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How to plug the holes in your beehives

Before next honey season, I intend to drill upper entrances in my honey supers, an idea I got from beekeeper Anthony Planakis. But before I busied myself with the hole saw, I needed a way to plug the holes. I wanted a system that was reliable, fast, reversible, nice-looking, and would allow the boxes to be stored without a lot of space between the stacks.

Ultimately, I decided on wooden furniture buttons, the kind that are often used to cover recessed screws. I searched on the internet and found exactly what I was looking for from a company called Widgetco.com. The one-inch size in maple cost 24 cents each when I purchased a quantity of 25, and they were shipped for a flat rate of $2.95.

Once they arrived, I just doused them with a can of spray paint. They are so cute I couldn’t wait to use them, so I took the duct tape off two entrances of my top-bar hive (my former method of reducing) and inserted the buttons. It looks so much better than duct tape. In spring, they can be pried out with a hive tool.

I don’t know if I will ever need to plug the honey super entrances, but I wanted to be ready in case of robbing or a yellowjacket attack. Since I use the same one-inch hole saw for everything, I can also use the buttons to reduce the number of ventilation ports in my quilt boxes, if necessary, or to close off the entrances in my feeder rims.

Now I just have to curb my enthusiasm—I want to drill holes in everything.

Rusty
Honey Bee Suite

Wooded-plugs-painted
I simply spray-painted the wooden buttons so they wouldn’t absorb water. © Rusty Burlew.
Wooden-plugs-in-top-bar hive
The buttons look much better than duct tape on the end of my top-bar hive. © Rusty Burlew.

Comments

harold meinster
Reply

I have not drilled holes in my boxes, but cork could be used as a plug for winter. Its natural tree material and can easily fit.

Debi
Reply

Great idea! I use my wine corks to plug in my upper entrance holes.

John Kuhn
Reply

My ideal solution is a thin piece of wood, 1-2″ square, maybe 1/4″ thick held with a single screw. The wood pivots on the screw so that it covers or uncovers the hole. Screw tight enough to hold position but not so tight that I can’t rotate with my finger. Nice because you don’t have to worry about losing it, no worries sizing to the exact hole diameter, in a robbing situation where you want to close it up, or if you want to expose half a hole, no problem just pivot the piece of wood.

cgrey8
Reply

I’ve seen hive body boxes where a thin 1.5″x8″ strip of wood or plastic is screwed to the side of the box. The screw that holds the strip onto the box goes through the center and is only tightened down enough to give the strip some friction, but not so much you can’t move the strip with your fingers. The strip covers or exposes up to 1″ holes drilled through the box within 2-3″ of the strip’s center screw.

This method isn’t nearly as decorative as “button plugs” but is functional. IMO, the plastic is probably more durable. The wood ones I’ve seen get pretty rough looking, particularly if they aren’t painted.

Rusty
Reply

Chris,

My only objection to this method is I don’t want anything sticking out on the side of the box in winter. I stack them pretty tight to save space, so if I leave the buttons off during winter, the sides of the box can be flush with the next stack. If someone preferred plastic, plastic plugs are available as well.

Katherine
Reply

Brilliant, Rusty! I’m itching to drill holes, too now, thanks!

As to wine corks, maybe we should use the top end of the cork to avoid sticking the smelly end in. Don’t know for sure, but I think it’s best to try to keep from messing up their pheromone atmosphere or even just putting something in the hive that they don’t like.

Rusty
Reply

Katherine,

I think that all these people who use wine corks must drill very small holes or else they drink huge freaking bottles of wine!

Stephen
Reply

I use wine bottle corks. For one inch diameter holes I have to use champagne corks.

Aram
Reply

I leave a one inch hole in each equivalent of a deep. If I have two medium, then only one hole. Figured if that’s the natural size entrance for 40L sized hollow, then adding more supers requires more holes. That way I actually do not end up needing a bottom board. They just use the holes for entrance. If I need to subdivide a hive, just move it over to a plywood piece. If I see bearding in the summer, then wedges raise the hive front up off the bottom. Bees actually really like those round entrances. They are really easy to guard and they kind of prefer the bottom ones, the top ones are used less often. I don'[t bother closing them, seems not to matter, but I leave a deep and a medium winter combination.

harold meinster
Reply

During the winter with nothing to do, the bees might enjoy the wine cork.

Rusty
Reply

I certainly would.

Eddy Radar
Reply

I use the bourbon bottle corks, the type with decorative wooden caps. I screw an eye bolt into the end aid removal. I also have eye bolts in the large wooden bungs that came with my top bar hives. After a winter in the rain, bungs are otherwise impossible to pull out.

Clifford
Reply

A plastic plug called Caplug is available for a couple of pennies each. They are flush on the outside. These were designed to temporarily plug openings in newly manufacture products and protect threads on rods or tubes. The come in various sizes. The thing to watch with the wood plugs is they are not all the same size. An inch is not always an inch in the woodworking industry.

Rusty
Reply

Women’s pants are that way, too.

Anthony Planakis
Reply

Hey Rusty,

When I drill the holes, I always install a 1x2x1/8″ oak flap door with the screw on the top of the door so it hangs over the hole. Then, when needed, I swivel to the side, that’s it! No corks, no buttons, plain and simple, swivel door, 39 years, never a problem!

By the way, net 570lbs from 4 of the 5 hives this season with this system.

Tonybees.

Rusty
Reply

That’s an awesome lot of honey, Tony. It still amazes me.

Bill
Reply

Rusty,

Eyeballs would look nice. Easy for me to say – I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler.

Rusty
Reply

Bill,

After my husband read your comment, he suggested a head-on bee face with the longish black eyeballs on each side. Unfortunately, I’m not very artistic. Might try, though.

willowcreekhoney
Reply

Wine corks defiantly! The best part about that is drinking the wine!

JoAnne
Reply

I use a yellow plastic plug that is completely flush with the box. They are made for the purpose but can’t remember which beekeeping supply company sells them. I looked in three catalogs just now and can’t find them. It’s going to drive me crazy!

Stephen
Reply

Since I am using corks from wine and champagne bottles, I appreciate the comment about the smell of wine affecting the hive. I’ll see if it is problem when I uncork my hives in the springtime. Most of the corks are dry before I use them on my hives, so I hope they don’t affect things that much.

Fun
Reply

Sold out.

Rusty
Reply

Scott,

The drones will use any opening the workers use, providing it is large enough for them to get through.

Drones won’t eat any more honey if they come in through the top than if they come in through the bottom.

Many beekeepers do not use queen excluders and I’ve never heard that drone predation of honey stores is a problem. Certainly, I have never seen it. Drones usually beg for food, and seldom dig it out for themselves.

You cannot maintain healthy, genetically diverse populations of honey bees without drones, so I wouldn’t begrudge them a little food.

Could be that I don’t understand your question.

Shari
Reply

I use a 3/4″ bit to drill holes and wine corks fit the holes perfectly. In the summer most of my corks are floating in the birdbath for bee water. By the time they get to the hive, the corks have lost most of the scent of wine.

Rusty
Reply

Shari,

IMHO, I think wine corks are fine for bees, whether they smell like wine or not.

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