I got creative this summer and built a solid bottom board and a screened bottom board from scrap wood in my shed. I can’t continue to use either of them for long because the wood I used is old and half rotted and I’m afraid the boards will collapse under the weight of the hives during the winter, and around here that means damp and soggy, great conditions for softening up old plywood. So I went ahead and got more creative with my limited carpentry skills and woefully inadequate tools (or maybe it’s the other way around), and I built a new and improved sturdy bottom board that is both screened and solid. I won’t have a chance to put it into action this year, but I’ll show it off anyway. Here it is as a screened bottom board:
Its February 2019 and I’ve deleted the original post from 2011. I don’t make or often use screened inner covers. They add a bit too much ventilation at times. But I do on occasion drop an empty moisture quilt on top of a hive like this:
See Moisture Quilt in a Nutshell for more details.
I made this bottom board from scrap wood I found in my shed today:
I cut the thick plywood 16.5 inches wide (about 42cm) and 2 feet long (70cm). The brace wood, if you want to call it that, was the same dimensions as a super, 20 inches by about 15 inches, something like that. The hive entrance (once a hive is placed on top) is about 1 and a quarter inches high, which is fine. It’s not pretty but the bees don’t care about pretty. I think it’ll work. I’ll post a photo of it in a day or two when I put a hive on top of it. I should have been making these all along. It’s way cheaper than ordering them from a supplier and having them shipped here. If you had to pay for the raw material, though, I’m guessing it would be less than $5.
February 9th, 2013: This bottom board has worked out fine. It’s ugly and half rotted now, but the bees don’t seem to care. Today I would use thick plywood instead of chipboard, and I’d paint it, but there’s nothing wrong with getting by with one made from cheap scrap wood.
January 20th, 2015: Don’t lay this flat-bottom bottom board on a pallet or any kind of flat surface (like a pallet), if that makes sense. The wood can easily become moist, and you don’t want moisture in the hive. You want the hive off the ground, but preferably with something that makes minimal contact with the bottom board. And by “you,” I mean me.
I’ve since converted all of my fabulously patented ventilation rims into moisture quilts. See the updates at the end for more details. And of course I’m joking about the trademark… and the patent. A fun update: It’s 2021 and I’m still using the same rim, the actual one shown in this post, though I don’t use moisture quilts as much as I used to.
I made some improvements to the design of my ventilation rim (also known as a ventilation eke; also known as a vent box; also known as a whole bunch of other things because beekeepers are the worst for settling on a single name for one thing). It’s still cheap and easy to make and should do a fine job at improving the ventilation of any Langstroth-type hive. First, I cut four pieces of wood for the front, back and sides of the rim. Here’s a shot of the side pieces:
Well, not really making a ventilator rim. I already made it and it looks like this:
Like the name implies, it provides ventilation for the hive. And as far as I know, it’s good to have on the hive any time of the year, though for the winter I might stick with my insulated inner hive covers. They worked out well this past winter.
It’s February 21st, 2019. I’ve rewritten this post because it was too long. Follower boards are used to prevent swarming and help regulate ventilation inside the hive.
Imagine a regular deep frame. Then imagine it has thin flat board in it instead of foundation or comb. Then imagine it’s half the width of a regular frame. That’s a follower board. My first homemade follower board looked like this:
In a typical 10-frame deep, one frame is removed and the follower boards are placed on the edges. So you’ve got a follower board, 9 regular frames, and then another follower board. Every deep in the brood chamber is configured in this way. Here’s what my first two follower boards looked like installed in a regular deep super:
This 2-minute video pretty much covers everything that I write about in this post.
(I just noticed a typo in the video. Damn. “27Â°C” should be 27Â°F.)
I plan to install these frame feeders as soon as possible. They arrived today from BeeMaid. The feeders have bee ladders: tubes of plastic mesh the bees crawl down as a way of drinking the syrup without drowning in it. The feeders hold 7 litres of syrup and take up the space of two frames in the brood chamber. (7 litres = 1.85 US gallons.)
My Boardman feeders attract ants, wasps and even big ugly slugs. (The Boardman feeders also encourage robbing at times from other bees.) It’s not a problem for the bees in Hive #1 because their numbers are so high, they can take care of themselves. But Hive #2 is weaker and having wasps around probably doesn’t help.
Not having to poke around the hives as much may be another advantage of switching to frame feeders. Hive #1 sucks up about a litre of syrup from the Boardman feeder every three days. If the bees continue at that pace, it could take them up to three weeks to empty 7 litres from the frame feeder, though we’ll likely refill it every two weeks after regular inspections regardless. (UPDATE: The bees drink much faster from the frame feeders. I should have had these things in from the start.)
I introduced some foundationless frames to Hive #1 this weekend. I’ll tell you why and I’ll tell you how. Here’s one of my foundationless frames:
It’s November 2018. I’m slowly rewriting this blog and this is the first post from the very beginning that I’ve decided not to delete. The original post from May 2010 was a bunch of photos of me smacking together my first hive with nails and glue. Not much to see, really. Not much to talk about either because most people starting out will buy pre-cut wooden hive components just like I did and simply nail or screw them together. It takes a lot of work to goof it up seeing how there’s only one way the pieces fit together. So I won’t bother with detailed instructions. I’ll briefly touch on hive design instead, explain some confusing terminology and then show how all the hive pieces go together.
New beekeepers have more than a few types of hives to choose from. Some include WarrÃ© hives, horizontal top bar hives, vertical Langstroth-type hives and even skeps for those ready to dive off the deep end. But hey, whatever turns your crank. I was initially attracted to the so-called natural approach to beekeeping promoted by WarrÃ© and top bar hive beekeepers, but I’m not sure there’s such a thing as natural beekeeping because when you get right down to it, beekeeping by definition is unnatural, just like carrots growing in a row is unnatural. We’re harnessing a force of nature. That doesn’t make it natural. Beekeeping, gardening, all those outdoors things, can create a more personal connection to nature, but I’m wary of calling it natural. In any case, looking back, I’m glad I chose a type of hive that has a good track record in my local climate, which happens to be the totally unnatural Langstroth hive, the most commonly used hive in North America. It looks something like this: