Holes – in perfectly good woodenware

Example of bees using 1 inch holes.

bees using 1 inch holes.

I have had many questions about the 1 inch holes pictured in my deep hive bodies. When I began keeping bees I bought a bunch of used equipment from a keeper who was retiring. He had holes in some of his equipment, but I didn’t pay much attention. I was picking the boxes that had the most life left in them regardless of the holes.

Over the years the number of hives increased. For years I did NOT drill holes in newly constructed boxes. I was not convinced that they provided enough of a benefit to put a hole in a BRAND NEW box. My goal with hive equipment is make it last as long as possible. That’s why I don’t use things like staples and tacks. Things last longer when the integrity of the paint (and wood) is not disturbed.


Pollen entering 1″ hole

Over time it became evident that I needed to reevaluate holes in hive bodies. All of the production colonies occupy three deeps due to the success realized with that configuration. I have observed the number of bees utilizing the entrance holes when they have been present and compared how hives performed holes vs. no holes.  My observations indicate it’s a GOOD idea to put holes in perfectly good deeps. As summer progresses and hive populations increase it appears (to me) that colonies prefer using holes over entrances at the bottom AND top of the hives anyway.

20160507_152405_wm 1504 1505 1208In my opinion there is a difference in performance between colonies WITH and WITHOUT holes. If you have followed this blog long you have undoubtedly seen how tall the grass and weeds get around some of the remote outyards. Heck, sometimes it might be a month or more between visits to some of these places. Tall grass and weeds have less of an effect on hive traffic when bees can utilize an entrance two or three feet off the ground. Also if something like a skunk wants to cause trouble they have to reach UP to do so. This will expose their underside and make it easier for guards to defend the colony.

Note traffic, all colonies have bottom entrances

Note traffic, all colonies have bottom entrances

Another benefit I have found to utilizing these holes is that depending on the traffic I can see which of the 3 deeps the main brood chamber is located in WITHOUT opening my colonies. The majority of pollen that goes into the colony will enter the hole CLOSEST to where the brood is located. This is how I can compare progression of colonies down through the deeps.  New deeps can be nadired under a colony when necessary. I like to maintain the brood chamber in the middle deep box if possible. When it is noticed that most of the traffic is coming from the bottom hole or entrance, then I know a new deep will soon be needed.

2012-07-24 Bee 19 1202 holesTo make the holes use a 1 INCH Hole-Saw in a cordless drill. I purchased my hole-saw Menards, but I have seen them at yardsales as well as at my local sale-barn. It was not expensive and will last a long time making holes in the pine bee-boxes. I try to place holes roughly in the center of the 16.25inch face of deep boxes. Initially I was retentive about having them all perfectly centered, but I have quit being so picky. It’s just not worth it. Bees are all about rolling with things the way that they are. I have observed this from my colonies and do the same when possible.

20160506_124626_wm 1501 1517 1502 Hiving Trap25 to 1605All deep hive bodies around here have the potential to be turned into swarm traps at some point down the road so I plan ahead when making these holes. You can use one of the entry discs from the Walter Kelley Company as a template to determine the best place to drill the hole. Position the disc on top of the box (under any cutouts if present) as if you were going to install it.  MAKE SURE YOU LEAVE ACCESS TO THE HAND CUTOUT if that is the type of box you have. Trace the large hole and drill your 1 inch hole inside the boundaries of that circle. DO NOT position the hole in OR directly above the hand-hold. This will result in you placing your hand or arm over an establish entry/exit. This can lead to getting stung on inspection.

THIS IS IMPORTANT: Place the box in front of you on the ground so that the BOTTOM of the box is closest to you. NOW drill the hole at a SLIGHT angle such that when rain falls on the hole water will run OUT of the box. This procedure is very similar to how its done in when I am building swarm traps.

20160326_115324-1I encourage you to do a little experimenting with holes in your hive bodies. Try this out on a couple of colonies and compare them to your others. I cannot recommend a hole in every box, but if you are running three deeps a hole in the top and middle two seem to be loved by my bees. Get back with me after you have experimented and let me know how it works for you.

I know some of you keepers reading from South Eastern Indiana already do this. What are your thoughts????


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3 Responses to Holes – in perfectly good woodenware

  1. Bruce Rodriguez says:

    I have a 1.25″ hole in every top super and they definitely use it more than the small entrance on the bottom (some don’t even have bottom entrances). I put it on the long side though and have all my hives facing sideways. I don’t have to reach across that way. Very little bearding also with the big hole.

    • Jason says:

      On the colonies you have bottom entrances ON do they open across the bottom of the long end as well?

      I have some old supers that have holes in them 2 or 3 of about 70. I notice bees using them but not as much as the lower holes. I didn’t put them in there. They are only about 9/16 and are way smaller than you’re talking. Might try to enlarge those for next year.

      Thanks for commenting.

      • Bruce Rodriguez says:

        My bottom entrances are on the “normal” side with the entrance reducer on the small setting for now. I will put in solid ones before winter. Most of the cutouts I’ve done here mimic this arrangement. Behind the hole in the structure is almost always the “face” of a comb. Almost never the edge. I have a colony in a wine cask that did the same thing. Have you noticed this?

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