The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Modifying the Warre quilt


When I first read about Warre hives, the quilt box was perhaps my favorite part. It simply made so much sense --- insulating the hive from summer heat and winter cold while also soaking up moisture from dehydrating nectar.

Unfortunately, in practice, the quilt box has given me a neverending string of trouble. First of all, there's the fact that in our humid climate, I'd have to change the straw every week if I wanted it to actually sop up the hive's moisture. Then there's the fact that ants like to live up in the quilt and raid honey from the bees below.

Meanwhile, our bees don't seem to like the quilt box either. When I used the fabric- or burlap-lined quilt boxes that came with our hive, the bees gnawed right through. Then when I converted over to moderately impenetrable window screening, the bees instead propolized the entire screen...and glued it to the frames below for the sake of completeness. That was a hard top Insulated bee quiltto pry off!

So I'm changing gears yet again, filling the quilt box with layers of styrofoam this time around. I'm hoping the synthetic material will insulate the hive without providing such an ant-friendly habitat. And, if the insulation works, I'll probably put a solid wooden bottom on the quilt box as well. Perhaps Langstroth knew what he was doing after all....

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Ugh, I completely sympathize with your quilt box troubles. Earlier this year I had a really bad infestation of carpenter ants that weakened one hive enough to kill it. I've since put cinnamon in the box, which seems to keep the ants out.

Interesting about the window screen, because I was thinking of trying that as well. Did they seal it off so much that it blocked airflow?

Comment by Brett Fri Oct 23 07:53:51 2015
Brett --- They sealed off the window screen so much that it appeared to be one solid mass or propolis, no screen or air holes visible. So I'd say they weren't fans of the additional ventilation.
Comment by anna Fri Oct 23 09:20:05 2015

My old beekeeping club in Minnesota used to recommend some fiberboard type stuff called Bildrite for a winter-time moisture wick. Not sure how it would do for year-round use. [Here] is one of the guys' sites about ideas for winter moisture quilts.

I think they recommend against styrofoam because it doesn't let air through (and doesn't absorb moisture, but it sounds like that might be ok for you, at least in the humid summer months).

Comment by Jake Sat Oct 24 00:06:59 2015

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