Entrance Reducers Nearly Killed 4 Hives

Discussion in 'General Beekeeping' started by litefoot, Jan 18, 2014.

  1. litefoot

    litefoot New Member

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    All 4 hives are double deep with Honey Run top covers (with 2" insulation) and upper and lower entrances. I decided to use entrance reducers turned to the smallest holes as mouse guards. Today it reached the upper 30's and some of the bees decided that it was a fly day. Toward the evening, I noted a pile of bees dead at the entrance to one of the hives. They looked like they were all bottled up trying to get into the lower entrance. After removing the entrance reducer, I found that the bottom board was basically a soild chunk of dead bees and ice completely blocking the entrance resulting in no air flow through the hive. All four colonies were the same. So before the sun set, I suited up, removed all the reducers and literally had to chisel the chunks of dead bee ice from the bottom boards through the bottom entrance.

    My assumption is that the normal accumulation of dead bees through the winter started restricting the air flow through the small lower entrance hole. Then the condensation started building up, dripping on and killing more bees and eventually forming the ice chunk on the bottom board. The bees that perished today probably flew out the upper entrance and couldn't get back in through the blocked lower entrance and froze.

    This is the first and last time I use an entrance reducer as a mouse guard. It might work in warmer winters, but not in Utah. Lesson learned. Hopefully the surviving bees will make it through.
     
  2. lazy shooter

    lazy shooter New Member

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    When I first read your thread title, I wondered how an entrance reducer could have an adverse effect on bees. My thoughts were, "who alters the entrances of feral bees." After reading your post I can see how your entrance reducer was harmful to your bees. A chuck of solid ice inside the hive is a real problem. Your bees were having to overcome the thermal effects of ice inside their hive to keep their hive warm. I'm glad you found the problem when you did. Maybe with less bees there will be plenty of winter stores for the remaining bees. If they make it through the winter, you may want to combine the hives in order to have strong enough hives to produce honey.

    You're correct in that in West Texas I don't have enough cold weather to have your worry. Good luck.
     

  3. Mosti

    Mosti New Member

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    Hope your hives will make it through. Can you feed them some way or another, maybe they will get an extra hand. I have no idea what winter..I mean a real winter is.
     
  4. efmesch

    efmesch Active Member

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    Lesson for us all to learn:
    Even in the winter, when we think that there is nothing to do with our hive, they need an occasional examination to see if all is in order. What goies on with our hives can always surprise us if we're not with them.
    Thanks Litefoot. Yours wasn't just an interesting report, it was an imortant one.
     
  5. Zookeep

    Zookeep Active Member

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    you may have other problems if you have that kind of water inside the hive.
     
  6. litefoot

    litefoot New Member

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    Thanks, Lazy. The solid chunk of ice at the bottom of the box was akin to opening a bag of frozen raspberries all welded together, except the raspberries were bees. Maybe your suggestion that less bees will equate to sufficient stores is the silver lining here. Hope you're right.

    Hello Mosti. I have thought about placing a fondant patty on the hives when the weather warms a little. Thanks for the suggestion. Malta sounds like a great place to be right now, although my four years in northern Italy (Pisa)taught me that the Med can get pretty cold too.:eek:

    Thanks for the kind words, Efmesch. I just wish the lessons I learn weren't so destructive to the bees.:sad: And you're correct. If I had not intervened, I'm sure all four colonies would have died before the end of the winter.

