Slatted Bottom Boards
I’m in the process of mulling over the addition of a slatted bottom board to my Maisemore Poly hive. Woodworking is not a skill that I have honed over the years, nor did I learn it at my father’s knee, so bodging is the route I usually take. I’m quite good at it and it allows for a certain freedom, since one doesn’t know the rules, so can’t be bound by them. Here is a mock up that I am playing with at the moment.
My motivation to make one of these is influenced by a number of things;
- I want to create more room in the hive for when I’m attempting to stuff the bees into a single brood body in Autumn, so that I can give them the varroa treatment without any supers on. So far I have failed in this and my three production hives have overwintered with a super on below the brood box and I will have to melt down the wax as the Apivar treatment went on with these supers in place – annoying!
- I like the Kewel (underfloor) entrances to hives that can be kept in place all year and which reduce wasp and mouse nuisance without need for excluders and entrance reducers.
- If there is a fast Spring build up, it will reduce the impulse to swarm as there will be space for bees to hang out (theoretically).
- And finally, Rusty at Honeybeesuite has them on her hives and says the queens lay brood right to the bottom of the brood frames and that she wouldn’t be without them.
Of course, there are designs and measurements available on the internet but these are mainly for Langstroth hives (which they seem to use in the USA) and anyhow, would I follow some else’s design when I can try to reinvent the wheel? Why no! That’s what being retired/ creative/ independent/pig-headed is all about 🙂 There’d be no fun otherwise!
At the moment there are three things that I have discovered, having made the bare bones of a prototype;
- My slats are not big enough. When we talk about creating space for bees to hang out (rather than space for air movement), I need surface area. So I’m thinking of beefing up my slats and using, what is technically called door stop. I think these will be placed with the narrow side uppermost. It will increase the surface area available for hanging out below the frames.
- A Kewel entrance usually comes up from underneath and then the bees arrive at hive floor level. In my case bees would enter at an eke height above the mesh floor, at the level of the slats. This is all fine, but in Winter, if I have some dead bees falling onto the wire mesh below the slats, it will be the devil of a job for the poor undertaker bees to hoik the dead bees up to the top of the slats and then down the Kewel exit. So I think I’ll need an entrance at mesh floor level. This essentially will compromise the Kewel floor idea. I do have a plan – when buying some frames and wax at the local bee store (National Bee Supplies, no less), I noticed some castellated metal spacers for frames. I might cut these down to make make smaller entrances at mesh floor level and if I juxtapose them on either side of the wooden bar I’m using, they will disguise the lower entrance and make it difficult for wasps amd mice to get in, but perfectly fiine for bees. The problem I see is that if I go with the Kewel floor and mesh level entrance, the bees will have two entrances to defend. Hmmmm!
- Finally, there will be an obvious bodge. I would like to make rabbit joints at the corners of my slatted bottom board eke, but I don’t have the skill set. I’m going to have to go for butt edges and use glue and screw, then hope for the best wrt weather proofing.
It all makes for a challenging and rewarding project and an interesting experiment with the bees, when the season starts. Some people have reported that occasionally, but unusually, colonies build drone comb attached to the bottom of the slats, hanging down into the eke space. I don’t see that as a problem since it would make for easy removal of drone comb as part of an integrated approach to varroa management.
Meanwhile….. my son had a 3D printer for Christmas and is eager to make something that would be useful. I suggested hive entrances might benefit from a makeover. I always get into trouble fitting mouse guards – fingers and thumbs, thinking it will be quick and not getting fully suited up, not lighting my smoker, not having stong enough fingers to push the pins in to hold it and, there is no universal entrance/reducer, never mind mouse guard fitting unless you buy/build just one type of hive every time. I think he was a bit disappointed and thought I’d want him to print a whole hive, but I don’t know what you think, but the hive entrance and the security it provides to the colony is a really critical design issue.
For now, I’m happy putting the slatted bottom board together and trying it out in due course. I hope all of you find the time and have the pleasure of preparing for, and looking ahead to, the beekeeping season in Spring.
Rusty Burlew’s blog on slatted bottom boards
Beekeeper and vlogger Adam – ‘sqeptick’ – gives his reasons for using slatted bottom boards