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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Greater Hartford area, CT
    Posts
    349

    Default Top Entrance -- Pros & Cons?

    I lost 3 out of my 4 colonies about 2 weeks ago to condensation. As a result, I'm thinking of switching to top entrances this year. However, I'm a little worried that they might cause robbing. Has anyone used top entrances with a TBH? Pros? Cons? Interested in hearing your experiences. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
    Posts
    1,351

    Default Re: Top Entrance -- Pros & Cons?

    Not a TBH person, but I have a robbing screen, and a reduced entrance, on one top-entrance-only Lang that I run. I use a flat, rectangular, robbing screen intended for placement over a nuc entrance. It just screws on to the face of the box over the hole. Mine is sold by Betterbee. I see no reason it (or something like it) wouldn't work in a TBH.

    I don't think you'll have any more issues with condensation once it warms up, but you could think about that before next winter.

    A better solution (and equally possible on a TBH with some modifications) would be a quilt box and open vents above that. That's my main anti-condensation technique which I use on all my Langs, even the ones hat normally use a bottom entrance in the summer. I give everybody a top entrance for winter because the bees don't like to venture down and out through cold lower boxes. But when winter's over I just bee-screen that hole for the warm months to avoid robbing in all but one of my colonies. The outlier simply refuses to use a bottom entrance, so that one only has a top entrance, year-round. It has a small bee-screened bottom entrance for ventilation, just the reverse of the others. This seems to work for me. I lost none of my colonies either last winter or this. And inside there is no evidence of dampness. If anything I think my hives may be too dry, something I am trying to work out a solution for by next winter (Perhaps little Petri dishes with sponges or pebbles and water set on the top bars.)

    I have robbing screens on hand for every entrance on my hives, and use them off and on all season long depending on the pressures. The bees adapt readily to them, with no evidence of problems.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Casper, Wyoming
    Posts
    181

    Default Re: Top Entrance -- Pros & Cons?

    I like top entrances better., I have both top and bottoms.

    I don't notice any difference in robbing with tops.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Clinton, TN
    Posts
    87

    Default Re: Top Entrance -- Pros & Cons?

    I use top entrance at one end I really like it. My top bars are the same length as a lang top bar and I found that a lang entrance reducer fits right on top of my hive as if it were another top bar also, so I just use one of those as a top entrance. Nice thing is I can flip it over and have a small entrance or a larger one depending on what I need at the time. I had no condensation problems and my bees overwintered fine and no robbing problems either.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    48,841

    Default Re: Top Entrance -- Pros & Cons?

    I have only top entrances on one and they do fine. I have only bottom entrances on the other and it does fine. I prefer the top only.
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beestopbarhives.htm
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Norfolk UK
    Posts
    80

    Default Re: Top Entrance -- Pros & Cons?

    Sorry for your losses FVG. I saw in your blog you were considering thicker walls, you should definitely consider this further as temperature really can be the Achilles heal of the TBH in cool climates. Humidity is only a problem when it contacts cool surfaces. It can even prevent varroa from reproducing! I have been observing my bees through my window all winter and they have been moving about the hive most days, they come to the window and 'greet' me even when air temps are 2-3C. surely this is an advantage as they can freely move stores closer to the cluster as required for when things get really bad. My walls are 2 inches thick and I have a very well insulated roof.

    One thing I will be experimenting with this year is a top bar with several holes drilled in and mesh overlaid, placed at the end of the hive. I hope this will act as a propolis trap during the summer and ventilation into the gabled roof in winter, similar to the warre quilt idea. i'll let you know how it goes! Personally I cant see how a top entrance would make much difference either way, but then in England the humidity is pretty much always above 80-90% and temperature spikes are more gentle. As far I know the only parameters of an entrance that can affect robbing are its size and thus the bees ability to defend it.

    Best of luck
    Last edited by Charlie King; 03-16-2015 at 06:37 PM. Reason: added comment on robbing
    season 2 - 6 hives and counting!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Greater Hartford area, CT
    Posts
    349

    Default Re: Top Entrance -- Pros & Cons?

