Friday, March 7, 2014
Missouri Screened Bottom Board
I spent the afternoon banging together the Missouri Screened Bottom Board Mk. III this afternoon. Yes there will be a Mk. IV but I believe I finally have all the particulars worked out so the Mk. IV will become the standard issue model.
Missouri is a challenging location to keep bees. It has days as hot as Florida and Texas in the Summer and as cold (Or colder this year) than Alaska in Winter. Not as many in either category overall but it means as a beekeeper I have to kinda mix things up a bit.
The screened bottom board is almost essential for keeping bees without chemicals these days due to the mite problem that has been growing since the 1980's. The theory is you can throw powdered sugar on the bees and when they pick the sugar off the bees also pick off the mites. The mites then fall through the screened bottom and out of the hive. Also beekeepers way down South will use the screened bottom board so the hives stay a bit cooler in Summer.
In Missouri (and I am sure other places as well) we need the screened bottoms for the mite problem but not really for the cooling issue as it doesn't stay that hot here that long. However the commercial screened bottoms look like the one below.
You can right off see the entire bottom is one big screen. While this allows more mites to fall through it also allows a lot of cold air to seep in as well. You can place them on top of a solid bottom but that kinda defeats the purpose. The flimsy plastic removable bottom is almost worthless in Winter as well. Also the half inch boards used to make them tend to fall apart faster. I have added in my own reinforcing and solid plywood removable bottoms but I wanted something a little more sturdy and snug for the Winters around here so I started designing the bottom from the first picture and also thought I would go with a half screen which will still eliminate many mites but allow less cold air in.
What ya do around here is wait for a few really hot days with warm nights and completely remove the sliding tray (pictured above) and dust the bees with powdered sugar. Let em clean themselves off and then put the tray back in.
In Winter the tray is deep enough to place a sheet of insulated foam in as well to cut down on heat loss.
However I discovered a few other useful side effects of this design. For one thing I started placing those little plastic ant and roach traps inside the tray last Summer. The bees cannot get into them because of the screen (which is smaller than they can fit through number 8 hardware cloth if ya want to know) but the ants, roaches, mites and even small hive beetles will go into the traps and get stuck.
A simple and easy way to help keep my hives pest free without chemicals. I just change out the little traps every few weeks. I could even place ant poison in there if Iw as so bold as the bees still can't get to it and the ants will carry it back to their tunnels.
The addition of the traps is why I am making a Mk. IV as I designed the tray a bit deeper. Mk. IV will also have a tray back that fits snugly under the bottom board instead of up against it.
I also use slightly wider bee spacers as it helps accommodate slightly different sized supers and the 2 x 4" supports make this bottom board much sturdier than commercial ones I have purchased. I just go ahead and add my own landing board front as well.
I may decide to make the screened opening a bit larger with the next model since I have figured out how to enclose it for Winter now. The addition of the insulation will more than likely make it more snug than the actual board overall.
This Winter I had managed to convert all my old screened bottom boards to take plywood inserts and had the first two versions of my Missouri Bottom Boards in use and my girls seemed to over Winter much easier despite it being much colder than normal.
Maybe I am on to something?
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!