beekeeping equipment how to

How to use an eke in a bee hive

Okay, I admit it. I’m enthralled with the word “eke.” But even though I called them “spacer rims” until recently, I’ve been a fan of ekes for a long time.

An eke in the Langstroth world is just a very shallow super. Most are between two and three inches deep, but there are no rules. You can build them from scratch, or you can slice an old super into several ekes.

An equivalent structure can be made for a top-bar hive and placed between the walls of the hive and the roof. Warré and National beekeepers seem to be much more familiar with these tools than Langstroth keepers . . . and they are also the folks who come up with cool words.

How to use an eke

So what do you do with an eke? Here are some suggestions:

  • They can be placed above the brood nest to house baggy feeders. Or you can stack several ekes together to enclose jar feeders.
  • Anything that requires extra space can be enclosed by an eke including pollen patties, sugar cakes, grease patties, or mite treatments.
  • You can put deep frames in a medium box or medium frames in a shallow box if you put an eke under it. This is handy if you really want to move brood around and the equipment sizes are incompatible.
  • When I’m working a hive, I like to set brood boxes down on an eke so I don’t squish anything beneath the frames. I can just toss an eke on the ground and stack the boxes on top.
  • In the summer, you can place an empty eke with vent holes above the inner cover to provide extra ventilation. The warm air goes up through the hole in the cover and then out the vent holes.
  • Rumor has it that Sherlock Holmes wrapped his valuables in oilcloth and placed them in an eke where no ordinary burglar dare venture!

Many apiary problems can be solved with these small supers. Don’t hesitate to make them in various sizes and feel free to stack them . . . or not. For overall apiary versatility, they are second only to the hive tool.

Also see “Slicing a brood box into ekes.”

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  • I’m making a few ekes this summer along with some follower boards / dummy boards. Both seem essential. I don’t know why they’re not.

    • Chuck,

      No, I have not had a problem with bridge comb but I use the ekes mostly in the winter and early spring when that isn’t much of a problem.

  • I place the inner cover over the top brood box and install a ventilated eke over that. So far no issues. I’m thinking about making a few inner covers with several holes spread evenly around the cover to increase air flow, followed by the ventilated eke on top. If it increases the airflow during nectar evaporation then it should aid in honey production.

  • I am a first year beekeeper and was told that my outer cover should be pulled back against the vent on the inner cover so robber bees cannot get access in the summer. Now I am wondering if I am creating a problem because the top is not vented in the summer. I was told to push the outer cover forward in the winter to allow ventilation. Any suggestions would be helpful.


    • Tim,

      Although robbers and yellowjackets can be a problem, a strong hive can usually keep them in check. But if you are worried about your hives, you can screen the vent with hardware cloth. That way you get both ventilation and protection. Another way to do it is put the vent-hole side up and cover the center hole with hardware cloth. And, yes, I believe ventilation is important in both winter and summer.

  • Just to mention my ventilated ekes have hardware cloth stapled inside to discourage robbing, sdd protection etc.

  • When building an eke, some slight modifications could allow it to multipurpose as, or permanently be, a slotted rack? Does your using them in the bee accessible areas, have the bees making more bridge comb? Under frames, between, etc.

    Drilling holes up at a slight angle, outside to inside, rather than horizontally in vents, and in bee blocks to keep rain issues adding rot or excess moisture to hive seem potentially useful, or problematic? Most of our bees love lots of propolis, fill gaps in beetle traps, etc. and would likely cover vent holes in an eke if they can get to them.

    I don’t see small hive beetle listed, you may not have issues with them there, or not yet. Or I just haven’t encountered it here yet. While researching non-chemical means of managing them, I found beneficial nematodes can be part of it. Applied to soil around hives, they feed on the larvae stage of the beetle reproduction cycle.

    You have done an incredible job, thank you for sharing your experiences knowledge and making every post a wealth of easily understood digestible knowledge. Was looking for how best to store unused hives with comb, to reduce mold issues, and found this incredibly informative site.

    My dad has 4 hives in east central Illinois, Uncle has 4 in Chicago suburbs. Carnolian and Italian bees when we started, muts by now I’m sure. Each hive is individually quirky. Best of luck, and ty again for such a great resource of great information.

    • Mike,

      I agree there are a lot of tweaks you could make to an eke. I only use them in winter, so I’ve never had a problem with bridge comb or propolis. If I left them on in summer, it would be a different story. So far I haven’t had hive beetles, although I expect to see them any day.

      • Here is some of the info on beneficial nematodes, and the place listed is the same one I saw a few years ago, and ordered from SEI.

        East Central Illinois winters, can get colder than the nematodes can survive from what I found in previous researching. If you have mild winters, they should survive and thrive, and will likely only need more, if you move hives, or expand into untreated areas. For places where the temps do get low for long periods, a treatment every year, after last frost chance, is still far better than chemicals adding other variables or weakening a hive potentially.

