I have had a prospective client, new to beekeeping, ask some questions and thought it may be of interest to beekeepers in general. Any additional comments and suggestions will be much appreciated.
Q: Should the inner lid have ventilation holes in them? Or should one keep 2 lids – a solid one for winter and a ventilated one for summer?
Q: Do you partly close up the entrance with wax or something else with winter on its way?
As with all questions in beekeeping there are as many answers as beekeepers. Personally I think it depends a lot on the area that you are keeping the hives in and whether the hives are in direct sun or in shade, near water etc. It is important to remember that bees want to keep hive temperature and humidity at a constant. And the harder they have to work to keep those internal factors constant, the more time and energy they are going to spend doing so, and less time on foraging firstly, and secondly, the food(nectar) that they do collect will be used to power the activities of maintaining hive temperature and humidity. Both factors thus reduce the honey they produce and of course may influence the health of the swarm overall. So factors such as changing the hive opening size, thickness of the hive enclosure walls, ventilation holes in lids make a difference.
I recommend a hole in the inner lid, it has worked well for me. But you do get that they start building comb in the lid when everything else is filled up, which is no problem on regular inspection. I do close half the entrance of my hives with a wooden block in June, July, August depending on the severity of the winter in the Cape. I have no experience of beekeeping in the summer rainfall areas with their freezing winters, but would suspect that hive opening reduction is a must.
Q: Do you encourage the use of queen excluders and if so, can you quote me on that too, please?
I use queen excluders. Some beekeepers do say that queen excluders reduces your honey production when you are experiencing heavy nectar flow ( eg. flowering stand of bluegums ). For starting out though, I would recommend using a queen excluder until such time as you can yourself experiment. There is also a beekeeper’s trick of using a piece of 3-ply cut to dimensions slightly smaller than the interior dimensions of you hive enclosure. The theory being that the queen does not leave the center of the hive so will most likely never move to the edges where the openings are to the top super combs. Thus no eggs will be laid in the super comb. I am still experimenting with that one, it certainly is a cheaper option. QEs can also be a pain, especially the metal framed ones, as they can host ant nests.