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An entrance reducer is used in beekeeping to vary the size of the beehive entrance. It is usually a piece of wood that goes between the bottom board in a Langstroth beehive and the lower edge of the bottom-most beehive box. This article looks at how to make an entrance reducer, and the uses it has in beekeeping.
The demands of beekeeping are numerous. You need to know quite a lot of stuff to be good at it. Entrance reduction one such important factor. It does not matter what type of beehive you are using, the size of the beehive entrance is something you have to monitor and adjust periodically. It is arguable that strong hives do not need their entrances reduced by much. However, even they can suffer the biting cold of winter and die off.
Entrance reducers can have more than one size of the entrance on them. You can also have more than one entrance reducer to use per beehive. There are many options when it comes to the sizes of openings.
About this Series
This post is part of a series on how to build a Langstroth beehive.
In this series you will learn how to build:
- Brood boxes
- Super boxes
- Beehive frames and wire them
- Queen excluder
- Bottom board
- Hive cover
- Entrance reducer
- Hive stand
Dimensions of a Beehive Entrance Reducer
There are two major sizes of the Langstroth beehive: 8-frame and 10-frame. The cross section of the bottom board on these beehives that has the entrance varies by the size of the beehive. You should therefore make sure to get the measurements for your entrance reducer correct, based on the size of beehive you will be using it on. In this article, we provide the measurements for entrance reducers to be used on 10-frame, 8-frame and nuc Langstroth beehives.
It is important that you get the dimensions of the entrance reducer right when you are making one. If it is too tight at the entrance, it can lift the beehive a few millimeters from one side of the bottom board. Bees will seal those millimeters with propolis and then the bottom board will be fixed to the lowermost beehive box! If the entrance reducer is loose on the entrance, honey bees may push it away from the entrance. It will also not be effective at keeping small animals such as mice out of the beehive.
A beehive entrance reducer looks like a stick or long bar of wood with a square cross-section. Below you will find the different lengths for entrance reducers in Langstroth beehives:
- The length of an entrance reducer is 14-¾ inches for a 10-frame Langstroth beehive.
- For 8-frame beehives, the length of the entrance reducer is 12-1/8 inches.
- If you are making one for a nuc hive, cut the wood to a length of 7 inches.
Width of the Entrance Notch (Opening)
Beekeepers have varying preferences of the size of entrances they use on their beehives. Beehive entrance reducers thus often reflect the preferences of individual beekeepers. You can have up to 2 cuts in every entrance reducer you have. It allows for the entrance reducer to be rotated to give you different beehive entrance sizes. Most commercially sold entrance reducers have both a 1-3/8 inches entrance cut, and an 3-3/8 inches entrance cut. You can also get other widths of the entrances depending on the manufacturer of the entrance reducer you buy. You can also modify an entrance reducer you buy from these various manufacturers or build your own.
Depth of the Entrance Notch
Along the length of an entrance reducer, notches that are equal to the into-hive depth of ¾ inches are cut to allow honey bees’ entry and exit from the beehive. The width of the notch depends on the preference of the beekeeper. It is this notch makes the entrance through which honey bees go into the beehive.
Building the Entrance Reducer
Wood is the best material to use when making an entrance reducer. It is a material that is well liked by honey bees. The best types of wood to use when building an entrance reducer are: pine, poplar, cypress and cider. Other types of wood can also be used if they are the best available to you.
An entrance reducer is a rather simple beehive part to make. It only makes use of only one piece of wood! To make an entrance reducer, you need the following materials and equipment:
- Pieces of wood.
- A saw.
- Measuring tape or ruler.
Follow these steps to make the entrance reducer:
- Cut your pieces of wood to measure 1 inch thick, 14.5 inches long and 1.5 inches wide.
- Measure the notches you will make and mark the cuts you will make on the wood. Recall, sizes should either be 1-3/8 inches or 3-3/8 inches. Truth be told, you can make entrances to the size you want (larger or smaller), as long as the bees can get in and out and predators are kept out. However, the most popular entrance sizes are 1-3/8 inches and 3-3/8 inches.
