best entrance position for top bar hive
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  1. #1
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    Default best entrance position for top bar hive

    Hi everyone,
    Just in the process of finishing my top bar hive and i have not yet drilled any entrance holes due to the fact that i'm not sure which is the best position.
    Some people say pick an end, others say that it best to drill the entrance hole close to floor level in the middle of the hive long wall so the bees start the brooding area there and can work their way out on both sides rather than one.
    Any recommendations would be appreciated.
    Cheers Libby.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: best entrance position for top bar hive

    TBHiveEntrances.jpg

    See attached picture.

    For cold winter zones, the #1 is the worst case for specifically shallow horizontals (TBH included).
    #2 and #3 are both OK (#2 is my favorite).

    Remember, with small combs arranged horizontally, bees depend on lateral moves during the winter.
    If you position the entrance centrally, then the cluster will form there.
    Over the winter, the cluster is likely to split (with both halves moving in the opposite direction) - bad thing to happen.
    With both #2 and #3 configurations, the cluster will form at one end of the box and can only move in the other way.

    But if you are in warm zone - these considerations are less important.
    Though, honey stored away from the entrance - is always good.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: best entrance position for top bar hive

    I've run multiple topbar hives for a few years now and I've tried a bunch of different entrances. On the short end. 3 evenly spaced holes along the long side. Just 1 hole at the end of the long side. Multiple small holes in the center of the board, on the long side. And top entrances in the bars.

    My preference, due to how large the colony size grows, is the 3 evenly spaced holes along the long side. These are near the bottom of the hive wall. Usuallly for winter, the bees propolize 2 of them closed, or greatly reduce the 1" entrance on each down to a bee width, and one remains fully open. I've seen the colony keep the open hole directly near the brood nest and other colonies will keep the open hole by their honey stores (which is directly opposite to what the books say they do).

    All of mine have screened hive bottoms that are covered with a solid IPM board for the winter, but sometimes will be opened in the summer. I also run pollen traps on two of them, which are the hives that have the entrance holes on the short board end. One of those hives seems to die out each year no matter what queen/colony I put in there, whereas the other hive that is only 30" with the pollen trap on the short entrance is always going gangbusters. So I'm not quite sure that the bees really have a preference as to the entrance hole. I have seen the ones with entrances on the short board end struggle to lift dead workers out of the hive.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: best entrance position for top bar hive

    I'll echo what Greg and Ruth have said, and specifically Greg's point that a single central long side entrance can be dangerous (his picture #1). My personal preference is Greg's picture #2, which is how I configure my hand-built hives. I bought a commercial hive in Ruth's configuration (3 holes on a long side... beeline apiary) and my bee club bought a commercial hive in Greg's picture #3 (3 holes in an end from Mann Lake). Wyatt Magnum also recommends end entrances.

    I've had good success with all of them. I did end up closing 2 of the 3 long side entrances for winter in the beeline hive (just popped wine corks in there), essentially turning it back into a "single entrance at an end" configuration #2.

    So: I think it is likely your choice. The bees will adapt either way.

    The only other point I'll make is I have tried to put 2 or 3 (or 4) hives on a single hive stand, and that gets difficult when you have entrances on the long side. If you plan to put 3 or 4 hives close together in your yard, the (short) end entrance solution (Greg's #3) will allow you to stack them a little closer.

    Thanks!
    Mike

  6. #5
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    Default Re: best entrance position for top bar hive

    Quote Originally Posted by AvatarDad View Post
    .... If you plan to put 3 or 4 hives close together in your yard, the (short) end entrance solution (Greg's #3) will allow you to stack them a little closer.

    Thanks!
    Mike
    This is a good point, Mike.
    I too thought about it.
    In the end, I keep doing the #2 on my rigs.

    I choose the #2 because then I can play with warm way/cold way/hybrid way in the same box (depending on the season and my needs).

