Should You Use a Screened Bottom Board in Winter?
In beekeeping the bottom board is the floor of the beehive. There are 2 different types of bottom boards – solid and screened. Both types have advantages and disadvantages, and it is up the beekeeper to decide which one they like best.
This article is all about the screened bottom board. Here, you’ll learn what a screened bottom board is, pros and cons of using one, and how to use a screened bottom board in winter.
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What is a Screened Bottom Board?
In a beehive, the bottom board is the base, or floor of the hive. All other components of the hive will sit on the bottom board. The bottom board also contains the entrance to the hive, where the bees will enter and exit.
The 2 types of bottom board are solid and screened. In a Langstroth hive, the bottom board is easily removable, so you can switch between a solid and screened bottom board when you see fit. Because of this, some beekeepers like to change their bottom board with the season.
The bottom board closes up the bottom of the hive, thus protecting the bees from predators and some pests. A screened bottom board also provides the hive with much needed ventilation.
It’s important to have a well ventilated hive so the bees don’t have to exert themselves too much just to keep the hive cool. Instead, the bees can use their energy for other activities, such as building comb and making honey.
Benefits of a Screened Bottom Board
- Pest Prevention
One of the main benefits of a screened bottom board is that it provides ventilation for the hive. This is especially important if you live in a hot or humid climate. Screened bottom boards also help to prevent condensation from building up in the hive.
Another reason many beekeepers like screened bottom boards is because it helps with pest prevention and monitoring. Varroa mites and small hive beetles will get caught on the screen when they fall through the hive. Checking the screen periodically will give you a good idea of if there is a pest issue in your hive.
A screened bottom board is also helpful when doing the powdered sugar shake (or sugar roll) method. This method includes coating the bees with powdered sugar to encourage the bees to groom each other. The grooming will cause the mites to be removed from the bees and fall to the screen.
If you are doing a mite count, a sticky board will be placed beneath the screen. This will catch the fallen mites and allow you to do an estimate of the mite population in your hive. It is thought that using a screened bottom board reduces mite infestation by about 20%.
Debris such as pollen, bits of beeswax, and pests are constantly dropping down through the hive. If you have a solid bottom board all of that debris will accumulate until the beekeeper removes it.
Leaving such debris there is not a good thing because pests, such as roaches, wax moths and small hive beetles will reproduce in it. If you use a screened bottom board, this is not a problem because much of the debris will fall through the screen.
Disadvantages of a Screened Bottom Board
If you live in a very cold climate, a screened bottom board could make it difficult for the bees to keep the hive warm. In the winter, the core of a honey bee cluster is a warm 95°F. Honey bees maintain this heat by vibrating their wing muscles.
Because a screened bottom board is open, the hive may be colder than if there was a solid bottom board in place. That being said, many beekeepers continue to use a screened bottom board in winter.
Should You Use a Screened Bottom Board in Winter?
While they have been traditionally used mostly in hot climates, lately many beekeepers have been using screened bottom boards in winter. That’s because bees need air and ventilation even in the cold months.
I mentioned above that temperature could be an issue with screened boards, as they allow cold air in. So why would a beekeeper use a screened bottom board in winter?
They do so for ventilation. When bees form a winter cluster, condensation naturally occurs. If you use a solid bottom board, the ventilation is limited and the condensation has nowhere to go.
A screened bottom board, on the other hand, provides ample ventilation, so condensation – and wet bees, is not an issue.
In other words, many beekeepers feel that while bees can adapt to the colder temperature a screened bottom board in winter may cause, they cannot handle the lack of ventilation.
Bees can adapt to cold temperatures, but they cannot handle lack of ventilation.
How to Use a Screened Bottom Board
Learning how to use a screened bottom board is extremely easy. All you need to do is put it on the hive in place of the solid bottom board and you’re good to go. Langstroth hives are designed so bottom boards can easily be removed and interchanged even with bees in the hive, so you are free to switch out your bottom boards as you see fit.
To ensure that your bottom board, and hive for that matter, lasts for a long time, make sure to use a hive stand. Bottom boards are made out of wood and can be damaged if left on the wet ground. A hive stand will elevate the hive, keeping it off the ground and away from ground moisture.
Recommended Screened Bottom Board
I’ve used a screened bottom board in winter and in summer. The one that I have had good results with is from Hoover Hives.
Hoover Hives Screened Bottom Board
This screened really well made, using fir wood for it’s tight knit and durable qualities. As Hoover Hives is known for, this bottom board is also coated in 100% beeswax. This protects the wood from rain and snow, preventing warping and mold.
Wax coated hive parts are a lot safer for bees than toxic paint. In fact, many times bees even take to wax coated hives faster than painted hives due to the familiarity of 100% beeswax.
Another feature of Hoover Hives screened bottom board is that it comes with a plastic insert. This plastic tray is useful for doing mite monitoring. To use it, place the insert in the bottom board for 24 hours. Then, remove the tray and count how many mites have dropped. This number can help you have an idea of the overall number of mites in your hive.
Some beekeepers will also leave the plastic insert in throughout winter if they feel that the hive is losing too much heat. In this sense, screened bottom boards with plastic inserts are very versatile, as they can be used both open and closed.
The dimensions of Hoover Hives screened bottom board is 16-1/4″ x 22″ x 2-9/16″. These are standard dimensions for all Langstroth hives, making this bottom board interchangeable with any hive you have.
Overall, it’s a well made hive part that does it’s job and will last for seasons to come. If you would like to try Hoover Hives screened bottom board use coupon code COMPLETEBEEHIVES for 5% off your order, or click the button below.
The bottom board is the base, or floor of a hive. Many beekeepers use a screened bottom board in winter for increased ventilation, pest management, and to avoid a build up of debris.