Honeybees are very particular creatures and are known to vacate hives unsuitable for their specific preferences.
Yes… Fussy little things they are…
Honeybees require hives, but those hives must have precise parameters for the bees to feel at home.
The beekeeper’s job is the welfare of his bees, so naturally, this leads them to wonder how large beehive entrances should be?
Beehive Entrance Hole Size
The ideal size for a beehive entrance, as preferred by bees, is between 1.5 inches² and 2.3 inches² (10 to 15 square centimeters). Bees prefer wider openings rather than taller ones, which means that the shape of the entrance is as vital to the bees as the size.
Beehive entrances vary depending on how they are built and who builds them. Some brands have very large entrances, while many homemade hives have tiny ones.
Which entrance size is best, and why?
What size entrance do bees prefer?
Let’s explore these questions to help you keep your bees happy and thriving.
How Big Should The Ideal Beehive Entrance Be?
Honeybees are fascinating creatures. These little bees are incredibly adept at creating hives and building colonies. Still, bees are shockingly picky about the spaces they choose to use as a hive. The entrance of a hive seems to be among the most essential factors for bees, but how big should the ideal hive entrance be?
According to several studies conducted by renowned beekeepers, bees prefer hive entrances that are smaller rather than larger. Suppose a potential hive location is perfect in every way except the opening size. In that case, honeybees will not move in, and if a hive entrance becomes too large over time, the bees will move out.
For example, Dr. Thomas Seeley found that bees prefer an entrance hole of just 2.3 inches squared (15 cm²). Read about it in his amazing book “Honeybee Democracy” (Amazon)
There are several suspected reasons why honeybees prefer a smaller entrance size, including:
- Easier to defend
- Temperature and humidity control
Without a perfect entrance, the bees will not use the hive!
But the entrance size may need to fluctuate if the colony is strong enough to sustain the changes. For example, during the summer nectar flow, the number of bees in a colony expands, and activity at the entrance gets crowded! More significant openings help compensate for this busy period and allow a better traffic flow.
Bees are actually pretty good at carving out wood. In fact, if you observe them over time, they will chew away at an entrance hole they deem too small.
Most commercial hive entrances are much bigger than this preferred dimension. For example, depending on whether you have a 10-frame or 8-frame Langstroth hive, the typical entrance size varies between 8 and 10 square inches.
It is vital to ensure that your beehives have the preferred entrance for honeybees to keep them happy and thriving in their hive.
Why Does Hive Entrance Size Matter?
Honeybees are very particular about where they build their homes, but is the entrance really that important? Why do bees prefer specific entrance sizes and shapes over others?
The truth is that it is impossible to determine why bees prefer specific entrance sizes and shapes. Still, observing their behavior and developing theories as to why bees prefer certain types of hive entrances is possible.
The most probable theories include defending the hive, helping maintain a steady hive temperature, and limiting the number of bees that can enter and exit the hive at once.
A small hive entrance is vital for defense because it requires fewer bees to protect it against predators and intruders. Conversely, if the opening is too large, more bees are needed to protect it, and there is more room for larger intruders to break in. This is a severe issue for smaller bee colonies.
The entrance size of a hive determines how easy it is to manage internal temperatures. Bees maintain a specific hive temperature ideal for storing honey, building hives, and rearing young. If the opening of a beehive is too small, the temperature may get too high. And if the entrance is too big, cold air enters, and keeping the temperature high enough will be too difficult.
These two factors of defense and controlling the internal environment must be balanced by the number of bees able to simultaneously enter and exit the hive. Too small and there will be a traffic jam at the opening!
Bees seem to have figured out that 2.3 square inches are just the right compromise to meet their needs 🙂
These are some of the most plausible reasons why bees prefer hive entrances of a specific size.
Should Hive Entrance Sizes Be Changed Over Time?
Beekeepers have learned to change the size of hive entrances depending on the season and other specific circumstances. Sometimes this is necessary for the colony’s health.
The size of a hive entrance is vital for bees. Still, the dimensions can fluctuate without causing the bees to exit the hive, so long as the colony is strong enough.
Bees alter their habits depending on the colony’s season and strength.
A weaker, smaller colony will leave a hive if the entrance gets too big, but a strong colony will remain because there are enough bees to successfully defend the opening and maintain hive temperature. It’s the beekeeper’s job to keep an eye on this situation and adjust the entry size accordingly.
Enlarging the entrance of hives during the spring and summer months, when bees are most active, increases the colony’s production because more bees can enter and exit the beehive more quickly.
In winter, beekeepers will make entrances smaller to make it easier for the bees to maintain the ideal temperature within the hive.
Hence the use of entrance reducers…
This method is successful in many hives. However, the colony must be strong enough to sustain the entrance size changes, or the bees will leave quickly.
Bees are very particular about the entrance of the home. If it’s not within their preferred standards, the bees will not move into the location, or they’ll move out very quickly.