The Upstairs/Downstairs Intrance (Intrance is an old English word for entrance or internal entrance) invention came about through my knowledge of beekeeping and certain factors that necessitated changes to how we currently work with honey bees.
Beekeeping is at its best and most productive through the interaction, sharing of experiences, knowledge and using skills to overcome obstacles. I am extremely fortunate to be able to site an Apiary with a friend who is master craftsman and expert woodworker. It is through this close collaboration that we were able to invent a completely new and revolutionary way for bees to enter the hive. This revolutionary idea not only makes economic sense, but it also enhances many aspects of the natural life cycle of the honey bee and is retrofittable to any bee hive made with a single wall.
The outcome of 15 months of research and trials as a result of living with changing climatic conditions and agricultural practices, Varroa, potentially small hive beetle, was the hive in the picture and several others like it.
We have experienced dramatic loss of foragers at different times of the year, and even though the loss of foragers has been severe, I have always been left with the queen and 200 to 500 workers. These small clusters were sustained in a workshop and maintained over a 25W light. As soon as the weather allowed, these small clusters were "added" to larger or viable colonies. It should be added that the losses were always from the large colonies that started foraging earlier. I have recordings of water, pollen and nectar foraging flights at 5 degrees Celsius.
Two observations further consolidated the need for an entrance that was utterly unique and would provide a means to help sustain colonies. The first and most obvious was the increase (cold) air passage in the hive at a time when the bees are not close to and cannot use propolis to narrow the entrance. This was, and is a concern, with mesh floors particularly as we noticed that every hive with a solid floor started brood rearing sooner. The second concern was the isolation of the queen and cluster and the resultant decrease in laying these queens experience as the bees are too far from the entrance during the early spring.
The critical dimension of an opening has been found to be around 25mm (see Bibliography) and this is what I worked with. The critical adaptation was to follow, one that made unique use of BeeSpace, the X factor of hive construction.
Having identified the benefits we then made a completely closed floor with no traditional entrance.
One of my development hives similar to those pictured on this page won a Silver Medal at the National Honey Show in October 2019 .
Honey bees prefer entrances towards the bottom third of the cavity although if a higher entrance is available they will use it with increased frequency during the summer (Seeley 1985). Depending on weather conditions, honey bees will close up any small holes and seal the cavity surface with plant resins of low water vapour permeability (i.e. propolis) (Seeley 1985). Honeybees gain thermal advantage in cool climates by constructing their wax combs from the top of the cavity (bee hive) downwards, retreating upwards when they need to conserve heat (Owens 1971) (Apis mellifera ligustica) and expanding downwards as the colony grows and increases its heat and honey production (Crane 1990, p. 90).
A beekeeper builds a bee hive from the bottom up and yet honey bees build their colonies from the top down.
Robbing by wasps and other bees....we have heard of many people (particularly those new to beekeeping) not only frustrated but losing whole bee hives to wasps with replacement nucleus costs in excess of £150;