honey production

Surplus secret: access holes with platforms


For years I’ve followed the exploits of Detective Anthony Planakis, aka Tony Bees, as he rescued swarms of honey bees from the streets of New York City. Now retired, Tony Bees tends his own hives, sells honey, teaches beginners, and tries to keep me in line.

Turns out, though, whenever Tony Bees talks, I listen. After all, how often do you get expertise distilled from 38 years of beekeeping and 20 years as NYPD’s one-man bee force?

So when he says queen excluders are not honey excluders, you can stake your life on it.

Make it easy for the bees

Last week after I mentioned queen excluders in a post, Tony Bees sent me a photo of his hives with queen excluders in place and honey supers stacked to the sky. His comment: 4 hives, 680 pounds of surplus honey. The secret: access holes with platforms.

He says, “If I want a surplus, I’m going to make it as easy and convenient as possible for the ladies because they are doing me a favor.” Plus there are no middle men, no searching for empty cells, no meandering around. “Convenience!” he reminds me.

“The holes are big enough to allow 2-3 bees in at a time but small enough to be guarded. Should congestion occur during a heavy flow, they simply enter from the super below, still closer than the brood chamber. That is why, without blinking an eye, those excluders are always used with this set up.”

He says he’s been using the system since the beginning. “I learned this back in 1971 when I got the daylights stung out of me in Greece. I remember the apiary well in Crete, not too far from my grandmother’s house. And I remember my father trying to explain everything to me as I was swelling up. Ah yes, fond memories!”

Leave them alone

His other piece of advice is something I advocate as well: Leave the bees alone. “Newbees and sometimes seasoned beekeepers have a tendency to constantly ‘check’ their hives. Nothing wrong with that, but unless you suspect something is wrong, leave ‘em alone, period. I only check for progress (brood pattern, queen health, mites, beetles, wax moths) then super up! Now I live by this theory: ‘The more you take, the less they’ll make.’

“I’ll harvest once a season. Each super added is marked with date-time-bloom, so when I’m ready to harvest, I’ll know what’s what. Just like humans are productive without distraction, so is the honey bee industrious. After extraction, supers are placed back on their hives for cleaning, a week later, removed every other day, so five supers take 17 days to remove which brings me to goldenrod.” The goldenrod, he says, belongs to the bees.

Fewer dirty feet

After looking at these photos, I can’t wait to try this. Since comb honey is my thing, I’m going to apply Tony Bee’s Grecian formula to my supers: holes and platforms. (Is it just me, or do those platforms remind you of NYC fire escapes?) I see a secondary benefit for comb honey producers as well—fewer dirty pollen feet walking across the combs will help to keep them whiter.



Tony Bee’s colony busy at work. You can see the queen excluder above the brood boxes and the bees accessing five honey supers from the outside. © Anthony Planakis.


In this earlier photo, it is easier to see the platforms. The entrance holes are right above them. © Anthony Planakis.


Close-up of platform and hinged cover door. Tony Bees uses hinged covers only on the brood boxes. © Anthony Planakis.


  • That’s pretty exciting! So, basically, this is just an entrance hole with the porch, yes? ( I can’t quite tell what the platform looks like. )

    Re: leaving the bees alone, this year I did that more than ever due to various circumstances that occurred. I wasn’t in two of my hives from probably early March till nearly August. One hive was very quiet, and I was sure it was probably a goner. Much to my surprise, both hives had a couple of boxes full of honey (unusual for my area), and even more surprising, one of the hives had quite a lot of brood throughout – this in the midst of a drought. Very interesting, I thought. Gave me a lot of freedom to leave them alone more! 🙂

      • Anthony,

        I recently came across this article and would really like to give this a try. Can you answer a few additional questions? Do you have a specific location where you drill the holes (e.g., x inches from the top and x inches from the side)? For example, do you try to get the hole between 2 frames? Also, do you stagger the holes on the supers (e.g., one on the left side and on the next box one on the right side)? I’m sure that I am over thinking this. I would appreciate and information you can provide. Thanks in advance. Roger

  • Rusty…

    Tony’s technique is one that a bunch of us urban beeks in Southern California use. We call them “upper entrances.” I put them in every super. Some put them in every other. Glad to see the word getting out.

