The Beekeeper’s Companion Since 1861
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The Classroom

The Classroom December 2015

- December 1, 2015 - Jerry Hayes - (excerpt)

Q Upper Entrance

Jerry you advocate top hive entrances. What configuration do you recommend? What do they look like?

Beekeeper Dick


Hey Dick,
A long, long time ago on a planet far, far away this is where it all started with the article referenced below. There is a diagram. Not sure 100% of the diagram is valid 30 years later. Not wrong just too prescriptive. But, take a look.

I have attached a photo I just took of a colony in my backyard. I am not nearly as fancy as I was in 1985. I just prop up the super above the excluder with a stick. Kind of sloppy looking, but bees have not complained.

Let me know what you think. Thanks. Jerry

Queen Excluder or Honey Excluder? – › Point of View › Jerry Hayes

American Bee Journal – August, 1985, pgs. 564-567. By G. W. HAYES, JR. Dadant & Sons, Inc., Wayland, Michigan.

Makes good sense Jerry – So do you recommend closing the bottom completely or leaving a small opening?

What I do now is to leave a small opening a couple of inches wide so that trash and the dead bees can be more easily dragged out and let the colony self-select. It is kind of interesting in that they make that adjustment decision as the colony grows.

Q Kitty Litter for Hive MoistureAbsorption?

I am in my second year of beekeeping. Like many people, I started with a swarm that landed in my yard. I knew nothing about bees. Living in the liberal state of Oregon, I rushed from the very rainy coast to Portland and bought a Warre hive. Although I now have three Langstroth hives in addition to the Warre, I did learn a lot from the Warre experience. (By the way, it was a small, late swarm that not only made it through the winter, but grew very large, very fast in the spring and swarmed twice in three weeks). Anyway I really like “quilt boxes” and garden roofs which cover the quilt box. Last year I filled it with cedar shavings. I am planning on building quilt boxes for all of my hives.

My question is this: I have read that kitty litter can be made of lots of different things, but most often clay. The unscented ones have no ingredients listed but clay. I was thinking of filling a couple of my husband’s white cotton tube socks with kitty litter and using that in the quilt boxes. What do you think? It sure would make it easy to trade them out if they got very damp. Thanks so much for all that you do for us and for the bees!

Claire Moody
Tillamook, Oregon

Well, you certainly have had a learning experience and lots of out-of-main-stream equipment. That is how one learns many times and the memories will stick.

Honey bees, because of eating honey that is 18% moisture or below and their own metabolism to process this honey, create moisture as a by-product of this metabolism. In winter the cluster of bees is warm (about 93 F.) and everything else around them is whatever the outside temperature is (ambient). You have probably puffed your warm breath on a cold glass window in winter and seen that the moisture in your breath condenses on the glass. Same thing with honey bees, they breathe out warm moist air and it can condense on the inside of the hive if not vented out while still warm. The home you live in is the same. Homes are designed to vent out the warm moist air because if it is trapped in your house, it can promote mold and fungus growth–not good for your health.

Think of a honey bee colony like a chimney. Warm moist air rises and then hits the top and can’t get out and the moisture condenses on the cold lid. Many people think that they need to soak up and collect this moisture with various absorbent materials. Then, you end up with soggy, damp or wet stuff in the hive to stress the colony and facilitate mold and fungus growth.

The easiest way is to make the hive an actual chimney and prop up a corner of the lid with a small pencil diameter stick or a real short segment of a pencil. Lifting up the corner of the lid allows the moist air to exit and removes it from the colony and voilà no moisture build up naturally or unnaturally with socks stuffed with kitty litter or quilt stuff or ….whatever. I hope this helps.

Q Solar Hive

Love your short answers to very good questions. I learn the most from your section, so writing to you.

A question about the write-up in the August 2015 American Bee Journal regarding the article on the ThermoSolar Hive. From the info I can glean, they are not yet available for sale in the US and patent protected. True or are there any ways to get one presently?

Second question: From the info, it appears as if the brood is in the top box – next to the top solar heater. Is this a requirement of treatment? If so, would it make sense to put the honey supers below the brood chamber and a queen excluder between the top brood box and the lower honey supers?

A little info only gets one’s hopes up. I understand that it is breaking news, but would love to have ACTIONABLE suggestions. Any help would be appreciated.

Keeper of Bees,
Dave Mentzer


This is what I think I know Dave. The optimum temperature of the ‘brood nest’ is approx. 93 F – 95 F. The ThermoSolar Hive directions indicates raising the temp to 116.6 F in the colony for a couple of hours. Honey Bee ADULTS can tolerate temps up to 122 F for very short periods of time before they die. Honey bee larvae and pupae can be negatively affected by heat and drying out. They are very sensitive to desiccation. Honey bee cells have their own micro-climate and get humidity from the larval food as it contributes to the cell and brood nest humidity of the optimum 50%-60% range.

Varroa mites can be negatively affected on ADULT honey bees exposed to temperature extremes. Exposing the larvae and pupae to the elevated temperatures is precarious because of desiccation (drying out) and direct heat. Heat, when used as a Varroa control strategy, is really no different than essential oils or miticides in that they are all toxic stressors that hope to kill a little bug (varroa) on a big bug (honey bee). So, don’t think heat is benign because it is something we are familiar with. Heat stress can kill you and me as well if we get too hot or become dehydrated for too long. And, if you have mowed your lawn in summer when it is 95 F for just a couple of hours, it …