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Upper entrance on flow hive - preparing for winter

Here in Ontario the beekeepers association suggest putting an upper entrance in your hive for air circulation for winter. Has anyone done this? Is this good advice? How/where do I do this on the flow hive?

Hello and welcome to the Flow forum!

It is an excellent suggestion, not just for ventilation, but for the bees to make cleansing flights when the lower entrance is blocked by snow. There are many ways to make such an entrance, but my favorite is to buy an inner cover with an entrance cut into it, like this one:

You can also drill a hole near the top of the top brood box, but I don’t like damaging the wood in that way. Another option is to buy an imirie shim and cut a notch out of it:

Just make sure that the roof doesn’t block the entrance. :blush:

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Hi @JoannaD and welcome! Good advice and links from Dawn there. I use a shim that has a precut hole on top of the uppermost box, then the inner cover, then the outer cover/lid/gabled roof. As Dawn points out, make sure your outer cover is pushed to the front so there’s space for the bees to actually use the hole :wink:

I quoted you there to add my advice to remove your Flow super for winter, in case keeping it on as you prepare for winter is what you were alluding to there. I’m sure in Ontario your bees will have to stay clustered for most of the late fall and winter, into early spring. They’ll need lots of honey storage of course, but the Flow frame idea wasn’t designed with cold-climate overwintering in mind and leaving them on will create problems.

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Hi

In UK the formal advice for winterising is if you have a solid floor then put a couple of match sticks under top board then put roof on. It’s ventilation only.

If however you have a mesh or open floor then it is not required.

I keep open mesh floors

If we have snow then I clear the front entrance but then I don’t think the bees will fly. We don’t really get massive falls or drifts and my apiary is very sheltered too.

I have put up 3ft high temporary wind/ snow etc fences before and was considering it for this year, I am sure it helps

Thank you for this advice I will get a wintering inner cover. Very helpful!

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I’m not a fan of an upper entrance, nor a screen bottom. I’m in favor of a low entrance that faces downwards during harsh winters. One where snow can’t block it, also one where wind can’t blow directly into the hive. The better insulated a hive is, the better the chance a colony has at surviving a harsh winter. They wont use as much food in order to maintain the optimum hive temp.

How would anyone like to live in a log cabin during the winter, where the cabin is built above the ground, where the floor boards have gaps in them, which allows a cold draft to blow in. The first thing we’d be doing is blocking up all of those gaps. That way we wouldn’t need as much fire wood to keep the inside warm.

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Love your simple logic Jeff, it makes so much sense. I also think a top entrance would loose a lot of warmth from the colony in a cold climate with the heat rising to escape thru the top entrance.
I’m putting the two 10 frame boxes to use to make a double brood box donor hive for boosting splits with extra brood.or eggs for a new queen to be made if needed. A bit more self sufficiency in bee keeping.
Cheers

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I love the advice from two guys who are both probably wearing shorts and flip flops most of the ‘winter’ :face_with_raised_eyebrow::stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Not that I personally agree with leaving a screened bottom open - but small upper entrances or the lid propped open very very slightly, as with matchsticks, are a good way to prevent condensation inside a wintering hive.

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We have to suffer about 6 weeks of "Winter’ and wear jeans and a long sleeved shirt too, it isn’t paradise every day.
But lets not confuse condensation as only in a freezing climate, in our Summer wet season condensation is an issue as much as our Winters. High humidity is the cause of condensation. I use ventilated hive lids to give a through draft in the hive, but that is for our warmer damp weather.
We are now 7 days into our calendar Spring and had 3 days at over 90F so I’m not constantly shivering so I guess Winter is over for here. :smile: A typical dry Winter and hoping for some rain soon to bring some nectar into the flowering.
Cheers

I feel the winters we have more than Peter does. My bees also feel them. You can tell because they seal every gap with propolis. I know from experienc what they’d do if I propped the lids up with match sticks. They’d seal the gaps with propolis. If I don’t reduce the entrance, they build a propolis band across the bottoms of the frames to reduce the cold draft coming into the hive.

It’s easy to use sarcasm & dismiss my advice as someone in shorts & flip flops. Based on my understanding of bee culture, my own over wintering experience, with some common sense added, I believe my advice to be sound.

Down here, with our bees being able to forage all winter probably puts me at an advantage because my bees collect propolis right through & use it where they feel they need to. Up there your bees may not be able to collect propolis through the winter, so therefore unable to seal the gaps you leave for them. Those poor bees :frowning:

I’m far from knocking your advice Jeff and as we are only 18 klms apart as the bee flies I guess we have a slightly different climate caused by me being at sea level and your up on the hill. I have put plastic vents in my lids and after a couple of seasons the bees haven’t propolised them up but they have sealed up small gaps between boxes. Maybe it has something to do with which way the draft is going, into the hive or out.
Your way of bee keeping and mine is much the same way and having moved to a sub-tropical climate your advice is worth gold here for me here for local advice.
We all have our own climate problems, we have days where dehydration is a problem and it is just too hot to work in the hives in the heat of the day in our Summers, but I prefer it to the cold… :grinning:
Cheers

Hi Pete, I think we are at an advantage in that our bees can gather & use propolis as needed, while in some parts of the world the bees aren’t able to do that.