    Thank you all for your input. I believe my hive width is about the same as a lang, so I'll definitely look into the lang reducers. Thanks for that tip, AdamBeal. CharlieKing, that is really interesting about humidity and varroa. I learn something new every day!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Isle of Wight, VA
    Posts
    978

    Default Re: Top Entrance -- Pros & Cons?

    of my 2 main hives in the front yard, one is a top entrance via a periscope side entrance. Both are hauling in nectar and my inspection this week showed moldy comb in the top entrance hive. But the bottom entrance hive had black sooty mold on the insides of the hive wall. I think it's just a matter of too much moisture from the nectar (I'm not feeding syrup) on days that were a bit chilly. It's been in the 70's a couple of days and the bees are happily drawing comb now.

    I wonder if a better answer is to have a bar that has holes drilled in it so the moisture can travel up. I have one of those bars for summer time to help vent the heat. I have covered the holes with plastic mesh screen so no bees can get in or out of those holes.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Hephzibah, GA
    Posts
    200

    Default Re: Top Entrance -- Pros & Cons?

    Like Ruthie, I have a ventilation bar with six holes. The bee side is covered with plastic screen and the top side with corks. I unplug corks as needed. I keep it on the hive year around, in winter to reduce the affects of condensation and in summer if I see bearding.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Greater Hartford area, CT
    Posts
    349

    Default Re: Top Entrance -- Pros & Cons?

    I like the idea of a ventilation bar that can be left on year round. Do you find that the bees build comb on it or try to propolize the screen? How wide is the bar? Is it next to the entrance or somewhere else? Thanks!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Loudoun, VA, USA
    Posts
    37

    Default Re: Top Entrance -- Pros & Cons?

    Most of my hives have both top and bottom entrances a-la Mangum's design. The bees tend to fully propolize the top ones shut in the winter (so I guess mine prefer bottom entrances) and as a result they get condensation in the hive. The fix I use is to slip in a twig under the end of a bar behind the brood nest (away from the entrances) - this keeps the hive free from condensation.
    While I have been told many times that bees can't overwinter in a top bar hive - mine do a darn good imitation of it.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Hephzibah, GA
    Posts
    200

    Default Re: Top Entrance -- Pros & Cons?

    fruitveggirl, I place the bar on the opposite side of the follower board from the bees. My boards have an access hole that I usually leave open so the bees can patrol the other side, and my followers aren't very tight, so there's plenty of air leakage around them as well. It seems to be enough to draw out the excess humidity. If the observation window gets very foggy or the bees are bearding, I'll move it temporarily onto the other side for quicker ventilation and remove all the corks. I don't leave it on the inside of the follower because I worry about a chimney effect, especially in winter.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Chester, PA, USA
    Posts
    62

    Default Re: Top Entrance -- Pros & Cons?

    I have glass (real glass) windows on all but 1 of my TBH. The one without the window is the only one which has any condensation issues. The glass acts as a condensation point and the water runs down the side wall and out the front/bottom entrance (hives are slanted just a tad bit forward).

    While I like the window for the condensation point I think there are alternatives. I was thinking of taking the windowless hive and just putting a screw through the sidewall with a one inch washer on both the inside and outside. The outside washer and screw should transmit the cold inside the hive and give the water vapor a condensation point, but I'd put it under the roof line in the shadows so won't have to worry about it getting searingly hot in the summer sun. I'm just not sure if that will be a big enough condensation point, but I guess I'll find out.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Seattle WA
    Posts
    160

    Default Re: Top Entrance -- Pros & Cons?

    I have found the top entrance to be MUCH better for overwintering in my area. We may be very far north for the U.S. but the climate is closer to what is found in the U.K. Cold is not an issue but the unrelenting rain all winter is a major issue. The top entrance in my opinion solves several problems. There are no drafts since the wind does not blow downward. The slightly warmer moist air easily goes out the top. In the winter robbing is not an issue and I actually increased the size of the opening to the size of one full bar for the winter to increase the moisture removal. When the bees started flying, I put a screen over most of the opening to reduce its size. Finally, I have no scientific proof to back this up but my belief is that the extra ventilation and reduced moisture should reduce any nosema (or other diseases) spores that are airborne in the hive.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Greater Hartford area, CT
    Posts
    349

    Default Re: Top Entrance -- Pros & Cons?

    Thanks for all the replies. You've certainly given me a lot to think about and some great ideas. Thanks again!

  16. #16
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,767

    Default Re: Top Entrance -- Pros & Cons?

    I made a vent bar and they propolized it really good. I guess they didn't like the screen door.

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