    Dick Barnes
    Long Beach Bee Club
    Urban Beekeepers of Los Angeles

    • Dick,

      I don’t think there’s a lot about beekeeping that is totally new, but I do think things go in and out of popularity or drop off the radar for some reason, so I’m not surprised that others are using similar techniques. Glad it’s working for you. If you have other great ideas, let me know so I can pass them on.

  • With a little better photo or even a description I bet my carpenter son could build them for me. It probably is a permanent attachment to the box don’t you think?

  • I noticed that you have the queen excluder on top of box two. When I do that I get swarms. I have my excluder on top of box #3. I want to give the queen more room and less inclination to swarm. I am not looking to expand more hives at this time. Are your getting a lot of swarms confining the queen to just two boxes?

    I like the idea of allowing access to the honey chambers and by pass the brood chamber.

    • Hey Harold,

      By confining the reproduction to 2 deeps, excluding and multiple levels (as needed) I’ve never experienced a swarm due to congestion. Now we all know, that given the chance those ladies will fill every nook with burr or propolis. Not a problem with alternate entrances, however.

      5/8 is the biggest I use, easier to guard and anything more, well propolis comes in. They try to reduce the size based on observation of a 3/4 hole so the happy medium seems to be 5/8.
      Again, this is me, what works for me, you know the old saying, “Ask 10 bee keepers 1 question ya get 15 different answers.” It’s like Rusty has always said, “The bees have their own library.”


  • Using excluders is fine in some circumstances…
    Unfortunately your honey won’t have residual propolis though if you do…
    Another thing, here in Australia it’s against bio security laws to have more than one entrance on a managed hive….?!
    Interesting article 🙂

    • Hey Rene,

      I use here in NY, where I’ve said many a time, beekeeping practices are exclusive to where the hives are. I’ve been using queen excluders since 1977. I’ve always believed that 1) brood chambers are for brood 2) supers are for surplus. Guard bees will be guard bees, however, when you use mediums or deeps without “restriction” we know what happens. I harvest honey, not partial honey/capped brood.

      If you were to X-ray a multi tiered hive no excluder, what pattern/shape do you see? Skep? Oval with flat bottom? Where do you separate brood from stores and how much is wasted? Why disturb the brood chamber when you’re pulling surplus? Doesn’t make sense, unless you’re doing a routine inspection or suspect a problem, leave them Bee 🙂


    • Hey Rene,

      I apologize, I don’t understand your comment about “residual propolis”?

      I am also looking up or trying to look up bio security laws concerning multiple entrances on managed hives?? Interesting!!! Wonder what their argument is??


  • How big are the holes and what are the dimensions of the balcony? i would love to put them on my supers! Thanks so much for your posta!

    • Hey Christina,

      The holes, deep, shallow, mediums are 5/8″, the platform is 1x2x3″. I secure to each body
      with a #8 x1 1/2 flat SS Philips head wood screw and paint. Makes as a landing strip and for easier entry. On occasion you’ll see guard bees working the platform.



  • Great! Can’t wait to try this next year.

    Can you tell me what this means?:

    “After extraction, supers are placed back on their hives for cleaning, a week later, removed every other day, so five supers take 17 days to remove which brings me to goldenrod.”

    If I understand, he extracts the honey from all 5 supers, then puts them back on. Then a week later, removes them one by one a week apart. At this point, he is removing empty supers, right?

    And when they are all removed, a honey flow from goldenrod is in progress. This surplus is stored in the brood boxes.

    Did I get that all right?

    • Hey Tim,

      Those are two of my four 5-deep supered hives, total, 20 supers. Since my supers are numbered: date/bloom, I remove top super 1- and extract, then 2- and so on. Upon extraction, supers are replaced bottom to top, left on for seven days. Days 8-10-12-14-16, you go across the board removing one super at a time – keep the balance we don’t want robbing to start, by day 17, excluder off, goldenrod starting.

      • Hey Tony, when you say you keep track of date/bloom….are you talking about the date the nectar begins to come in? More info, please. I keep a journal, but I like writing the info on the boxes.

  • I don’t understand his comments about extracting, putting the supers back on, then totaling them off? Do you know what he meant?

