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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
In the past few years I've canged most of how I keep bees. Most of it was to make it less work. I'm now keeping about fifty hives with about the same work I used to put into four. So I'll post a topic for each of the things I've changed and, if anyone wants, we'll discuss it.

I've gone to only top entrances. No bottom entrance. I know there are all kinds of people who either hate them or thing they cure cancer, or double your honey crop. I like them and here's why:

1) I never have to worry about the bees not having access to the hive because the grass grew too tall. I also don't have to cut the grass in front of the hives. Less work for me.

2) I never have to worry about the bees not having access because of the snow being too deep (unless it gets over the tops of the hives). So I don't have to shovel snow after a snow storm to open the entrances up.

3) I never have to worry about putting mouse guards on or mice getting into the hive.

4) I never have to worry about skunks or opposums eating the bees.

5) Combined with a SBB I have very good ventilation in the summer.

6) I can save money buying (or making) simple migratory style covers. Most of mine are just a piece of 3/4" plywood with shingle shims for spacers. But some are wider notches in inner covers that I already had.

7) In the winter I don't have to worry about dead bees clogging the bottom entrance.

8) I can put the hive eight inches lower (because I don't have to worry about mice and skunks) and that makes it easier to put that top super on and get it off when it's full.

9) This works nicely for long top bar hives when I put supers on because the bees have to go in the super to get in.

10) With some styrofoam on the top, there's not much condensation with a top entance in the winter.

Anyone have anything else to add for advantages? Or anything you disagree with? Anyone else come to the same conclusions? Opposite conclusions?

I'll post more as I get time. See my web site if you want to see some simple top entrances by propping up migratory covers.
 

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Just a simple question here Michael Bush. I am going to try the top entrances this year. The question is this:
If the opening in the top entrance would be greater than say 3/8 ths of an inch what would stop a mouse from climbing up the outside of the hive to enter? Is it just the fact that there is not enough space for a mouse to enter? Mice just seem to have an uncanny ability to get into where they are not wanted. Or is it the fact that you place hardware cloth over the top entrance. Thanks.
 

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I'm curious why a top entrance doesn't create a problem with rain getting in the entrance and running down thru the hive.
I guess if it was a problem Michael would have recognized it
I was thinking perhaps a regular telecoping cover with a lip on all 4 sides to prevent this would be a good idea

Dave
 

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Dave, I used a dozen shimmed-migratory-lid top entrances this past summer and did have enough driven rain in the hives that in the future I'm going to use a more rain proof top entrance.

An over-sized telescoping lid with a shimmed inner cover is the idea.
 

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Just can't resist. Michael worries too much.

Grass -- Puts a barrier between the bees and myself. Forces them to fly over therefore fewer stings.
Snow -- Never snows here
Mice -- Cat's job security. OR, leave a box of Dcon under the hive.
Skunks -- no skunks around here
Possom -- Dog's job. OR, a 22 bullet
Ventilation -- Slide the top back 1/2 inch bees still use the bottom 100% of the time
Hive tops -- maybe
Dead bees on bottom -- What do you expect.. you pile snow around the hive.. it's tough to clean house.
Lower height -- perhaps you are just too short
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
>If the opening in the top entrance would be greater than say 3/8 ths of an inch what would stop a mouse from climbing up the outside of the hive to enter?

Mine are just 3/8" or so. I've never seen a mouse in a hive with only a top entrance even if that's on a horizontal hive and only 11 1/2" off the ground (counting the stand and all)

>Is it just the fact that there is not enough space for a mouse to enter?

3/8" even for a bottom entrance often seems to deter the mice. Certainly more than a 3/4" entrance.

> Mice just seem to have an uncanny ability to get into where they are not wanted.

Yes they do.

>Or is it the fact that you place hardware cloth over the top entrance.

I do not put a mouse guard on any of the top entrances and have never had a mouse in one of the hives with top entrances.

>Do you find alot more pollen mixed in with the honey when you pull the supers?

I help another man extract who runs queen excluders and botom entrancs. I think he has a lot more pollen in his supers than I do. I don't use an excluder and have only top entrances.

>I'm curious why a top entrance doesn't create a problem with rain getting in the entrance and running down thru the hive.

I run long hives with three migratory covers. It seems likely that it drips between the cracks, and yet I never see any damage from this. I'm sure if the wind is just right and the rain is hard enough a little gets in the very front. But it doesn't penetrate into the hive much. The gap is only 3/8" at the most and 1/4" at the least. I considered that this might be problem and considered putting an overhang on it, but I'm afraid the wind will catch the top more and a top blown off would be worse. One could simply put a solid bottom board with the 3/8" side down on top to make a top entrance. I've done this as well, but put a concrete block on because I was afraid it would blow off.

