"I had a neighbor who used the common box hive; he had a two inch hole
in the top which he left open all winter; the hives setting on top of
hemlock stumps without any protection, summer or winter, except
something to keep the rain out and snow from beating into the top of the
hive. he plastered up tight all around the bottom of the hive for
winter. his bees wintered well, and would every season swarm from two
to three weeks earlier than mine; scarcely any of them would come out on
the snow until the weather was warm enough for them to get back into the
"Since then I have observed that whenever I have found a swarm in the
woods where the hollow was below the entrance, the comb was always
bright and clean, and the bees were always in the best condition; no
dead bees in the bottom of the log; and on the contrary when I have
found a tree where the entrance was below the hollow, there was always
more or less mouldy comb, dead bees &c.
"Again if you see a box hive with a crack in it from top to bottom large
enough to put your fingers in, the bees are all right in nine cases out
of ten. The conclusion I have come to is this, that with upward
ventilation without any current of air from the bottom of the hive, your
bees will winter well without any cobs."--Elishia Gallup, The American
Bee Journal 1867, Volume 3, Number 8 pg 153
How to make top entrances
The first two pictures are regular migratory covers with tapered
shims to make top
entrances with the opening the long way. My current ones
are the next three pictures. These are 3/4" plywood cut to the size of
(no overhang or cleats) with shims to make the opening the short way. I
started making them out of 1/2" plywood. The next two pictures are me
the top entrances. The idea of using shims was presented to me by Lloyd
Spears who says he got it from a man named Ludewig
Typical vs Alternatives
the left is a "typical" hive as recommended in the books. From
to top it is: a bottom board, two deep boxes for the brood, a queen
two shallow supers an inner cover and a telescopic cover. This is NOT
typically run. A ten frame deep full of honey weighs 90 pounds. A medium
of honey weights 60 pounds. An eight frame medium full of honey weighs
pounds. The one on the right is more typical of my vertical hives. It's
slatted rack with some #8 hardware cloth for a bottom, four medium boxes
brood and honey (no excluder) and a migratory top with a shim on both
make a top entrance. Using all the same size frames greatly simplifies
management as any honey can be used for winter feed and any brood found
supers can be moved back down since the frames are all interchangeable.
out the excluder helps prevent a honey bound brood nest and doesn't
the bees working the supers. It also saves having to have a bottom
because the drones can get out the top (no excluder to stop them). Most
mine now are eight frame boxes with the entrance the short way so I can
up against each other for winter for warmth.
Top Entrance Frequently Asked Questions:
Without a bottom entrance, don't they have trouble hauling out the dead
bees and keeping the hive clean?
In my observation, no more than with a bottom entrance. Either way dead
bees accumulate over winter. Either way they accumulate some in the
fall. Either way they usually keep it pretty clean in the middle of
the year. I've watched a house keeping bee in my observation hive
(which has a bottom entrance), haul dead bees all over the hive from top
to bottom before finally finding the entrance at the bottom. I don't
think it matters at all.
Do the returning foragers get irate when you're working the hive?
I haven't noticed any difference. Whether a top entrance or a bottom
entrance, while you're working the hive you're disrupting things just
by standing there. You always, in both cases, have confused bees
circling and with both bottom and top entrances you have bees who just
go back into the hive while you're working. With the top entrance they
just go in the top.
When removing supers don't they get confused?
The most confusion is when you remove them from only one and it's right
next to a similar height hive. Then they do get confused about which
hive is theirs. But I think they do the same with a bottom entrance
for the same reason except you don't notice. They use the height of
the hive as one of their landmarks so they continue to fly into the tall
white hive nearest where they remember it instead of the short one next
to it. In a day things go back to normal.
Why do some people recommend not using them in town because of bees being confused when working the hive?
Similar to above answer. In my experience, no. Any hive being opened
causes confusion for
the returning foragers because the height of the hive is often changed
because of removing boxes, and the beekeeper's presence changes the
landmarks. I see no increase in the confusion of a top entrance only
hive to a bottom entrance only hive. In my opinion, advice that top
entrances should not be used in Urban areas are misplaced but seem to be
often repeated by those who have no experience with top entrances.
Wintering will be much improved by a top entrance and it prevents issues
such as Chalkbrood and overheating as well. These advantages should not
be sacrificed merely because of a commonly held belief about hive
disruption that is so often repeated.
Hope you enjoyed the pictures,
Copyright 2006-2009 by Michael Bush
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