By Paul Kelly
What sets our bottom boards apart from most is the fact that there is no landing board or projection at the hive entrance. The bottom board is flush with the brood chamber on all sides. Most bottom boards have this projection to give the bees a place to land prior to entering the hive. Have you ever noticed how easily bees enter a wild nest in a hollow tree with no landing strip? In my opinion, since bees don’t really need this area for landing it should be eliminated, unless it benefits the beekeeper.
The disadvantages of having the bottom board project from the hive are as follows:
- This area tends to rot as it is constantly exposed to the elements.
- The projection is awkward and tends to catch on things when you are moving hives.
- It is especially important to have the hive sloped so that the entrance is lowest or rain, snow, etc. landing on the projection will run into the hive creating an unhealthy environment for the bees and further promote wood rot.
- When using pollen traps the slope of the hive has to be reversed as the projection of the bottom board is now at the back of the hive.
- Some varroa trap designs require that the bottom board be reversed front to back creating the same problems as with pollen traps.
- When using plywood to construct bottom boards two less bottom boards can be made per sheet of plywood when the projection is included.
- The projection prevents winter wraps from extending to the base of the bottom board. Winter wraps that go all the way to the bottom of the hive shed all precipitation and reduce drafts in the hive. It is, of course, necessary to ensure that bees have access to the bottom entrance.
The advantages of having the bottom board project include:
- The projection can improve bee access to the entrance if vegetation in front of the entrance is long.
- When moving colonies the projection helps space the hives apart on the truck bed and abutting bottom boards* provide a platform for bees to cluster on when they are hot. (With flush bottom boards the telescoping lids provide spacing)
When moving hives load the colonies with the entrances facing each other. That way bees cluster only on the front surfaces of the hive and you can handle the hives by the sides and back with minimal stinging.
Obviously bottom board design is not one of the most burning issues of beekeeping today, but if you happen to be replacing your bottom boards this winter you might want to consider building them to fit flush with the brood chamber. Long bottom boards can be trimmed shorter on the table saw after nails in the line of the saw cut are removed. Use cheaper carbide tipped skill saw blade on the table saw just in case you miss removing the odd nail. We construct our bottom boards using 1 5/8” x 3/4” pine for the rims and 1/2” thick, select fir plywood for the floor. After they are glued, and nailed with galvanized nails, we soak them in hot paraffin to extend their lifespan.
Originally Published in the Ontario Bee Journal