I have been investigating more of the natural ways of keeping bees and came across an article about how bees want to keep an upper entrance rather than a bottom one. This defies the standard hive design straight off. A bottom entrance makes drafts in the brood chamber making it harder for the bees to keep a constant temp and humidity. An experiment was done (you can find it on the main Beesource page all the way at the bottom, then an article about "honey excluders") anyway they found that the upper entrance hives made lots of honey and the brood chamber was kept below with the queen not ever being limited by honey in the brood chamber. The honey supers could be extra ventilated for maximum production while keeping the brood chamber ventilated to a minimum for constant temps and humidity. I think these ideas could be integrated with a bottom closed screened bottom board to catch mites, also with the unlimited broodnest to create really productive colonies kept in more of a natural manner with an absolute minimum of stress to the bees. Of course I will do some experiments.
I would love to see some comments on this one.
A few of the conclusions above are mine, not those of the article.
I have always tried to run my hives with some kind of upper entrance, for these reasons:
In the summer, it created more ventilation.
During the honey flow, it allows field bees to get in without having to traverse a queen excluder if I have one.
The bees do seem to like it.
In the winter I use one for these reasons:
It provides some ventilation.
If the bottom is clogged with snow or dead bees it allows some escape for the bees.
Basicaly I only close it to use an escape board, and then I usually put an inner cover with an entrance, or an Imire shim between the escape board and the hive.
I'm still not so sure that the bees don't need a lower entrance to allow cleaning the bottom board. If you look at a feral hive there is a pile of dead bees, old wax cappings, old combs and live wax worms on the bottom and it never gets cleaned out.
Also, for ventilation you need air coming in the bottom (which you could get from your screened bottom board). Also, the brood nest needs a good supply of honey and pollen, and I'm afraid the bees would lose alot of their pollen coming down through the excluder, if you have one.
After considering the mess at the bottom, I think a small entrance would be good, besides if you had a queen excluder, drones would not be able to get out. But if you read the article, plenty of pollen was being brought down into the brood nest, and even though there were only two deeps, the only thing holding the queen back from laying eggs was that she could only lay so many in one day. The regular excluder colonies were getting plugged out with honey and the queen couldnt lay. the excluderless colonies had about the same results as the upper entrance ones plus the lower entrance ones were subject to skunk predation. Just a few things going through my mind.
If we are talking about redoing both the top and bottom entrances here's some ideas that have been used and concepts to take into account.
As you say, you could use a small entrance at the bottom.
And as you say, you will need a landing board for the top if you want a lot of traffic through there.
It would be nice if it was a separate peice from the hive so you could add supers and still put it back on top. I assume you planned it that way.
You could use some variation of the screened entrance like Brushy Mt sells for moving bees. This allows ventilation but no entrance. Then you could put a small entrance in it. Brushy Mt suggests that some people do that to make a skunk gaurd.
The slatted rack concept has a block for the front by the entrance to eliminate too much ventilation right by the door. It creates a sort of baffle right there. It doesn't stop the ventilation, just directs it back more. This supposedly allows the brood chamber to be more filled with brood which is something you were trying to accomplish. The the slats further break up the draft so it's more evenly distributed and it creates more cluster space on the bottom.
What if you also used the slatted rack concept on the top, with less beespace, of course. It might distribute the air going out more evenly and provide more room for traffic coming in to disperse.
Personally I've always favored no excluder myself, but I do use one from time to time depending on circumstances. Doing regressions has put me in a position of using them and using drone comb for supers has also put me in a position of using them.
I'd love to see what you come up with. Maybe after you've built it and tried it you could get Barry to post some pictures.
I built my first idea this afternoon, its kinda like an Imrie Shim, but with no bar across the front. The long sides extend out beyond the front of the hive and the landing board is nailed to the bottom of them. Can you see what I am describing?
Since I can make them myself, I will save money on bottom boards since I only need a frame sort of thing that I can put hardware cloth on.
Ive been experimenting with hives using a top entrance only with the bottom sealed off and the bees tend to keep the bottom clean of dead bees etc. so thats not a problem as long as they room to carry stuff through the top entrance .What they lack is good ventilation during hot weather which can be fixed by drilling holes in the hive and covering them with screen wire..in the winter i cover the holes with duct tape to prevent a draft.Theres lots of advantages to this one of which is less skunk and mice damage during the winter.
Franc, you have more experience than me in this area, do you have any other observations?
Maybe if you had a slide out tray and checked on a reasonable schedule you could dump anything the bees didn't clean up from the bottom. Then it may be more practicle to have no bottom opening. Since I'd like to have a screened botom board I still think some kind of slatted bottom board would have the advantage of breaking up the draft from an open screened bottom board. Of course if you had the screen and 3/4" of space and then a botom, you wouldn't have the draft but the mites couldn't climb back up. Less ventilation of course.
