You need to increase summer ventilation for good honey yields

Take a tip from the White House beekeeper, and give your bees plenty of summer ventilation to maximize honey crops.

Whenever I think of summer ventilation, I think of the White House bee hive. Beekeeper Charlie Brandt uses a large eke with a hole cut in each side and mounts the eke above the stack of honey supers, just below the telescoping cover. The holes are large—I estimate about three inches in diameter—and are screened on the inside.

On the outside of the eke, he protects the holes from lawn sprinklers with clear plastic splash guards. The splash guards are mounted several inches from each opening to minimize interference with the airflow.

My preference for top ventilation in summer is a screened inner cover with shims on each end. The shims keep the telescoping cover elevated so the air flows freely. The screened inner covers keep even my busiest hives dry during the summer and they keep out insect predators as well. Since the bees have an easier time dehydrating their nectar, a well-ventilated colony can cure more honey faster.

An upside-down moisture quilt can be used for summer ventilation

I don’t have enough screens for all my hives, but a reader gave me the idea of turning a moisture quilt upside down and using it in place of an inner cover. My moisture quilts have holes on only two sides, but this system works fairly well. It’s not quite as good as the screened inner cover, but it is certainly better than nothing.

Before I had either screens or quilt boxes, I shimmed the outer covers on the front side of the hive with two pieces of wood about a half-inch high—another technique that keeps the hive well-ventilated. In addition, the bees use it as an upper entrance which lowers congestion at the main entrance. The downside of shims is that both robbers and yellowjackets can also use the opening. So while shims work fine during a nectar flow, you must remove them during a dearth when robbers and wasps are more of a problem.

Don’t force your bees to waste energy

Bees waste an enormous amount of energy when they fan moist air that can’t go anywhere. If the hive remains closed at the top, moisture from the nectar condenses under the cover, making the relative humidity too high.

This humidity in the hive makes further drying of nectar almost impossible. You can help your bees cure more honey by providing adequate through-the-hive ventilation.

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  • Rusty
    I am having a feud w/ my hubby about this inner cover for ventilation. Doesn’t the hive top go back on over the cover?
    He thinks the screened board should be open and exposed to the world. He says why in the world would you cover it up if you are wanting the air flow?

    • Vickie,

      I just read your e-mail to my husband because we are in the process of building more ventilated inner covers. He told me to write, “This is one of the rare instances when the husband is wrong.” Can you believe it? Husbands are always wrong!

      Anyway, the telescoping cover goes over the ventilated inner cover because it is necessary to keep out both sunlight and rain. But, the ventilated cover is designed to hold the telescoping cover about 3/4-inch above the screened part so air can flow through the screen and out of the hive. The commercial type are supported on the ends and the air flow goes over the sides. The type I just made has the sides supported and the air going over the ends. I will post a photo of mine in a couple of days. But follow this link to see a picture of the commercial type.

      Remember that telescoping covers are not tight around the edges. There is plenty of space for air movement. The ventilated inner cover supports the telescoping cover so it doesn’t block the airflow.

      Say “hi” to your better other half for me!

  • When I arrived home from work, my husband had made a beautiful telescoping cover w/bright and shiny hard cloth. :0(

    He continued to stress the point about the air circulation and how it should be open and not covered. (I could hardly wait to get to my email to see if you had responded) Literally laughing out loud, I told him to listen to the expert response from another Bee Lady.

    After reading your comments to him, he did agree it made perfect sense. I will watch for your photo and “share” that w/ him in hopes he can tweak this latest project to fit my hive. THANK heavens he didn’t whip out the other three that are needed for the rest of my hives.

    (Should have listened to my directions the first time around – lol);0)

  • Hi Rusty
    I have re-vamped ventilated inner covers. My next question is what would be the acceptable lowest temp before changing back to the standard inner cover?


    • Vickie,

      I don’t have a rule. Offhand, I’d say when it gets into the low 50s at night you might want to switch. Or when the honey flows are over for the year. A lot depends on how big the colony is. Large colonies manage to keep themselves warm. Small ones, not so much.

  • I have built and use on all my hives, vented gabled top covers. I had a serious issue with mold and mildew build up in my hives. I started with ventilated inner covers then decide to build gabled top covers with gable end vents in them covered with 1/8 hardware cloth. It would be similar to a house gable end vent that allows the attics to “breathe”. I have seen my inner hive moisture issue vanish, and I also don’t run inner covers at all during summer, unless I plan to feed. I find that the bees can better concentrate on pests and foraging, instead of fanning the entrance.

    • Bill,

      Excellent. I have never tried gabled covers, but I always thought they would be good for ventilation. They work great for human houses, so why not hives? You’ve got my interest up; I’m going to try it.

  • I have a question: we are having a hot summer. On top of my top super I have put a 1×6 box that I have drilled some holes in and screened, then I put my lid on top of that. I’m trying to give good air flow and speed up honey capping. Do I need to put a inner cover in between the top super and my 1×6 ventilator?

    Thank you.

  • I’ve been using my moisture quilts this year with a rim and top entrance underneath instead of inner covers. I keep the wood shavings in, but remove them on hot days. (We still have some very cold days where I live.) My thinking is the layer of wood shavings creates a barrier like an inner cover would, but it’s more breathable and better ventilated. The best of both worlds.

    Rusty, do you have any experience, or know anyone with any experience, with the D.E. Hive sold through Bee Works? They claim: “…increases production and hive products by 85%.” I know the frames are different from regular Langstroth’s, but generally, to me, it looks like a regular hive with some kind of ventilation box over the inner cover. I wonder how different it is from using a moisture quilt and other (cheaper) ventilation aids.