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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've tried top entrances and I found the following:

1) The higher the entrance is above the ground the more it gets affected by wind. Right above the ground there is much less wind than 1 meter above the ground. Wind is almost zero at ground level. Too me the height does make a difference, since we have a lot of wind here.

2) Guard bees guard the entrance. With a top entrance the first bees you meet when inspecting a hive are the guard bees. Now that is intelligent. First stir up the troublemakers.

3) The hive ventilation is completely different from a bottom entrance. The cold air enters the hive and falls right down on the bees. While the winter cluster doesn't heat the hive, the spring cluster with brood does heat the hive. It cost much honey and energy to maintain the hive warmth with a top entrance. It doesn't matter if you are wasting ressources anyway, wintering on many boxes and even more comb. And even on more honey. But if you want to be efficient, a solid bottom board with an entrance and a very well insulated hive does help a lot. Top entrance means forced ventilation which is the opposite to bee-controlled ventilation.

4) It is a pain to watch the bees drag out the debris and dirt all the way through the hive up and out of the top entrance! How much easier it is with a bottom entrance for the bees to clean the floor. Also in Spring during the cleansing flight, bees tend to poo when flying out of the entrance, due to the urgence. With a bottom entrance only the floor gets a few drops while all the dirt falls right away on the other bees and comb with a top entrance. If you ever experienced in a top entrance hive how readily bees use a bottom entrance when you open it up for them to clean the hive, you will never again use a top entrance.

5) If you want to harvest honey without brood on every comb in that hive, you need to maintain the structure of a natural bee nest. Unless all the combs are parallel to the entrance it is simply not possible to have a clear separation between honey and brood combs. But even with the combs being parallel to the entrance (warm way) the broodnest does flood with nectar much more likely and produces more swarms than with a bottom entrance and a vertical way of storing nectar. With brood scattered all over the combs you cannot renew the combs continueously, so you have lots of old combs which does affect the taste of the honey.

6) You cannot use a queen excluder with a top entrance.

For me top entrances do not work at all. Just a point of view. All beekeeping is local, so maybe somewhere else top entrance are the only way to go. Can't see this for my bees, though.
 

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I don't have much experience with bees but I think the upper entrance is pretty usefull during the winter to avoid moisture problems and also to provide ventilation in case the bottom one gets blocked.
I use combined bottom and upper entrances. The upper entrance is narrow(2 inches maybe less) to avoid too much draft.
If I put my finger against the upper entrance in this heavy brood period I can feel a warm and humid draft coming out of the hive.
I think combined entrances are best.
 

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I also use a top and bottom entrance on one side of the hive. Main reason is because of condensation issues in winter and spring. But also noticed they have better ventilation in hot weather as well.

I also have one entrance large the other one small depending on the season. This limits the draft.

I haven't had the issues you listed.

Because the cluster is warmer than the outside temperature, warm moist air leaves out the top entrance but cold air does not come in from the top entrance.

Not getting brood all the way to the top and can use a queen excluder.
 

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Top entrances are critical here in the winter. The bottom entrance gets filled with dead bees and buried in snow after the first couple of snows. Sometimes the top entrance gets buried too, but far less often. I reduce the top entrance to only an inch and face the hives south away from the prevailing wind. Top entrance helps with condensation on the inner over too. In the summer I think either entrance is fine. Top is better for skunks, and gets bees working new boxes quicker, but bottom lets you run a queen excluder. There are lot more bees in the air during hive inspections with a top only entrance and more travel stain on the cappings.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I differentiate between top vent and top entrance. A top vent hole might be useful, but limited for winter use. I use thick insulation and all condensation problems are gone, but we don't have harsh winter conditions. This year we had no frost at all. Not one day.
 

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>1) The higher the entrance is above the ground the more it gets affected by wind. Right above the ground there is much less wind than 1 meter above the ground. Wind is almost zero at ground level. Too me the height does make a difference, since we have a lot of wind here.

We have a lot of wind also. I don't see any difference in the bees working with a top entrance. They work in the wind, even in fairly high winds. I notice in high winds they will stay close to the ground once they leave and fly zig zag paths that follow or lessen the currents.

> 2) Guard bees guard the entrance. With a top entrance the first bees you meet when inspecting a hive are the guard bees. Now that is intelligent. First stir up the troublemakers.

A puff of smoke takes care of them. But then I don't have aggressive bees.

> 3) The hive ventilation is completely different from a bottom entrance.

Yes. And I think it's a good thing. Moist air rises and in the winter I need to get the moist air out to prevent condensation. In the summer I need to get the moist air out to dry the honey.

