Saturday, October 8, 2011

Day #361 Weather-Stripping for Bees

Remember climbing those pine trees when you were a kid? Remember coming home all streaked with sticky sap?

Bees are experts at gathering plant resins (sticky sap), turning into something called propolis, and using it to weather-strip their homes. Why? I’m glad you asked. Bees are masters at climate-control, and wayward drafts mess up their ability to monitor the temperature and humidity of the hive.

I started out with hives that had screened-over ventilation holes. Guess what? The bees used their sticky propolis to cover each little open square on those screens. I feel bad that I caused them so much extra work.

Misguided beekeepers who think they know better than bees (HA!) have tried for some time to breed a strain of bees that don’t produce as much propolis. Now, I don’t know how successful they’ve been at that, but I do know that any such bees would be at a distinct disadvantage coming up on winter.

In the winter, whether bees are in the relatively mild south or the (brrr!) frigid north, one of their biggest enemies is condensation. They need to keep the temperature of the cluster at 96 degrees. When condensation forms on the underside of the hive lid (as happens frequently when people put metal lids on there!) the moisture drips down onto the bees. How would you like to spend the winter with wet skin? The condensation can also form when the bees haven’t been able to plug up all the holes and cold air leaks in.

Is your home weather-stripped and ready for winter? If so, you’re imitating the honey bee. Isn’t that nice to know? I just hope you didn't use tree sap to do the job. Leave that to the bees!

BEEattitude for Day # 361:
       Blessed are those who let us bee, for they shall not waste their time in ludicrous pursuits.

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Jen said...

Great Post! This is the most unique post I have seen on weather stripping in all the articles across the internet.

Fran Stewart said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Jen. I used to live in Vermont, and I know a lot about weather-stripping. One of the best tips I ever learned was from an intern at the University of Vermont who did an energy survey on our old house.

There was frequently a breeze coming around the edges of the windows. She said to get a thin knife and a couple of rolls of Saran Wrap. Stuff the wrap in the space around the window (wherever we could feel cold air leaking in).

I did that, and our heating bill dropped noticeably. Our comfort level went proportionally higher, too!