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Ways to Provide Ventilation in a Beehive, Part 1
In our last post, we began our journey into hive ventilation and looked at why ventilation is needed and a few things that should be considered as you plan how to best ventilate one of your hives. In a previous post, Keeping Hives Cool in the Heat, we began to address this issue. Today, we’ll dive a little deeper.
When the weather is warm, the main entrance to your hive should be open fully (no reducers) to allow for lots of bee traffic as well as airflow. The one exception, however, is when a colony is struggling and doesn’t have the means to protect itself from predators. When a colony is struggling, the lower main entrance should be small enough for the bees to guard against robbers.
Although venting a hive in hot weather can give off the sweet scent of honey and increase a colony’s vulnerability to robbing activities, venting may be required to prevent overheating and melted combs.
Ways to Provide Ventilation in a Beehive
Below are a few options you can use to provide ventilation for your hives.
The best hive airflow systems incorporate methods that encourage fresh air to enter into the bottom part of the hive and allow stale, warm and moist air to exit through the top.
A hole, which can be drilled in a sheltered location in the uppermost hive body and then screened over to allow for airflow, will act as a chimney for the hive, pulling air from the bottom and allowing it to escape through the vented hole at the top. This works especially well with a screened bottom board. An upper entrance can be installed, as well, which will increase airflow and reduce congestion at the main lower entrance. Many returning foragers will choose to use an upper entrance when it’s available, thereby reducing congestion at the lower main entrance.
If you drill a hole in the hive body to create a vent for heat to escape, and the bees don’t use it, the hole should be covered with a piece of screen to guard against robbing activities.
Screened Bottom Boards
The screened bottom board which is often used for Varroa control can also be used to increase ventilation, allowing air to freely flow up through the bottom of the hive and escape through a venting method incorporated at the top. Some screened bottom boards are designed with a drawer or tray that is fitted below the screened bottom. The drawer can be opened when airflow is needed or closed completely or partially to prevent or limit airflow.
Although often used for overwintering and swarm control in the North, a slatted rack can also be used to increase ventilation in the hive by providing more space for air movement and reducing congestion underneath the brood nest. A slatted rack is installed between the bottom brood chamber and the bottom board with the slats going in the same direction as the frames.
A slatted rack gives bees a place to hang out — a place to gather inside the hive without causing congestion in the brood area, reducing their need for bearding activities outside the hive. The additional space also makes fanning more efficient and easier, thereby, improving ventilation. A slatted rack is especially effective when used in conjunction with a screened bottom board.
Holes in Brood Box
Holes, approximately one inch in diameter, can be drilled in one corner of the topmost brood chamber. They provide a small amount of ventilation and are typically screened from the inside to prevent robbers and intruders from entering.
Ventilated Inner Cover
When you need to add ventilation to your hive, you can use a screened inner cover instead of a regular inner cover to increase airflow in the hive.
Choosing a method that creates a large opening the bees will need to guard may not be an issue when nectar is flowing; however, when experiencing a nectar dearth, you may need to find an alternate way to ventilate the hive because robber bees, wasps and yellow jackets may be too much of a problem for your colony to handle.
When adding smaller holes (one inch or smaller), the beehive entrance disc is perfect. It mounts easily and allows you to choose to use a hole as an additional entrance, as a screened ventilation hole or close it off entirely when it’s not needed, like in the winter.
This concludes the second part of our hive ventilation guide. Join us next time for part 3 where we’ll go over additional ways to provide ventilation in your beehives. If you’re looking for non-ventilation methods to keep your hive cool in the heat, click here.
Note: You won’t need all the ventilation strategies outlined in this post and our next one, however, the more you implement, the better ventilation your hives will have. Good airflow translates into better-cured honey and healthier bees.