Whether you're new to the beekeeping community or you're a beekeeping veteran, you may wonder, which type of bee hive bottom board is better? If you're a beginner, you may not even know what a bottom board is, let alone the different bottom boards available for you to choose from. In this article, we will analyze bee hive bottom boards, discuss the different types available, and outline the pros and cons of each so you can make a good decision on which to use.
Before we get started, here's a quick look at the components of a bee hive for all the newbies.
Bee Hive Components
coat the wood
Modern-day beekeeping has brought about a variety of different man-made bee hives. To keep this brief, we will limit our components overview to the most commonly used bee hive which is called a Langstroth. The basic components for this type of bee hive include the bee hive bottom board, the supers, the frames, the queen excluder, and the covers.
Bee Hive Bottom Board
As the name suggests, it is the bottom board of the bee hive which all other components rest upon.
- Removable/Reversible Mouse Guards/Entrance Reducers
- Embedded stainless steel mesh and slide out inspection board
- Molded technopolymer (no BPA) in soft white color, never needs painting!
Bee Hive Supers
Deep Super – A wooden box used to house the wax frames that sits on top of the bottom board. More than one deep super can be used and stacked upon each other.
Honey Super – A wooden box used to house the honey frames that sits on top of the queen excluder.
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Bee Hive Frames
- Solid construction- hive super is made from new Zealand pine. Joints for easy assembly and added strength.
- Inner cover-allows ventilation and additional entrance.
- Please note-please read carefully this listing comes with no frames or foundations. We do not want to confuse or mislead...
Deep Super Frames – Frames used to hold the brood comb – the wax structure where the queen lays her eggs.
Honey Frames – Frames used to hold the honey.
A flat rack with holes small enough to keep the queen inside, and large enough to allow worker bees to enter her chamber.
Bee Hive Covers
Inner Cover – A wooden cover that sits on top of the honey super with an entrance/exit hole.
Outer Cover – This cover fits over the inner cover and usually has a metal top to resist weather.
In addition to the above components, modern-day bee hives may also contain a hive stand, an entrance reducer, and bee feeders. We recommended that you use a hive stand to keep your hive off the ground. A hive stand can be as simple as a few cement blocks stacked on top of each other.
Now that all the newbies know the basic components of a bee hive, we're ready to take an in-depth look at bee hive bottom boards. Without further ado, on to the review!
Solid vs Screened
Within the world of bee hive bottom boards, also known as SBB's, there are 2 different types to choose from. The first type being a solid bottom board which has been used for more than 100 years! The second type being a screened bottom board which arrived on the scene around the year 1993 when the Varroa mite became a world-wide problem for bees and beekeepers alike.
Screened bottom boards were used in an integrated pest management study to better understand the Varroa mite's behaviors. Integrated pest management is also known as IPM in the beekeeping world.
Since then, screened bottom boards have become more widely used among the beekeeping community. Yet others prefer the traditional solid bottom board. There is much debate among beekeepers regarding which type of bee hive bottom board is better, and it seems that each type of board has its benefits and drawbacks. Here's what beekeepers are saying.
While some argue that solid bottom boards keep your bees warmer during the cold seasons, others say the screened option allows better ventilation and reduces moisture build-up during the cold season. While some stand behind the screened bottom boards ability help reduce the threat of Varroa mites, others say screened bottom boards allow other pests to enter the hive. One example is a tiny type of beetle which can fit through the screens #8 size mesh.
It seems both options have pros and cons. To make this easier, we have broken down the details of each bee hive bottom board a little further. First, we'll take a look at the solid version.
As previously mentioned, the solid board is the base-layer of your bee hive. Solid bottom boards on average cost less when compared to their screened counter parts, with wood being less expensive than wire.
Solid bottom boards are most often made of pine or other types of soft wood, but they can also be made from plastic. (We recommend the wood version because it's more natural than plastic.) Wood boards may be a 1-piece design or a jointed design. The size of a solid bottom board will vary depending on the number of frames that your beehive has.
Most solid bottom boards come fully assembled. Wood options come painted or unpainted as styles and designs will vary among different manufacturers.
Pricing varies depending on the size, the materials used, and the seller. On average a solid bottom board costs $21.13.
Pricing varies depending on the size, the materials used, and the seller. On average, a solid bottom board costs $21.13.
Ease of Use
Solid boards commonly come fully assembled.
Arrives assembled but needs slight modification.
There are a variety of styles to choose from.
This varies among different manufacturers/sellers.
