Honey bee quilt show
Well . . . not exactly. But mention moisture quilts to a beekeeper and his creativity takes flight. Although our “quilt show” wouldn’t feature bright cotton fabrics meticulously cut and sewn, I’m sure it would be equally inspiring.
The post I wrote last year about making moisture quilts for a Langstroth hive garnered more comments than any other, and my recent post about creating a quilt for a top-bar hive re-energized the conversation.
I still haven’t made my top-bar quilt because I’ve been toying with the idea of using hardware cloth instead of canvas. The switch, I hoped, would lessen the sag that would necessarily occur in such a large expanse of fabric. On the other hand, I’m still wondering how much condensation would form on the hardware cloth itself and whether it would get absorbed by the wood chips or drip back onto the bees. In any case, I decided to support the fabric with two crossbars regardless of whether it’s cotton or metal. But in the meantime, quilt-related ideas have been pouring in.
Alternative uses for moisture quilts
One reader wrote early last year saying he used moisture quilts during the summer as ventilation ekes. He just dumps out the wood chips in spring and puts the eke upside down over the inner cover to increase ventilation. The fabric rests against the telescoping cover, but no harm done. I have tried this and it works well.
Mountain camp or else
I used mountain camp rims available from Kelley Bees for my quilt boxes, but others suggested using baggy feeders, shallow supers, or even medium supers. All these would work and I think those in colder climates might find the deeper boxes beneficial. If I were making mine over again, I would use 3-inch baggy feeder rims instead of the 2-inch mountain camp rims–or just cut them from 1″ x 3″ lumber.
The sagging saga
A number of people have been concerned that the quilt will sag in the center and press against the top bars, preventing free movement of the bees. I never experienced this problem myself because I always keep either a baggy feeder rim or Imirie shim between the brood box and the quilt. I use this space for pollen patties, grease patties, sugar cakes or whatever I need to give the bees, but it easily takes up the sag. Plus winter bees are not that into bridge comb, so it works well.
I stretched the canvas fabric as tightly as I could before stapling it in place. I found that, once it gets damp and then dries, it shrinks till it’s as tight as a tambourine. Seriously. Other readers have suggested preventing sag with wooden cross bars or foundation wire. I will probably try each of these ideas over the coming winter.
Canvassing for fabric
Beekeepers report using canvas, jute, burlap, duck, terry cloth, and denim. It sounds like you can use pretty much whatever you can find. I’m told treating the fabric with starch keeps the bees from chewing it, and I know that’s what Warré beekeepers have been doing for years. Last year I had two quilts that showed chew holes by spring. I just ripped out the fabric and stapled in a new piece . . . but you may want to try starch.
Two of the most creative ideas take quilt-making to all new levels. Bruce (or is it Dan?) of Strathcona Beekeepers designed a quilt from a homemade eke, a piece of landscape cloth, and a couple inches of wood chips. On top of that he has a wooden separator (with convenient handles) topped with Styrofoam insulation. Well, you kind of have to see it to believe it. According to the inventor, this creation is patented by the C.H.P.—Canadian Honey Police. Po . . . lice get this guy outta here.
And winning my blue ribbon for creativity beyond all reason is Navi who enlarged and screened the hole in an inner cover and put it above the brood box. On top the inner cover he put a medium super in which he inserted a polyester pillow case filled with pine needles. Then he added a ventilation eke on top of that and covered the entire thing with a telescoping cover.
And you all thought I was crazy . . .