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Beehive Bottom Boards-Which Type is Best?

Getting your beehive equipment ready before the bees arrive is one of your first major beekeeping tasks. As you gather everything needed for your bees, you will notice different options for bottom boards for beehives. Most hives have either a solid bottom or one with screen. Each type has advantages-it is up to you to decide which one to use.

Langstroth hive with bottom board base of a hive image.

Choosing a Bottom Board for Your Beehive

Your skills as a beekeeper will grow quickly if you have a good understanding of the various parts of a beehive. Knowing the function of each will allow you to try other options as your beekeeping expertise grows.

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What better place to start than the base or floor of a beehive called a bottom board. The most common types of bee hive in use is the Langstroth hive-so we will discuss that one.

For many years, solid bottom boards were the industry standard. As a foundation of the hive, they did a good job.

In recent years, the use of bottom boards with screen inserts have become more popular. Which is better for your beehive?

Lets explore considerations and review some tips for choosing the best bottom boards for your bees.

Langstroth hive entrance with bees choosing the best bottom boards for beehives image.

What Does A Bottom Board Do?

First, let’s understand the function of a bottom board. It is the base or floor of the beehive.  All the other bee boxes of the hive sit on this base.

Because of the way it is made, the bottom board also provides an entrance to the beehive. Those little sides and piece at the back, provide a way for bees to enter the box stack.

This entrance is easily reduced or closed entirely using entrance reducers or even a good stick. We want to reduce the size of the opening according to conditions or colony population.

Another purpose of the bottom board is to protect the bottom of the hive from larger predators such as mice, opossums etc. This can be very beneficial if you live in an area with many small predators.

Most bottom boards for beehives are made of wood. They will last longer if they are elevated off the ground.

Take the time to construct a hive stand for your beehives. Raising the hive off the ground not only protects your wood – it also saves your back while doing hive inspections.

Choosing the Best Beehive Bottom Board

Beekeepers have 2 different types of bottom boards to choose from.

  • solid bottom board
  • screened bottom board

Solid Bottom Boards have been in use for more than 100 years. They are part of the original Langstroth hive design.

The use of screened bottoms for a beehive base came into use in the years since varroa mites become a problem for our hives. Which type of bottom board is best for your hives? Honestly, both types have advantages.

Benefits of Using Solid Bottom Boards

Solid bottom board for beehive image.

Solid Bottoms Boards are Cheaper to Build.

It is hard to believe that wire is more expensive than wood. However, that is often true.

Usually made of pine or other soft wood, it does not require a lot of expertise to build a solid wooden bottom. The most difficult part is to build the sides at the correct height to allow a standard bee entrance.

Earlier Brood Rearing is Possible

Solid Bottom Boards can help keep the hive warmer during in early Spring.  Some beekeepers believe that a solid base encourages earlier bee brood rearing.

Also, the increased darkness inside the hive, may cause the queen to lay further down in the hive body. Therefore using more of the available comb space.

Disadvantages of Solid Bottom Boards

All through the year, debris will drop down through the hive. Dropped pollen, beeswax, propolis and pests will accumulate on the solid floor.

This accumulation of hive debris can cause pest problems. You may have wax moths or Small Hive Beetles reproducing in the debris. For this reason, the board should be cleaned several times a year.

Taking routine mite drop counts are more difficult with solid bottom boards. Some beekeepers use natural mite drops as a measure of varroa infestation.

With solid bottoms, you will need to purchase a special wire/sticky board combination to do a mite drop count. Otherwise, your honey bees will stick to the count board!

Benefits of Using Screened Bottom Boards

Using a screened bottom board for bee hives image.

Taking Mite Counts with Screen Bottom Boards

Screened Bottom Boards gained popularity among beekeepers during the influx of varroa mites. They were originally designed to be part of an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) system.

Researchers understood that a small percentage of mites drop from adult bees during grooming. Any mites that fell through the screen to the ground would not make it back into the hive.

While the screened bottom only removed a small percentage of varroa mites, it helped with mite control in another way.

The screen allowed for an easy method of testing for mites. A “sticky board” could be placed under the wire bottom board.

The wire screen of the bottom board keeps the bees off the sticky board.  Mites falling through land on the sticky board.

This enables the beekeeper to count the natural mite drop. And they can estimate the level of mite infestation in the colony.

Screened Bottom Boards Provide Better Ventilation

Screened Bottom Boards definitely provide better hive ventilation. Even during Winter, our hives need to have good ventilation.

A Screened Bottom Board makes hive ventilation easier for the bees because is helps air flow throughout the hive.

Living in an area with Small Hive Beetles, I choose to use Screened Bottom Boards for heat relief. Bee hives placed in full Sun are less plagued by hive beetles.

But it gets hot out there in the sun during July! Having Screened Bottom Boards helps my bees control the heat inside.

Disadvantages of Screened Bottom Boards

Pests Entering Hive from Below

Screened Bottom Boards have #8 size wire mesh. This size of mesh wire will not allow honey bees, wasps or hornets to enter.

However, tiny beetles are able to fit through the wire. This is a concern for me. However, beetles seem to have no problem just walking in the front door either!

Should You Close the Screened Bottom Board in Winter?

Many northern beekeepers use Screened Bottom Boards without closing them. Still, some beekeepers feel concern over leaving the screen open during Winter cold. 

In Southern regions, there is no harm in leaving the mite count board in during winter to block drafts.

If you live in very frigid regions, you might have 2 bottom boards for your beehives. Using the screened one is Summer and the Solid in Winter.

Which Bottom Board for Beehives is Best?

The region in which you live – whether extreme cold or hot may play a role in your decision of choosing a bottom board for your beehive.

All types of  bottom boards have  advantages and challenges. But, the truth is that either type of bottom board can work well for your honey bee colonies.

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