- Using a saw and chisel, cut one of the notches you marked on the wood.
- Rotate the piece of wood 900 and cut the second notch to complete the entrance reducer.
Entrance reducers can be modified to suit various special purposes. When you are moving a hive and have used an entrance reducer with a screen, you do not want it coming off the beehive by any chance. A screw on either end of the entrance reducer keeps it firmly in place. Use small screws so that you do not accidentally split the wood.
Sometimes, the wood available to you does not meet the thickness of ¾ inches exactly. Cut the wood to a thickness of between ¾ inches and 1 inch at most. The height of the entrance reducer and its length should be exact, but you can have a small difference in the depth of the entrance reducer into the beehive. With thicker wood pieces, make sure to cut notches all the way through the wood piece so that the entrance reducer allows honey bees through it.
Entrance Reducer for Flow Beehives
Flow beehives have non-standard openings despite being based on the Langstroth beehive sizes. There are very few off-shelf entrance reducer options available to beekeepers using Flow hives, so these beekeepers have to make their own entrance reducers. When making an entrance reducer for a Flow hive, make sure to get the height right so that it fits well into the entrance.
When to Remove an Entrance Reducer
Entrance reducers should not be left on the beehive all-year round. There are times when it is best to remove the entrance reducer and either allow the beehive entrance to be fully open, or close it up. Some of these time periods include;
Nectar flow season – during nectar flow season, you can allow the entrance to be unreduced. The honeybees are very active. Reducing the entrance during nectar flow season is counterproductive for the honeybees. It reduces the efficiency of the bees collecting honey. Having the entrance reduced makes the bees collect less pollen and nectar per day. It reflects in the size of the colony due to its ability to feed more brood and the amount of beehive products you can harvest later in the year.
Warm weather – In warm weather, a reduced entrance hampers the efforts of honeybees to keep the beehive cool. Honeybees fetch water and release it on honeycomb to cool the hive when it is hot. With a reduced entrance, fewer bees are able to get into the beehive with water to cool the beehive. Another cooling effect used in beehives is the entry of wind draughts. Honeybees at the entrance flap their wings to encourage wind draughts into the beehive. A reduced entrance makes less air enter the beehive to cool it.
Bees in transit – with bees in transit, you should close the beehive entrance. It prevents the bees from leaving the hive. Honeybees being moved can be very aggressive and sting people at stops you make during the transit. You should seal the entrance during transit, or use a screened entrance to allow the beehive to remain cool. A modification can be made to the entrance reducer to make sure it does not come off the entrance during transit.
After treating with oil fog or organic acid vapors – some beekeepers use oil treatments to control mites in beehives. After treating the hive by fogging or vaporization, it is recommended you close the hive entrance to keep the fog and vapors inside the beehive. An open entrance allows the vapors or fog to escape, thus rendering the treatment ineffective. The period of time required to seal the entrance is no more than 10 minutes after completion of vaporization or fogging. Remember to unseal the beehive after the 10 minutes have lapsed.
When using the beehive as a swarm trap – you can use an empty beehive as a swarm trap to catch swarming honeybee colonies. A reduced entrance may not be very attractive to bees that are looking for a new home. When using the beehive to catch swarming colonies, removing the entrance reducer helps catch swarms easily. It also allows the smell of lures placed inside the beehive to escape and attract scout bees to the beehive.
Should you Use an Entrance Reducer?
There are arguments for, and against the use of entrance reducers in beekeeping. The proponents of using entrance reducers argue that they help with hive security. By having a smaller entrance to guard, honey bees help fight off robber bees and other unwanted insects such as yellow jackets. A second argument is that entrance reducers help with thermoregulation in the beehive. By reducing the entry of winds and moisture, it helps bees to keep the beehive warm during the cold seasons.
Shortcomings of entrance reducers that have led to arguments against their use, include the fact that if it is left on during the warm months of the year, it can lead to poor thermoregulation in the hive. The beehive can get moldy and not very conducive for honey bees. A second problem is that they can prevent bees coming and going from the beehive as much as they want. This reduces the efficiency of the entire beehive. If it happens during nectar flow, you get lower yields of beehive products and the honey bee colony may have not enough resources to get them through winter.
The advantages and disadvantages of deploying entrance reducers in beehives have led to the rise of two schools of thought when it comes to the matter. There are those beekeepers who use the little pieces of wood, and those that do not use them at all. It is possible to use entrance reducers and enjoy great benefits of beekeeping. The use of entrance reducers is not a problem for honey bees in the beehive when it is done in the right way.
Tips for Using Entrance Reducers
Some tips for using entrance reducers with great beekeeping benefits to the beekeeper and honey bees are:
- Check on the hive often, and see if the entrance reducer is being an impediment to bee movement into, and out of the beehive. You will know this if there are several bees just outside the hive entrance waiting to go in. A suitably sized beehive entrance should allow simultaneous movement into and out of the beehive for honey bees, especially during the warm hours of the day. If you see the entrance reducer is being a problem to the movement of honey bees, you can adjust it to increase the size of the entrance, or remove the reducer.
- When the weather is warm, it pays to allow for a larger entrance on the entrance reducer. Looking at beehives in the wild, there are very few cases of honey bees having very wide entrances. Smaller entrances are favored. During the warm months of the year, adjust your entrance reducer so that honeybees have a wider entrance to use, and to allow for better thermoregulation in the beehive. Using a screened bottom board during the hottest months of the year is also an interesting move to explore, to help with thermoregulation in the beehive.
Using a Beehive Entrance Reducer in Winter
Beehive entrance reducers in winter can be a problem or a blessing for honey bees. The beekeeper should evaluate whether to have one on the beehive or not. In winter, cold winds and snow can enter the beehive through the entrance and make it cold and wet. Honey bees warming the beehive can cause the snow to melt and evaporate inside it. Molds then grow in the hive and affect the health of the honey bee colony. Also, cold winds entering the beehive cause brood to die or grow under less-than-ideal temperature conditions. This affects the strength of the colony since such brood can result in weak honey bees.
Beekeepers have two choices when it comes to entrance reducers in winter. You can keep the entrance reducer on the beehive with a screened entrance or remove the entrance reducer and seal the beehive.
Screened Entrance Reducer
A screened entrance reducer should be covered so that snow does not enter the hive through it. Screening the entrance allows fresh air to enter the beehive. A very small entrance should be used so that it does not allow excessive cooling of the beehive. In winter, honey bees are not going anywhere, so screening does not prevent them from performing any of their activities or duties. It is also important to periodically clear dead bees from the bottom of the beehive during winter, since the other bees may not remove them.
Removing the Entrance Reducer and Sealing the Beehive
Doing this ensures that winds and snow do not enter the beehive and cause problems. You will have to check on the beehive periodically and remove dead bees from the bottom. A weekly schedule for removal of dead bees is recommended. Honey bees that are sealed in the beehive should be provided with some ventilation to keep fresh air circulating into the beehive. Sealing the beehive in winter helps with conservation of heat. When done well, it lowers the mortality rate of honey bees over winter so that the colony emerges strong for the beginning of spring.
An entrance reducer is an effective beehive part for the protection of honey bee colonies. It helps to control robbing and prevents animals such as mice from entering the beehive. Entrance reducers can also be used for the release of chemical treatments into the beehive to control parasites and diseases of honey bees. The common materials used to make entrance reducers are wood, plastic and metal. Wooden entrance reducers are the most widely adopted in beekeeping. Making your entrance reducers is great because it allows you to decide the sizes of entrances you want to have. Both beginner and experienced beekeepers can build entrance reducers on their own using wood. Use the information and guidelines in this article to make effective entrance reducers for your beehives.
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