trying to figure that bit out since mice are definitely an issue here. I also love the strap you have around your hive and lid in one of your pics! I’m all over that idea since I have the same straps!
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge so freely on here. I have gotten several hours of reading in and zero work for my job done this evening, but at least my bees are benefiting from it!

    • CJ,

      On really cold days I put the drawer in place because it reduces the airflow through the hive. So yes, the warm air rises, but if you slow down the rate of new air coming in, it slows down the rate of warm air leaving.

      I don’t use a mouse guard but it’s easy to make one with 1/4-inch hardware cloth. I do get mice now and then, so I should probably use them myself.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I wondered if sheep’s wool would be okay to use as insulation in a quilt box, maybe just a layer above the wood shavings? I have lots of unprocessed wool. Thanks for all of your great information on using quilt boxes.

  • Good afternoon Rusty,

    I commend you on the clarity and set out of everything I have come across over time, and have been curious as to who is this “Rusty”?

    Well today, I found out after ending at the end of an article; sitting inside on a raining wet humid day – yes it is Summer in Australia, each day we keep asking ourselves “what season is it today” ; I came across a reference to “Moisture Quilts” at Honey Bee Suite, Warré immediately came to mind as we have been using these successfully on Langstroth hives for three years.

    This is being a testing time for many with very adverse weather conditions, hives not producing, failing, due to drought, heat, cold.

    Professionals as well as semiprofessional, hobbyist are being stretched coping with hive conditions they have never seen before; locally, one professional with seventy years experience does not know what to do.
    All the above with unique sets of circumstances, us included.

    Rusty, we bless you and your family with a Joyous, Restful and Rewarding Christmas.

    Well done Rusty Burlew.


  • This is my 3rd winter. 2016 I had one hive that did not survive, 2017 I had 3 hives and got 1 through the brutal Western New York snowbelt region weather. I did a walk away split. The original queen was laying like crazy and her daughter started the same way. I purchased 2 more nucs in case none of those hives had survived. So this year I have 4 hives.
    I use a Medium super for my quilt box. I do not use rims at all. I tried to use a burlap bag tied off to put the wood chips in but it was a pain to check the wetness of the chips. I use 1/4″ hardware cloth stapled 2″ from the bottom so I have room for any necessary feedings and around the ventilation holes. I have a 1″ entrance drilled so the top is at the 2″ mark. I drill four 1″ ventilation holes about 1 1/2″ from the top. I fill the box with wood chips up to about the bottom of the ventilation hole or 2 1/2″ from the top. I add more where the ventilation holes are not up to probably a level of 3 to 3 1/2 inches above the hardware cloth. As you have stated the wood chips including the burlap bag did not get very wet if at all, damp maybe. If they did start to get damp I placed the back of the outer cover on the top of the super so it sloped forward allowing more drainage off the cover. Mostly everything was dry. And it was very easy to take this quilt box off or lift it for feeding puposes without inconveniencing the bees.

    • Jim, do you have a problem with the bees going through the 1/4” hardware cloth up into the quilt box? I just made one with 1/4” before I realized that it should have been 1/8” and am wondering if I need to redo it. Thanks

  • I am going to try burlap feed bags for the first time this year, it wicks away moist with good ventilation and a 1/2″ piece of fiber board for a little more insulation. I have the boxes like yours with about 1 1/2 ” between the top frames and the hardware cloth then I can check the bees by looking under the burlap. I figure it will be less stressful then checking them by opening the whole box and still see if I need to feed.

  • Several years ago I made Vivaldi boxes. I laid burlap and filled with pine chips. It has seemed to work well and has allowed to feed dry sugar by pulling back the burlap. What is different is the plywood bottom. I wanted to increase the ventilation from what I saw online so I added 4 additional 3-inch holes near the corners and covered with aluminum screening. The bees simply sealed up these holes like any other crack in their hive. I’m wondering if the screening is too small and encouraged this.

    I’m working on a revised model where the middle 1/3 is plywood with a central hole to feed sugar (with an additional raised screen area) and the other 2/3 are hardware cloth so the whole can be covered with burlap and pine shavings.

    Ps I live in central Illinois with tough winters.

    • Kevin,

      If you mean fine window-screen type screen, it was probably too small. I use 1/8-inch hardware cloth for ventilation usually, but bees have their preferences and will occasionally fill that in as well.