  • I meant “rotating” them off, of course…..I wonder if he just takes some at a time, puts them back on. Leaves all of them for goldenrod?

    • Hey Sharon,

      After extracting, supers are put back only long enough for the bees to clean. During a dearth, timing is critical for I don’t want them to do anything else but clean! By the time they’re finished, goldenrod and other fall blooms are coming in, that’s theirs for the winter. Although I do supplemental feeding, I want nutritious beneficial nectar and pollen for winter stores/ early spring buildup, not non nutritious empty carbs and calories.


  • A couple of questions; I am in Thailand (hot all year round) so I am wondering how the bees would regulate the temperature in the hive using multiple honey supers in this way. Secondly, how do you know when to add a honey super if you are not checking regularly or are they all added at once and at what time of the year?

    • Hey Terry,

      Basic thermodynamics, once the fanning begins from the bottom, the flow is in swing through convection, with the holes there, the draft in the hive has the ability to suck air in through the hole and flow out the top where outer cover is cropped up!! Works great, has for 38 yrs!!!

  • The “platform/landing pad” is constructed from scrap 1×2 furring strips which I rip to 3″ long. I then drill from the inside of the super a pilot hole below the drilled entrance. I then center the platform to the entrance
    and fasten it with a fine stainless steel wood screw. Afterwards, paint the platform with primer. My deeps have the same but with a swivel door which I shut for the winter.


  • I’ve always used a 5/8 hole for the entrance, again, 38 years practice and never a problem!!
    Should something ever happen ex: robbing, cork it and walk away!

  • I bet Velcro would work just fine. Staple the Velcro to the respective pieces. It won’t need to support much weight. The platform itself could be a piece of 1 by (.75″ thick) cut 2″ x 2″”

    • Hey Frank,

      Yes and no!!! It’ll last in dry areas where not exposed to elements, it will fall off and also, why leave gaps where hive beetles can hide and gain entrance?? I secure everything, and leave no room for error, the ladies have it hard enough!!

    • About the goldenrod for the bees. Do you ad supers (after after they clean the extracted ones out) to hold the goldenrod honey and then remove the excluder when cold weather sets in or do you just remove all top supers and let them winter in the 2 deeps? Seems like there would not be enough room for the honey in the two brood boxes. The pictures are clear on my screen of the hives and landing boards- nice. I was also wondering how you harvest your supers and which month you do that in. Goldenrod comes into bloom here right after the dearth (this year it was from 7/18 to 8/3) and I make sure everything is ok for them so they can get lots of winter stores. The 3-deep hives seem to have enough stores each year. I really like the way you handle the bees there and I will be using your methods here where temps fall to minus 30F in the winter. Thank you Tony, and thanks Rusty for sharing Tony’s story. Great post.

  • Hey Harold,

    Here in NY I’ve always used double deeps for the brood chamber. After my rotation is done in early early spring, I go in again and watch for stores, congestion, lack of expansion space one of reasons for swarming. After flow buildup begins, and sufficient stores, at 80% cap I exclude and super up. If you feel you’re going to have a problem, split em. As useful as textbooks and calendars are, observation without over-manipulation would be your best bet.

  • Anthony,

    Great article. Here in SE TX it is hot and humid during most of the honey flow. Bees are crowded and hot and we use a slightly different method to provide access and ventilation for these hard workers. I use two deeps or one deep and one medium for brood/food boxes. Then a queen excluder, then supers. But each super is slid back about 3/8 of an inch in the front. Bees get direct access to supers, the back is still not open (if you feel a small crack in back, ootch the super forward a bit. Plenty of room to come and go, and vent. It is just taking advantage of the recessed area in the box above the frame ends. Since we move our bees about 20 miles each spring to the tallow trees, little porches would never make it, and bees find enough escape ports already during transport. We don’t have robbing problems here during the flow, and back home boxes have no gaps (after the flow, robbing can be a problem). Learned this from a professional, Leroy Bordelon, and used his great advice for 32 years.

    • Hey T.D,
      Funny you should mention that, I’ve seen that method, never used it because often wondered if I’m making the hive more vulnerable to SHB??, has to be wide enough where they won’t seal it, but narrow enough where wax moth and SHB can’t infiltrate, right?