Actually WiredForStero I use the upper entrance only for breeding nucs and let them over winter in these nucs.Its just easier for me because I just leave the top jared open an thats their entrance.I also just dump the feed on the floor so it sorta doubles as a feeder.Theres also seems to be less robbing maybe because of the screened vent holes I guess.And the biggest advantage for me is grass doesn't grow in the way of the entrance as much.
I think I failed to mention that the entrance is kinda in the middle rather than just being an upper entrance. The brood chamber goes below, and the honey goes above.
Further reading leads me to believe that if you use a queen excluder under the entrance, you will have to leave one super or hive body above for winter because very little honey is stored below even though there is plenty of pollen.
The probelm is, in winter I don't think they will traverse the entrance to get to the honey. I've seen hives starve that had honey because it stayed cold and the cluster never moved to where the honey was.
Also, I didn't say it, but if the queen won't traverse the entrance, the cluster won't traverse the entrance.
I have been drilling a 3/4 hole inch come and go hole in each super just under the hand grip on the front of the box every since I started beekeeping. I had seen this at a beeyard in TX and I thought the old beekeeper knew what he was doing so all of my supers and most of my brood chambers are so drilled. If you ever have an oppertunity to see bees coming and going from the bottom entrance and all the supers at the same time you will not wonder why the holes. The holes save the forgers travel time by not having them enter a bottom entrance then climb all the way up and through a Queen excluder to the super. I find that the bees will close and open the holes with propolis according to their needs, the hole will be closed up to a 1/16 to 1/8 size during the coldest part of the winter and gradually opened to bee space size duing the spring and summer, I always open them to their full 3/4" as soon as I see two or three bees waiting around the hole to get in. I use 14 inches tall hive stands with screened BB, makes it easy to read the hive debris to see what the bees are doing , when they are collecting pollen, uncapping cells,etc I also leave a full BB entrance so as not to interfear with pollen collecting in the brood rearing process.
I carry a few cork plugs in my jacket pocket along with paint for marking Queens,I mark any unmarked Queens as I find them and plug as required for super removal or transport.
Have some fun drill a hole in one of your supers and watch how it is used, you can decide if if is a good or bad idea , drill a 1/2 inch hole , you can always plug it with a piece of 1/ 2 dowel if you don't like it.
I try to make life as easy for my bees as possible by giving them easy access to their home and by providing a plentiful water supply just outside their door and at the hive entrance during the hot days of sumer.
Snowed in the midlands of SC today, a rather unusual event , the bees were hunkered down wondering what is goin on , they were collecting pollen on Tuesday.
Les in SC
I drill holes too. Actually the boxes I inherited had them already. And it is true, the bees will use them. One thing about using only an upper entrance, is when bees remove their dead, they have a real hard time. I can'y even begin to imagine a bee removing a dead one, dragging it to the top. Seems like alot of wasted enery, that could be used elsewhere.
Just an opinion....
I do plan to put holes in my supers but not in the hive bodies I will be using for brood chambers. For the bottom I have decided on a flat board with a square or rectangular hole with 1/8 inch hardware cloth on it and 3/8 pieces of wood around the bottoms of the hive bodies for bee space and with an inch long space missing for drones to leave in case I use a queen excluder and for the bees to easily clean off the bottom board.
Also, anyone with screened bottom board experience, do the bees plug it up with propolis if so, under what condidtions?
I used to drill a hole in the top super, but the holes always cause me so many problems that I wished I hadn't. When you want to move them or you want put a bee escape on or there is robbing and you want to close things up a bit. I prefer a top entrance on the inner cover that I can open and close when I want. Mine have a toggle on them. If you buy the DE conversion kit for a Lanstroth box, from Beeworks, they have this kind of top entrance. The plans for the double screen board show this kind of entrance. If you make your own inner covers this kind of entrance is easy enough to make.
I use migratory covers so for me, inner covers with telescoping covers seem to be a bit piontless. Drilling holes is easy and easily closed off with a piece of duct tape. I dont have that bad of winters, so far this year it hasnt even dropped below 30, and has never gotten below 15. The truth is, I only own one inner cover and thats used with a bee escape.
I really appreciate this discussion. I have been mulling the design of an alternative hive for some time, and the what and where of the entrance has been a big question for me. For now, at least, it has been answered: holes drilled in the upper part of the end board for entrances (maybe three 3/4" holes), and only a screened bottom board on the bottom. No openings on the sides or ends of the bottom part of the hive. Have to see what the girlz think of that after they live with it for a season.