Today I am trying something new. In preparation for winter last year I double-wrapped my hive in R-4 bubble wrap insulation and used an infrared heating lamp underneath the hive to keep them from freezing when it got waaay cold(I turned the lamp on manually when I knew it would get cooooooold). This worked great, especially for the cold snap that we had in March, and it’s the cold snaps that they say cause a lot of die-offs because it gets warm enough for the queen to start laying eggs and then when the cold snap hits, the nurse bees won’t leave the brood which means they can’t cluster and they tend to die, especially the queen. The problem is that the reflector/fixture for the heat lamp ended up corroding and by Spring, it was gone. No huge loss but I did at least learn that’s not what I want to do.
This year I’ve bought some 11-inch wide heating tape that’s used for terrariums and am using two “PID heat controllers” which are more accurate than your typical thermostat. I’m putting the thermocouples inside each of the hives and setting the target temperature to around 40 degrees F. The PID switches the heating tape on in pulses to regulate it much more precisely, and it won’t operate at all if the temp is above 40F so they should be just cool enough to cluster and save energy during the winter but won’t ever get cold enough to freeze. That’s not the whole setup I’m working on but that’s the gist of it all.
I’ll of course be using insulation like last year but this year they’ll be much more comfortable. I’m using a laser thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature inside the hive right now so that I know how well it’s being regulated. So far it looks very promising. Right now I’m actually targeting a higher temp because I’m using a division board frame feeder and I don’t want there to be any condensation inside the hive. We’ll see how that works out but should be fine.
If this works as planned I’ll be selling kits for it next year.