If you could choose just one entrance that would be best suited for your bees, which would you choose? A top entrance or a bottom entrance? If you said a bottom entrance, you may be surprised by the many benefits of using a top entrance either exclusively or in addition to a bottom entrance.
If you live in a 2 story home what happens in the summer time if you close all the upstairs windows? It gets really hot right? Of course, since the heat is trapped and can’t escape. Well the same thing happens inside a bee hive. This is why you’ll often see bees bearding at the outside entrance of their hives – it’s simply too hot for everyone to be in there. Another thing that you’ll see is bees fanning their wings in an attempt to blow the hot air from the top out the bottom entrance to cool things down. The simple solution to quickly cooling a hot house in the summer time is to open the windows, especially upstairs windows, and the same is true for your bee hive.
I have found that the easiest way to do this is to simply drill a 3/4 to 15/16 hole in each hive body I use. This ensures that my hives won’t over heat in the summer, but the benefits don’t end there. Did you know that in addition to allowing the excess heat to escape, you also allow the excess moisture to escape too? Think about that for a minute, your bees need to make honey and in order to do that they have to evaporate most of the water content of the nectar they forage. Which direction does water vapor travel when it evaporates? Up. Now you’ve made your bees job that much easier. So instead of using precious energy to fan the hive blowing out the hot air, they can put that energy into more foraging, house cleaning and comb building, etc. With a round hole this size, I can easily use a cork to close off an entrance if I am concerned about robbing or just want to limit the amount of entrances the hive has. You’ll find that the bigger you colony grows each time you add a hive body with a pre drilled entrance hole, the bees will immediately begin to use the new entrances because they have less distance to walk to deposit nectar or pollen.
Top entrances are so beneficial that you can use them all year long even in the winter time when the temps get really cold. How is this good? We’ll bees can tolerate cold temps pretty well, but when it’s cold and damp because of too much moisture in the hive the cluster can chill and die. You’ve experience how much colder you feel if you are damp or even wet like when you get caught in a rain storm. Well, your bees feel that same. If they are dry and cold they can handle it. If they are damp or wet and cold, they will chill and die.
Without at bottom board entrance you also eliminate a couple of common pests for bees like mice who love to jump onto a landing board and get into a hive. Skunks also find the landing board useful for getting leverage to reach into your hive and help themselves to what ever they can grab. So lets do a recap of all the benefits of using a top entrance for your be hives:
1. Allows for natural heat and moisture ventilation
2. Lets the bees use their energy more efficiently / make more honey
3. Allows the bees a short cut
4. Small enough hole to put a cork in rather than using entrance reducers
5. No mice or skunks to worry about
These are some of the really great benefits your bees can enjoy using a top entrance. I still find that I like to keep a small notch approx 3/4” in width on my bottom board – see photo. This allows the bees to keep the floor of the hive clean and tidy. I like using these methods because I run about 40 colonies and it’s made my job so much easier not having to worry about using entrance reducers and dealing with heat and pest issues. I hope these tips can help both you and your bees to enjoy beekeeping!