  • Hey Anthony,

    I have my hives on Long Island. I am 5 chambers deep. I left three for the queen, excluder above. Their choice to have brood and store honey.

    Two years ago, I used to have only 2 chambers for the queen. They would get tight for space and the queen would want to expand. I would get one to two swarms. They are costly in losing honey. Worse, I am at work and they go off into the woods not to be found. So far I have not been able to find the colonies. Without our guidance, varroa and the brutal cold probably take them down.

    I am happy as a hobby and I have enough hives to keep me busy. I am not looking to grow, at least not till I retire.

    I do like the openings and landing pads in the supers. I also think that might help in Varroa control. The varroa is not passing the brood chamber. I also like the cooling vent that the opening provides.

    The landing pad and slot door is a great idea. Next project to tackle when I work the boxes. Looks real quick and easy.

    • Hey Harold,
      Thanks!!! And you know, it never ends!!!! Will be using Oxalic in fall for mites, will advise after first treatment (vapor )

  • Tony, do you think the landing board is necessary? In the pictures, it looks like the bees seem to go straight to the holes. I used upper entrances during the honey flow (always very short for us in Maryland) and the bees were happy to use them.

    • Hey Anna,
      I’ve used the landing board for years, yes they do go in, with or without, it’s like the hive stands you get from brushy mountain, it makes it easier for the bees on approach, so on a heavy flow, rather than hovering waiting to gain entrance, multiple bees land and file in, again, make it as easy and convenient as possible for em.

  • Anthony, this has been a wonderful topic. Thanks, Rusty, for getting this going. Questions: Am I understanding that you take all of the supers off for winter? What other preparations do you make for winter?

    • Hi Bonnie,
      Thank you!!! Rusty has done an incredible job and I/We will never stop learning!!! Absolutely my supers come off!!! Winter prep is critical! After removing supers I let them go about their business, check the weight of each hive, pull frames to see pattern and or slow down of Queen. Then I’ll hit em with Oxalic vapor, 1st treatment, after brood hatches, 2nd. As the cold sets in I install my moisture quilt on top of imrie shim to allow room for sugar patties need be. Then I wrap with roofing paper, after , I move hives within inches of each other ( heat wall and dead air space. Roger Morse) after I put a tarp up in rear (north) and sides (east and west) to protect from wind. So far that’s it.

      • Awesome information, Tony, and much appreciated. I love to learn what works for fellow keepers, and I cannot wait to try some of your methods. I live by St. Louis so it doesn’t get quite as cold as NY but your preparations for winter really help me with a plan for my colonies. Thanks!!!

  • One more question, please. How do you keep the rain out? If you close that flap, I can see water getting behind it and run into the hive. Thanks.

  • Hey Bonnie,
    Just saw this, Rain? Hive is pitched forward, door closed or opened rain never gets in there.
    Really!!!! Never!!!!

  • I noticed that the configuration of supers in the above pictures are:
    2 shallows followed by 1 medium and finially 2 deeps. Is this configuration always used?


  • This is perfect solution for my crazy idea of a two-queen hive set up!!

    It’s always wonderful to pop into Rusty’s HBS blog site and learn from her and her go-to guy.
    Numerous years of experience reduced down to a perfect couple sentences and pics. Priceless!

    I feel like I just had on of those ‘taa daa’ moments, followed with a ‘oh duu’.

  • Hi from New Zealand. I’ve been using the upper entrance holes for about 4 years (I have been keeping bees for about 5) and during the summer months the bees love them. I think it is easier on the queen too, not to have so many bees intent on making honey bump past her while she is intent on laying babies. Perhaps also helps to keep honey in the upper area rather than clog up the brood box. I harvest during the season but I don’t take everything off at once, I only take what is ready. One reason is because my bees pump it out and if I didn’t take it regularly i would have a major problem mostly because I am not commercial. I get about 50 – 80 kilos of honey per hive depending on the size of the colony and how I have managed it in the build up during spring. My hives are in my backyard in the city of Auckland. So mostly floral honey and it sells very well at local markets.

  • Lovely article you have on bee hives!

    Have been keeping bees since 2008 in Central Kenya and have been thinking ways to increase honey production.

