Beehive Entrance Reducers: What Are They And How To Use One

A beehive entrance reducer is a tool used during the winter months, or in very cold weather, to reduce the width of the entrance to a beehive. 

Reducers can be made of plastic, wood or metal. They can be homemade or purchased online or from a store that sells beekeeping supplies. They are easy to install and remove.

Some reducers slide across the entrance to narrow the width, while others block the entire entrance except for several small holes that allow single bees in and out. Others are just nailed in place for the duration of Winter then removed once the warmer weather approaches.

As a beekeeper, whether or not you use one will depend on your individual circumstances, such as the weather or if the hive is weak and at risk of being attacked by a stronger colony of bees, wasps or other predators.

If you live in a warmer, humid climate may have little use for one, whereas a beekeeper with  hives located in very cold areas may use entrance reducers for several months at a time.

When To Use An Entrance Reducer

An entrance reducer is beneficial to:

  • Prevent cold winds, rain or snow from entering the hive and chilling the brood. Bees need to thermoregulate the hive, keeping it at a safe temperature for the development of healthy brood. This can become more difficult for them in very cold weather. The use of an entrance reducer can reduce the amount of effort required to keep the hive at this temperature.
  • Help stop rodents and attacks from robber bees or wasps. Rodents seek the warmth of the hive during the colder months and can damage the comb, as well as eat the pollen, honey and comb that isn’t covered by the bees. Robber bees will attack a weaker hive to steal their honey and wasps will prey on the bees in the hive. In general, weaker hives with fewer bees are more susceptible to attacks and an entrance reducer will keep out the rodents and help the colony defend itself.
This entrance reducer gives you two choices. A narrow gap for very cold weather and a wider gap for use as the weather improves. You rotate the reducer to use a different sized entrance.

When Not To Use An Entrance Reducer

An entrance reducer is not of benefit when:

  • The weather becomes warmer and the temperature in the hive is raised. Bees need to keep the hive at a constant temperature year round. In warmer weather bees will bring water into the hive to cool it. If an entrance reducer is still in place there won’t be enough air circulation to get rid of the excess moisture and the inside of the hive could become moldy. Mold will seriously affect the comb, the wooden components of the hive and the brood.
  • You see many bees coming and going through the narrower entrance. In the warmer months when there is plenty of pollen and nectar to be gathered, more bees will be involved in foraging for food, so the entrance reducer needs to be removed to allow the colony to maximize its food gathering capability.
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How To Use A Beehive Entrance Reducer: a step by step guide

The following is a step by step guide to installing an entrance reducer.

  1. Ensure you have all the tools you need before approaching the hive. Such tools might include a lighted smoker, hammer or mallet, small nails and hive entrance reducer. Depending on the temperament of your colony, you may need to wear protective gear to.
  2. Ensure the entrance reducer is facing the right way up. Stand facing the hive and hold the entrance reducer in your hands. Check the entrance/exit gap is facing down, allowing the bees to come and go via the hive stand.
  3. Approach the hive and give the entrance a few puffs of cool smoke.
  4. Gently brush any bees away and carefully put the entrance reducer in place, ensuring it fits snugly.

When To Remove A Beehive Entrance Reducer

Removing an entrance reducer from your hive is an individual decision. You should take into account the strength of your hive and your local weather conditions. 

Generally speaking, an entrance reducer should be removed when you see so many bees trying to leave the hive at once that they are causing a bottleneck at the entrance. Also, as warmer days and temperatures become more consistent, the entrance reducer can be taken out.

Entrance Reducer Dimensions

Entrance reducers come in different styles. Some have several small holes across the width of the hive entrance to allow single bees in and out. Others have a gap at one end and are just nailed or pushed into place for the duration of Winter, then removed once the warmer weather approaches.

This type of metal beehive entrance reducer can be used in two ways. One, as an entrance reducer, with single holes to allow individual bees through, and metal plates to attach to either side of the entrance for the reducer to slot into. And two, inverted when you want to keep the bees inside the hive. If you’re moving the hive the holes provide ventilation but the bees can’t escape.

The style of the entrance reducer you use depends upon your individual situation. You should take into account the weather conditions in your area as well as the likelihood of any predators – such as wasps or mice – getting into your hive.

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If you decide to make your own for a Langstroth hive, then there are many instructions available online. Here’s one example.

This is a home made entrance reducer for our flow hive.

The width of a ten frame Langstroth hive is 16 inches or approximately 40.6 centimeters. For a ten frame Langstroth hive, the length of the entrance reducer is 14 and ¾ inches or approximately 34.5 centimeters.

The width of an eight frame Langstroth hive is 13 and 3/4 inches or 35 centimeters approximately. For an eight frame Langstroth hive, the length of the entrance reducer is 12 and 1/8 inches or approximately 31.8 centimeters.

Where To Buy Entrance Reducers

Entrance reducers are relatively simple to make, but you might prefer to buy one as they are inexpensive. I tend to purchase most of my equipment from local beekeeping suppliers – if there’s a reliable one in your area you can ask if they stock reducers.

Otherwise, Amazon is always a good place to look as they have entrance reducers in different styles. Just make sure to double check the measurements with your hive before buying.

Here is a wood entrance reducer you can buy on Amazon…

Or, if you’d prefer a metal entrance reducer, here is one of those…

Conclusion

Whether or not you uses an entrance reducer depends upon your situation, as well as that of your individual hives. Each hive is different and requires its own particular management strategy. 

In the southern part of Australia where I live, the climate is quite mild and I have never needed to use an entrance reducer. The climate here, as in many parts of the world, is changing, Summers are becoming more humid so I am more focused on allowing more air to circulate within the hive, not less.

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So it’s very important that you as a beekeeper get to know each of your hives and it’s needs and whether or not it needs an entrance reducer.

Bee colonies are incredible self-sufficient super organisms and have lived without the use of an entrance reducer, so be sure to assess carefully if you need one.

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