Burning the hive
Updated: Jul 15, 2020
Yes, this week I torched the hive! No, I didn't burn it down, but I did get to have some fun with a blow torch and some butane gas.
Where did this crazy idea start you may ask. Well, let me take you back to last week when I did a very quick hive check - lifting the roof and looking into the top brood box of both hives. Both of the hives looked healthy and in good shape when we did our last wintering check in May. Going into winter I had reduced them down to two brood boxes on each hive (removing the super and the flow super on both).
Upon opening the roof of the youngest of the hives (installed in August 2019) - I found a very big very black spider had set up home in the eaves and, as Mark my mentor put it, the silent assassin was having a lovely and very easy life of it. It looked like he/she had been having a regular feast on any bees that ventured up into the peak of the roof. I removed her/him but it did bring a question to mind .... how did she/he sneak up into the roof. Either - I had not secured the roof properly and it squeezed in through a crack OR the hive itself is not as strong as I had thought and they waltzed in the front door with little resistance from the bees. I can't imagine that the spider bribed their way in. The rest of the inspection showed a fairly healthy hive with 6 of the 8 frames in the top brood box full and the two outside frames being built out.
And then on to the second hive, which we have had since December 2018. I lifted the roof and straight away I knew we had an issue. The lid was damp in two corners, and when I lifted it off the frames were dark and looking water affected. The top brood box still looked fairly busy with bee activity and again 6 of the frames were full with a similar situation with the two frames closer to the sides. They had comb within each frame but weren't completely built out - but this is the coldest area.
After calling Mark from @pittwaterbees he was also concerned about the water. We discussed whether this was;
a) water getting in through the roof
b) condensation in the flow hive
c) strength of the hive and potentially needing to reduce it down to one brood box
d) all of the above
The hive had three coats of exterior paint 2 years ago and I had also applied a number of coats of marine stain.
It's winter here in Sydney so I didn't want the hive to open for too long so decided to flip the lid and insert a small wood wedge less than a cm in height to allow any condensation to dry.
A week later I opened the hive again and the water issue was not getting any better so knowing we were in for a week of fairly torrential rain, wind, and very cold weather I decided to try some advice from @thevelvetbee and tried the Japanese technique of Shou-sugi-ban. A way to naturally waterproof wood by torching it to allow it to release the natural resin.
I watched a couple of videos and read a few articles and went and bought a small blow torch. I also grabbed some silicone sealant (non-acetate) - which was going to be a last resort to waterproofing.
And so on to the process. First the torching. It was so fun to torch the wood and I loved watching the change in the colour of the wood. Next, using some wire wool I brushed down the surface and removed the char and then used a hairdryer to blow all of the remaining char away, and then the linseed oil. If I had had more time I would have torched it again - but I will definitely do this once we move into some warm dry weather.
And now ... bring on the rain and let's see how it goes!