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I am interested in learning more about top entrances to the standard Langstroth hive. This has been touted as a way to avoid problems with suffocation caused by snow blockage of a lower entrance or with predation by skunks or opossums. I believe I read also that congestion of the brood nest is reduced due to less foot traffic by foragers. Are there any other advantages?

I have several questions:

1. Does a layer of debris build up on the bottom board that causes problems? With a screened bottom board, small stuff should fall through, but large stuff like dead bees could accumulate. Will the bees drag dead bees and other stuff up and out and keep the bottom of the hive clean?

2. Is the top entrance best located at the top (for example, by propping the cover up or by cutting a gap on the inner cover)?

3. If the entrance is right at the top, doesn't it get confusing for the bees to know where their entrance is when supers are added or removed?

4. When you work the bees, it seems to me there might be a huge cloud of incoming foragers that are confused as to where to land, especially if a box or two have been removed. Is this the case?

5. How big should the opening be?

Thanks,

David
 

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I use upper entrances for my colonies in the winter. Come spring, I close them and the bees go back to using the bottom entrance.

>>1. Does a layer of debris build up on the bottom board that causes problems? With a screened bottom board, small stuff should fall through, but large stuff like dead bees could accumulate. Will the bees drag dead bees and other stuff up and out and keep the bottom of the hive clean?

I use my upper entrance in conjunction with the bottom entrance. The bottom entrance is left open year around, but with a 1/2" hardware cloth mouse protector for winter. The bees clean the bottom board off whenever they can.

>>2. Is the top entrance best located at the top (for example, by propping the cover up or by cutting a gap on the inner cover)?

Mine in a notch cut from the inner cover rim, but others prop up the inner cover, or drill auger hole in the top box. All work.

>>3. If the entrance is right at the top, doesn't it get confusing for the bees to know where their entrance is when supers are added or removed?

By the time the supers are added, the top entrance has been closed and the bottom is being used. Some bees in some colonies seem to want to keep the top entrance. They'' land near where the tom entrance, and walk down the hive with their load of pollen or nectar. Bees are funny.

>>4. When you work the bees, it seems to me there might be a huge cloud of incoming foragers that are confused as to where to land, especially if a box or two have been removed. Is this the case?

Only for a little while. As soon as they start Nassanoving, down they'll go. Don't worry so much...they've been figuring this all out before man ever kept bees in boxes.

>>5. How big should the opening be?

Mine are 3/8"x2", but actually vary quite a bit. The old Root covers I have are just a small semicircle, about 3/4"
 

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>1. Does a layer of debris build up on the bottom board that causes problems?

With a bottom entrance it sometimes blocks the entrance during the winter. With a top entrance it's irrelevant.

>With a screened bottom board, small stuff should fall through, but large stuff like dead bees could accumulate.

As they do with a bottom entrance as well. Once spring is in full swing the bees usually clean it up. If they don't you can dump them off when you do your spring inspection.

> Will the bees drag dead bees and other stuff up and out and keep the bottom of the hive clean?

Not during the winter so much, but the rest of the year, yes.

>2. Is the top entrance best located at the top (for example, by propping the cover up or by cutting a gap on the inner cover)?

Both work fine but if you have ONLY a top entrance, I'd prop the inner cover on both sides with shingle shims to make a wider entrance.

>3. If the entrance is right at the top, doesn't it get confusing for the bees to know where their entrance is when supers are added or removed?

It only seems to confuse them if you suddenly make one a lot taller or shorter without adjusting the neighbors in some way. In other words if their hive was the only one that height and you shorten theirs two boxes and grow the one next to it to the old height they can get confused. If you add supers to all the hives, they take it in stride.

>4. When you work the bees, it seems to me there might be a huge cloud of incoming foragers that are confused as to where to land, especially if a box or two have been removed. Is this the case?

This is the case with any hive. Returning foragers find a tall white thing and the lid off and often circle to reorient. I don't notice any more or less with a top entrance.

>5. How big should the opening be?

If it's the only entrance on a booming hive during the flow it should be the width of the hive. 1/4" to 3/8" works for height.
 

