Bee escape boards present you with a chemical-free, gentle means of separating your bees from the honey before you harvest. This article will explore what bee escape boards are, what they are useful for, alongside a comparison of four leading escape boards for you to consider when deciding on how this new technology can be used to advance your beekeeping efforts.
What is a Bee Escape Board?
The task of separating bees from their honey is ultimately the goal of the beekeeper, as without separation there is no sweet product to harvest. There are a variety of ways to separate bees from honey, generally either through physical or chemical methods, and those that are fast and expensive or slow and inexpensive. The former includes bee blowers, while the latter include bee escapes, including the bee escape board.
The Form and Function of the Escape Board
Bee escapes are the most effective means of separating bees from their honey inexpensively and without poor treatment of your bees. There are many designs for bee escapes, although generally they're mounted in or on boards known as “clearer boards” or “escape boards”. Bee escape boards all perform the same fundamental function: they provide one-way passage so that upon leaving bees cannot return.
The alternative to the escape board is the removal of the honeycombs you wish to harvest one-by-one. Each time the honeycombs are removed, you must shake the bees from atop it, or brush them off, only to watch them again land upon the honeycomb to continue doing their work. Rather than this ongoing repetitive work, the use of the escape board allows the honeycomb to be mostly cleared out without any effort on your part beyond waiting.
The bee escapes are mounted in boards which are then placed between the honey supers and the hive. When the temperature drops at night, bees go through the escape and descend into the hive to form a cluster, and in the morning they're unable to get back into the super. It's important that the process is completed within 48 hours, as after this time the bees find solutions to get around the escape boards. Bees may learn their way back in, or may build bridge come in or around the board to make their way through.
As mentioned, it is important to perform the separation process within 48 hours. The complete removal of bees may take 24-48 hours and may require a few visits to the apiary to ensure the escape boards are functioning effectively. The products explored below take between 2-48 hours to separate the bees from the honey, and it is important that they be monitored to ensure no problems develop.
There can be no cracks, openings, or holes above the escape boards. Such openings may be used by honey thieves such as yellow jackets, with a robbing frenzy denying you any of the sweet nectar. In the event robber bees are able to infiltrate the supers, the loss of honey may be complete, underlining the importance of effectively installing the bee escape board.
Escape Board Specs
What is unique about the escape board is its non-intrusive nature both in terms of the bees and also the honey. Chemical methods to separate bees from honey may lead to damage to the bees and a negative shift in the flavor of the honey. The more expensive bee blower method can dishevel the bees and even separate the queen from the hive to the detriment of your beekeeping efforts.
The bee escape board method is inexpensive and can be highly effective. However, there're many variations in the types of escape boards. Each type of escape board has a varying degree of effectiveness in both form and function. Following is a brief overview of the primary types of escape boards to provide us with sufficient background information before considering various options on the market for pre-fabricated bee escape boards.
Porter Bee Escape
This form of escape board is extremely inexpensive to produce, although is not particularly effective, and requires significant alteration to achieve top effectiveness. It is effectively a modified inner cover that is inserted in the hole of an inner cover, and then requires patience for the bees to leave, although they may not be comfortable doing so.
Triangle Escape Board
The triangle escape board works on similar principles to the Porter bee escape, although allows greater room for the bees to comfortably move. An overnight use often leaves no more than five or six bees in the super, on occasion none. It's important to maintain sufficient space below the escape board for the bees to go, and if the hive is especially crowded, adding an empty super below the escape bowl may help.
Escape boards can vary in price from a few dollars up to around twenty bucks depending upon their format and the materials used in construction. A variety of websites provide options for bee escape boards that will work for your personal setup and preferences for your bees. To frame the various options available, the following is a consideration of the specifications of a number of the top escape boards available on the market.
The Varieties of Bee Escape Boards
We picked a couple of similar escape boards available on the market to see how they compare. The bee escape boards presented below will be compared in relation to their ease of use, the materials used in their design and its overall appearance, as well as price. The varieties presented will make it clear that whatever sort of escape board you prefer, there are options available.
