Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why use Solar Powered Ventilators?

What am I looking at here? These are Solar Powered Ventilators, that I put on all of my Honey Production hives. There are many good reasons for doing this, which I'll cover a little later. Just get the basic idea here. The hive on the right, has the Queen Excluder turned sideways, because I was having an issue with the bees NOT WANTING to go up and through the excluder to work on the top boxes. Sometimes, they'll baulk at going up and through the excluder. If so, you can turn the queen excluder sideways for a week or so, until the girls get the idea. The Queen will likely stay below the excluder, on her brood. After the worker bees get the idea, you can turn the excluder back to it's normal position. An important tip, if your bees won't go up and work high. Anyway...back to the Solar Powered Ventilators (SPV's). You can go to and learn more about this product. I can personally attest to the value and benefit, in helping produce more honey, keeping the bees healthier, and generally getting more production out of my bees, versus NOT having a SPV on a hive.

The total cost to me, including UPS shipping to my door, was $133 each. A bit concerned about the cost, I tried only 1 the first year. After about 2 months, I could easily see a huge difference in the condition of the bees. I then bought 4 more. Since then, we currently run 12 SPV's and will be buying more. They'll pay for themselves the first year, no doubt about it. The rest is pure profit. (and I don't get paid by the company for advertisement either! darn!) Certainly worth the purchase!!

As you go through and look at these pictures, notice how many boxes of Honey I have on these hives. Here are some of the reasons I use the SPV's. Bees bring in lots of "moisture". Get the moisture OUT, and the bees do MUCH, MUCH better. They're healthier, produce more honey and have less issues with Varroa Mites. The mites thrive on the moisture.

Another reason, the honey cures faster. The bees won't stay inside the hive and fan, fan, fan. I get more bees out in the field, working harder for me. I get "more work" done, with more bees. I'll help them "fan", ...while they go out and do more work in the field for me.

Notice that this little hive is set close next to the trees. Not really the best spot for such a set up. The bees do SO MUCH BETTER in full sunlight. Sun up, to sun down...put them in full sun. And yet, this group of girls gave up 4 full boxes of great honey. When the shade hits solar panel, it begins to shut down, and the bees begin to stop working. Shade tends to PROMPT the bees to shut down for the day. If the hive is in full sun, even past sun down, the bees keep working well past sun down. I get much more honey, from the bees working LONGER into the evening.

Notice we have cattle panels around our hives. I took these panels down, and just let the cows eat the grass down. The bees tend to keep the cows from working the hives over. One bee flying into the ear of a cow, will soon send the cow packing. ha! It became too frustrating dealing with the weeds....and I didn't want to weed eat around the hives. These colonies are in full sun, and well past sun down. They produced some great honey for us.

Notice the Moth Trap bottles hanging on the fence? They work! Use them! Learn how to mix up your own Moth Trap mix. Just remember to top off the bottle with water so that the sun doesn't evaporate all the liquid out of the bottle. If you don't, you'll have a sweet slurry in the bottom of the bottle, and the bees DO LOVE this sweet slurry! They'll all pile into the bottle, and die! It's happened to me! Makes a grown man cry! Keep the bottle half full, top it off with clean water when it gets low.

There are 5 boxes on this STRONG colony. The SPV's get the bees really moving. In the future, I won't let them get this high. Reason being, the Small Hive Beetle will want to "go high" and stay high. The beetle will want to get away from the Wintergreen disc that I've placed down low on top of the brood box. Keep the boxes knocked back to 2 or 3. Harvest some of the honey.

Again, the colony is set up next to this line of trees. I've since moved the hives away from this tree line. The fan, inside this SPV box, will run, well past sun down. Inside this box, on top of the hive, is a small "computer fan", with a 70 degree thermal couple. When the colony heats up down low, the fan is tripped on when the temps get over 70 degrees AT THE TOP of the colony. The solar panel at the top, runs the fan. The fan is strong enough to suck up FRESH AIR from the bottom of the colony, THROUGH the screened bottom board. All of our colonies have screened bottom boards on them.

Fresh air coming up from the bottom of the colony, is a HUGE key in keeping your bees healthy and the Queen loves the fresh air! She really takes off and lays great! She loves the fresh air! And besides, 2 shallow boxes of honey, nets me 5 gallons. Count how many shallow boxes I have on the hive to the left, in the picture above. About 12 gallons of honey sitting there!

Again, these colonies are set up too close to the trees, in a corner, and have been since moved.

About once per week, I'll get some paper towels and use Windex to wipe off dirt, pollen and bird poop from the face of these solar panels. Keeping them clean, helps them run more efficiently.

Initially, I was a bit nervous about Oklahoma Hail hitting these front panels and busting them up. After a few nasty thunderstorms, my concerns where put to rest. They're tough. They've stood up to some serious storms, with no issues. The hard plastic pedestals that these panels are mounted on, have never been busted by strong winds. I've never had any break off, nor have I had hail break the panel face.

Here is a short list of basic benefits to running SPV's on your colonies;

1) It helps remove more harmful moisture, quicker.

2) More bees leave the colony to forage, with less bees staying inside to fan.

3) With less moisture, there is much less of a Varroa issue. Mites thrive on moisture.

4) The bees never pile out on the front porch and hang, on hot summer days.

5) The fresh air encourages the Queen to lay much better brood patterns!!!

6) The honey cures out quicker and capping seems to be quicker.

7) In full sun, the colony will work well past sun down, gaining you more production.

8) I certainly get more honey from each colony that has the SPV on top!!!! 4 boxes min.

9) The bees pay for the SPV the first year, the coming years are pure profit.

10) Since the bees are healthier, they're easier to care for, less medications.

11) No need for a long power cord, these units are self sufficient.

12) Hail & high winds haven't done any damage at all. They're tough.

If there is a draw-back, it's "the ants". The ants like to go up and lay eggs near the fan, and wiring inside. There seems to be a mild electrical pulse that attracts the ants. This is quickly taken care of by rubbing fresh, wild mint, inside the box and brushing out the ants. No big deal, when you consider all the benefits listed above. The bees aren't harmed in anyway, from this fan sitting on top of their hive. There is a thin plastic screen that is attached to each side of the fan, which will keep the bees away from the moving blades of the fan.

I've also made 1" spacers, with hardware cloth (screen) stapled to the spacer, to keep the bees off the bottom of the slotted fan & box. They seem to like to Propalize a part of this screen. If they think it's too much air on them, they like to "cut back" on the air flow. ha! But this only shows up during early Sept, as they want to close up all cracks and holes in preparation for winter. I DO NOT leave these SPV's on past Oct 1. By that time, they've been pulled off and are in the honey hut for storage. Every other year, I have to remove the fans for a good cleaning. The blades of the fan collect up pollen, dust and gunk and need to be cleaned up with some paper towels and Windex. If there is any propilis in the slots of the fan screen, you can soak these plastic screens in a bit of rubbing alcohol and will soften the propilis for removal.

All in all, the SPV's are well worth the investment and certainly worth keeping your bees healthier. They've allowed me to create a very large amount of honey, per colony. Certainly more than a hive without the SPV. I'm very pleased with my "new toys". ha! A good investment for the bees. And a great investment when it comes time to harvest 5 boxes of honey, or more.....PER HIVE!!


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