Bee-Engaged: An Average Joe Beekeeper’s Guide to 3 Simple Hive Accessories (first published in June 2021 in the American Beekeeping Federation (ABF) Quarterly, Vol. 79, No. 2: 2021)
By: Joe Komperda, Master Beekeeper, the Average Joe Beekeeper
“Beekeeping is Local” but beekeeping is also dependent on the goals and objectives of the beekeeper. Just as practices used by Hobbyists and Sideliners can vary from techniques practiced by Commercial Beekeepers, Hive components and accessories can also vary. No matter what level of beekeeping you are at, your experience and expectations will dictate many of the choices you make in the Hive equipment and the accessories you use.
The Entrance Reducer
One of the simplest accessories most beekeepers can identify is the Entrance Reducer. It is used to reduce the area of the hive opening which can be helpful in reducing the amount of space the colony needs to guard. They are commonly used with the introduction of bees into a new hive or to help a weak hive protect its honey stores from robbers.
It is normally a simple ¾” x ¾” square wooden “stick” approximately 16.25 inches long that can be placed in the entrance of the hive. It has one or two notched openings with one being about 3/8” high by ¾” wide on one side and then on another side it has a notch that is 3/8” high and anywhere from 1 ½’ to 3” wide (plus or minus). With the smaller notch described, 0.28 square inches of opening is provided, and the wider notch provides between 0.56 to 1.13 square inches of clear space. By orienting the reducer to use neither opening, the reducer can be used to lock-in your bees. Likewise, it can lock-out rival bees and other pests such as wasps, yellow jackets, and even wax moths.
Dr. Tom Seeley, in his book Honeybee Democracy, notes that the optimal opening size for a hive is about 15 cm2. For those of us using a non-metric measurement system, that equates to about 2.33 square inches. If we look back to the prior paragraph, you will note that with the “standard” entrance reducer, the largest opening is about half the optimal opening size.
In nature, hollow tree cavities will have openings of various sizes and Mother Nature does not always provide optimal conditions. The bees will choose a cavity for many reasons but when we provide the hive, we can “determine’ the entrance size. A sub-optimal or excessively sized entrance could cause the colony to abscond to find a more suitable home. Not using a reducer can result in an entrance size of between 6 and 12 square inches depending on the type of bottom board in use.
Most beekeepers do not recognize that some bottom boards provide a ¾” high opening while others have a 3/8” opening. With the taller opening, the entrance reducer will slip under the front edge of the bottom box while with the smaller height opening, the reducer butts up against the front wall of the bottom box.
No matter which type of bottom board you are using, if you want to provide an optimal entrance, you may need to consider opening one of the reducer’s entrances to about 6 inches wide. During strong honey flows with heavy traffic, you may want to remove the entrance reducer completely. For the rest of the year, you may consider leaving your entrance reducer in place. As an aside, using an entrance reducer may lessen the need to use a mouse guard in areas where mice invasions are a consideration.
The Imirie Shim
The Imirie Shim is a frame made from 3/4″ x 3/4″ wood with the outside dimensions of an 8 or 10 frame hive that can be used in a variety of ways with the Langstroth hive. Its design is credited to the late George Imirie (thus the name) who was a well-known beekeeper from the Northeast United States in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Although simple in design, it has numerous uses.
In the winter and spring, it can be placed in the same configuration, but winter patties or pollen patties (dependent on season) can be placed on top of the frames for access by the bees below. It can also double as a spacer to allow sugar syrup baggie feeding. If you are using formic acid pads for mite treatment you may decide to place the shim between the brood boxes for more space for the mite treatment pads.
Additionally, it can be placed between the bottom board and the brood box in the spring or summer to add a little “air” space like a “slat board” but not as tall. Alternatively, it could be placed between brood boxes, especially in the spring, to build some drone comb within the void. This brace comb can be culled as a simple means of mite control.
In the late summer or early fall, it can be placed on top of the frames of the top brood box providing a space for placing tray-based mite treatments that require top access by the bees. The inner cover is placed on top of the shim and the bees can access the treatment for removal thus dispersing the treatment.
There are probably numerous other uses for the shim as beekeepers seem to echo the saying “necessity is the mother of invention”. This versatile accessory has been modified to add an entrance (or escape) hole and is sometimes notched like some inner covers (see included photos). If you have not used the “simple” Imirie Shim you may want to consider it during your next beekeeping outing!
The Inner Cover
As its name implies, an inner cover is just that, a cover on the inside of a hive stack. Traditionally used as a means of limiting the bees’ ability to “glue” the outer (or telescoping) cover to the top of the stack using propolis, the inner cover can perform other functions.
Up to six Boardman Feeders can be placed on top of the inner cover and surrounded with another hive box to provide in-hive feeding of 1 ½ gallons of syrup using quart jars. Likewise, up to five paint can feeders supplying five gallons of syrup can be placed on the inner cover, especially useful for trying to quickly build up winter stores in the fall. For winter, pollen patties, fondant or granulated sugar can be placed in the inner cover for solid feeding during extended winter cold spells.
With some modifications, the inner cover panel can be replaced with a piece of Plexiglas or clear acrylic to provide an insight into the cluster’s location in late winter. In the early spring the beekeeper can see if the colony is “boiling over” the top box’s frames in a two deep overwinter configuration. Replacing the wooden panel with standard window screening or number eight hardware cloth provides ventilation for warmer climates. This same screened inner cover can be used when transferring hives as air circulation may be enhanced when used alone or in conjunction with a screened bottom board.
As always, there are probably additional applications and modifications of these 3 Simple Hive Accessories. If you have other ideas forward them to Beekeeper@HappyBusyBees.com for consideration for use in a future article.