    One way I came with one year ago was to make my langstroth bee hive 4 times long. They also have multiple super boxes on top of the same size as the brooding box below. These supers have screened vents for aeration but no access holes as shown in this article.

    My intention was increase the volume of bees in each hive that will in turn increase the volume of honey

    Kindly let me know the pros and cons of my idea.

    So far, I have not moved any bees the these extra large langstroth bee hives as my dad informed me that what I was up-to was suicidal as the number of bees would be too many and in case of any mishap, the stings from such a number of bees would be lethal. Bees in Africa are more than often quite aggressive.

    So far, I have not taken steps to have them occupied as the bee hives are in a forest that is just 500 meters from our home.

    I can send you a photo of one of the these hives.

    Hope to hear your views on my predicament.

  • Thanks Rusty for the post and info, we discussed this on our latest podcast http://kiwi.nz/78. Hopefully Tony will be a future guest and we can discuss his beekeeping in depth.

    I will try this idea this year, my only concern is wasps. But Tony advises he doesn’t have any trouble with them at all.

    See ya…Gary

  • Morning, very interesting & will try this next year, one question, are your frames warm or cold way, I use Langstroth hives & wondering which is the best way for the bees to enter the super?

    Great article

    • Andy,

      Based on previous comments, I’m sure Anthony uses cold way. But I’ll try to get him to answer. When I experiment next summer, some of mine will be warm and some cold.

  • Australian bee regs for Anthony P.

    On page 15: 6.1 “A beekeeper must ensure that each hive (including swarm catch boxes) is manufactured and maintained so as to have intact external surfaces with bee access only permitted via specifically designed and manufactured access points.”

    • Tom,

      Well that sure is vague. It sounds like if you design and manufacture your own hives and boxes, you can put in as many access points as you like. Plus, it’s plural, “access points.”

  • Good Morning, Do you close up the 5/8 holes in the winter. I live in the N. Ga. mountains and the temperature sometimes goes to zero but usually stays in the 20’s.

    • John,

      I’m pretty sure Tony closes them in winter, that’s why he includes the hinged covers. In my case, I plan to put holes in the honey supers only and not the brood boxes. That way, the holes won’t be an issue in winter.

  • After honey extraction, can honey super be left on during winter months? Winter temps range is just above freezing Jan.-Feb.

    • Terry,

      You can put the supers back on after extraction for the bees to clean up, but I wouldn’t leave them on all winter. To do so may attract moths or beetles or other critters. It is too much space for the winter cluster to police.

  • Just my own observation here on Long island, NY.

    After my spring flow and collection, I gave the bees the rest of the seasons to gather for their winter. I gave one hive several openings allowing the bees to bypass the process of going through the whole hive and directly placing the honey in the supers.

    This process scattered the honey in unfilled frames all around the hive. My other hives worked their way filling the bottom and moving up the frames condensing the honey to the main supers.

    I had to leave an extra box on top having 20 partially filled frames instead of 10 full frames.

    • Just want to say that I left a full honey super over 2 brood boxes. On top is a quilt box and below is the slotted rack and mouse guard on the entrance. I slid the debris board under the screened bottom board to keep out gushes of cold air. I have 2 strong hives so next year I plan to drill a 5/8″ entrance hole in the honey supers about 2 inches over from the handle. I agree with Rusty’s idea to not drill extra entrance holes in the brood boxes.

      In the Spring I will rotate the brood boxes and put a wood bound queen excluder on top the brood boxes. If there is any brood in the honey super that I left on for winter food, it will hatch out. I will make sure the queen isn’t in the super so no more eggs are laid. Depending on the strength of the colony, I will start adding supers, one at a time, with the newly drilled entrance holes. Two if they are really strong and going gang busters.

      I really think the key to success with all of this is to have strong colonies. Good luck.

  • I like the idea of upper entrances in supers but hate the thought of cutting holes in my supers. Couldn’t you just place an Imirie shim between every two supers to act as the entrance? Thank you. New beekeeper. Love the site.

    • John,

      Yes, in winter I put an Imirie shim just below the candynboard. In summer, you could but them between supers but you will have to scrape burr comb periodically.