    In addition, #2 supports keeping two colonies in the same box (#1 just does not; #3 does support two colonies/box, but bees flying out in the opposite direction is not my favorite way). You run two #2's per hive for this. Two #2's per hive usually means you run one of them only and this is where the nest will be located (the opposite #2 is normally closed). You still can open the second #2 (partially or entirely) so to let the strong family ventilate as well as allow them direct access to the honey storage during a strong flow. So the double-#2 is my favorite way on long rigs (14-20 frames). On the short rigs (12 frames) I am only doing single #2.
    Fun.
    Last edited by GregV; 10-28-2018 at 08:38 PM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: best entrance position for top bar hive

    Here's a pic.
    20181029_174348.jpg

  8. #7
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    Default Re: best entrance position for top bar hive

    In a warm climate it's probably irrelevant. In a cold climate I prefer to have it at the top at one end.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  9. #8
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    Default Re: best entrance position for top bar hive

    Greg, what a great illustration. I have built top bar hives with openings in locations 2 and 3 but never 1. I have found that bees much prefer position 2. How can I claim that? I am simply judging by the number of swarms that move into the hives. It does not seem to matter if the opening is facing north, south, east or west. They move into the hives with the openings at position 2 at least twice as often as the hives with openings at position 3. I prefer them to be in hives with the opening at position 3 because I can work at both sides of the hive without standing in front of the entrance. Also, when I have the opening at the top of the hive at position 3, they often seal up most of the opening with propolis.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: best entrance position for top bar hive

    Quote Originally Posted by dudelt View Post
    Greg,.......... They move into the hives with the openings at position 2 at least twice as often as the hives with openings at position 3........
    This is an interesting observation you note (about the swarm trap performance).
    A great tip; I am kind of doing it, but good to know of an actual documented observation.

    T. Seeley observed the same in "THE NEST OF THE HONEY BEE".
    He notes:

    We noted in 15 nests the direction of the main plane in which combs were aligned. The directions of these planes were randomly distributed with respect to both the nest entrance and the earth.
    ULRICH (quoted by WERNER-MEYER, 1960) had previously demonstrated random comb orientation with respect to the entrance.
    But what I think they fail to notice is that IF the bees do NOT prefer either proper cold warm (90 degree angle) OR proper warm way (0 degree angle) naturally, the bees then prefer their combs to be positioned at some angle to the entrance.
    I theorize what really is happening - they prefer the combs to be oriented at an angle between 0 and 90 degrees with respect to the entrance, with the ~30-60 degree range being within the desirable range (intuitive compromise between maximum possible ventilation and minimum possible ventilation).

    Well, the #2 entrance position gives you that ~30-60 degree angle compromise.
    Of course, I am being arbitrary here by selecting the middle 1/3 sector of 0 to 90 sector (the right angle sector).
    It maybe 15-75 degree is the desired range,..... I don't know. I was not there to measure the angles.
    I wish T. Seeley documented the exact angles of comb orientations with respect to the entrances, when cutting the bee trees (would be a just very simple, extra measurement to do after all that laborious tree-cutting already done).

    Still, T. Seeley circumstantially documented that the bees largely avoid setting the combs at 0 degrees or 90 degrees to the entrance (if given such choice).
    This is, really, why I am doing the #2-type entrances in my equipment.
    Last edited by GregV; 10-31-2018 at 02:11 PM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: best entrance position for top bar hive

    I also believe the reason the combs are preferred at an angle to the entrance is for ventilation. Bees between combs can flap their wings all they want but the air will only blow inside the hive with the entrance at the far end. With the entrance on the side, bees anywhere on a comb near the entrance can help ventilate. I have noticed when I used a pan type vaporizer that when I put it in the front entrance, the vapor would only go about 4-5 frames to either side of that site. and 75% of the hive got none of the OAV. In order to vaporize the entire hive, I needed to create another entrance farther along in the hive. Air does not move well from end to end in a long hive with all the combs blocking its path.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: best entrance position for top bar hive

    I have 3 entrances on BOTH narrow sides (in case I need to make a split all of the sudden), and I have entrances along one long side, spaced so I could have a total of 4 mating nucs with separate entrances. If only one colony is in a hive, I like 3 entrances on the long side, at one end - I think it makes it easier to remove comb at the side by the entrance if the bees are not going across the comb you are removing. You are not messing with their entrance that way.
    THis is a total of 3 + 3 + 3 (on the long side, close to the corner) + 3 more spaced evenly so I could have 4 mating nucs from one hive body. It's a lot of drilling!

