Got some new inner covers from Brushy Mountain for the 8 frame colonies this year. I have purchased the 10-frame version in the past and have always been happy with them. I like to modify these inner covers to allow for a 5/16 inch top entrance that is protected by the a standard outer cover. These inner covers allows for warm moist air to exit the the hive in the winter above the cluster. Since converting from quilt boxes to this type of inner cover I have had much better success overwintering. I also have observed far less bearding during summer for colonies that have these inner covers.
These are very similar to the covers I was building back in 2012. (See Top Entrances from 5/22/2012) After using those entrances I liked what they did for bees, but they had a down side. Ants love to build nests between top of those plywood inner covers and the bottom of the outer cover. I then modified some standard inner covers. This gave bees access to the space that the ants had previously been occupying. A healthy colony is all that is needed to keep ants out when a standard inner cover is modified in this way.
The above gallery shows the basic process. All that is needed is some contractor shims, glue and nails. I use 5/8 inch brad nails, but small frame nails will work. Select the thickest of the shims. The first couple times you do this you may want to measure them. Your goal is about 5/16 inches thick on the meaty end. Most of the shims will meet the requirement, but there’s always a couple that are too thin. If they aren’t thick enough there’s a chance of the entrance being propolized shut. The shim is first coated with glue on one side then positioned as shown in the front corners.
After installing the inner cover on an active colony make sure the outer cover is slid as far forward as possible so bees can access the entrance. After that be aware that guards in healthy colonies will perch up there and be watching you as you approach.
The above picture shows what they look like when on top of a box. These inner covers allow access to the space directly under the outer cover so ants do not make a home out of your bee hive. I have been happy enough with them that all my production colonies sport these entrances. Some colonies use them as entrances more than others and I don’t gauge bee traffic as a sign of their usefulness. My goal is overwintering and that’s why these covers are in place.
Also I do not like bearding and these covers decrease it. Bearding is a waste of time and energy. If bees are on the outside cooling off and lounging about they aren’t inside moving air to cure honey, make wax, feed new brood or anything else that could be happening. Idle time is greatly decreased in mature colonies when using these inner covers along with three deeps.
Modify a couple of your inner covers and give them a try this year. See how their performance compares to other nearby colonies. As summer progresses and it gets hot note the differences in bearding. Be listening for differences in sound coming from bearded vs. unbearded colonies. Let me know what you think. Particularly if your colonies are using these inner covers suing 3-Langstroth DEEPS. THANKS ahead of time.
Are you providing a top entrance?
If so what kind? I’d like to try em…
Sounds like a well thought-out modification. You got me wondering how much energy is wasted by a strong colony that beards out front. Could honey production be noticeably increased if bearding was decreased? Hmmmm. Well, I build my own equipment (except for frames) I was given a good number of older telescoping tops by my mentor, which were in various states of disrepair. I didn’t bother with inner covers. Just threw them on and figured to get a couple of years out of them before they fell apart. They work well enough. I’m slowly fazing them out as I build migratory covers to replace the ones that get too far gone. With the migratory covers, especially older ones, they bow. This sometimes leaves a gap. The bees keep the gaps open at times, and close them off at other times. Looking at this article makes me think I might want to shim up some of my tops, to see if there is a noticeable difference in production. Thanks for sharing.
The thing I always seem to notice about bearded colonies is that they are quiet. Using these inner covers along with a hole in the top and middle deeps, a 3-DEEP colony with 2-3 honey supers will have very few bees on the outside of the colony at night. During our black locust flow, hives sounds like a refrigerator at night during humid muggy conditions.
I have mainly been focusing on survival. I tend to believe that having ventilation/top entrance aids in honey production, but I really haven’t kept enough data on it yet to be sure.
Always be experimenting with a few of your colonies. You can read other people’s work, but you never know for sure unless ya try. I like having a top entrance. 🙂 Good luck this year.
Hey, I just wanted to say ‘thanks’ for the step-by-step tutorial. At least for me, it helps to see *exactly* what you’ve done to modify the hive.
It really wasn’t step-by-step, but this is a pretty simple procedure. I promise there will be more pictures in the future I will be taking pictures as I deploy these lids this Spring. I have made new ones to replace the old ones from back in 2012. Those will be recycled for inner covers for Ground Traps.
I will also upload some video of colonies with these covers in place. I am trying to put something up every day of the week at LetMBee.com on Facebook. If you have any questions ask away. Good luck to you.
So the shims allow hive access the entire length of the front of the hive at the top, and the notch allows the bees to access the space between the inner cover and the telescoping outer cover? Couldn’t they just use the oval hole in the inner cover to access that space?
The notch is in the inner cover is there when it comes. They also have the oval opening.