Motivation for the removable screened bottom board
I wanted to make a screened bottom board to facilitate mite monitoring and sugar dusting. I also wanted a bottom board design that allowed more space under the hive for winter. My main motivation for designing this variation of the screened bottom board is so I can clean out dead winter bees with greater ease, and worry less about the bottom entrance getting clogged up with dead bees.
Rabbets were cut into the side walls of the bottom board structure to support the screen.
Inspired by the concepts in Walt Wright's propolis Article, a slight bevel was cut into the sides of the framed screen in the hopes of minimizing the accumulation of propolis between it and the frame rest.
The back of the bottom board
The top piece:
- Is screwed in place.
- Blocks the area containing the screen and the space above it.
The bottom piece:
- Is hinged to the top piece for the purpose of allowing easy access to the tray when performing mite counts.
- When closed, it prevents bees, mice and wasps. from accessing the area between the screen and the tray.
The concept is that during the fall, when winterizing the hive, the screened frame can be removed from the bottom board while all the hive boxes remain in place. My hope is that the screened frame can be pried up from the area inside the hinged flap in order to loosen any propolis. The top portion on the bottom board's back can then be unscrewed and removed to allow the framed screen to slide out. Thus converting the hive to a simple solid bottom board.
The tray is just a simple piece of corflute that slides into a groove in the side walls. I run eight frames to a box. The above photo shows the screened area is large enough to allow debris and varroa to fall through from spaces between and around all eight combs.
In the winter, when the screen is removed, the entrance becomes taller. changing from 14mm to 21mm tall.
As my intended mouse guard is just a piece of hardware cloth wedged into the entrance, I suspect the 21mm tall winter opening will allow the bees more room to navigate the tiny gaps of the hardware cloth.
The above photo shows a stack of the first four entrances I built. I painted each landing board with a unique visual pattern in the hopes that it would help the bees in recognizing their own hive and therefore reduce the drifting of bees between different hives. This was inspired by the concepts discussed in Tautz's book The Buzz about Bees: Biology of a Superorganism. The idea is that unique patterns are more useful to bees than simply painting each hive a different solid colour.
Tips. The bees won't care if the designs are as ornate as those in the photo above. Simple variations will do. The key differences, from top to bottom, between the pictured bottom boards are:
Other uses for the framed screen
The framed screens may also be used to serve other purposes. For example, if I want to over-winter a weaker hive stacked on top of another colony, I can place the framed screens from both colonies between each other like one might ordinarily do with a double-screen board.
Testing it out
I've added these to 5 hives for the 2015 season. I'll update here once I decide if the experiment was a success or a failure.