    Make all the holes you could possibly want now - it is hard to drill them after the bees are in there!!!!

    It is easier to space hives when all the entrances are on the narrow end, but it is possible to space them when the are on the long side but near the corner (#2).
    X marks where I would start my inspection at the "honey" end, which is what I do more than half the time.

    Definitely do the screened bottom...

    -000-------
    | |
    ------------
    X
    -000-------
    | |
    -------------
    X
    --------000-
    | |
    --------------
    X

  13. #12
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    Default Re: best entrance position for top bar hive

    With regard to tree cavities - an assumption is being made that the entrance position is relevant - it may not be.
    It's highly unlikely that tree cavities are ever round, and so the bees will draw their first comb across whichever is sensed as being the longest dimension - the remainder of the combs will be influenced by that. Very rarely will you see a straight comb - they're usually curved/wavy and often have irregularities such as bifurcation, inter-weaving and stopping short of the wall.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  14. #13
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    Default Re: best entrance position for top bar hive

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    With regard to tree cavities - an assumption is being made that the entrance position is relevant - it may not be.
    It's highly unlikely that tree cavities are ever round, and so the bees will draw their first comb across whichever is sensed as being the longest dimension - the remainder of the combs will be influenced by that. Very rarely will you see a straight comb - they're usually curved/wavy and often have irregularities such as bifurcation, inter-weaving and stopping short of the wall.
    LJ
    Well, let us apply some deduction here...
    IF they strongly cared for maximum natural ventilation, they would attempt to approach the "cold way" the best they could - not the case.
    IF they strongly cared for minimum natural ventilation, they would attempt to approach the "warm way" the best they could - not the case.
    IF either of these two tendencies were obvious, that would be documented for sure - not the case.

    And yet, the human-built hives continue forcing the cold way frame orientation (or warm way orientation, albeit less commonly).
    These uncompromising, artificial designs do not offer the bees any favors (but opposite effects are more likely).

    So, regarding:
    an assumption is being made that the entrance position is relevant - it may not be.
    In fact, just by looking at the typical hives it is obvious that artificial assumptions are made that a certain "way" is desirable - not the case (according to the documented feral dwellings).
    The safest bet is actually to avoid either the "cold way" or the "warm way".

    Why does it even matter (the entrance orientation with respect to the combs)?
    Because this is just another variable in the multi-variable livability formula of a bee dwelling.
    A good bee dwelling should allow even a small cluster of bees to consistently survive cold season without artificial intervention (actually, the small cluster survival IS the normal case and should be treated as the base line). It is logical to NOT set this variable to a value that bees do NOT choose for themselves, given such choice.

    Why successful wintering a small cluster even matters?
    Because that is a variable in the multi-variable sustainability formula for the low maintenance bee (capable to survive without much outside assistance - no extra feeding/no medications/etc).
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: best entrance position for top bar hive

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    The safest bet is actually to avoid either the "cold way" or the "warm way".
    Yeah ... interesting. Our British 'National' Hives have a square footprint, so that brood boxes can very easily be rotated to create either a cold- or warm-way set-up. I've tried both, and there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of difference between them in practice. (maybe they're both equally good - or equally bad ?)

    As bees have a preference for drawing natural comb across the diagonal of a square box - as we line-up our frames parallel to the box sides, perhaps we could try making the hive entrance as near to one corner as possible to generate a similar sort of configuration ?

    Perhaps skep beekeepers are the guys to ask about this (?) - as skeps are as round as it gets, and have but one entrance ...
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  16. #15
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    Default Re: best entrance position for top bar hive

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    Yeah ... interesting. Our British 'National' Hives have a square footprint, so that brood boxes can very easily be rotated to create either a cold- or warm-way set-up. I've tried both, and there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of difference between them in practice. (maybe they're both equally good - or equally bad ?)

    As bees have a preference for drawing natural comb across the diagonal of a square box - as we line-up our frames parallel to the box sides, perhaps we could try making the hive entrance as near to one corner as possible to generate a similar sort of configuration ?