> 4) It is a pain to watch the bees drag out the debris and dirt all the way through the hive up and out of the top entrance! How much easier it is with a bottom entrance for the bees to clean the floor.

I've watched bees in my observation hive haul a dead bee all over the hive--top, bottom side back to the top etc. and it has a bottom entrance...

> 5) If you want to harvest honey without brood on every comb in that hive, you need to maintain the structure of a natural bee nest.

In 40 years of beekeeping I have never see brood on every comb in the hive. The brood nest was always consolidated except once when I was using worker foundation in the brood nest and drone comb in a super. The queen crossed three boxes of honey to lay in the super. But then there were two consolidated brood nests. One in the super with a lot of drone and the usually one. There was STILL no brood in the rest of the boxes.

>With brood scattered all over the combs you cannot renew the combs continueously, so you have lots of old combs which does affect the taste of the honey.

I do not believe cocoons have any effect on the taste or color of the honey.

> 6) You cannot use a queen excluder with a top entrance.

I don't want to use an excluder. But of course as long as there is an exit for the drones (one 3/8" hole below the excluder somewhere will provide that) you can use an excluder if you want. I do this often when manipulating a hive to make it easy to get larvae for grafting.

Skunks were my original problem and top entrances were the solution. Better wintering ect. were advantages I did not anticipate at the time.
 

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>Don't many bee trees have top entrances?

In my observation trees have entrances all over. The bees seem to have other criteria that are higher on their list than where the entrance is. I have never seen one at the very bottom. I have seen them high and low on where the cluster is, but never at the bottom.
 

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>
I've watched bees in my observation hive haul a dead bee all over the hive--top, bottom side back to the top etc. and it has a bottom entrance...
:) One day my daughter and me watched a bee drag a dead sister for probably a half an hour, never got close to the exit. We called her the show off bee. "Look at me! I can carry this bee all day long!"
 

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....we don't have harsh winter conditions. This year we had no frost at all. Not one day.
The above statement makes point 3 of your post somewhat irrelevant.

3) The hive ventilation is completely different from a bottom entrance. The cold air enters the hive and falls right down on the bees. While the winter cluster doesn't heat the hive, the spring cluster with brood does heat the hive. It cost much honey and energy to maintain the hive warmth with a top entrance. It doesn't matter if you are wasting ressources anyway, wintering on many boxes and even more comb. And even on more honey. But if you want to be efficient, a solid bottom board with an entrance and a very well insulated hive does help a lot. Top entrance means forced ventilation which is the opposite to bee-controlled ventilation.
 

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Bernhard:

Wind....

Situate your apiary with a woods to the north, open to the south. Who cares if a warm south wind blows?

I agree with you in winter, no top entrance, and insulate on top.

In spring, no top entrance, keep the heat..

And now we diverge: In summer, when your windows are open, slide back every super one bee space. As fall approaches, and robbing looms, start closing them down, even if you have a super or two on.

If you keep the bottom entrance all year, you can use an excluder.

What does your hive look like? (one deep brood, etc.)

Crazy Roland
 

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I've used top entrances for years.

I live in upstate New York. It's windy and gets freakin' COLD here.
Like -20°F this winter, with the wind chill much colder.

This is what I've learned from experience keeping healthy bees:


1) The higher the entrance is above the ground the more it gets affected by wind. Right above the ground there is much less wind than 1 meter above the ground. Wind is almost zero at ground level. Too me the height does make a difference, since we have a lot of wind here.
You're right, it's windier.
The bees don't seem to care.


2) Guard bees guard the entrance. With a top entrance the first bees you meet when inspecting a hive are the guard bees. Now that is intelligent. First stir up the troublemakers.
Having compared side-by-side hives w/ top and w/ bottom entrances, there is no difference in the defensiveness while manipulating hives, in my experience.

Hey! I did a side by side test!
Now that is intelligent.


3) The hive ventilation is completely different from a bottom entrance. The cold air enters the hive and falls right down on the bees. While the winter cluster doesn't heat the hive, the spring cluster with brood does heat the hive. It cost much honey and energy to maintain the hive warmth with a top entrance. It doesn't matter if you are wasting ressources anyway, wintering on many boxes and even more comb. And even on more honey. But if you want to be efficient, a solid bottom board with an entrance and a very well insulated hive does help a lot. Top entrance means forced ventilation which is the opposite to bee-controlled ventilation.
I found fewer problems with moisture buildup over winter with a top entrance.
I've never noted a noticeable difference in store consumption overwinter btw top and bottom entrances, even when the top was supplemented with a bottom vent.
I didn't weigh them though, so there may have been some very small difference, but nothing significant.

