Even a standard Langstroth hive can be greatly improved by adding the Insulated, Ventilated Hive Cover/Feeder. (This will take the place of an inner cover, any kind of top feeder, and an outer cover.)
The Hive Cover incorporates a ventilated, insulated cover with an inside-the-hive feeder. This component, in conjunction with the double-thick cedar Hive Bodies and the Eco-Floor, fully insulates the hive throughout the year, while giving the bees complete control over both the amount and route of ventilation that flows through the hive.
Here's what this accomplishes:
- The bees have complete control over the amount and route of the ventilation. By adding-to or removing propolis on the screened vent holes, they can regulate the ventilation and make changes to it, as needed, throughout the year. This puts the bees in control of the micro-climate of the hive.
- The beekeeper is now hands-off. The bees know best what's best for the bees, and giving them control of their ventilation removes the guess-work for the beekeeper. "Most beekeeping problems are caused by solutions." Michael Bush
- Like a hive cavity in a hollow tree, the Bee Tree Hive remains static on the outside throughout the year. A BT Hive is many times better insulated than a conventional Langstroth hive, the bees are living in a smaller, narrower, thicker, more propolised hive cavity, and they can vary the ventilation themselves, from fully open to completely closed.
The photo above shows the bottom of the hive cover - the surface that is against the colony, just above the brood nest. This surface has six ventilation holes. One of them, at the center-back is open for access to the inside-the-hive feeder, and the other five are screened so that the bees can propolise them to control both the amount, and the route, of the ventilation inside the hive. (The 1" access hole is small enough that the bees could even propolise it closed if they needed to.)
The photo just above shows a close-up of one of the screened vent holes on the bottom surface of the cover.
Just above are photos of three different screened vent holes in an occupied Bee Tree Hive. You can see that they almost completely propolised one of the vent holes, left another hole mostly open, and left one just partially open.
The bees can add to, or remove, the propolis as needed. They will control this in order to regulate factors like the temperature of the brood, and the relative humidity inside the hive as they evaporate nectar to transform it into honey. The bees are always striving to accomplish these things with the least amount of energy expended and the least amount of stores consumed. They can also remove the propolis if the weather turns hot or their population booms, which I've seen them do.
The photo just above shows the back of the cover, with the access door open (you simply remove two wing-nuts), showing the tray you can slide out on which to lay pieces of broken honeycomb to feed back to the bees inside the hive. This access door can be opened without exposing the brood nest, disturbing the bees, or even breaking any of their propolis seals.
The photo just above shows that a full deep frame of honeycomb will also fit into the feeder chamber. And, in this photo you can also see how the center-back hole is open (not screened) to give the bees access to the honeycomb.
The photo just above shows that, at the top of the feeder chamber, there are screened vent holes at both the front and back. Of course, the bees have access to these two screened vent holes as well, and can propolise them to control the amount of air that ultimately vents out of the hive. The vented air will escape to the outside through the final vent holes in the front and back of the cover. This may sound complicated, but its actually very simple and straightforward - especially from the bees' perspective.
The two outer vent holes are screened as well to keep wasps, mice, and other pests out of that top, insulated chamber.
The last photo, just above, shows the piece of 2" DOW Scorboard insulation in the top chamber. The DOW insulation has a value of R-10. If this seems "over insulated," keep in mind that the bees can have all of the vent holes fully open if they need to - they are in complete control of the amount of heat that vents out of the hive cavity.
The Ventilated, Insulated Hive Cover/Feeder comes in both an 8-frame version and a 10-frame version and can be ordered here: