Testing top vs. bottom entrances.
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  1. #1
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    Default Testing top vs. bottom entrances.

    OK, thanks to a freshly caught swarm, I finally decided to do the experiment long wanted.
    Pretty strong swarm - 5-7 pounds (2-3 kilos) of bees.
    Testing which entrance will these bees like better - top or bottom or something in between.

    The hive is my own portable Ukrainian, 60 liter box (10 deep Ukrainian frames; compatible to Dadants).
    This is just about double-deep Lang in height.
    What is nice that I have deep frames going all way top to bottom (as many know) and so bees are free to arrange the nest and stores as they see fit. There is no frame break as in a typical double-deep Lang.
    So there should not be an artificial frame situation affecting the entrance usage as the bees need not be choosing a box (top or bottom). They have the entire volume to use - ten frames (compatible to 20 medium Lang frames in comb area). There is additional 2 inch air buffer under the frames.

    Being a fresh swarm trapped on last Sunday, they got no special comb situation either; 5 foundation-less blanks checked-boarded between old cut-out frames after honey harvesting. So they are to create the brood nest where-ever they see fit and manage the stores however they see fit. I might rearrange frames later if I see serious comb issues to correct and such (foundation-less). Otherwise, this is a low maintenance fresh swarm left to fend for themselves and bring some honey. Pasture is good.

    EntranceTesting.jpg

    So I got four entrances at different levels all way up to bottom.
    Entrances are asymmetric - what I do on all my boxes (compromise between cold way and warm way).
    (These are 4 inches apart - so there is a clear distinction between the entance level and they have to choose what is best for them).
    Each entrance is 1/2" in diameter and not sufficient for this swarm alone.
    They ideally need 3-4 holes to work normally and the our flow is on.

    The idea is to leave them only one entrance at a time and have them open the other entrances as they see fit (soft paper plugs).
    Just did the plugging this AM and will see what is there in the evening.
    They were already working heavily (predominantly via the top holes) and now I cause them some annoying congestion.

    Every morning I will keep plugging all holes again leaving the only one open (the second up, the third up, the forth up in turns).
    Hopefully, if they don't care of some entrance enough, they will not unplug it over the course of one day.
    Only the most favored entrances will be unplugged and that may show, I figure.
    Will see.

    Any suggestions are welcome.
    This test is only starting (poor bees).

    PS: initially, this was a bottom entrance box and you can see that; IF they really want to unplug entire bottom slot - they can; but I doubt they will.
    Last edited by GregV; 06-20-2018 at 09:36 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Testing top vs. bottom entrances.

    Well, I was wrong on this prediction:
    PS: initially, this was a bottom entrance box and you can see that; IF they really want to unplug entire bottom slot - they can; but I doubt they will.
    They very decisively unplugged entire bottom slot.
    Wow, every hole they could - they did unplug.
    I did not expect this.

    And unplugged the very, very top entrance (a foot above the bottom entrance).
    20180621_080620.jpg

    So, the very bottom and very top they worked hard to unplug.
    That's some real work was done, folks.
    So they meant it, it looks like.

    PS: this is somewhat unfortunate (the bottom entrance preference) in the skunk country, gonna have to staple an anti-skunk screen; I only hope it was NOT a skunk who unplugged the bottom entrance; though no obvious scratch marks that I could see.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Testing top vs. bottom entrances.

    OK, I messed up their plans this AM again and undid all their hard work.
    Closed the very bottom and very top and gave them the #2 entrance instead.
    Weather is very cool and rainy though, and may interfere.
    A good day to stay inside and clean the house.
    20180621_081337.jpg
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Testing top vs. bottom entrances.

    In my experience "honeybees" as a species don't seem to prefer one way or the other. But individual colonies, OTOH may have a distinct and durable preference that even outlasts a particular queen, and is often maintained to large degree along a particular open-mated queenline even in split-off daughter colonies.

    I almost never do the typical beekeeper manipulations of moving frames of bees and brood around among my colonies, which means that each of mine has an unusually stable, biologically-related population (for managed bees.). So habit may account for part of a given colony's attachment to one entrance or another.

    I had considered that there were invisible, entrance-pointing, pheromone markers on the boxes, but last year when I changed out every single box for a new one, there was no change in their preferences.

    And to complicate things even further, some of my bees have distinct and durable patterns of seasonally-alternating entrance preferences, too. In other words some of my bees use the top entrance all winter long, but eagerly return to a strong lower entrance preference as soon as it warms up, leaving their winter door almost completely unguarded.

    I give every colony both options and only close one off if they abandon it completely.

    However bees are also very adaptable, and they will put up with any tom-fool thing their beekeepers arrange.

    Nancy

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Testing top vs. bottom entrances.

    Quote Originally Posted by enjambres View Post
    ..
    I almost never do the typical beekeeper manipulations of moving frames of bees and brood around among my colonies, which means that each of mine has an unusually stable, biologically-related population (for managed bees.). So habit may account for part of a given colony's attachment to one entrance or another. ....

    Nancy
    Nancy, note, however you keep your bees in standard Lang multi-body hives.
    This means you keep adding and removing hive bodies over time to get to your beekeeping goals (meaning, keep changing the environment which then requires bee colony adjustments). This alone pollutes any perceived consistency over time.

    For this to work consistently, you should confine them to a double-deep no matter what (for example), and only observe the double-deep situation. You will have to forgo any honey/swarming/splitting concerns as secondary.

    Sure, bees must adapt.
    But, given choices within the same stable environment, what WILL they choose and keep choosing?

    I am yet to see a consistent experiment to be properly implemented and documented.
    Maybe I just did not look hard enough.

    With any luck, I will score another swarm soon here and will place them into the exact same hive model, and exact entrance configuration, and the same bee yard too. Should be fun to watch to experiments running side by side over the season.

    To be sure, I am not pretending to be making any science here.
    I have an immediate practical application for this - mess up few of my junky hives (by drilling all kinds of holes into them) so that I can decide where (and IF) I will drill any holes in my better hives. If I see benefits demonstrated to me, I will drill my better hives in the ways bees show me.

    On the other hand, have not seen anyone presenting a consistently staged attempt to do this either.
    So trying myself.
    Last edited by GregV; 06-21-2018 at 10:15 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  7. #6
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    Default

    Very interesting. Thanks for posting this Greg I look forward to updates. I have not run any experiments but my bees tend to act like Nancy's. Certain colonies have a definite preference and that preference is maintained even though the Queen's have changed. Their preference also changes from Summer to Winter. I use standard Lang hives. They are so fascinating and it is fun to run experiments on them, isn't it? J

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Testing top vs. bottom entrances.

    Me thinks asking the bees which entrance is like asking beekeepers something. LOL I run both entrances and the preferences range from either or both with changing preferences but uncategorically none have chosen neither unless you consider the one that "punched" out a knot for a side entrance.


    Not trying to be critical but even on a limited sample test, doesn't screening their very bottom choice invalidate any free choice results?
    “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Testing top vs. bottom entrances.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eikel View Post
    Not trying to be critical but even on a limited sample test, doesn't screening their very bottom choice invalidate any free choice results?
    No.
    Free choice remains.

    Free choice == bee choose to decisively work so to unplug a specific hole.
    It is different from choosing between readily open holes.
    Energy and time expenditure is involved.
    Every single talk of entrance choosing I have seen so far is about letting them pick a freebee of human design.
    I am not doing this. This is not a freebee.

    Screening - I am talking anti-skunk screening made of 1/2" mesh.
    I have been doing exactly this and bees work through it fine.

    In fact, confirmed - I have animal(s) on site. That's some hassle, unfortunately. Really good remote yard, but those darn animals.
    Last edited by GregV; 06-22-2018 at 08:50 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Testing top vs. bottom entrances.

    OK, 24 hour check.
    So let me number the entrances.
    Very bottom - #1; ...#2, ... #3, very top - #4.

    With only #2 left open (post #3 above), they were less clear on the decision making and chose to have ALL for levels unplugged.
    #3 - chosen.
    #1 - less decisively chosen this time (still chosen).
    #4 - only tentative partial opening for hardly one bee (still chosen).
    20180622_080650.jpg
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Testing top vs. bottom entrances.

    Plugged back all but #3.
    20180622_081542.jpg
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  12. #11
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    Default

    I think they are playing let's mess with this guy's head. Tomorrow they will close them all up again except number 1

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Testing top vs. bottom entrances.

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    Plugged back all but #3.
    20180622_081542.jpg
    They unplugged #1 (entire slot again) and #4 only.
    #2 was lower priority and they did not get it done as it looks.
    20180623_092944.jpg
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Testing top vs. bottom entrances.

    I went ahead and plugged all but #4.
    20180623_102945.jpg

    Unfortunately, I am not able to get back in 24 hours now (logistics changed).
    Still unable to check them 48 hours later.

    So this already messes my experiment - given too much time, they may just get everything unplugged regardless of priorities.
    Reasonable time frame is important as the higher priority jobs get done first, I would think.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Testing top vs. bottom entrances.

    So the running total (entrances bees chose/managed to unplug in 24 hours):
    ------------------
    #1: 3
    #2: 0
    #3: 1
    #4: 3

    #1 and #4 seem to be preferred so far.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Testing top vs. bottom entrances.

    Is there any variance in the manner in which you stuff the hole with the paper plug? I'm just wondering if the plugs are packed to different densities, are they simply able to chew through one quicker than another.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Testing top vs. bottom entrances.

    Quote Originally Posted by Woodstove View Post
    Is there any variance in the manner in which you stuff the hole with the paper plug? I'm just wondering if the plugs are packed to different densities, are they simply able to chew through one quicker than another.
    I know; I thought about it and trying my best to be consistent
    Obviously, I am doing a crappy job.
    Ideally, those plugs must be pre-made using some uniformed and well defined method.

    But you know, I also don't intentionally do easy plugs for #1 and #4.
    By the numbers so far, you could say I favor #1 and #4 and make easy plugs for these holes.
    Well, no - I don't.
    This much I understand - to not intentionally favor any entrance (else I am wasting my own time and the reader's time and bee time).

    So - someone go and do the proper science already!

    I am just a curious homesteader trying to make hives from scraps, and catch swarms, and provide cheap but good food for my family.
    Not making science here, like I said.
    Last edited by GregV; 06-25-2018 at 09:52 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Testing top vs. bottom entrances.

    Finally made it back 56 hours later - every single hole unplugged.
    They even found a crack under the lid and using that as well.
    Well, clearly time frame is important (especially for a strong colony working a flow).
    This last set is a throw away.
    Unsure when I can back to this now; no time.
    20180625_153328.jpg
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Testing top vs. bottom entrances.

    Today being +8C and sunny some of the bees went for a flight.

    This was a good demo of clear preferences for the the top entrance.
    I see the same picture twice now on my backyard temp hive with experimental entrances.

    It makes sense - the top entrance must the warmest to get to without loosing much energy.
    So it is a consideration - top entrance has benefits during the winter-time flights.
    In addition, I do not worry at all about the bottom entrance to be snowed in - important point when your hives are placed on remote yards (no need to go there after snow dumps).

    20190105_114718.jpg
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Testing top vs. bottom entrances.

    This has been a great thread! I only use a top entrance above a super during a flow and screen it shut after the flow. I might just give this a second look . So far my bees just seem to use the top entrance to hand out.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Testing top vs. bottom entrances.

    However bees are also very adaptable, and they will put up with any tom-fool thing their beekeepers arrange.

    Nancy[/QUOTE]

    l agree. Bees are adaptable. That's why you can move a frame of brood to a colony that needs one or move honey from one hive to another, again because the bees will benefit from the move

    That said, I have used top entrances, and my hives often have them if only because they hives are broken in a corner or edge of the box. The bees adapt to it. However, I am really writing to say that the bees are much better off with a bottom entrance along with whatever else. Debris, dead bees, etc. fall to the bottom of the hive. IMO it is much easier for them to remove said debris if they have a bottom entrance. And removing the junk helps the bee hive to remain healthy. Note I am only talking about solid bottoms. I have no experience with screened bottoms, fwiw.

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