    Hi Zookeep. It looks like a condensation issue. As I mentioned to Lazy Shooter, the chunks of ice were more like frozen blocks of bees. But your point is well taken. BTW, thanks for keeping this forum alive with your interesting posts through the winter!:thumbsup:
     
  7. Lburou

    Lburou Member

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    litefoot, what kind of ventilation do you have at the top part of the hive? It could be that your excess moisture is a result of inadequate air circulation. :)
     
  8. litefoot

    litefoot New Member

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    Lee, there is a 3/8" X 2" entrance notched into the front of the top cover. This setup worked well last year when I used a metal "store-bought" mouse guard which had holes all the across the bottom entrance instead of the one small hole. I read several places that other 'keeps were using entrance reducers, but maybe they were turned to the larger holes instead of the small one. Maybe there's a lesson there; stick with what worked before.:doh:
     
  9. Barbarian

    Barbarian New Member

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    Are your hives level ? I found that by tilting them forward (in winter) the floor was much drier. In my climate I only have a bottom front entrance. I found that the bees had difficulty dragging out the winter dead when I used one of the round holes type of mouse guard.
     
  10. efmesch

    efmesch Active Member

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    They should be tilted forward all year ----summer rain doesn't enter if tilted forward and if it does get in during a strong windy rain, it drains out. Gravity is good for helping the bees to keep a clean house all year long.
     
  11. ApisBees

    ApisBees Active Member

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    There aresome comercial beekeepers around here that totally close off the bottom entrancein the fall while the bees are still flying. They reason that the bottom entrance gets clogged with bees any way so get the bees use to using the top entrance. Ice on the side and bottom of the hive is quite normal I see it every year and never worry about it. it is only the ice that forms on the bottom of the cover and drips onto the bees that is deadly to them.
     
  12. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    with entrance reducers you do need a top entrance. I am guessing that your ice problem was more than likely either the product of snow or rain and not condensation < really how this happens would likely be determined by volume of ice.... condensation will produce some water but not a lot.

    quite typically here the mass of dead bees on the bottom board happens fairly quickly. some people use to call this 'winter turn over' whereby old bees born in the late summer all of a sudden die at the first cold snap and then fall to the floor.

    without a doubt one theme that your thread does suggest is that for anything you might do there are down sides that must also be considered.
     
  13. litefoot

    litefoot New Member

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    Wait a minute. Cross ventilation is a RULE! It's in the Bee Bible.:lol: Man, I just got "fact jacked" again...just when I thought I was becoming just a little "learned".



    Tec, I just remembered that in addition to the metal mouse guard, I wrapped them in tar paper last year. I wonder if that not only kept things a bit warmer, but also kept the snow out.
     
  14. Ray

    Ray Member

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    Possibly the major cause of the ice in the hive was an 'ice dam' on the landing board.
    I get a hill of snow on the landing board, that the sun melts into a slush, which at night then freezes into a dam of ice. Any further snow melt runs back into the hive.
     
  15. Lburou

    Lburou Member

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    It sounds like you have a handle on things now litefoot, good luck with your solutions. :)
     
  16. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    a snip..
    I wonder if that not only kept things a bit warmer, but also kept the snow out.

    tecumseh...
    I would guess litefoot that given your location you have much more knowledge and experience in dealing with snow than I ever will. I have not rapped a hive in something like 40 years and never since I became associated with commercial beekeeper (starting at the age of 14 or so). however over the years I have rubbed elbows and worked with a lot of very much northern beekeeper who have told me stuff that at least on the surface of things sounds quite reasonable. at least one of these beekeepers, originally from Michigan and later transplanted to North Dakota, informed me long ago that the kind of snow is something that you do need to worry about when it come to the question of wrapping or not wrapping. he at least suggested to me that light blowing snow (and likely the wind associated with this type of snow) did represent a large concern for northern beekeeper. in some place I could imagine that wrapping might in itself become something critical to know as far as keeping bees alive during the winter.
     
  17. barry42001

    barry42001 New Member

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    my first or is why do you have your colones insulated. cold will never kill a colony of honey bees, as you have seen getting wet will. ventilation is critical. As Tec stated, large number of dead the might well have been older bees carried into the winter cluster. assuming the bees had enough winter stores, only other problem it comes to mind is were the winter stores arranged so that they could reach it during cold weather, sometimes you have to rearrange the hive for them.
    Barry