Top Entrance seems heavily clustered with bees - good or bad?

I opened up a top entrance on the two 2-weeks old bee hives. My beekeeper friend told me to wait with it, but for some reason I thought it was a good idea to open it up. However, ever since the opening 3 days ago, the top entrance is just packed with bees on both hives. See this picture:

My question is: Am I forcing them to guard an extra entrance and it’d be better to close it up again? Also, it’s been a little cooler the past few days (around 16 degree celsius). Do they sit there to prevent heat loss? The picture above I took after sunset, and I believe the cluster of bees stays at this entrance all night. Or do bees like to just hang out at such an entrance? Curiously, the bottom entrance has no such cluster, so maybe it is an insulation thing.



Looks like a normal thing to me. @Michael_Bush always seems to say the bees prefer a top entrance. Seems to me that your bees are agreeing with him.

They don’t always prefer the same entrance… but they often prefer a top one…

Dawn, Michael, thanks for your thoughts.

Thing is, they didn’t use the upper entrance to go in and out. They were just hanging out there. All incoming traffic came in through the bottom entrance.

It increasingly looked to me as if they were trying to control the heat loss. We’ve had a stretch of colder weather here, and with hives only having a screen bottom, I finally cut some wood to size and slid in a solid bottom. On that day the bees stopped clustering at the top entrance, with just a few bees to be seen there. As the temperatures dropped some more, I closed the top entrance.

We’re expecting temperatures exceeding 30ºC this week, and I will probably open the top entrance again tomorrow. Let’s see if they cluster at those temperatures.



G’day Holger, I’d be inclined to block the top entrance permanently & only give them the bottom entrance. I have found that bees prefer the bottom entrance. I have never tried a top entrance, however the bees have had plenty of chances to have one with many gaps in lids over the years. The bees always block them up. I mean ALWAYS.

I like your idea of the solid bottom, that’s what works well for me.

Good luck with it, cheers

I run top and bottom entrances on most of my hives and I find they prefer the bottom entrances. In fact, I’d be happy to film it on multiple hives, the bias is obvious just from watching them.

my friends swarm established hive seems to like upper and lower entrance:

actually it is just a huge swarm and they can’t quite fit into their ten frame hive. Another box is going on this week- and then they get moved to an even larger hive.

I am running several hives currently with upper and lower entrances and the bees use both- though they do mostly use the lower entrance. I am slightly concerned about heat loss through the top entrance- but they are small and I don’t have any other upper ventilation.

EDIT: two hours after I posted this image- which its from a few days ago- this hive has just swarmed. It’s in a lemon tree and emergency swarm catching is underway…

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You need to start selling these hive boxes, seriously!

How is your long langstroth going?

If I remember correctly, the famous Tom Seeley has also tested this in a series of experiments, and his bees agree with yours. :wink:

I am going to sell a few in the new year- the big hives are coming along- I just need to find the time to wax dip the parts before I can put them together. I have established colonies ready to go into two of them early over the next months. I really can’t wait to start using them.

My friend is trying to deal with that swarm this afternoon- it is larger than a soccer ball and he is worried he won’t be able to fit it into a five frame nuc- and he has no frames ready. Now he trying to jury rig a hive to fit them in. Really should have seen the writing on the wall 7 days ago when that photo was taken. I told him it was an indication of imminent swarming… but did he listen? No.

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Bearding isn’t necessarily an indication of imminent swarming, I find they will beard if it’s hot and they can’t add any value by being inside the hive (because it will just make it hotter). I am also convinced bearding occurs more when there is a lack of nectar/pollen available, so bees that would normally be foraging are idle to conserve energy… especially if they beard in the afternoon and then all make their way into the hive when the temperature drops.

That being said, It appears in this case it was a space issue and they wanted to expand :stuck_out_tongue:

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Yes- all of my hives beard from time to time- or ‘washboard’ on the front of the hive- but my friends swarm hive had really massive beards like in that photo every day over a period of a week leading up to them swarming yesterday (the good news is he managed to re-house the swarm). He reports now that there are very few bees in the original hive. I am going to have to go over and help him do an inspection to see what is happening in the original hive. I had a feeling it was swarm sign as non of my hives were bearding anything like that over the same week.

An interesting thing: last week we had a huge storm in the middle of the night- very high winds- lots of rain- torrential. I panicked in the middle of the night (2 am) and went out to put more bricks on my hive roofs. Many large potted plants in my yard were knocked down- and some of my hives are thin being five frame boxes stacked up so I was worried they might get knocked over. Luckily they were all ok. I was surprised to see that there were bees bearding on all the hives at 2 am in the rain- the bee beards were soaking wet right out exposed to the storm.

Our bees have been clustering on the outside of our hive around the entrance. I was thinking that maybe they didn’t have enough room but I just put on the honey super about a week ago, so they should have plenty of room. Then I thought that maybe there were yellow jackets or black hornets in the hive and were pushing the bees out. I’m not sure what’s going on. Should I be concerned or is this normal? Please help. Thanks.

If the weather is warm- then some bearding is quite normal. During summer all of my hives bearded to some extent.

Thank you so much! I guess I was getting worried over nothing.:blush::grin:

Also, should I keep feeding them as long as they take it or should I just stop feeding them now?

Depends on your nectar flow. It would really help if you could enter your approximate location into your profile, as we can’t even tell what season it is for you without that. :blush: If it is summer, you really shouldn’t need to feed unless the hive is very young (less than a month old).

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Oh, ok. Thank you! I live in Spokane, WA. It’s been in the 80’s recently and we’re almost officially in summer.

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*Update. The weather has gotten a lot cooler, in the 60’s now, and the cluster on the entrance went away for a few days but came back and now it’s even bigger. I am concerned that maybe the hive is going to swarm. I put the honey super on a little while ago but whenever I go to check on the bees there are very few bees in the honey super so maybe they don’t like the plastic frames of the honey super. I’m not sure if I should do something or just let them be.

Did you wax the plastic frames?