- 8 Way Bee Escape Board
- Bee Escape M00806
- Mann Lake Professional Bee Escape
- Brushy Mountain Bee Farm Bee Escape
The 8 Way Bee Escape Board is a beautifully designed wooden escape board with plastic attachments through which your bees may comfortably exit the honeycomb so you may harvest honey with minimal bother. When trying to remove the bees clustered on the honeycomb you wish to harvest honey from, there can be a number of headaches, with the 8 Way Bee Escape board solving the problem of pulling honeycombs individually and trying to get the bees off. This escape board is particularly effective, and after the requisite waiting time you may return to find a mostly empty box ready to be harvested.
Ease of Use
Simply place a bee escape below your box of honeycomb 24-48 hours before harvesting honey, with the maze side facing away from the honey, and return to find ideally a mostly empty box.
The 8-Way Bee Escape Board is finely constructed of wood and plastic materials with a stylish aesthetic that will fit with any hive box.
The Bee Escape M00806 is a standard bee one-way door bee escape that allows the bees to leave, but not return. It is placed beneath the supers of honey to be removed, making the supers free of bees within 2-24 hours, all without the use of chemicals. Affixes to the center opening of an inner cover. The manufacture suggests that when removing more than one super of honey from within an individual hive, that you place an empty shallow super under the escape board to allow for more space.
Ease of Use
Upon attaching it to the center opening of the inner cover, simply put it into place and it is functional.
Snaps simply into the center opening of an inner cover it fits with
Plastic and not aesthetically pleasing, but functional
The Mann Lake Professional Bee Escape is in the style of the 8-Way Bee Escape Board, constructed of wood and plastic. It is capable of clearing your supers in as few as 4 hours. As warned above, this manufacturer warns of the importance of not leaving the escape board in place for too long, as in time the industrious little creatures will figure out a way back in.
Ease of Use
Simply attach over the hole of the inner cover, set in place escape side down beneath the supers, and wait for the bees to clear.
Constructed stylishly of wood and plastic
The Brushy Mountain Bee Farm Bee Escape functions much like the others in that it allows bees to exit while not allowing them to regain entry. This particular escape board is constructed of white plastic, and attached to the hole in an inner cover. The manufacturer suggests a longer waiting time of a few days may be necessary to clear the super of bees, although the warning of the potential of robber bees finding their way into the supers is again highlighted.
Ease of Use
Upon being clicked into the hole in an inner cover, it is functional.
Must be clicked into the hole on an inner cover, beyond that it is pre-fabricated
Functional no-frills plastic design
Escape boards vary in their construction and formatting, but whatever their design, they are a chemical-free solution to separate your bees from the honey. In contrast to bee blowers, the cost is exponentially lower for escape boards, and the potential of damage to the hive is markedly lower, outside of the ever-present risk of robber bees.
In comparison to chemicals, escape boards provide a natural alternative that allows the bees to remove themselves. Rather than forcibly blowing the bees out from within the hive, with the risk of losing the queen and having to rebuild, the escape board allows you to transform your inner cover into a one-way street for the bees that enables them to freely move out of the supers you wish to harvest.
The escape board provides an economical solution to separating bees from their honey without the use of physical force or chemical substances. Given the wide variety of formats currently available, explore the options through this article and then consider what your beekeeping practices are, and what types of escape boards may be best for your hives.
Depending upon whether you prefer a simple plastic insert that attaches into the hole of your inner door, or a wooden board with the insert containing the hole already designed into the product, you have choices. While the wooden designs are more appealing in terms of look, they may also be easier to use as they may simply be slipped between the super and the inner door to allow for the bees to begin moving and separating themselves from the honey.
Ease of Use
The bee escape boards reviewed are easy to install and begin to work immediately upon having been put in place. Through the use of the escape board, you will find a solution to bee from honey separation that is minimally invasive and chemical-free. Stay tuned to the Beekeeper Center for further tips on how to better care for your bees, and the tricks of the trade to do so naturally.