beekeeping equipment

Confusion about escape boards: which side up?

Confusion about escape boards: The side with the big hole goes up.

Remember: When using a triangle escape board, the side with one big hole faces up.

Since I wrote about triangle escape boards, I’ve had some questions about which side is up. It works like this: the round hole faces up and the screened triangles face down. You put the board above the brood chamber and below the supers you want to empty.

A typical colony, then, may look as follows, starting from the top:

  • outer cover
  • inner cover
  • honey super
  • honey super
  • escape board
  • brood box
  • brood box
  • slatted rack
  • screened bottom

At night, the bees leave the honey supers and go down into the brood box to stay with the cluster so they can keep warm. It is easy for them to go through the big hole, but the next morning, they have difficulty finding their way through the maze of triangles to get back to the honey supers.

More confusion about escape boards

If after 24-48 hours your honey supers are still full of bees, one of these five things is probably amiss:

  • You have left an upper entrance open above the escape board, perhaps in your inner cover. In this case, the bees simply exit through the front door and come in through the upper entrance.
  • You have the escape board in upside down. Which side is up? The one with the large round hole.
  • You have a queen in your honey supers. If the queen is in the honey supers the cluster will form around her.
  • You have brood in your honey supers. The workers will not abandon the brood, so they will stay in the honey supers.
  • Your brood boxes are so populous there is nowhere for the bees to go. In this case, put a box of empty frames above the brood box (but below the escape board) so there is plenty of room for all the bees.
This side faces up. Photo by Rusty Burlew
Don't be confused about escape boards. The triangle side faces down. Photo by Rusty Burlew
The triangle side faces down. Photo by Rusty Burlew



  • Hmm… I wonder what would happen if I installed an escape board upside-down and couldn’t check it for a few days. Which I think I kinda might have done. I suppose they’ll live, ah?

    • That’s funny. They’ll live if they don’t get too cold. I suppose they’re not hungry, though, with all that honey to eat. Every time I put on an escape board, I have to stop and think about it. Easy to get it wrong.

  • Hi! I am a newbie beekeeper. I have only two hives and one is on its second year. It is in 2 deeps and 1 medium for brood with 2 mediums for supers. I took off the excluder and now I don’t know where queen is. I need to extract honey supers. I was planning on using triangle bee escape to get most of the bees out of the way. If I put it on and check the next day (it is summer in NJ) if still a lot if bees on top would it be a good sign the queen is up there with them?

    • Marian,

      It could mean the queen is up there, or it could mean it was warm enough that the bees up there didn’t feel the need to cluster at night. Warm or humid nights can reduce the efficiency of the escape board.

  • Gracious of you to say that it is easy to put it on upside-down. Which is what i did today, then thought….”was that the right way to put it on (only used one once before, several years ago…) Sigh. the box it is under is way up there and sooooo heavy. Not looking forward to the re-do tomorrow!

    • Woodburner,

      After using escape boards for like 20 years, I put one on upside down yesterday. I think my mind was on lunch.

  • Hi Rusty

    For several weeks now, my bees have been clustering BENEATH the hive and clinging to the screened bottom board – and it’s been getting pretty chilly at night (upper 40s F). Even today, there are many bees still hanging out in a cluster beneath the hive, though many bees out and bringing loads of pollen in. I just put in the bee escape board, but beneath that and the honey super (i just have one) I placed a shallow box with empty frames, just in case the hive is too crowded.

    Do you have any idea what’s going through their wondrous bee brains? Could it be that they don’t like the conditions inside the hive or they’re trying to cure the nectar? I do have the hive pretty closed up – no upper vent and just a small opening on the entrance reducer (to keep robbers out).


    • I don’t know why they do it, but it’s pretty typical. If they’ve been there a long time, they may have built some comb under there. If so, just scrape it away and they will be more inclined to go back inside.

  • Rusty I have a bee hive in the concrete block wall of my house, accessed through the eves. How can I install a bee escape board on the eves to allow the bees to escape, since I am going to seal it up. They have already swarmed twice, so I believe the hive is way overcrowded. A beekeeper came and took one swarm, left the eves open. Said they would be back but no go.

  • I meant to say the beekeeper said he would come back and reinstall the boards over the eves. They did not come, so I must do it. I have some of that almond scented bee gone. Not a lot of evidence of bees past week but a few. And some robbers, yellow jackets. I can send photos. This hive has been in the wall for over 10 years. It is behind an electrical box as well, and so the expense of hiring an electrician along with someone to remove the hive is astronomical, and I am 74, on a fixed income. Thank you.

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