    Perhaps skep beekeepers are the guys to ask about this (?) - as skeps are as round as it gets, and have but one entrance ...
    LJ
    That's why my entrances are now these - pic.
    EntranceDiffElevations.jpg

    Speaking of skeps - I got this idea of a half-cut barrel hive (in profile) but with flat side down (not up).
    A long hive with a cross-section of a skep.
    The skep profile can be implemented by the frames themselves (the hive will still be a long/deep box).
    But the frames will implement the sort of a "barn", con-caved type ceiling.
    Cool, eh?

    They already have some hex-hives and such (horizontal hex).
    But I am thinking to make the "barn" hive as way to combine bee-ergonomy/energy efficiency, and standard materials/standard framing on the cheap (none of those fancy/pricey hex gimmicks).
    Last edited by GregV; 11-01-2018 at 09:11 PM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: best entrance position for top bar hive

    Thank you everyone for your contributions i ended up going with option 2 and with the information gained from this thread i drilled a 20mm hole on a 45 degree angle and with a slight fall so there is no water run back into the hive.

    20181111_135554.jpg

    Also one more question, does anyone think that it would be a good idea to drill a second 20mm entry hole in position 3 just to give better access during the busy times and i could plug it up in Winter thank you for any opinions.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: best entrance position for top bar hive

    That's an option many people like. I found that if the hive is booming in a flow, a single 20mm / 3/4" hole won't be enough, so I drilled a 2nd right next to the first. One of them has a wine cork in it right now. (So 2 holes open in summer, only 1 in winter). I opened up a hole mid-hive during summer as well, but it was never used much... it only had a small number of foragers returning there. I closed it up as soon as the flow tapered.

    Thanks
    Mike

  19. #18
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    Default Re: best entrance position for top bar hive

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    [...] the bees will draw their first comb across whichever is sensed as being the longest dimension - the remainder of the combs will be influenced by that. Very rarely will you see a straight comb - they're usually curved/wavy and often have irregularities such as bifurcation, inter-weaving and stopping short of the wall.
    LJ
    Came across this (a photo I'd meant to attach to the above post, but couldn't find it at that time) earlier today whilst looking for something else. Better late than never ...



    Unfortunately I can't remember where the entrance was relative to those combs, other than being underneath them.

    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  20. #19
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    Default Re: best entrance position for top bar hive

    Quote Originally Posted by Libee View Post
    Thank you everyone for your contributions i ended up going with option 2 and with the information gained from this thread i drilled a 20mm hole on a 45 degree angle and with a slight fall so there is no water run back into the hive.

    20181111_135554.jpg

    Also one more question, does anyone think that it would be a good idea to drill a second 20mm entry hole in position 3 just to give better access during the busy times and i could plug it up in Winter thank you for any opinions.
    I would not do #3 once you opted for #2.
    This will be confusing to the bees and to yourself as well.
    Just add another hole in #2 and stay consistent, IMO.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: best entrance position for top bar hive

    Quote Originally Posted by AvatarDad View Post
    That's an option many people like. I found that if the hive is booming in a flow, a single 20mm / 3/4" hole won't be enough, so I drilled a 2nd right next to the first. One of them has a wine cork in it right now. (So 2 holes open in summer, only 1 in winter). I opened up a hole mid-hive during summer as well, but it was never used much... it only had a small number of foragers returning there. I closed it up as soon as the flow tapered.

    Thanks
    Mike
    From what I see with my double #2s (on the opposite ends), once the primary entrance is set and the entire nest is build with respect to that - the primary entrance will trump the secondary entrance. I kept the secondary #2s open most all summer in the stronger hives - they were used for ventilation only (a good thing of course).

    Notice, by entrance I mean all holes within the same vicinity.
    My earlier design entrances consist of 1/2 inch holes in sets of four.
    Like here:
    20180715_113615.jpg
    The white entrance here is the primary (the nest is behind it)
    The blue entrance is the secondary (some flight, some ventilation).
    The blue is closed for the winter; the white is reduced to two holes for now.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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