Top Entrances

Last winter I read a lot about top entrances on beesource.  If any one has seen my earlier posts they are probably aware that some of my hive sites are prone to high grass.  I am always looking for ways to work with nature as opposed to fighting it all the time.  I view cutting grass as fighting nature as well as a HUGE waste of time and gasoline.  Allowing the bees to do their work without mowing and weed eating is a goal of mine.

As with a lot of things I “read”, I feel the need to try them on a small scale prior to just diving right in.  In February I made 10 top entrances for evaluation.  The construction was quite easy.  Materials consisted of 1 sheet of 3/4 inch plywood and some shims from Menards.  They were made so they could be used with the current telescoping covers already present on all of the hives.  The goal was to create a 5/16″ bee space at the front of each hive.

The entrances were placed at random so it is not as though I was expecting anything more from the hives that received them.  Amazingly at least initially I am getting substantially more from the hives that are sporting these contraptions.  I have been checking on some hives in my normal fashion over the last couple of days.  The telescoping cover and inner cover is removed and the top super is viewed.  That’s it.

One colony at hive site 5 (HS5) (1111) has drawn out 10 shallow frames completely in just 8 days.  This was done on foundation as I have not had good luck with honey supers getting drawn nicely on foundationless frames (YET!!).  I pulled one of the frames from the center and each cell was roughly 3/4 full on Sunday 5/19.  The hive right next to it (1110)  started out the spring in approximately the same condition had not even begun to draw out the foundation.  It had a traditional inner cover in place.  Perhaps it could just be the colony…

If it were not for a similar result at hive site 3 (HS3) I would have written it off as a fluke.  I have the exact same setup except there are two supers on the hives at HS3.  Top entrance right next to a hive of similar strength with a traditional inner cover.  Both came through the winter weighing substantially more than those at HS5.  Again the colony with the top entrance (1104) is progressing faster than (1107) the colony right next it with a traditional inner cover.

I am not saying everyone should go out and put top entrances on everything they have.  I don’t know if there will be a bad side to this revealed later this summer.  I am inclined to think that there is some difference at this stage.  I will keep you posted as the summer progresses.  If anyone is interested I can do a more in depth page on how I made these entrances.  Just let me know.

What do you think?  Have you used top entrances?  What are the pro’s and cons?


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12 Responses to Top Entrances

  1. Janet Wilson says:

    Hi Jason, do you have a photo of your top entrance hive(s). I would like to see what it looked like when set up.


    • Jason says:

      Yes I do, but not many. Just one of those things I always seem to forget to photograph. Actually if you have seen any recent pictures of the hives I am running TE’s almost exclusively now. You can’t tell they are on unless the telescoping outer cover is removed. This will be the first winter using them, but I have included the pictures that made me re-evaluate using the Warre tops I used the last two winters. Don’t know if it was just the witner last year or what, but I had a lot of moisture up in them and mold growth.

      I haven’t written a lot about the top entrances because I don’t want to lead anyone astray. If there was a bad side to them, I wanted to find out about it first. That being said I will probably recommend them on the blog next year during the summer for certain. It is my belief that the hives that had them made me more honey for me. Don’t know how they will work for winter yet though.

      I will say one thing. They make a mess on the front of the hives. Propolis runs down the front of the top box when it gets hot. It doesn’t bother me, but it will happen. I have no pictures of that.

      If you click on “view all” I have put some comments on the TE pictures. Thanks for reading.

      LetMBee's Top Entrance Photos album on Photobucket
  2. Larry says:

    I made an interesting observation in of some of my hives with top entrances. I started finding drone brood in the top honey supers. At the same time the bottom brood boxes had very little brood but large amounts of fresh nectar.

    This reverse arrangement seems to support the writing of Roger Morse in “Bees and Beekeeping”, (1975).

    Morse wrote: “Brood-rearing temperature control can be accomplished only if the brood is reared in a compact area. Thus, in its evolution, a natural separation of the food and brood developed. In the modern hive, the entrance is usually at the bottom of the nest; the food is stored above and the brood below. This is not always true in nature, and one will find bee trees where the primary nest entrance is at the middle or above the brood rearing and food storing areas. In such cases the food may be stored below the brood. However, there has been no research to determine how common this occurs.”

    • Jason says:

      I will have to add that to my reading list as well. I have not had any drone brood up in the honey supers in the last two years. Do you reverse your boxes in the Spring? I quit doing it. I have found as long as I maintain a honey band above the brood I have not had trouble with the queen crossing it to lay above. Using three deeps I typically have almost an entire deep of honey above the brood nest most of the time in developed colonies.

      I haven’t discussed this method with a blog article yet because it was a TOTAL test last year. I have been nadiring deeps under the brood nests in the Spring. That means in the Spring I end up with 4 deeps (in mature colonies) and then place supers on top of that. At the end of the summer I take the supers and the top deep AS LONG AS THE penultimate deep is full of honey and the bees have moved down. I don’t know why it seems so hard to explain, but mainly it is similar to the Warre method for the brood nest. I will be showing more on that with pictures and video in March or April as I go through the hives.

      This was my first year seriously testing top entrances. I have seen so many feral hives with 2, 3, 4 and more entrances. Old abandoned houses tend to have multitudes of entrances. I only have data from 1 year, but at least last year honey crops were substantially larger in hives possessing a top entrance.