  • I do as you do, only I discovered that using cedar chips works a lot better than the pine chips that are usualy used. Wax moths and hive beetles hate them and will stay away from any hive with cedar chips inside. The cedar also seems to wick up the moister a little better and when removed in the spring they will dry like new for reuse the next fall. After three or four years, if they start to look a little used, they make excellent smoker fuel. Family Farm & Home stores sell cedar chips in 30 pound bags for small animal bedding. This will fill about sixteen to twenty quilt boxes and be reused for three to five years. that’s roughly up to 100 fills and you still have a big bunch of smoker fuel.

  • Greetings Rusty,

    I used a quilt box last winter with mashing results.

    My question is, why not leave it on all year? I thought Warré hives keep the quilt on all the time, but the philosophy on why is lost to me. I just hear, “It’s tradition.”

    Even though it’s warm, low humidity, and with a vented bottom, I see a little condensation in the summer. I could also just put the screened box on with no chips.


    • Dannielle,

      You can leave it on all year if you want. I remove them because I think they are not needed in warmer weather and they tend to get in my way when I’m opening the hives more frequently. It’s a personal choice.

  • If you make a deeper moisture quilt should the holes that are drilled for ventilation be at the bottom, middle, or top of the box? I made moisture quilts this year but am thinking they should have been deeper and am trying to figure out how best to make that happen without wasting the work I’ve done.

    • Matt,

      I like the holes to be near the top of the layer of chips. My thinking is that the air will flow more freely throughout the quilt box if it’s not blocked by wood chips, and more flow should keep the chips drier. On the other hand, I’ve never tried putting the holes lower, so I don’t really know how well it would work (or not) that way.

  • Rusty:

    I put quilt boxes on last fall, and they seem to be working great.

    I noticed last summer, when I was feeding with a top feeder, I was getting mold on my inner cover. I would imagine, that this would have been from all of the extra moisture in the hive.

    Do you think, if when I am feeding, if I put the quilt box back on above my top feeder that it would alleviate this problem?


  • Tried out the condensing-colony winter management ideas of William Hesbach last winter on half of my hives, leaving the others with the moisture quilts I’d used in previous years. Liked the results so much, I’ve got all of them that way this winter. Sure seems counter-intuitive in our soggy PNW to close them up so much with no upper entrance and small bottom entrance but it works well. Still 16/16.

  • Hi Rusty, thanks for the great blog. Do you think it’s possible my bees are pulling fresh air in through the moisture quilt? I’ve only had it on for a week now, but since I’m in New England we’ve gone from 85° and drought conditions to record lows and 3 inches of rain. I’ve only seen moisture condensing on the plastic slide-in mite board at the bottom.

    The gap between the mite board and the screened bottom board is blocked off with a stick with some drainage holes, and I’ve got some 3 mm holes drilled in the mite board to let air in/water out.

    There was enough warm air coming out the entrance reducer hole on a 50° pouring rainy day to make a dry spot on the landing board.
    When I check the wood shavings on warm days, they are cool and dry, and on cold days the bottom inch is toasty warm and dry.
    Basically what I’m wondering is, if they do have some sort of downdraft thing going, should I just let them keep it that way?
    If I push all the shavings to the sides of the box, hot air starts rising out through the cloth and screen, so…?

    Possibilities to fix this if I should:
    1 get coarser shavings for more airflow
    2 use a thinner layer of the shavings I have
    3 insulate the underside of the mite board so it isn’t colder than the inside of the hive

    Whatcha think? Doesn’t all the condensation in a wild natural beehive end up on the bottom?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Jason,

      I’m not sure what you’re asking. You seem to have some warm air coming out the entrance reducer, and that seems normal.

      If the quilt is working normally, the top layers will be wet or damp and the bottom layers should be bone dry. That’s because the warm, moist air travels up through the wood shavings, condenses on the cold lid, and then rains down on the chips.

      I don’t know what you mean about a “downdraft thing.” Warm air naturally rises, and it should here too.

  • Sorry about that run-together post, I thought my phone was inserting paragraph breaks.

    The hive is a five-week-old nuc with one full deep and one full medium so far. It’s only in direct sun for a little bit in mid-morning and in the late afternoon, could that have something to do with the bees’ alternative ventilation techniques? Before I had the moisture quilt I had an inner cover with a hole, and at times it seemed like they were trying to block it off with their bodies.

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