  • So I still have a question for Tony Bees about how he marks his supers – date/time/bloom….I assume “bloom” means when the nectar comes in?

    Clarify if possible. Thanks!

  • Hi,

    Will try this with my supers and one hive here in Switzerland. Used a 15mm drill. So far so good. However, no bee so far is interested to use “the extra hole” (couple of days now, and nectar is flowing like mad)? They still prefer the lower entrance and completely ignore the hole?

    What is your experience here? Will that change?

  • I had high hopes when I was modifying my supers with 5/8 inch holes and the 1x2x3 landing pads just below the holes. I put the supers on over 4 weeks ago and have yet to see any activity in or out of the holes. Any thoughts or suggestions how I might entice the bees to use the entrance in the honey supers? I didn’t use queen excluders but I wouldn’t think that would be my problem.

    • Bruce,

      There is no point in enticing the bees up. If your bees are not working the supers it is because they are not ready. Perhaps the lower boxes are not yet full, perhaps you are not in the midst of a strong nectar flow, perhaps your population isn’t strong enough. When conditions are right to store excess honey, they will.

  • I added one medium super with an upper entrance on May 5, two days after I had a swarm on my strongest hive. I saw them go! Plenty of bees left in there, a remaining queen laying eggs and the bees hard at work on my double deep boxes. I added an excluder, then the first super. They started to use that upper entrance immediately and have been at it ever since. After it looked like they’d made good progress with the first one, I added a second and they’re working that too through the upper entrance. We’re in northeast Georgia and have a had a good early nectar flow since mid-April, with some very nice warm days. So I would agree with Rusty. Timing and the nectar flow.

  • I am not sure where to ask this question so I thought I would try here! I have one hive that wants to propolis the front entrance! They did it during the winter, and I removed the propolis. But now it is July in North East Alabama! They have practically sealed up the front entrance again! It is hot as you know what!?! Why are they doing this? should I remove the propolis? I like to let them keep their own house as much as possible.

    • Brenda,

      They won’t completely seal themselves in, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much. They know what they want.

  • It might be a characteristic of southeastern honey bees! I tried the upper entrance and platform on two hives and the bees propolized both entrances. I am in North Carolina. I might need to read the blog post to them again!

  • I drilled a 3/4-inch (19mm) hole at about 45° going up into each of my honey supers in one of my hives this summer. I didn’t have time to build the platforms. Two things happened: 1. The bees filled three medium supers with honey (on drawn comb), which might not seem like much, but it’s the most I’ve ever had in on a single hive in my particular climate. 2. The bees filled several of the frames with pollen, more pollen than honey in some frames.

    I’m not sure 1 or 2 has anything to do with the holes in the honey supers, but I thought I’d report my results anyway.

    I’m curious, though, if anyone else noticed more pollen in their honey supers after drilling holes in them.

  • I had an excluder below the honey supers.

    Some of the frames in the honey supers already had a few small patches of pollen in them, which I probably should have scraped out. I’ve been asking around some more since I wrote the above comment and it seems that once the bees see pollen stored somewhere, they have tendency to keep adding to it (that’s one opinion, anyway).

    I was talking to someone else about this who suggested I block up all the entrances except the bottom entrance with mesh so the bees would have go through the brood nest to get to the honey supers, and along the way they’d be more inclined to drop the pollen close to the brood instead of walking all the way up to the honey supers.

    I tried that for a couple of days but it seemed to slow the bees down too much (the opposite effect of having holes in the honey supers) and the bottom entrance became blocked with bees. So I gave it up and I’ve decided to live with pollen in the honey supers this time around if I have to.

    Yet another opinion, this time from a beekeeping forum, suggests that the bees will always drop the pollen as close to the entrance as they can. This particular person said he never drills holes in honey supers or even keeps a top entrance above honey supers for that reason. I don’t see how that one makes sense because then otherwise every honey super I’ve ever installed below a top entrance would be full of pollen (Tony Bees honey supers would be full of pollen too).

    I couldn’t find any information about pollen in honey supers in my edition of ABC & XYZ either. So… I’ll see if it happens again next year when I make sure there are no traces of pollen in the drawn comb of the honey supers.

