Bee escape boards...

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NickWallingford

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The ‘classic’ bee escape, the Porter Bee Escape, was first described in 1891 as being invented by E.C. Porter. Just over a year later, it was referred to as the favourite method of taking off frames of honey in NZ.

https://www.beekeeping.nz/NZBDA/Bee_escapes/1943_02_Journal_Ag_Bee_escapes.pdf

Many times the escape (or more than one) is fitted to a plain inner cover with a slot for the escape to be fitted. It is also used as part of the Hodgson Ventilated Bee Escape Board, with the only difference being most of the board area is covered with mesh rather than hardboard.

I’ve never especially liked or trusted the Porter escape. I’ve had a bee get stuck between the two wires, or had the bees block the entrance with wax.

New Zealand beekeepers have regularly used two other bee escapes. I’m fairly certain that both were first made in Canada. The fact that neither has any ‘moving parts’ appeals to me, and given the performance they have a lot going for them.

The first might sometimes be called a ‘diamond bee escape’. As well as for bee escapes, the same principle is sometimes applied to make a bee escape in the corner of a window to allow bees out, but not back in.

https://www.beekeeping.nz/NZBDA/Bee_escapes/1951_08_Escape_board.pdf

Most boards I’ve seen had two fitted on diagonal corners of the board. My only real objection is it requires the bees to go to the corners in order to exit, which could cause some problems in clearing the super. As well, if there is a big cluster of bees hanging about the exit, it doesn’t act so much like a one way valve any more - the bees will be able to go back up into the honey.

This last one fixes both of those issues. I think it may be called a "rhombus bee escape". I first remember seeing this style at Airborne Honey in the middle 1970s and thought it was a great design, ticking all the boxes for construction and use.

https://www.beekeeping.nz/NZBDA/Bee_escapes/1958_09_Bee_escape.pdf

In most cases, bees will readily leave the honey to go through an escape board down to the brood area. Any brood at all in the top boxes will see a complete failure. Even exposed comb, such as between honey boxes if you had to lift them to put on the board can cause the bees to remain. Hot weather can do it, too, sometimes.

Finally, here is a gadget that Airborne used to use to allow you to insert an escape board easily without lifting off the (multiple) boxes of honey. The “cracker” works well, even to lift 3 full depth boxes. Jasper Bray’s version had the spacers connected by a strip of steel, tilted so that it doesn’t get in the way when putting the board in.

https://www.beekeeping.nz/NZBDA/Bee_escapes/1954_03_Hive_cracker.pdf

When we came back the next day to take the honey, we did it using the Kelly Boom Loader to lift the full boxes of honey straight to the truck while the other worker did a thorough AFB inspection before the honey was put into place on the drip trays.

They aren’t perfect, and probably not widely used, especially commercially as it involves two trips, but I must say that a good session with escape boards can be a pleasant way to take honey. Categorically better than using fume boards (carbolic or benzaldehyde) - they leave nasty flavours (and gave me a headache). And quieter than a blower.
 
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its great to see the history behind it.
its surprising how many commercial guys do use escape boards tho. it does cut down on robbing issues. not winding the bees up so much.
but missing brood is a common problem resulting in some really annoyed extraction staff.

My only real objection is it requires the bees to go to the corners in order to exit, which could cause some problems in clearing the super.
this is where i see a bit of difference between beeks. the theory behind putting the escapes at the ends or corners is that the bees loose contact with the brood and then go around the outside trying to find their way back. this depends on if your working on the theory that the loss of brood smells is what drives them down, due to the hard cover. where as the mesh type bee escapes ignore that.

i use a few types. the porters are usually pretty good. the odd stuck bee in them, which is why you have multiple outlets per board. but they are easy to clear. stuck bees in some of the other types is a major problem to clear them.
plus porters, if the wires/leaf's are set correctly are the only true one way escape.
 

Alastair

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This is what I am using now, better than anything else I have used.

Gets the great majority of bees out in 24 hours but to really get nearly all out you need 48 hours, as with any other escape board.

And also as with any other escape board you need room under the board for the bees to go into. On a pumping strong hive with a choca brood nest you will not get them all out, with any board.

Two cons with this board, the bees can build comb in the space under the board, and they can also plug the little escape holes. Surprising how much work a strong hive can do on the board even in 24 hours. But just cast your eye over the escape holes after each use to ensure they are still open and you are good.

 

NickWallingford

BOP Club
321
470
Tauranga
Experience
Retired
this is where i see a bit of difference between beeks. the theory behind putting the escapes at the ends or corners is that the bees loose contact with the brood and then go around the outside trying to find their way back. this depends on if your working on the theory that the loss of brood smells is what drives them down, due to the hard cover. where as the mesh type bee escapes ignore that.
The advantage I saw to the rhombus style was it had 2 quite large holes, which hopefully provides some idea of where the cluster is. But you're right - a properly adjusted Porter escape, without additional wax and propolis and dead bees, must surely be the standard.
 

NickWallingford

BOP Club
321
470
Tauranga
Experience
Retired
And also as with any other escape board you need room under the board for the bees to go into. On a pumping strong hive with a choca brood nest you will not get them all out, with any board.
I made some with about 60mm rim on the lower side. Never really tested it properly, but it seemed to clear at least as good as a normal rim. But I've read of that making the difference between one day (deep rim) or two days (normal). Makes sense, but like you say if there is anything coming in they can make a mess of that space.
 
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