Screened Bee Hive Bottom Board
The screened option is also placed as the base layer of your bee hive. Screened boards were introduced to beekeeping during a Varroa mite infestation that took the beekeeping world by storm in 1993. With the use of a screened bottom board in place, Vorroa mites that fall to the bottom of the hive become trapped under the screen, making it impossible for them to re-attach themselves to the bees. A sticky board can also be placed under the screen so beekeepers can perform a Varroa mite drop count and assess the infestation.
Studies have shown that the use of a screened bottom board can reduce Vorroa mites by 20% within a hive. Beekeepers quickly took to the idea of using screened boards to help reduce mites, and also for the added ventilation that they offer.
As more people began using the screens, an unforeseen problem was discovered.
With screened bottoms in place, some bees became confused by the scent of pheromones coming from within the hive. They would then form a cluster under the screen and produce comb on the exterior of the hive. This behavior left the comb, and the bees exposed and unprotected. When this occurs, it nullifies the screen's functionality because it blocks ventilation and it prevents debris and pests from falling through.
The frame of a screened board is usually made from wood and comes painted or unpainted depending on the manufacturer. The screen is made with a # 8 wire mesh. The overall dimensions of a screened bottom board will vary depending on the number of frames that your beehive has.
Pricing varies depending on the size, the materials used, and the seller. On average a screened bottom board costs $40.00.
Pricing varies depending on the size, the materials used, and the seller. On average, a screened bottom board costs $40.00.
Ease of Use
Simply place it as the bottom layer of your hive and build upwards.
Screened boards commonly come fully assembled.
There are a variety of styles to choose from.
This varies among different manufacturers/sellers.
Beekeeping varies from region to region making the debate over solid bottom boards vs. screened bottom boards a difficult one to resolve. Since such a big part of beekeeping revolves around the climate in which one lives, the best techniques of beekeeping cannot really be set in stone. Rather, each beekeeper adopts their own techniques that best suit them, usually after a series of trial and error.
Some beekeepers in the north use a solid bottom board to keep cold, winter air out, other beekeepers in the south use a screened bottom board to ventilate a hot hive. Somewhere in between is a group that believes bees are very efficient at cooling and heating themselves naturally, using their own instinctive techniques. Still, some opt for 2 hives and experiment with both types of bottom boards.
It's true; solid bottom boards have been used all over the world with no problem for centuries! Using a solid bottom board in your hive will more closely replicate a natural hive enclosure. Ultimately, we believe this is the way to go. We've taken all the above information into consideration and have determined that we prefer solid bottom boards to screened bottom boards. Here is a recap of why.
Solid boards cost a bit less than screened boards do, which is always a plus! Solid boards keep a hive warmer in the winter, resulting in early brood rearing and increased amounts of brood. The dark atmosphere inside a closed hive causes the queen to lay her eggs further down inside the hive. Also, having a closed hive eliminates the issue of bees forming a cluster on the exterior, leaving them and their precious comb exposed and unprotected.
Screened Bottom Boards – 3-star rating.
Solid Bottom Boards – 5-star rating!
In listening to what different beekeepers have to say about their beekeeping experiences, one fact remains the same. No two beekeeping experiences are alike. Most people go through many trials and errors before they find their sweet spot. Just when they think they've got it all figured out, a curve ball comes into play, forcing them to regroup and re-strategize. There is not one piece of equipment that will prevent the challenges of beekeeping from occurring.
The beekeeping industry has experienced its fair share of curve balls too over the years, from the threat of Africanized bees to the Varroa mite and more recently Colony Collapse Disorder. The ever-changing beekeeping industry results in new methods and equipment being introduced as time goes on, and beekeepers will continue to adapt and change their techniques.
Unfortunately, over the years the economic factor involved with beekeeping has led to the adoption of poor and unsustainable practices which negatively impact the livelihood of bees worldwide. Better than any one piece of equipment, having respect for these creatures is the key factor in your success as a beekeeper. The success of a beekeeper is not measured on a monetary scale; rather it's measured in the appreciation that one develops for nature.
First and foremost, we should always approach beekeeping with the best interest of the bees at heart. Beekeeping is one way that allows us the opportunity to work together with nature. It is a beautiful and educational experience that is well worth the challenges involved. In this day and age, being connected to nature is a very important and often neglected aspect of our lives.
There may come a day in the near future when bees will rely on us to provide hives for them. While that is not the case today, we should still build every beehive as if that were true, and always closely replicate a bee's natural habitat for the well-being of their species. For this reason, we prefer a solid bottom board for our beehives.
In closing, we truly believe that beekeepers must embody love and respect for their bees. Everything else seems to fall into place after that.