A beehive entrance reducer is a small but useful tool. A beehive kit will typically come with an entrance reducer. You can use this to control the size of the entrance for your honey bees.
For your 8 or 10-frame Langstroth hive, you can have three different entrance sizes: very small, medium, or you can remove the entrance reducer entirely.
A 5-frame hive only gives you two different sizes: a small entrance opening, or you can completely remove the entrance reducer.
An entrance reducer is one inexpensive tool I recommend for beginning beekeepers. Read more about beekeeping equipment for beginners.
Why Use Entrance Reducers on Beehives?
Entrance reducers make it easier for the honey bees to protect their hive from predators and robbers who want to come in and steal all of the honey and resources. A smaller entrance will help the guard bees control who can enter the hive.
There are a lot of predators willing to enter the hive to steal resources. Yellow jackets and even robber bees from other colonies will try to rob a neighboring bee colony! A weak colony with fewer bees could use some help to guard against the robbers.
Think of the entrance reducer as the entrance of a castle. If you have a huge castle entrance that you must protect from invaders, then you will need many guards to fight off unwelcome guests.
If the castle has a small door, then it doesn’t require as many guards to defend it. This makes it easier for the inhabitants to fight off any pesky robbers. The smaller size of the opening means there is a much smaller space to defend, so you don’t need as many resources to protect it.
So the front of the hive is like the castle entrance, and using the entrance reducer will help the bees with defending their castle. Smaller colonies will have an easier time defending a small doorway.
When Should a Beehive Use an Entrance Reducer?
The number of bees in your colony can help decide when to use an entrance reducer. If you have just installed a nuc or package, then you will want to use the smallest entrance for the new hive. This will help the bees to defend their home while growing their colony.
Entrance reducers can also help weaker hives. It will help small colonies to protect their hives until they can build up their numbers.
The second largest position for an 8 and 10-frame hive can typically be used year-round. However, during the height of the nectar flow in the summer months, you may want to remove the entrance reducer. If you notice a bottleneck of bees going in and out of the hive, then your honey bees need more space.
Entrance reducers can annoy your bees when you have a large number of bees trying to get in and out to collect pollen and nectar. At this point, the hive is so large they can have plenty of bees to guard against robbers. You do not want to impede your bees from doing their jobs, so you may want to completely remove the entrance reducer.
Entrance Reducers for Beehives During the Winter Months
It’s a good idea to use the smaller opening during the winter. It will help to protect the colony.
If you do not use an entrance reducer, the bees will create their own entrance reducers with propolis. This helps to restrict airflow to keep the beehive warmer during the cooler months. When the weather warms up, the bees will remove their propolis and open up the entrance when they are ready.
One benefit to using the small entrance reducer is that it will help to keep the mice out of your hive during the winter. With cold weather, mice will want to enter your beehives looking for a warm place, and they will eat through the honey stores and make a giant mess. This can weaken or even kill the bee colony.
Using the entrance reducer will help prevent this. The smaller openings will help to deter mice. However, a determined mouse could still chew through a wooden entrance reducer.
You can use a metal entrance reducer that is also a mouse guard. A mouse guard keeps mice out while still allowing enough space for the bees to enter and exit the hive. A mouse guard is small enough to keep mice out, and it is just big enough for bees to fit through.
If you are using entrance reducers during the winter, then you will want to check the entrance of a hive and clear out any dead bees that could be blocking it. Get a stick and clear away any accumulating dead bees that might block your bees from exiting the hive. They need to be able to come out for cleansing flights on warmer winter days.
You never want your bees to be blocked from the opening.
Alternative Beekeeping Strategies
Some beekeepers can choose to not use entrance reducers. One reason can be to ensure there is enough air circulation. The airflow is better without the entrance reducers, which can help the bees to regulate the temperature in the hive.
And in the winter, the bees will naturally create an entrance reducer for themselves. They do an amazing job of blocking the front of the entrance themselves when they need it.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works best for you!
Good luck and enjoy your apiary!