    • Phillip,

      I’ve never seen pollen in my honey supers whether they had entrance holes or not. Then again, I never started out with pollen in the honey supers. Yes, I’m interested to see what happens next year.

      • A continuation (2 years later)…

        The bees filled half the frames in my honey supers (mediums) with pollen again, and this year the frames began as clean drawn comb, and no holes in the honey supers. So I’d say it has nothing to do with holes in the honey supers. Details I may have overlooked:

        1) In both cases, in my local climate, we had heat waves in August, not much rain for weeks. Dry land = dried up nectar? So the bees switched to hoarding pollen instead of nectar? I don’t know.

        2) In both cases when the bees filled the honey supers with pollen, I pulled two full frames of capped brood from the top deep and THEN added honey supers. Did the sudden absence of capped brood mess up the equilibrium inside the hive so that the bees put pollen in the honey supers above the queen excluder? I don’t know, but removing too much brood that was about to emerge just prior to the main honey flow probably didn’t help. I meant it as swarm control, but as is usually the case, I think I would have been better rolling the dice on that by not taking anything from the hive and just leaving then alone.

        The bees that stored pollen in the honey supers were from a hive in the same location as the last hive where this happened, up on a hill under a tree. I don’t see how that would be a factor. Is genetics a factor? It’s annoying genetics if that’s the case.

        I was again advised to block off all top entrances and keep the hive well ventilated. Which did (last week) and for several days thousands of bees every day seemed confused about the missing top entrance. It took them a long time to re-orient. Then today I checked to see if it worked and discovered the bees had more or less abandoned the honey supers. Hardly any bees in them at all. Ugh.

        I put all the best frames in a single honey super. Maybe I’ll remove the queen excluder. But other than, I’m leaving them alone. I’ll go with just bottom entrances next year and see what happens.

        I’ve never had this problem before. A few cells of pollen here and there, but full frames of pollen mixed in with the honey? What the hell?

        • Phillip,

          Last year, I had one colony put pollen on both sides of the honey in the honey super. I’d say each frame ended up about 1/3 pollen and 2/3 honey, but it was only the case in one super on one hive. It did have an upper entrance drilled in the super, but so did the others. This year has been very bad for me as far as honey goes. They stored it like crazy early on, then ate it all in July. Very hot and dry. Anyway, it left me with nothing to compare to this year.

  • I drilled 5/8″ holes in all my shallow supers
    And now they are full and ready to come off.
    I used a queen excluder above the brood boxes. I always spend a fair amount of time observing but I have never seen a Bee come in or go out of the upper entrances. It takes my bees longer to fill the honey supers because my bees are located in the Adirondack woods. They forage in swamps, along Lake Shores and Creek banks, and in the dense woods. Everyone who has tried the honey from these bees has a positive comment. Some say it has a citrus flavor while others say it tastes minty or herbal. I’ll keep watching them.

      • In response to the pollen being in the honey supers…….I don’t have an answer, but also wanted to share that I have the drilled holes also, and I also had a couple of frames of packed pollen. I did not know what to do with it, so I just moved it to a late swarm hive to help them out maybe….Found it curios, but decided not to worry about it, just use it elsewhere.

        So the one question I would have, I if I find more of this in another hive, could I ‘store’ the frames of pollen somehow, so that in the late winter when I am starting my hive build up, I could pop one of these frames in the hive, verses the regular ‘pollen’ feeding? (I guess my worry is the pollen spoiling or outrite fermenting.)

        • Monica,

          I remember something about this from my master beekeeping class. I need to dig out my notes, but I remember that pollen itself (not bee bread) doesn’t last very long unless it’s frozen. Bee bread (pollen mixed with saliva and nectar and stored by the bees) lasts longer, but still has a limited life. If it were me, I would store the frames in the freezer until you are ready to use them. I know that’s hard if you have a tiny freezer, but it’s the best thing I can think of. If that’s not an option, I would just leave them in a hive and let the bees work it out.

          • I was thinking that the freezing would cause freezer burn, and possibly make the beez sick? But if you are having success with doing it, so should I, I would think maybe….

            • Monica,

              Whenever I freeze frames I wrap them tightly in plastic to reduce freezer burn, but freezing is the very best thing for both pollen frames and honey frames because freezing preserves but it also kills pests.

