June 11, 2013 (Day 32)
When to use and when not to use an entrance reducer? THAT is one of those ambiguous topics that offers no one right answer. Some beekeepers keep them on year round. But as the weather gets hotter and more humid, I feel sorry for the bees and want to give them a larger front porch area on which to hang out and socialize. Then rain comes and I reduce it again. And back and forth. Perhaps I should stop overthinking and just reduce their entrance year round. Ugh! This new beekeeper gig definitely tests my decision-making skills.
The entrance reducer has two different sized openings. The wooden piece can be turned so that only one the openings is used at a time. There are advantages to reducing the entrance.
1) It reduces the amount of area that needs to be protected by the guard bees, thus making their jobs easier;
2) Hive robbers and invasive critters also have a harder time accessing the smaller entrance; and
3) Supposedly, entrance reducers help to control the ventilation and temperature in the hive.
However, a larger entrance provide more ventilation and it gives the bees more space to fly in and out. So it’s nice to remove it when the honey flow is on and the temps are hot and humid.
Entrance reducer makes it harder for mice and robbing pests to enter the hive, and helps keep out the cold and wind.
Simple Rules for Using Entrance Reducers
Long Lane Honey Bee Farm, one of my favorite bee sites, offers a few simple rules for using entrance reducers.
When to Use the Small Setting
1) When installing your package of bees for the first time. They can still come and go, but it keeps them from wanting to fly away until they nest.
2) In the winter, when you are trying to keep mice out of your hive.
3) When the hive is being robbed by another hive. There is less entrance to protect.
When to Use the Larger Setting
Anytime you need a larger opening, but don’t want to open it up all the way. This could also be used for all three reasons above.
Should the Opening Face Up or Down?
Down is fine during spring and summer when bees are able to fly out and clean the dead bees out of the hive (yes, bees really carry their dead out of the hive, and drop them on the ground in front of the hive – I have the piles to prove it!).
During the winter, the opening should face UP! When bees die during the winter, if the opening is down, then dead bees will fill up the opening. However, if the opening is facing up, then the bees can still fly out over the dead bees which you can clean out later on a warm day (FUN!)
Can the Entrance Reducer be Removed?
Once your hive is more than a few weeks old, is not being robbed, and the weather is warm, the entrance cleat should be removed and stored in a place where you can easily find it.
There you have it. If you were confused before, hopefully this will help sort it all out, plus a few key tips for overwintering. Leave a comment and share how you manage the entrances to your hive(s).