Building and Using Follower Boards

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:

To quote from Rusty over at Honey Bee Suite:

    “…the bees can collect on the follower boards without sitting on the brood. In hot weather, the bees have a hard time keeping the brood cool enough, and sitting on it makes it worse. So both follower boards and slatted racks give the bees a place to ‘hang out.’ This also reduces the feeling of congestion in the hive and congestion is a major factor in swarming.”

I used my follower boards for about two years and they worked as advertised. My colonies that had follower boards in the hives did really well. But for me, they’re like slatted racks — I’d love to use them but I don’t have the carpentry skills to build them, and now that I’ve gone so many years without using them, I feel like I can do without the added expense and trouble of using them. So I don’t.

This year (2019), I plan to shift to 9-frame brood chambers instead. Once the spring population is building up well, I’ll remove one frame and then centre the remaining 9 frames. This will provide space along the edges of the deep for the bees to hang out and get off the brood, as well as providing more space for ventilation. It should also give me enough room on the edges to prevent rolling the queen or any other bees when I pull out the first frame during inspections.

For anyone interested learning more about follower boards and how to use them, I’d look over these posts from Honey Bee Suite:

Follower boards in a Langstroth hive and How to make follower boards for a Langstroth hive.

June 7th, 2021: I find I’m circling back to follower boards (dummy boards) again. My experiments with a 9-frame brood nest turned out well. Some of the colonies filled in the extra space left by the missing 10th frame and that was a mess. But all the colonies that had 9 frames with the extra space on the sides were more robust than any of my other colonies. I made the same observation back when I first used follower boards. Coincidence? Maybe. But it’s worth a shot to give it another go. I’m not a carpenter. I can barely cut a straight line. But I hope to try out the follower boards again as soon as I can.

2 thoughts on “Building and Using Follower Boards

  1. Hi, Phillip — As I told Rusty on HBS, I found it was easy to cut the top bar in half by using a grooved bar. I just clamped it and cut along the groove with a hand saw. I did use a jig saw on the masonite, though. The ventilation rim is next. Once again, thanks for your easy-to-follow instructions.

  2. You know if you clamp something straight onto what you are cutting to act as a fence you can just slide the plate on your saw along it. You need to measure back from the line you want to cut to clamp the fence at the right distance.

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