I like your strategy for those 10 frame boxes. I bought the lid home yesterday with your new nuc under it.
cheers

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I had a new lid made at the Men’s Shed already Jeff so you use the lid on your 10 frame hives mate. Must have been someone who has not made bee gear for me before at the shed, the roof is 1" solid timber, I think it stretched my arms by an inch carrying it to the apiary :smile:
I much prefer bee keeping here than down in NSW, a single brood hive has so many advantages and there is something happening all the year here.
I’m feeling for the guys out in western Qld and on the gold coast, first a drought, then floods and now bush fires. Mother nature can be so cruel at times.
I’ll be hitting you this coming week for another nuc for myself and busy making wood ware for a guy wanting three nucs in about a month. He has a Flow Hive and after spending 2 days this past week at my apiary want to go to the next step. A keen learner who soaked up the advice and tips.

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1" solid. I’ll be happy to swap it over if you like :slight_smile: 1" solid could be converted to a solid bottom board, where it doesn’t get picked up very often. I’m doing that with my restored heavy cypus pine boxes. I’ll be using those as brood boxes.

It’s nice to see the cool change. If the forecast is correct, we’ll be using more firewood next week. I have a large bucket of potatoes to cutup & blanch for the freezer today, before a bloke picks up bees for 2 x flow2’s.

I’m glad of the cool change too mate, it was just too hot during the heat of the day to enjoy working in the hives, sweating in the eyes in September is a bit much for my liking.
If you get pushed for time the Men’s Shed are an option and they are are cheap in labor charges.
Off to the hives this morning for a few hours and then up to the mountain goat hive to bring frames home for extracting, funny it is honey bound yet 3 klms away the bees are not doing as well, I guess it is a micro-climate difference.
Catch you later, Cheers

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In support of international advice. I watch a lot of videos on YouTube. I recently watched an American video on strengthening weak hives in September, with 6 weeks to go to end of the session. I picked up on a number of tips. Such as plugging the gaps to aid the bees, any gap is a threat when it’s cold wet and windy.

Then I watched a uk beekeeper who is selling subscriptions to US beekeepers.

I watch the flow videos from Australia.

I think the chats and info is a great source of help and gets you thinking about your own practice.

It’s mid September here, I am in light shirt and shorts too. But not flip flops that would be too much.

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Hi Tony, one video that’s worth watching a few times is “City of Bees”. We get a good understanding of bee culture inside a hive & how the bees air condition as well as warm the hive so as to maintain a constant temp. around the brood. Anything we can do to aid the bees in their endeavors to do so is only good.

It’s amazing to think that some humans close themselves up in warm, well insulated houses with a fire going during winter, while at the same time expect a bee colony to survive the same conditions with nothing more than about 20mm of wood between them & the freezing weather outside. To add to that they provide extra gaps, not to mention a metal floor with lots of holes in it. I would freeze to death in those conditions.

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Pleased you are finding heaps of info here on the forum and elsewhere. Back when I started bee keeping any information I got was word of mouth apart from a great mentor who, though he was a commercial bee keeper, took the time with me to be such a huge help.
This past 9 months in the whole of Australia our climate has changed with record temperatures and duration of heatwaves over Summer, I get a predictable Summer wet season when it has been a drought with no rain at all, and then just finished the warmest Winter on record here. so there is a degree of concern as to what this Summer is going to be. Lots of bee keepers lost hives through them starving when in a normal year the bees would produce an excess of honey. This past 9 months my bee haven’t produced as they have previously, but I haven’t lost a colony yet either.
Cheers

Jeff, no sarcasm meant at all, just light hearted teasing among friends. Sorry if I touched a nerve. Please don’t worry about my bees, I work hard to care for them properly. Even a well insulated home must have a bit of ventilation, and it has to be balanced according to local climate.

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No worries Eva, I feel sure that if you prop the lid up with match sticks while the bees are able to collect propolis, the bees would close the gaps. The only ventilation the bees need is the entrance. Any other gaps are only going to make the bees use more honey or sugar/water to maintain the hive temp they require.

One of the first youtube vidos I watched from the U.S. was a bloke unwrapping his hives after winter. He had them well wrapped with insulation. It looked like a commercial operation.

If for some reason I had to move to a much colder climate, I’d look after my bees in a similar fashion & put into place the strategy I mentioned earlier.

PS @Eva, it just occurred to me that we might be talking about two different lids. My lids are migratory lids that finish flush with the sides without any crown board. Therefore a gap in the lid opens directly onto the bees. If I were to put match sticks under my lids, they would sink into the existing propolis, allowing the lid to sit down onto that same propolis. Any fine gap that remains will get quickly propoized.

I’m now not sure what lid you’re referring to, seeing as you use crown boards, with lids on top of them. In any case, I don’t see a gap up there to be an advantage.

Once we come to understand how bees use their wings to move air around with the use of just one entrance, then we can understand how adding extra ventilation works against them.

Wilma said this morning “what do bees do in the trees?”

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