robbing spring management

Use caution when removing entrance reducers

During these first warm and sunny days of spring, the bees literally climb over each other to get in and out of their tiny entrance. You’ve got the urge to remove the entire entrance reducer so they have plenty of room to move about. But be careful.

Pollen is usually in good supply before nectar and, until the nectar starts flowing, your bees are collecting mostly pollen—and craving a source of carbohydrates. If the entrance reducers are removed too soon, stronger colonies may take the opportunity to rob the weaker colonies of any honey they have left. If you see a great crowd of airborne bees in front of a weak hive, this may be what is happening.

So until nectar is plentiful, keep the entrance reducers on the weaker hives, and fully open only those you know to be strong and populous. After nectar becomes more available, the weaker colonies will expand and soon be able to defend their hives. At that point, you can enlarge their entrances or remove the reducers altogether.



  • I am so glad I found your website… So much valuable information. I am very new to beekeeping and need to learn so much. I have 7 hives, sorry, I HAD 7 hives. My weak swarm hive didn’t make it through the winter. Not too sure why, as there is still plenty of food supply. Should I take the full honey frames out and feed them to the other hives ???? Our pollen flow usually starts end of May.

    Thanks… Jane

    • Yes, that’s what I would do with them, especially since spring is having such a hard time getting started.

  • I still have a reducer on my hive because it is weak. I installed the nuc this spring and they haven’t really grown much. I want to take off the reducer because it had reached above 90 degrees here and there are lots of bees out fanning. They are fanning in front of the entire entrance, even where the reducer is blocking their efforts. I am also afraid to take the reducer off, as they haven’t even filled one deep yet. Should I remove or not? Thank you.

    • Alexa,

      Use a screened bottom board and a screened inner cover instead. That way they can keep cool and also be protected.

  • I am new to bee keeping. This site looks very interesting. Thanks in advanced for adding me.

  • I am a new beekeeper and my hive is doing good. I have the third box with a queen excluder below that and the other two boxes are full with brood and honey. I have the hive reducer on with the big opening and on the one side slightly cracked at an angle. Should I take it off completely and put on the mouse guard? I am still nervous they will leave or something will rob them.

    • Sebastian,

      Neither the mouse guard nor the entrance reducer will keep the bees from leaving if that’s what they want to do, so that shouldn’t be an issue. If the colony is strong and populous they probably don’t need a reducer this time of year, but it it makes you more comfortable, you can leave it in place. I usually don’t use a reducer until I see signs of a nectar dearth.

  • Thank u and the box I just put on has the queen excluder on it. I put it on around a week ago and there are no bees at all in this box. Should I be worried or just see what happens? I also cracked the front where the queen excluder and top box meets so there wings don’t get too worn down. Am I doing it right or should I change some things?

    • Sebastian,

      Remember, we are now past the summer solstice so colonies are contracting, not expanding. I would not really expect them to build out a new box. I think they could, but I wouldn’t count on it.

      I don’t understand what you mean by “cracked the front.” Do you mean you provided an opening?

  • Ok I was hoping I could get one more box started but I always have next year, and yes I provided an opening. I put two sticks in between the box and the queen excluder on the front side. And my last question I have for u, I have a queen excluder that’s for the entrance . Use it or is it worthless?

    • Sebastian,

      A swarm guard (or queen excluder over the entrance) is okay for a couple of days if you are trying to prevent a swarm before you have time to split. But you can’t leave it on for more than a few days because 1) the drones can’t get in or out and 2) if for some reason your queen gets superseded, the new queen will not be able to get out and mate. So basically, it is worse than useless except in a few circumstances and for a very short time.

  • Also if you don’t have frames drawn out the bees don’t like the go through the queen excluder.

  • I started a new hive about 8 weeks ago with a few frames of brood from one of my hives and a bought queen, I had spotted the queen each time I inspected the hive, their numbers seemed to increase at a normal rate. As of today they have 2 deep 10 frame brood boxes and 1 medium honey super well drawn out when I looked in last week. Last night I got a call from my neighbor that a swarm was in their tree. I am shocked that such a young hive would have swarmed so soon! I did remove the entrance reducer last week as we are in a good nectar flow and they were struggling to get in and they are the only hive in this city area.

  • I am a new beekeeper and I have 10 hives. I have some round rapid feeders that I plan on using over winter to feed my bees with, using pure cane granulated sugar. It will sit above the 2nd brood box inside a super. Can I please get your thoughts on this winter feeding approach.

    • Sugar needs to dissolve before the bees can eat it. I’m not familiar with this type of feeder, but as long as moisture from the colony condenses on the sugar surface and liquifies it, it will be fine.

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