Nowadays, beehives are seldom made from wood - the natural habitat of the honey bee - but are instead often made from foamed polystyrene plastic.
Both materials have specific advantages but also crucial disadvantages. Plastic has a low weight, very good insulation properties and good weather resistance. On the other hand, however, wood is a sustainable and ecologically wiser material and is also the natural habitat of the honey bee. Wood also has the ability to "breathe", i.e. it can absorb and release moisture, thereby automatically creating a suitable climate. These are benefits which cannot be offered by plastics systems based on petrochemical resources. Nevertheless, plastic has increasingly established itself on the market.
The combination of the advantages of wood and plastic in one composite material, thereby meeting the demands for the specific application as a beehive, is the goal of this research project.
Wood Polymer Composites (WPC) usually have, depending on the applied plastic matrix and the composition, a density of 1.1 g/cm³ to 1.3 g/cm³ and thus, in comparison to wood or expanded polystyrene, a high density. As little weight as possible is, however, essential for the handling of a beehive. The reduction of the component volume through narrower wall thicknesses is one possibility, but would be detrimental to the insulation properties.
The logical conclusion is that the density of the component must be reduced in order to achieve a low weight with good insulating properties. The material properties resulting therefrom may not, however, make the material unsuitable for the intended use.
In this project, we are developing appropriate WPC formulations and testing their properties. The raw materials used for this should consist as greatly as possible of renewable resources. Bioplastics are therefore being implemented in this research project.
For the project, we are primarily addressing the question as to which WPC formulations, which propellants and which procedures are suitable in order to meet the following criteria:
- Low density / minimal weight
- Mechanical strengths
- Good insulation characteristics / low thermal conductivity
- Chemical resistance to media applied in beekeeping
- Weathering stability for application in outdoor areas
- Acceptance by the bee colony and effect on the development of the bee colonies
- Residues and influence on the beekeeping products
- Implementation possibilities on an industrial scale