I haven’t done much blogging recently, partly because I haven’t been able to play with the bees because of the weather, but mainly because I have been having computer troubles, especially with getting onto the interweb. I asked several people for assistance, including a teenage computer geek, and they all advised me that my computer was too old and ought to be replaced. Eventually I succumbed to persuasion and bought one yesterday in the January sales. I have now plumbed it in and shall take this opportunity to tell you of another new toy I bought in Lidl a couple of days ago.
It is an infrared thermometer made by Powerfix. It has a pistol grip and trigger and a screen, plus a couple of buttons which I don’t fully understand yet, but have enabled me to choose temperature displays in Fahrenheit rather than centigrade. This is because there are 1.8 degrees F to 1 degree C and is thus that much more accurate.
I took it out to play this afternoon at a nearby apiary. My hive there was in the shade at the time. I took aim, pulled the trigger and red dot appeared on the side, projected there by the laser. At the same time the temperature at the position of the dot was displayed on the screen.
Gradually I moved the dot around the nearest side of the brood box, noting the variations in temperature, all in the 30s as it was a frosty day. Then I did the same with the other sides of the hive. From the slight temperature rise of a degree or two on the right side of the hive near the front I concluded that the bees were alive (none was flying) and that they were clustered where indicated by the warm (comparatively) spots.
Only then did I ease out the Varroa tray and found the droppings, including mites, to be exactly in the area indicated.
Then I went to another apiary in full sunshine. I didn’t enter through the badger-proof fence as it is also human-proof without a lot of hassle but used the laser from a distance of a few yards. The temperatures indicated were in the mid 60s F and I wasn’t able to locate a probable cluster position on either of the two hives. I didn’t linger as I was shivering. A more thorough and systematic scan might have been more informative but possibly enough warmth was getting into the hives for the bees not to be clustered at that time.
Conclusions: although the best insulation for bees is bees, some heat does escape from the cluster. As the heat is measurable by my new toy, some gets through the wooden sides of the hive. On the other hand, I was already aware that heat gets through the hive side as, some years ago, when the sun was shining sideways in winter, I placed both hands inside the brood box of a National hive, near the walls, and found that it was distinctively warmer on the sunny side. So I would suggest that a) hives be placed where they can get some winter sunshine b) any extra insulation is above the hive and not at the sides. c) polystyrene hives are not a good idea.
That’s the end of today’s blog. Now I can get on with trying to reduce the backlog of hundreds of emails!