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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Bee Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #385339

Research Project: Managing Honey Bees Against Disease and Colony Stress

Location: Bee Research Laboratory

Title: Polyurethane honey bee hives provide better winter insulation than wooden hives

item Alburaki, Mohamed
item Corona, Miguel

Submitted to: Journal of Apicultural Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/31/2021
Publication Date: 10/7/2022
Citation: Alburaki, M., Corona, M.V. 2022. Polyurethane honey bee hives provide better winter insulation than wooden hives. Journal of Apicultural Research. 61(2):190-196.

Interpretive Summary: Since its development in the XIX century, the widely used Langstroth modular wooden hive has experienced few changes and improvements. The availability of new materials for hive manufacturing provides new alternatives for the beekeeping industry. This is especially true, in harsh environmental conditions, such as the extreme cold periods during the winter. The development of hives with better thermal insulation is expected to result in lesser exhaustion of honey reserves and death by starvation. In addition, since several viral and fungal infections are associated with cold stress, a reduction in the susceptibility of these diseases could be expected. Polyurethane is an attractive material for hive building, due to its higher thermal isolation properties compared with wood. Although the use of polyurethane hives started to increase in recent years, there is a lack of scientific evidence that supports their benefits. In this study, we compared polyurethane hives (PUHs) with typical wooden hives during the winter. Our results showed that the PUHs keep lower humidity levels, warm temperatures and experience less fluctuations. Future studies are necessary to evaluate the performance of PUHs in other seasons and to determine if their good physical characteristics are translated into better colony fitness and survival.

Technical Abstract: During the last decades, beekeeping industry has seen very few changes and improvement on the widely used Langstroth wooden hive. Recent development of new insulation materials with higher proprieties compared to the wood, could provide better alternatives for the beekeeping industry. In this study, we tested the winter insulation of polyurethane honey bee hives and compare it with the traditional Langstroth wooden hives. Eighteen honey bee colonies, equal in size, composed of nine polyurethane and nine wooden hives were randomly selected and each hive was equipped with a sensor to document the inner hive temperature and humidity. Our results show that polyurethane hives maintained a significantly (P < 0.001) higher overall temperature (10.20 °C) than wooden hives (9.73 °C) with a significantly more optimal relative humidity (52.05%) compared to the wooden hives (62.50%). Inner temperature patterns of the wooden hives exhibited pronounced oscillations compared to the polyurethane hives. Both hive groups showed significant differences (P < 0.001) in temperature insulation between day and night cycles. However, the polyurethane hives seems to provide better stability in humidity between days and night compared to Langstroth wooden hives.