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What size hardware cloth is best for bee hives?

If you are building or repairing your own bee “furniture” you will find there are many sizes of hardware cloth available. Usually, the ones you need are the hardest to find.

Here in the States, hardware cloth is numbered according to how many squares fit in a linear inch. So #5 has five squares to the inch and #8 has eight squares to the inch. In other words, a bigger number means a smaller hole.

Here are some examples of how the different sizes are used:

Some of the bee supply companies sell hardware cloth by the foot or the roll, and it is also available online from a number of sources. I buy it from The #8 size is listed as 1/8” x 36” x 10’, which may look confusing, but they just list the mesh size as the first dimension followed by the width and length.

It is difficult to make hard and fast rules about the right size of hardware cloth to use because some bees—depending on genetics and cell size—are larger than others. Also, the thickness of the wire varies from one manufacturer to the next, and a thicker wire means a smaller hole.

The above guidelines work pretty well. If you have problems you can experiment with the sizes until you find the combination that works best with your bees.


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Great topic Rusty. Phil and I were discussing this the other day so we could devise a plan to reduce the number of drones in his colony.

My suggestion was to add some hardware cloth sized so the worker bees can fit through but the drones cannot. Install the cloth around 2 PM while the majority for the drones are out flying so they cannot enter the hive again. Then after dark on a cool night remove the cloth with the drones. Bam, over supply of drones disappears and his hive can get to business storing honey rather than feeding drones. Do the excluder for several days in a row and that will greatly reduce the number of drones around the hives.

I think it should work. Better than condensing the hives.


Jeff, I tried to exclude the drones. It doesn’t work. The drones clumped up in such high number around the excluder that foragers couldn’t get back in the hive.

I will gradually move all the foundationless frames from both hives into a single hive, and that single hive will be my one and only foundationless hive. Done. Other than that, I’m letting the bees be.

Simplicity is everything.


I am just getting back into beekeeping after a 20 year break. I remember hearing that “if you could kill all of the drones” the queen would notice the lack of males and start laying more male eggs to replace them.

She will lay male eggs until a certain percentage of males is reached. Though your plan/idea sounds good and like it might make your hive more productive, it will make the queen just lay a higher ratio of male eggs until she corrects the imbalance.


I have looked at several sites and am not finding the statement, “Here in the States, hardware cloth is numbered according to how many squares fit in a linear inch.” to be completely accurate.
In fact all of the sites that I have visited that sell a variety of sizes and gauges do not mention a # at all. Can you suggest some sites or how the numbers relate to the imperial or metric system?



The # system, tells you how many squares to the inch. Just look up something like “how many squares to the inch” in any size of hardware cloth. You will gets dozens of references. So, for example, #4 has four squares to the inch.

However, the size of the hole will vary with the gauge of the wire. So a thicker wire (lower number) will result in holes that are smaller than thinner wire (higher number). See, for example, this chart.

History of hole sizes from Wikipedia: “Many mesh sizes were historically given in the number of holes per inch; due to the width of the wires in the mesh, mesh numbers did not correspond directly to fractional inch sizes, and several different systems standardized with slightly different mesh sizes for the same mesh numbers.”

So the thing to remember is that there are two variables that determine the actual size of the hole. But any standard, easily available hardware cloth will work for the applications I mentioned because they are close enough. Remember, bees aren’t all the same size either. About right, in these applications, works fine.

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