Vacuum chamber for filling bee comb

  1. New here and very much out of my element being on ANY physics forum but here it goes anyway.
    I am a beekeeper in S. E. NC. I sell honey from my hives and donate the proceeds through my NC Non-Profit. These proceeds go to
    Nearly all beekeepers feed their bees at some point during the years & many feed 2-3 times per year depending on a number of things.
    Beekeepers are, by nature, somewhat close minded. This is not a statement I make without knowing beekeepers and being around too many to remember. I say this because I am one that will always look to try something new is I feel it shows promise and is worth my effort. Most beekeepers have their ways of doing things and it is the only/best way in the World period.
    I mention this because there are many ways people can feed bees. Typically people use table sugar/water solution in the form of 1:1 or 2:1 with the later number being water.
    I've posed this idea I have on several beekeeping forums and was met with polite but dismissive reaction. I won't go into the many other feeding methods. I will just get to my idea.
    I want to use a vacuum chamber to fill frames of bee comb that I takes from the hives I manage. Beekeepers use, almost exclusively, a method of keeping bees in wooden boxes which have "frames" that hang vertically inside these boxes. The bees build comb in these frames so that it is easy for beekeepers to inspect & manage their hives by lifting out some or all of the frames from time to time. Bees also store honey in frames and beekeepers, "encourage" them to store excess honey in separate, frame filled, boxes called, "honey supers"
    What I want to do is be able to fill frames with 2:1 (saturated sugar solution) syrup by way of placing them in a vacuum chamber and pulling the atmosphere down inside the chamber so that the syrup can be introduced (or even be present during evacuation??) and easily fill the thousands of small cells each frame contains. The main stumbling block in trying to fill frames with a solution is overcoming the surface tension that keeps air in these cells and prevents liquid in bulk from easily entering. Maybe surface tension is not the correct term but that is what I've been led to understand this is called.
    My theory is that by removing the air in & around the frames there will be no way that air will prevent liquid from just flowing into the, now really empty, cells. I would like some input on this idea please. I already have a HVAC style 7cfm vacuum pump and I also have a fairly complete machine shop at my home. I am also able to do any fabrication that I can possibly foresee as being required.
    My goal would be to build a chamber that can house 8-10 frames which are 19"L X 10"H X 1.375"W so this chamber will need to have a preferred ID of 20" X 11" X 14".
    The main reason I wish to pursue this method is because I feel, if set up properly, it will be a much cleaner way to fill frames AND will fill them completely.
    All other methods of feeding via filled frames consists of blasting streams of syrup at the comb in order to displace the air inside the cells and replace it with syrup.
    I have just completed a very time consuming project in which I designed & built a syrup spraying tank. This unit consist of a 3/4 hp motor, a bronze external gear pump driven by a reduction pulley system connected by a shaft using pillow blocks & jaw type coupling. The syrup gets pumped into a tank where I have 2 pipes with 70 3/64" holes in each. The pipes are separated by 4 inches and they spray sugar syrup at each other when the pump is running. I takes frames of comb and dip them between these spray bars and the frames fill with syrup. As I mentioned this has been a very time consuming & somewhat expensive project. Once I finally got it running properly I discovered that there was simply no way of using this unit without getting sugar syrup all over the floor and whatever else is nearby. I can't explain it but the stuff just gets all over. When this happens & it is above 45*F the bees will be around the syrup like you wouldn't believe & will stay on the feed until dark.
    Sorry so long winded.
  2. jcsd
  3. mfb

    Staff: Mentor

    That looks like an interesting idea. Evaporation of water might be an issue - pure water would boil away and finally freeze in a vacuum. No idea about the syrup, it might behave differently.
    Viscosity could remain an issue, too.
  4. I looked at the boiling point for water. I've been told the pump I have can pull maybe 25-26 bar????
    If thus is plausible then the boiling of the water won't happen unless it is a very hot day.
    As for viscosity I am imagining the vacuum will essentially force the syrup to take the place of air regardless of viscosity. Just a guess. Got to look at the relationship between the two.

  5. mfb

    Staff: Mentor

    25-26 bar? I think you want to reduce the pressure, not increase it.
    At room temperature, water will begin to boil at ~0.02 times the atmospheric pressure. Below 0.006 times the atmospheric pressure, there is no liquid water any more, independent of the temperature. Sugar water might behave differently.

    It will at least influence the timescale of the process.
  6. Sorry for the error=my ignorance..
    I suppose the number I was talking about was inches of mercury but the HVAC industry has gone to a micron standard for their gauges/application so I don't really know how deep a vacuum my unit will pull? It is my understanding the unit I have will pull well past the vacuum needed to boil water as this is one of the contaminants that HVAC pumps are designed to evacuate from a freon system.
    Given I have enough vacuum "power" is there a way to determine at what level of vacuum the syrup will fill the cells of the comb. I imagine this may come down to me just trying to build a chamber and trying the system out.
    I have tried building one out of triple layers of woods with sealing in between each layer but it still leaked terribly. Any thoughts on what I can build this size chamber from?
    I imagine a cylindrical shape would be best & I can get some fairly large scrap drops of thick walled pipe. Is that a good start? I don't want to use something that will take up a ton of time only to fail so if someone says, "you need .250" wall thickness for a 24" diameter cylindrical chamber" I would start there.
  7. mfb

    Staff: Mentor

    I would expect that there are vacuum chambers you could use. As material, metal is nice, but glass is interesting, too (and you can look inside that way ;)).
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