Bee Keeping 104
Lesson 4: Inner and Outer Covers
We continue becoming familiar new parts of the hive. It’s important to know and to understand how the wooden ware fits together. We started at the bottom and worked our way up the hive. Now we are ready to take a look at the two most top pieces, the inner cover and the top cover and lid types. It might seem unusual to have two covers on a hive. This is one way to cover the hive. It is called the inner cover and the top cover. This is the common configuration, to place an inner cover on the top super, then place the top cover on top of the inner cover. Another type of cover is just a cedar lid, or commercial lid. Neither of these lids have two parts, but lets talk about why and what. Inner covers have some advantage but are not necessary. It is suggested that an inner cover, with an oval shaped hole in the middle, provides a dead air space between the top of the hive and the outside world. Many claim this insulates the hive from the heat or cold. Others claim that the inner cover is to keep the top cover from sticking to the frames, or reduces the space and minimize the burr comb that the bees like to create in dead space. Many equipment makers make notches in the inner cover rim, allowing the bees to have a top entrance or exit if they so choose. This makes good sense to me because it can provide passive ventilation, meaning that the bees can use their wings to circulate air through the hive since the top has a slight opening. So, to add ventilation, if your inner cover does not have this notch you can simply find a small stick, and put it under the top cover, when provides a slight opening, a slight air vent at the top. This is good on hot days or to reduce moisture in the hive or helps the bee cap the honey. There are times to reverse the inner cover position, and place the rim down with the opening up touching the inside of the lid that covers your inner cover. You can do this when you need to place pollen patties on the top bars of the frame. The extra spacing the of the rim of the inner cover provides is just right to accommodate the thickness of pollen patties and to place the top cover back on. If you do not use a combo inner cover and a lid but just use a cedar lid with no inner cover(no inner cover needed), or plywood lid, you can have differnt effects on the hive throughout the year. Which direction do you put the cedar lid? Typically the smooth side down. This is the easier side that you may need to scrape in the future. Scraping wax off the rough sawn side can become difficult. If your lid has 1/4″ trim it’s likely this will be face down. This wood trim is helpful for applying treatments, and or pollen patties.
Throughout the years of keeping bees, we have bee disappointed with inner covers that are made out of several pieces of wood. These seem to always fall apart, warp, or just not last. The oval shaped hole in the inner cover
obviously the bees can go in and out, but there is a reason it is oval shaped if your inner cover has one. It accommodates a bee escape. This is a small, usually plastic device, that many beekeepers use to get the bees out of the honey supers just prior to removing the supers full of honey. It allows bees to come out but not get back in. Bee escapes work OK. Heres what you can
do with a inner cover with a installed bee escape. First, when you see that your honey super is sealed or capped with wax, you know it is ready to be harvested. But, there are still bees crawling over it. Simply take the inner cover off, insert the bee escape in the oval shaped hole, and place the inner cover (rim up) under the super or supers you wish to remove. The bee escape is designed so that the bees can walk through the escape, but cannot get back in. Over the course of 3-5 days, most of the bees will be gone out of the super. Be careful the your lid is tight. Any hole anywhere on the lid, honey super, or any where could eliminate the effectiveness of the bee escape. Your logic should be that bee can only get out but not back in. It’s critical that cracks and holes anywhere else on these honey supers are plugged or taped.
Migratory lids are often used by pollinators because it allows hives to be easily stacked. We use migratory lids on many of my hives simply because we find them easy to work. No inner cover,
just one flat piece of wood covering the top. My bees seem to do just as good with a migratory lid as without one. We recommend you think the process threw. If you think you might see more benefits you could invest in the metal lids with inner covers. Think you want a real natural lid like cedar go that route. Remember we want to keep out the elements. Especially rain and snow. Ventilation is critical so consider how you might vent your hives during the summer and winter.
The top cover or telescoping lid. It is often called a telescoping top cover because it hangs over the hive body. Most telescoping top covers hang over around 2″. We have found that these lids can still blow off so no advantage there. Consider using a strap or brick to help keep bees from exposure. Bees will abscond if there is too much exposure. They can also be killed. Most of these telescoping lids will be covered in metal, or copper. They also are the most expensive. Consider that investment after you know for sure you love it. Also consider your ventilation issues. It’s difficult to ventilate using a metal lid. We don’t want the moisture from the bees in the winter to ice up or drip back on the bees due to lack of ventilation. This is a critical thought process. One you should really be thinking about. It won’t get talked about all that much, but it’s the reason most bees won’t over winter well, because just the the very thing your protecting them from kills them, moisture.