        Many issues are spreading more quickly or being introduced from commercial beekeeping transporting, and package bees from infected areas being sold and shipped. We stopped ordering non-local bees, and queens. Will do splits, or catch wild swarms instead. Some area bee sellers have stopped bringing them in from southern states or California as well.

        We don’t have a honey house, had been storing unused hive sections and honey supers stacked like a hive, out where our bees are, using moth crystals. Trying to find the best way to store unused hive parts. Preventing mold, wax moths, SHB and other pests, is the goal. If we use a queen excluder, would having them on the hive in winter be an issue. 3 honey supers on each hive, or less, more, not a good idea, what is your opinion on the idea?

        Plan on adding a 3rd deep brood box to each hive, next spring. Have been running 2. We used excluders on all 4 hives this year, and when populations and stores got to the point they needed room, each hives workers moved up and worked in the honey super, when they were ready. Our goal is bees being strong colonies, and having supplies for winter, and if we get honey extra fine, if not, maybe next year. Last year was mostly drought, we didn’t take any off. We got all our hives through winter last year, but reading here, and some other research, has pointed out some things we can do better or different, to improve hive strength and increase potential for more extra honey.

  • As the weather is warm and dry today (Seattle) I did a quick inspection to see how the honey supply was holding up. On my two hives I have a quilt on top, followed by an eke (under 4″ tall) then a couple of honey supers. The first hive looked fine. The second hive had a good build up of comb in the eke. Eek! I installed the quilts in early October – so perhaps that was too soon. I am assuming it would be best for me to remove the comb the next warm day we have as I had planned to use the eke to use the space to place food as needed. I’d appreciate any thoughts. I have photos I can share if it’s helpful. Thanks!

    • Hey Julee,

      Warm and dry sounds interesting. It is pouring down here today. I think that normally October is good for installing quilts, but this year we had very warm days right through November, which gave your bees plenty of time to build comb where they shouldn’t. I waited until it got cold before I added mine, and now I can see that was a good idea! So yes, I would cut it out and use it for candles or something, since it’s nice and new. Also, I’d love to see your photos. You can e-mail them to me here: rusty[at]honeybeesuite[dot]com. Thanks.

  • When I cut out the comb I discovered there was honey in some of it. I wondered it it could be sugar water but I had stopped feeding before adding the eke. Some friends did a taste test last night and all agreed there was a nice floral flavor. I’m assuming the bees found nectar in October. Any thoughts on what the nectar might have could have come from?

    • Julee,

      Where you live makes all the difference, but there are many fall-flowering plants that could have yielded the nectar.

  • I made some ekes out of scrap in the workshop. Drilled 2-5/8 in holes that slope downward to keep out rain. Inside is a screen 3/4-inch high about 8 in wide to place sugar cakes on and room for baggie feeders. My first batch of sugar cakes crumbled. Did I need to add more water? A few drops of spearmint and some honey were also added. Started placing them on mid October in Central Alabama. Did make some mineral salt cakes last winter. The unused ones went into the freezer and was asked by my wife to remove them, left them out all summer. Thought best not to use them this winter. Will make more this winter and place in January.

    Will be drilling one 5/8 hole in all my supers this fall/winter with a landing board. Learn lots from your post. My sugar supplier will no longer have sugar for us to buy in large amounts. Would like to know if anyone has a source close by. Thanks.


    • Vince,

      Some restaurant supply stores carry 50 lb bags of sugar. Up here, we have Cash n Carry, which works well.

  • I believe I’m going to have to feed one of my hives this winter, so the thought of using an eke is attractive. I’ve never fed in the winter before, so am working through a lot of information. My question is whether or not I could use an empty super box (medium) instead of building an eke. My thinking is that my weak hive, from bottom to top, would be as follows: deep, deep, empty super (used as an eke so I can place candy there, moisture quilt, inner cover, outer cover. Would that work? If I place the empty super once it gets quite cold, I can’t imagine I’ll have issues with burr comb in all that empty space. Is the a reason I wouldn’t want that much empty space above the bees through winter?

    • Sarah,

      Your configuration is fine. You are correct that the bees don’t build burr comb in the winter. In the spring you may see some, and then it’s time for the space to come off anyway. Larger empty spaces can be drafty but the moisture quilt stops most of it. To me it’s a convenience thing: when the hive gets too tall I have more trouble seeing in there. The other reason is that I used ekes for lots of things so I have many available. The other thing you could consider is a candy board designed for use with a moisture quilt.

  • I have some ventilated ekes, but if I put them above the inner cover, the telescoping lid covers all the holes. Is this the best placement for a ventilated eke or should I move it elsewhere?

    • Nikki,

      As long as there is some space between the eke and cover, it will be fine. Mine has about a quarter inch on each side, which allows airflow but keeps out the rain.

  • Rusty,

    I’ve been beekeeping for seven years now and your site is number one on my list for all beekeeping questions. Thank you so much!