  • The 5/8″ hole in the supers is it better to place it above or below the indentation of the handle? Does it make any difference for bee traffic in the hive?

    • Ed,

      Personally, I put the holes off to the side, between the handhold and the edge of the box, about half way down. I don’t really want bees around the handhold. It’s kind of hard to see under the bees, but here is an example: Access holes with platforms.

  • Hi every one…

    Dear friends, I have a question.

    Almost a month ago I placed a scout bee in a mud pot designed for bees and it attracted a very nice swarm. Days passed away and they were busy at their work and after almost a couple of weeks later they tried to come out in a huge number. I worried a lot and sprayed water on them they went back. I consulted a local person a little experienced and he told me that they are short of space. I attached another pot wider than the first one but still do the same thing almost after two are three days.

    I am worry about what the problem could be.

    • Ali,

      It sounds like the swarm hasn’t been there very long. Perhaps you are just seeing orientation flights? Every afternoon, lots of young bees come out of the nest all at once and learn where they live and how to recognize it from the air. Perhaps that is what you’re seeing.

  • I live on the upper Gulf of Mexico, Florida panhandle. I love the idea of an entrance on each super, but it rains a lot here. Other than putting the entrance facing the least likely rain direction, should I do more to keep rain out? We have very high humidity as well as rain. Not even mid-June and they are bearding. This is my second year with the hive and the population appears strong. I currently have one deep and three mediums on it.

    • Heather,

      We have a lot of rain here too, although not quite as much as you do. One of the things you can do is drill the entrance holes at an angle. This will keep rain from blowing directly in, and it also allows drops that land in the opening to drain back out. If a little rain gets in, it’s not a problem.

  • I have started to use these as well with a spacer. In one of my hives the bees are closing off the entrance with wax. They are also doing the same on the bottom entrance. It is about half closed with several tiny holes for the bees to use.

    Has anyone seen this?


  • Rusty, I am late to this topic but as a beginner beekeeper in South Africa I was planning to add the holes as described but wanted to use bee escapes to clear the supers for harvest. Obviously I would have to close the holes for the bee escape to work but I was wondering on the effect doing this would have on the bees who normally would use these holes to gain access to the hives. As I am older and because my research indicates that 5 frame hives are easier to handle and produce well, plus I have seen info that seven frame hives work very well, so I am going to use 7 frame hives, so please consider this in your response.

    Many thanks for a really interesting blog.

    • Paul,

      In my experience, the bees will soon reorient to using the main entrance. For a while, many bees will crawl around on the sides looking for the entrance. Eventually one will find the lower entrance, and when she does, she will beginning fanning pheromone to signal the others where the new opening is. I do the same thing when harvesting: close the upper entrance and add an escape board. It has worked well for me.

  • Hi Rusty/Tony,

    I started a nuc in late May in a deep box and am going with just a single brood chamber. About 3 weeks later I added a second deep (as a super) to give them room. Two weeks later i added an excluder and the second deep is now about 85% full of nectar and honey. Yesterday I just added another super (medium) and was wondering if its too late to add an upper entrance hole. If so, should i add it to the new super which is above the brood chamber or to the top super or both?

    Below is my hive configuration:

    1st Super- Deep (85% full, 60% capped)
    2nd Super- Medium (new frames with foundation)- just added
    Queen Ex
    Brood Chamber- Deep

    Also, once you drill an upper entrance, do the frames have to be positioned so the hole ends up perfectly in between two frames?


  • I have recently come across this floating/mobile hive entrance design (based in the UK, sadly). I would love to figure out how to replicate it! It seems simple enough, rather than drilling into my supers – cause, it just feels wrong. Haha.

    I am in Central Oregon, near ish to your friend! I am wondering how beneficial this could be to my hives. Can’t wait to try it out.

  • Yes, very similar to, however the one I linked above has the ability to be a full open entrance (like the regular bottom entrance), and then using a regular entrance reducer to bring it down (I assume to the small and 4″ entrances) and also has a landing board of its own. I just thought it was neat.

    • Andreinne,

      Okay, I now see what you are saying. I know someone who may be able to draw plans for one, then you could make it or give the plans to someone who could. Do you want me to ask him?

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