The beekeeper has a myriad of tools and devices useful in managing honey bees. Some of them make a big splash in the beekeeping world while others are not quite as flashy. Let me introduce you to the humble entrance reducer. Specifically designed for Langstroth hives, this simple wooden device plays a critical role in hive protection, ventilation and overall management. Now, let’s look at the significance of entrance reducers and the best ways to use them.
Taking the time to understand the parts of the beehive and how they contribute to colony wellness is key to good hive management. Yes, you need to know what each “thing-a-ma-jig” or “doo-hicky” does.
Entrance Reducers: Definition and Purpose
The entrance reducer is most often a small wooden strip (or metal) that can be inserted into the hive entrance. The purpose is to allow the beekeeper to control and adjust the size of the hive opening.
By rotating the wooden piece in different ways (or adjusting the plastic or metal types), the hive opening can be made larger or “reduced” to a small width.
- Defense & Protection
Defense and Protection
A smaller hive entrance is very important to colonies during certain times of the year or under certain conditions.
During the colder months, not as many foraging bees are coming and going from the hive- a larger entrance is not necessary. There will be no traffic jam of bees at the entrance.
Smaller openings are easier for bees to defend against robber bees, stalking hornets or other insect predators. This is especially important for weak colonies that do not have a large work force for defense.
A reduced entrance may also help protect the hive from some cold drafts, blowing snow or driving rain.
While bees do not warm the entire hive interior, they do regular the temperature inside. Having a smaller entrance makes this process easier for the bees by reducing wide temperature swings. In hot weather, a wide open entrance is likewise beneficial to aid in ventilation.
Types of Entrance Reducers
Reducers are available in a variety of materials and styles:
All of them rotate, telescope or slide to make different opening sizes available to the bees. In some cases, entrance reducers are integrated into the hive design and are not removeable – yet allow for adjustment.
When to Use Entrance Reducers
We beekeepers are an opinionated bunch and you will find some conflicting guidance on how and when to use your entrance reducer. Listen to everyone – then make your own decision.
When you need to use your entrance reducer depends on many factors: time of year, colony strength, number of other colonies, nearby etc.
In many cases, beekeepers leave a reducer on the hive year-round – except during the honey flow. Your region many have 1 period of heavy honey production or several.
A healthy strong colony should be able to protect their hive and benefit from having a wide easy to maneuver entrance.
However, during the off time (no major nectar flow) having the entrance reducer on the hive makes defense much easier for your bees.
A new hive split colony or any newly established colony certainly needs a reducer to make the hive opening smaller. This is especially critical if you are need to provide some sugar water for bees that will attract robbers.
Choosing the Right Opening
The standard wooden entrance reducer has notches cut into the wooden strip. As you rotate the strip, different sized openings are available.
Use the opening size that best corresponds to your hive strength and adjust as needed.
For a new hive of just installed packaged bees, a reducer set to the smallest opening should work well. This requires less guard bees by the young colony for defense.
In a month or so, as population grows, rotate the reducer to the next size up. You may consider leaving it on the hive – even at a larger opening as long as you are feeding your bees.
A strong colony that is not in a heavy nectar flow may function just fine with the entrance reducer at the larger opening.
It still gives the hive some protection and if this size opening does not cause a traffic jam – it should be just right.
How to Use
Gently insert the entrance reducer into the hive entrance. It will fit snuggly between the bottom box and your bottom board – if the dimensions of your Langstroth hive are correct. The notches or openings should face downward allowing for adjustment of entrance width.
Monitor Your Hive Traffic
Periodically, check the traffic at the hive entrance (especially on warm afternoons). If you see a lot of congestion at the opening, it might be time to rotate to a larger opening.
Remove When Needed
Entrance reducers are not meant to be permanent fixtures but you may find yourself leaving them on the hive more often than not. It is important to monitor them and remove if needed.
What happens if you need an entrance reducer for your beehive and you don’t have one? Are your bees just out of luck while you order a reducer?
No, not at all. You can use anything that is non-toxic to the bees to reduce the entrance. My favorites as various sized sticks that I take from my husband’s wood shop, small square rocks laying around the yard and even a handful of grass in an emergency.
Building Your Own
If you are one of those gift beekeepers with wood crafting talent, you might want to build your own beehives. That’s great as long as you use good beehive blueprints or plans and follow the measurements closely.
They are relatively inexpensive to buy. But, if you want to make one-the general measurements for an entrance reducer for a 10 frame Langstroth hive are: 3/4″x3/4″x14-5/8″ wide. Two openings – 3/4″ wide and a 2″ wide opening.
Absolutely, entrance reducers set to the smaller opening and one of the best defenses against robbing your colony can have. It greatly restricts the free access by robbers.
While entrance reducers primarily affect hive defense, proper use could result in better honey production. If the colony does not have to invest workers to fight off an attack, more are free for other hive tasks.
Install an entrance reducer to one of the smaller notches when you first set up your hive. A new colony will benefit from this protection. Adjust the opening as the colony population grows.
While entrance reducers were designed for Langstroth hives, they can be used for other types of beehives that need a reducer.
It is very common for beekeeping equipment suppliers to vary slightly in their cutting dimensions. It is okay that the reducer does not slide completely in place as long as it channels bee traffic properly.
Most beekeepers do not paint an entrance reducer when they are busy painting their beehive. You could but it might make inserting it more difficult – and they are very inexpensive to replace when old.
Such a simple little piece of beekeeping equipment – how important can it be? In truth, proper use of entrance reducers can go a long way toward beekeeping success. They help your bees protect themselves and reduce stress in the colony. Take the time to observe your colonies and learn how to make good decisions in hive management – the benefits are great.