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One big advantage of the shim under the cover system that MB uses comes if you use a hive top pollen trap. You can put the trap on when you see a lot of pollen coming in and the bees use it right away. You can take it off when the pollen slows down and move it somewhere else where you need it and in minutes the bees have adjusted to the change.
 

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>>1. Does a layer of debris build up on the bottom board that causes problems?

> With a bottom entrance it sometimes blocks the entrance during the winter.
> With a top entrance it's irrelevant.

I have some very different views from Mike here...

Irrelevant if you remember to clean the bottom board,
but very disgusting if you let it go for a while, until the
dropped pollen starts to mold, the unremoved dead bees get
damp and rot, the wax moths get started in the debris, and
the smell gets so bad, you think you have foulbrood. Extra
points for areas where Small Hive Beetles are present, of
course.


Top entrances are a great temporary addition during nectar flows
(hence the Imrie Shim), but a bottom entrance lets the
bees keep the bottom board cleaner. Recall that we are
harvesting a food product from our hives, and also recall
that bees, given half a chance will keep the hive clean.
Let them have both.

>>With a screened bottom board, small stuff should fall through,
>> but large stuff like dead bees could accumulate.

> As they do with a bottom entrance as well.
> Once spring is in full swing the bees usually clean
> it up. If they don't you can dump them off when you
> do your spring inspection.

See above. Anything that helps the bees to keep the place
clean implies that you won't have to, so don't block up
that bottom entrance, let the bees pick which they want to use.

>> Will the bees drag dead bees and other stuff up and out and
>> keep the bottom of the hive clean?

> Not during the winter so much, but the rest of the year, yes.

If they can, they will, but why make their work harder?
Clearly it takes more effort to drag a dead bee up than it does
to drag it down or horizontally.

>> 3. If the entrance is right at the top, doesn't it get confusing
>> for the bees to know where their entrance is when supers are added or removed?

> If you add supers to all the hives, they take it in stride.

Of course the bees need time to adjust to even a tiny change in entrance
location - ask anyone who runs pollen traps, where the entrance changes only
a few inches.

>> 4. When you work the bees, it seems to me there might be a huge cloud of
>> incoming foragers that are confused as to where to land, especially if a
>> box or two have been removed. Is this the case?

> This is the case with any hive. Returning foragers find a tall white thing
> and the lid off and often circle to reorient. I don't notice any more or less
> with a top entrance.

A misleading answer. If a bottom entrance is the only entrance, they will not
be looking for or flying to the top of the hive, and will not be confused into
flying into your face/hair. If a top entrance is the only entrance, or the one
the bees prefer when given a choice, YES, you will likely need at least a veil
to work that hive, as the bees will be attempting landings at the top edge of
the hive, right where you are trying to work, and takeoffs for new sorties will
not be able to take place from anywhere else.
 

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>If they can, they will, but why make their work harder?
Clearly it takes more effort to drag a dead bee up than it does
to drag it down or horizontally.

I have watched the undertaker bees in my observation hive many times. They almost always haul the dead bee to the top, here and there and finally out the entrance, which is at the bottom. I don't see that it makes any difference the effort they spend on it.

The bees want to keep things clean regardless of where the entrance is.
 

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I suppose during winter months when snow blocks the bottom entrance, a top exit will provide for cleansing flights during warm spells.
As for a top entrance being an alternative exit / entry way in combination with a bottom entrance, I can see where Honigbiene is right in his observations (debris build up, confusion, etc. Still, a top entrance has the advantage of providing an exhaust vent for hot, damp air that rises. Winter dampness is harmful, and summer dampness and heat from nectar evaporation and bee activity slows down honey ripening.
So, even if bees continue to use the bottom entrance, having a gap at the top will be of great benefit.
 

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>4. When you work the bees, it seems to me there might be a huge cloud of incoming foragers that are confused as to where to land, especially if a box or two have been removed. Is this the case?

Yes my bees like to land on my back. I run three entrances . top, bottom and one above the queen excluder.

Alex King
K142
 

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>Will top entrances help to keep the hive cooler on hot days ?