      I have seen bees move nectar/honey around inside brood nests. It is typically why I don’t make changes in the fall and call it winter management. If I leave them to their business, bees should know where to put their stores in relation to their brood. I will have this as my mindset until I am convinced I need to reevaluate. 🙂

  3. Larry says:

    All of my current hives are 8-frame Langstroth. Most are mediums but I do have some deeps in the mix. I typically winter established colonies in four mediums.

    I don’t reverse boxes in the spring. I put empty supers on early and all of my honey comes from new combs drawn each season using foundationless frames. Normally I start harvesting frames of fully capped honey in June. Everything after July is left on the hive in preparation for winter.

    Tom Seeley in The Nest of the Honey Bee, (1976) found single entrances in 79% of feral nests and 21% of feral nests had multiple entrances. 58% of the entrances were near the bottom, 24% were near the top and 18% were near the middle of the cavity.

    I built and used several Warré hives about four years ago so I am very familiar with nadiring.

    • Jason says:

      Alright I am ordering “Bees and Beekeeping” as well asn “The Nest of the Honey Bee” tonight. How many colonies did they survey? I saw the picture of (I assume) you kneeling down next to what looked like a Warre at the link you gave me.

      I am in the 10 frame deep setup mainly because I bought a lot of equipment from a retiring beekeeper 3 years ago. That is what he had and what I have now. I know that some day the weight of those deeps full of honey will get to be to much, but for now it is what I am stuck with. As time goes on I may consider some 8 frame deep equipment as that will be compatible with my swarm traps. I have some old mediums that are getting bad and will be making some traps out of them when I get time. If I can get them to work I may eventually end up with all medium 8 frame equipment.

      How do you get the bees to ascend up into foundationless supers? I tried that in 2011 and had poor results. I also tried centering 3 frames with either drawn comb or foundation in the supers along with 6 foundationless frames (3 on each side). This worked so well it was all I did in 2012. Currently that is my plan for 2013. I only take all of the supers off of the hives if the top deep is entirely full of capped honey including frames 1 and 10.

      I do like Warre’s management ideas. I don’t really understand the idea of the golden mean, but I have read that it occurs all through nature. The box dimensions are closer to 8 frame Lang boxes. I have seen feral bees build their homes in a variety of different structures. So I don’t know how important that golden mean really is.

  4. Larry says:

    Bees above all are remarkably adaptive! Feral honey bee colonies in North America and Europe are found in hollow trees, caves, houses, barns, boxes and numerous man-made objects. Many conflicting theories and radical designs have resulted from the examination of successful feral nests.

    How do I get the bees to ascend up into foundationless supers? Bees can be like wives, sometimes to get ’em to do the things you want you have to make ‘em think it’s their idea.

    • Jason says:

      That answer is kinda cryptic. 🙂 So are you providing a couple of seed combs so they have a “ladder” in there to get to the top and begin building?

      I have seen bees living in some strange spots. Two locations had them enhabiting trees with the entrance right at ground level. At one of those locations things got exciting the first time the property owner fired up his lawnmower after the tree was occupied.

      • Larry says:

        In anticipation of a flow I crowd the colony and use a drawn bait comb in the middle of the super to get the bees to move up. Crowding colonies can be tricky. If they ignore the super too long they are likely to swarm.

        • Jason says:

          The bait comb. I kinda figured. I happened to stumble upon that last year in a couple of my honey supers. That is where using all the same size boxes really comes in handy.

          I increase the room very early in March normally by nadiring a deep of foundationless frames under the stack. If swarming has occurred these colonies have still made honey surpluses.

          I don’t like to intentionally crowd them since I have to plan my bee days weeks in advance in co-ordination with my work schedule. I just can’t watch them close enough. That is one of the reasons I LetMBee. I have no choice.

          Thanks for sharing your method Larry…

  5. larry musall says:

    Hi! Jason,
    Your information is educational.
    Question is ,I want to change to top entry and am concern that Bees will be to confused to use the top on active Hive.
    What is your thoughts?
    Wabash County ,Indiana

    • Jason says:

      Instead of just changing to a top entrance, leave the regular old entrance available to the bees. They need time to learn to use the top entrance. If you obstruct the current entrance in the middle of the bee working day it will cause a huge work flow problem. Leave it open the rest of the season as long as the hive is strong enough to defend it. In fact I am having second thoughts on obstructing bottom entrances in certain situations.
      I have several hives currently that are sporting bottom & top entrances as well as having 1 inch holes drilled in the deeps. I am experimenting all the time and sometimes that means controls. [Controls in this years experimentation = top entrance AND bottom entrance which is what I have been doing since 2012] The control hives have been coping with heat and humidity better with less bearding when using a solid bottom board. One thing about not feeding or treating. If a colony has enough vigor to survive on it’s own it will have enough bees to patrol and defend multiple access points to the hive. There are quite a few feral hives around here. When I find them in a tree or old building often times there are many points of entry to the nest.
      Cliff Notes: Put that top entrance on. Leave the bottom entrance open as well. Observe to make sure they aren’t getting robbed. If so you will have to close something up. If NOT put a mouse guard in there this Winter and see what you have in the Spring.

      Here’s a link to some pics of hives with 1 inch holes drilled in the deeps. I have several outyards that only get mowed 1-2 times a year. Putting holes in the hives gives bees a higher point of access so the grass doesn’t slow production. Even though they don’t use it the bottom entrance being OPEN may make it easier for them to move air through the hive keeping things cool. I’m still on the fence for what’s best. Having a top entrance is better than NOT having one.

      Good luck.. Drop me a line if you have anymore questions.

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