Ventilation, Ventilation, Ventilation

by Charles Schwend

I sell well-established working beehives, with their honey stores, to buyers far and near, from Spring through Fall. During hot or muggy weather I always stress over my girls welfare during the trip, moving to their new home site. Most beekeepers, or apiarists, close the entrance with a 1” X 2” piece of wood, or a solid entrance reducer. I started selling bee hives with the same method of confinement, and then changed to a better way, using plastic screening stapled to the brood box on top and to the landing board on bottom to prevent the bees exiting through the entrance opening. The impact of stapling would agitate the colony and they would try to leave the hive, clogging the entrance opening by crowding against the plastic screening, to shut off the airflow. A similar piece of screening would cover the opening of the inner cover.

On some occasions where their journey would take some time, the bees coordinated their combined efforts to push through a weak fitting screen and create an opening large enough for many, or all, to escape, leaving the new bee keeper feeling somewhat cheated in their purchase.

Having been a beekeeper for over 35 years, I had an abundance of scrap ¼” hardware cloth lying around from constructing hive beetle traps and screened bottom boards. Frugality is a must to be profitable in beekeeping, even as a hobby. After experimenting with a couple of designs I found that trimming a piece of scrap hardware cloth down to approximately 15” X 6” makes a very effective entrance ventilator and bee excluder using a 20-inch plus long, ¾” dowelling, and a 4” wide duck bill welding vice grip pliers, or use a length of 1” X 2” board to bend the hardware cloth tightly around. The individual wires creating the ¼” openings in the hardware cloth should be checked to ensure against misalignment or broken wires. If the wiring is misaligned or broken, the resulting opening could be enlarged enough by the bees to allow them to escape. I have found that a pair of small needle-nose pliers will work well in realigning the wires. I have since graduated from the welding vice grip to a three-foot wide metal brake for a more finished insert. A metal brake is a piece of equipment used for bending sheet metals. Smaller brakes can be as narrow as two foot wide, or smaller, and can be purchased relatively cheap.

The finished product resembles an open capital “P”, sitting on it’s side. I made a 180-degree half circle bend in the middle of the width by wrapping the hardware cloth tightly around the length of dowelling.

Using the metal brake or duck bill vice grip, I bent a 90-degree upward angle, ¾” from the top of the half circle. I continued the hardware cloth, running out from the bottom of the 180-degree half circle.

The half circle is inserted into the entrance. The top bend is adjusted so that there is pressure under the entrance top surface and the flat surface is pressed against the landing platform. The top 90° angle is adjusted to put pressure against the outside surface of the brood box just above the entrance opening.

An alternative to using a dowelling is just squaring out the half circle with the metal brake, vice grip pliers or a length of 1” X 2” board. The curved section in the middle of the scrap piece of hardware cloth could also extend into the brood box a little more to allow for a larger number of bees to collect before shutting off the air circulation. The entire operation only takes a 180-degree curve and one bend, or if using the alternative method, only takes three bends. A very simple operation once visualized.

Since all bee boxes are not made equally, the sides of the hardware cloth can be trimmed back with a tin snips, heavy-duty scissors or shears. If the insert is a little too short, or if the transport trip is really long, two plugs can be made from a soft wood to seal the ends, and/or put extra tension pressure on the hardware cloth insert, to ensure a more secure fit. Just make sure the wood plugs extend over the hardware cloth to the end of the opening.

A beekeeper can adjust the measurements to suit his own requirements, and with a little practice find the perfect fit for his needs. I have also thought of soldering a bent narrow “U” shaped tin strip along the raw edges of the hardware cloth to cover the sharp barbs of wire. Bending the tin would also require the use of a soldering gun and a metal brake. This would also stiffen the unit making for a tighter fit in the entrance, and maybe eliminating a need for wooden plugs at the ends of the unit.
A second method to safely cover the sharp wire end barbs would be to dip the sides of the hardware cloth into a shallow tray of liquid latex several times to build up a coating. Liquid latex is relatively cheap and easy to use, just be sure to adequately dry the applied liquid before handling.

I would welcome any response, positive or negative, from readers on how well this design has worked for them, or how they improved on the basic design to meet their needs. I can be reached at: Charles Schwend, 2930 Woodland Lane, Marine, IL 62061; 618.363.9104;