>I was thinking perhaps a regular telecoping cover with a lip on all 4 sides to prevent this would be a good idea

If you prop an inner cover with shims and put a telescopic on slide forward it works fine for an upper entrace. It would also stop the draft more in the winter. Just don't get sloppy and forget to slide the outer cover forward to expose the entrance.

>An over-sized telescoping lid with a shimmed inner cover is the idea.

I've done that as well. But only because I have a lot of telescopic and inner covers.
 

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Michael, have you noticed any effect on brood production? I spotted a couple comments on the web concerning top entrances. One stated that top entrances acted as a deterrant to SHB I took it to mean due to being smaller and easier to defend. Another comment stated that an entrance above the brood nest reduced brood production, this comment claimed by up to 50%. I found that to be far fetched.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
>How do you harvest pollen and propolis?

I'm buying a Sundance II trap for the pollen. I've never tried to harvest propolis.
>Michael, have you noticed any effect on brood production?

No.

> I spotted a couple comments on the web concerning top entrances. One stated that top entrances acted as a deterrant to SHB

Interesting. Seems unlikely but I've never dealt with SHB.

>I took it to mean due to being smaller and easier to defend.

It's whatever size you make it.

>Another comment stated that an entrance above the brood nest reduced brood production, this comment claimed by up to 50%. I found that to be far fetched.

I think it's just as far fetched as the people who claim it will double your honey production to have the top entrance, which I've heard.

The bees don't care and don't really do anything any differently.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Actually maybe I should take that back. When the skunks where pestering the hives, which was my main motivation at the time I went to top entrances, and I went to top entrances it DID double my honey production once the skunks weren't eating all the bees. But double just meant it went back to normal.
 

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Mr. Bush, I have suggested to you completely doing away with the bottom board and I never followed up to see what you thought. My thoughts are as long as you are not even using the bottom entrance, the 5/8 bee space at the bottom, whynot just screen the entire bottom?

I am on a limited budget these days, and just can't see purchasing 10-20 screened bottom boards so I end up teaming up with another guy and making them from scratch. But if I could get rid of the need for a bottom board I'd be a happy man. Seems like you could just set a super with screen bottom on 4 cinder blocks and be done with it.

what am i missing with this? thanks.
 

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Ross, I'm not much handy to build anything, so I save a lot of labor. I decided I'd sell more honey (there are many creative ways to do so) and buy most of my wooden needs. I can even buy migratory tops (cleats attached) from a pallet recycler who has access to 3/4" plywood, for less than I can buy the lumber. I haven't tried him for bottoms yet, but plan to soon. Look around. There may be many options hiding in your locality.
 

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Under a little different note of upper openings,I have been reading about establishing an opening on the bottom honey super. The idea is to leave the bottom entrance open, but add another in the first honey super. There should be a queen excluder on the brood box top. The idea being that the field bees can bypass the brood when they want to store nectar. Does this even make sense? It sounds good, but I'm a rookie. Even though, I thought I might try it this year. Whaddya think?
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
>My thoughts are as long as you are not even using the bottom entrance, the 5/8 bee space at the bottom, whynot just screen the entire bottom?

I've done it. The frames will be resting on and proplized to the screen. Sometimes the bottom bars of the frames will come off when you try to pull the frames.

You need at least 1/4" space at the bottom. I prefer 3/4" But a bottom could be pretty simple. Or you could build a slatted rack and just cover the bottom of it with hardware cloth. I've done that. Then you still have a beespace at the bottom.

>I am on a limited budget these days, and just can't see purchasing 10-20 screened bottom boards so I end up teaming up with another guy and making them from scratch. But if I could get rid of the need for a bottom board I'd be a happy man.

Because the Langstroths basically have top bee space you'll have no bee space with no bottom board.

>what am i missing with this? thanks.

No bottom beespace?

>The idea being that the field bees can bypass the brood when they want to store nectar. Does this even make sense?

If you use an excluder, sure. I don't. But then a top and bottom with none in the middle will work just as well. Why not just retire the excluder, use all the same sized boxed and the bees won't have to work so hard and you won't have to work so hard.


>I thought about just attaching #8 hardware cloth to the bottom box and calling it done, but then you can't easily rotate boxes if you need to.

Another disadvantage.
 

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I would be curious, in areas with SHB, if a solid bottom (no screen, unless over a solid bottom tray) might reduce SHB problems. The larvae, as I understand their life cycles, pupate in the soil around the hives. Top entrances only might make it much more difficult for them to reach soil for pupation. Any thoughts?
 
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