The bees still fan and manipulate the ventilation inside of the hive


4) It is a pain to watch the bees drag out the debris and dirt all the way through the hive up and out of the top entrance! How much easier it is with a bottom entrance for the bees to clean the floor. Also in Spring during the cleansing flight, bees tend to poo when flying out of the entrance, due to the urgence. With a bottom entrance only the floor gets a few drops while all the dirt falls right away on the other bees and comb with a top entrance. If you ever experienced in a top entrance hive how readily bees use a bottom entrance when you open it up for them to clean the hive, you will never again use a top entrance.
The bees had no prblem with maintaining hive hygiene with a top entrance


5) If you want to harvest honey without brood on every comb in that hive, you need to maintain the structure of a natural bee nest. Unless all the combs are parallel to the entrance it is simply not possible to have a clear separation between honey and brood combs. But even with the combs being parallel to the entrance (warm way) the broodnest does flood with nectar much more likely and produces more swarms than with a bottom entrance and a vertical way of storing nectar. With brood scattered all over the combs you cannot renew the combs continueously, so you have lots of old combs which does affect the taste of the honey.

I've never had a problem with brood in honeycomb.


6) You cannot use a queen excluder with a top entrance.
In my experience, the way I manage my bees, Queen excluders are unnecessary except when raising queens.

For me top entrances do not work at all. Just a point of view. All beekeeping is local, so maybe somewhere else top entrance are the only way to go. Can't see this for my bees, though.
My experience is different to yours.
I find some advantages to top entrances.

No skunks or possums eating bees, for instance.
No need for mouse guards.

Bottom entrances have an advantage, too:
It's fun to watch the bees land on the bottom board in front of the entrance.
 

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I agree with you Bernhard on point #3, that ventilation is completely changed with both a
top and a bottom entrance,,,I've noticed that European hives are generally very well insulated
and sealed up, and seem to be very successful..

http://youtu.be/gJ8MXwPFGC8

I have no idea what he is saying-looks like feeding the bees in Feb...

My reasoning is that the bees, even in the
dead of winter are still generating heat to some extent, and the well insulated and sealed
european hives are able to keep the heat in, and elavate the internal temps. While our inturnal
-surface temps- are very close to that of the outside air, your -internal surface temps- are
high enough to not have problems with condensation,,"conjecture on my part" While outside
R.H. may be fairly high, when that air is drawn inside and heated a bit, the R.H. is lower than
it is outside.....Also the inturnal -surface temp- is raised because of the insulaltion and further
away from the dew point (condensation point)--
While the bees may be able to survive very
low temps, condensation "on cold surfaces" will kill them quickly........The simple wooden box
that Rev. Langstroth built seems to have charicteristics that could be improved upon for those
who would try to overwinter bees in less than ideal winter conditions...Just my humble opinion...

==McBee7==
 

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I run a 4" bottom entrance and a 2 1/2" top entrance on my hives. Where I keep my bees it can get pretty warm out in the summer, consecutive days in the 100's, and it can get into the teens in the winter but only over night. The thing i have noticed in my hives is way less bearding than the commercial guys hives around me. I have put my cheek up to the top entrance on a hot day and felt the hot air being circulated out of the hive. I don't get any condensation in the winter either. But even with both entrances, the bees do prefer the bottom one. Then again i have one hive that has a bottom deep that warped and separated at the upper finger joint and has just enough gap for the bees to mostly use that entrance!
 

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Last year I had a hive that I put a four inch bottom opening and a four inch top opening. Although I didn't actually count the bees I would say the top had twice as many bees going in and out as the bottom.
 

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I agree with you Bernhard on point #3, that ventilation is completely changed with both a
top and a bottom entrance,,,


==McBee7==
Ventilation certainly changed with both a top and a bottom entrance!

But it need not be detrimental to the hive, even in an extremely cold winter.

I don't wrap my hives for winter.
I have not suffered heavy losses by not doing so, even though my bees are in a climate with extremely cold winters.

I am selecting for bees that do well without wrapping.

I've experimented with putting a 2" thick piece of blue insulation board on top in winter, but the only advantage i found in practice is that without the top cover being as cold, there was less condensation.

With an uninsulated top and top entrance, I find an acceptable balance:
There is enough condensation to provide a source of water to the bees for drinking or conversion of crystallized honey to liquid, but not enough to get the cluster wet and harm them.

I found top insulation to be helpful to prevent excessive moisture when there is only a bottom entrance.
 
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