Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Hive Setup Part 2: Bottom Board and Hive Top Feeder Setup

I tend to bifurcate my hive purchases between Mann Lake and Brushy Mountain.  I like the free shipping from Mann Lake and their discounts for large orders.  That free shipping comes in very handy when I am buying hundreds of honey super frames in the spring!  But I really like Brushy’s inner cover for its construction and inclusion of a notch for a top entrance/ventilation.  I haven’t used these yet to see how popular the top entrance is for the bees but I am hopeful.  I also like Brushy’s migratory cover (I am using this from my hives).  They are of excellent construction, are clad in aluminum, and have a dado cut out of the top, allowing for top entrance similar to the Brushy inner cover.

Brushy clad migratory cover with dado
Brushy inner cover with 2nd entrance notch

But it is Brushy’s screened bottom board that I love.  It is of strong construction and includes a bottom cover/grid if monitoring mites is a favorite pastime or if you prefer to close your bottom during the cold months.  Shipping adds to the price of these, but if a few are ordered at a time the per-item cost is reduced.  These are the bottom boards I include in my installations.

Brushy screened bottom board with removable bottom in place

I have begun screwing my lowest super into the bottom board.  Why?
•    I can transport this basic hive as one unit;
•    It ensures everything is square (as the bottom board should be, right?);
•    It prevents the bottom super from sliding around;
•    Rather than manipulate my brood boxes by rotating, I manipulate the individual frames between the boxes to promote brood in both areas.
•    I rarely need access to the bottom board especially as it is screened so trash falls through.  Other trash can be scraped out with a piece of wire or stick.

I use 2-inch deck screws at each of the four corners to secure this hive body in pre-drilled holes.  If I need to rotate hive bodies or remove it for any reason I can simply unscrew these four attachment points.

I have begun to modify my tops and inner cover to accommodate a hive-top feeder.  I have been using mason jars as feeders, both the quart and ½ gallon size.  These jars are cheap, easy to find, and clear so I can see the level of feed.  To create holes in the lid for the bees to access the liquid, and because I don’t have a super-fine drill bit, I simply use my staple gun and drive a few staples through the top and then remove them.  That seems to provide the properly sized holes.

To create the seat for the mason jar I begin by drilling with a hole saw a 2¾ hole about eight inches from the rear of the cover.  This hole will take a quart mason jar snugly, although I rarely use this size.


I then take a stock 1 x 6 in board and cut a couple of square pieces out of it.  One of these squares will plug the top when feeding is unnecessary.  The other will be modified to create the seat for the large mason jar.

With this square of 1 x 6, using a hole saw with a 3½ inch diameter, I cut a hole in the middle of the blank.   

This modified square is attached to the top cover with a few screws (pre-drill first), attempting to center the larger hole over the 2¾ inch hole.  That is it for the mason jar seat.  The jar sits upside-down in the hole and a combination of gravity and friction keep it in place, even when the wind blows hard.  The larger capacity jar means fewer refills.  And the seat can also accommodate a pail feeder, laying flat across the large opening.

Now onto the top.  We saved the two discs from the hole saw operation (the disk from the 1 x 6 and the disk from the top; the disc from the inner cover may be discarded).  I center the two discs, using the pilot hole as a guide, and screw the two disks into the second 1 x 6 blank.  It looks like this:

When the feeder is not in use, the top then looks like this:

The top keeps bees in, prevents rain from entering the hive, and is asthetically inoffensive.


  1. in bee class we were told to have sharp edges pointing out so bees don't cut their tongues .

  2. why would they lick wood