If there is a way for the air to get in the bottom, yes. Mine are Screened Bottom Boards with the entrance blocked and the bottom open (in summer) so air comes in the bottom and out the top.
 

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Hi Michael, I've been looking for some pictures of top entrance hives because I can't see where the girls land or doesn't that matter ?

Do you have/know of any pictures around.

Thanks
 

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Here's what I like about them:
http://www.bushfarms.com/beeslazy.htm#topentrance

>Hi Michael, I've been looking for some pictures of top entrance hives because I can't see where the girls land or doesn't that matter ?

Mine fly right in the entrance and land in the hive.

>Do you have/know of any pictures around.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beestopentrance.htm

You can put shims on the sides of an inner cover and slide the cover forward, but then they have to land to make it around the corner. You can put shims on the sides of an inner cover, screen the hole in the inner cover and put another box on top for an attic to resolve this. You can put shims on the sides of a migratory cover (but if it has cleats the entrance will be on the side). Or you can cut a piece of plywood the size of a hive and put shims on the sides. Most of mine are the plywood the size of the hive now with the shims on the sides and no cleats:

http://www.bushfarms.com/images/TopOnHive2.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter #14
OK, Michael, I have a few questions. As I understand it, in the summer you have (from top to bottom) a cover, entrance, supers (honey/brood), a screened bottom board with no bottom entrance. What is the configuration in the winter? Do you have a solid bottom board? How do you get the honey supers off? Perhaps like this: cover, super(s) to be removed, bee escape, entrance, supers (honey/brood), a screened bottom board? Or do you use something like BeeQuick to chase them out and thus you don't need to be concerned with an entrance at the top above the bee escape?

Thanks,

David
 

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Another question: when using a Miller-style top feeder, does the top entrance increase robbing risk, since robbers would have a much shorter "gauntlet" to run to the syrup?
 

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>What is the configuration in the winter?

The same with the addition of a tray slid under the SBB and a reduced entrance down to about 2 to 3" wide.

>Do you have a solid bottom board?

No.

>How do you get the honey supers off?

That depends on the time of year and the flow. If there's a flow, I'd probably pull the supers just before dark and set them on their sides so the bees can easily leave to go home and then, after dark, load them up. If the weather is chilly at night, I'd probably pull the supers while the bees are down in the cluster. If it's warm weather and there is no flow, I'd stack the supers from several hives off onto a triangular bee escape (on top of a bottom board so they can get out) and then put another escape on the top (facing the appropriate ways of course). Then come back at about dusk the next night and brush off the remaining bees a frame a time and take the supers.

>Perhaps like this: cover, super(s) to be removed, bee escape, entrance, supers (honey/brood), a screened bottom board?

You have to lift the boxes once to get the bee escape under them, so you may as well set them off the hive onto the bee escape so you don't have to stack them back on the hive.

> Or do you use something like BeeQuick to chase them out and thus you don't need to be concerned with an entrance at the top above the bee escape?

I never have used BeeQuick or BeeGo. I HAVE smelled both of them though.


>Another question: when using a Miller-style top feeder, does the top entrance increase robbing risk, since robbers would have a much shorter "gauntlet" to run to the syrup?

I haven't noticed a problem but I also reduce the entrances when feeding.
 

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I have used almost in every box small upper entrances. Bees love to use them. They are good in ventilation.

I keep shut every two during normal summer. Only 2005 was so hot that I had all open like here.

http://bees.freesuperhost.com/yabbfiles/Attachments/Kuva_049.jpg

Real hole is guite small when frame wood is near opening.

In spring I keep every upper hole closed of I restrict it to size of two bees. It helps in chalkbrood care.

Over winter every hive has upper entrnce open.

.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Please compare a bottom entrance hive and a top entrance hive head to head with the brood chamber on the bottom and a few honey supers on top with the only difference being the location of the entrance. How do they differ with regard to honey storage? Is there less honey congestion in the brood chamber of the top entrance hive? Which honey super gets filled first and thus can be harvested? Are there any (other) differences with regard to handling/manipulating the bees/supers/frames?
 
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