How to Build a Beehive Bottom Board for Langstroth Hives

If you purchase an independently reviewed item through our site, we earn an affiliate commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

Langstroth beehives are a great choice for both beginner and experienced beekeepers. The Langstroth beehive uses a bottom board to seal the bottom of the beehive from the elements. There are 2 types of bottom boards: screened and solid. A screened bottom boards helps with hive ventilation in warm climates. You can buy or make a Langstroth beehive and its parts. In this article, we’ll discuss how to build a beehive bottom board for your Langstroth beehive.

A bottom board is the lowermost part of the beehive. All the other beehive parts rest upon it. These include brood and honey storage boxes, and the covers for the beehive. In a Langstroth beehive stack, you can include a queen excluder for separation of rood and honey storage areas.

The arrangement of Langstroth beehives makes the brood boxes the first beehive boxes that rest on the bottom board. In special circumstances, special equipment can be placed on the bottom board. These include pollen traps, bee feeders, hive beetle traps and mite treatment baths.

Beehive Bottom Board Plans

Building beehive parts is a very procedural activity. You must know what size your beehive is – 8-frame or 10-frame, so that you build the appropriately sized bottom board. For 10-frame beehives, you are aiming for a bottom board that measures 22 inches long, 16.25 inches wide, and 3 inches high. With an 8-frame beehive bottom board, your target is 22 inches of length, 13.75 inches wide and 3 inches high.

Some beekeepers use nucleus hives that hold 5 beehive frames.  Nucleus – or nuc hives, are for housing small honeybee colonies for short periods of time, while they are in the process of being moved or installed in a new beehive. For nuc hives, the bottom board is usually 22 inches long, 9.25 inches wide, and 3 inches high.

Screened Bottom Board Plans

In addition to size variation, bottom boards can be solid or screened as noted earlier. A screened bottom board requires more pieces of wood, including four small pieces of wood on which you will attach the screen cloth. The four pieces of wood and the screen cloth replace the solid board found in solid bottom boards.

Solid Bottom Board Plans

A solid bottom board uses fewer pieces of wood than a screened bottom board. You can make one using 5 pieces of wood. This is in stark contrast to the 8 pieces required at minimum for a screened bottom board. A solid bottom board is thus easier and cheaper to make than a screened bottom board.

How to Make a DIY Screened Bottom Board

Increasing problems with honeybee pests and adoption of integrated pest management by beekeepers have made screened bottom boards popular in modern beekeeping. In a screened bottom board, the usual solid platform is replaced by a frame on which a screen is used to cover the central opening. The screen used in bottom boards is #8 hardware cloth. You need a piece that measures 14 x 19 inches for a 10-frame Langstroth beehive screened bottom board. Edges of this cloth have sharp wires so they are folded back about half an inch. It is alright to use staples to attach the screen to the bottom board so that you do not risk nails splitting your pieces of wood.

Materials

To make a screened bottom board, you need the following materials and equipment:

  • Pieces of wood cut to the appropriate sizes:
    • 1 front filler strip of ¾ x 1 9/16 x 14.75 inches
    • 2 side rails of ¾ x 3 x 22 inches
    • 2 frame ends of ¾ x 3.5 x 15½ inches
    • 2 frame sides of ¾ x 3.5 x 22 inches
    • 1 back filler strip of ¾ x 13/16 x 14.75 inches
  • Table saw
  • Deck screws or nails of 1.25 inches length
  • Drill
  • Exterior wood glue
  • Sand paper or wood sander
  • Exterior wood paint
  • ½ inch wood staples
  • Hardware cloth

Steps

Assemble all your materials at the location where you will be building the screened bottom board. It helps prevent stops in the process where you have to go looking for the materials. If you are using nails, a hammer will be necessary to have with you. You can use rotary tools and other advanced woodworking machines for this job if you have them.  Follow the steps below to make your screened bottom board:

  1. Cut your wood to appropriate sizes. The side rails and frame pieces of the screened bottom board are in sets of two side rails, one front piece, one back piece and two side pieces.
  2. Cut dados into each side rail. The dados should run the entire length of each side rail. The upper dado is for the frame that holds the screen mesh on the bottom board. It should be ¾ inches wide and 3/8 inches deep. The dado begins some 13/16 inches from the top edge of the side rail. The second dado is for your bottom board’s sampling board and measures 5/16 wide. It should be 3/8 inches deep and is cut some ½ inch from the bottom edge of the side rails.
  3. Make the frame of the bottom board. Use lap joints to join the wooden pieces of the frame. They require you to cut corresponding rabbets that are 3/8 inches deep on each joint. On the front of the two side pieces, the rabbet should be 4 inches wide. All other rabbets remain 2 inches wide. Everything works better if the rabbets are exactly 3/8 inches deep. When the frame is assembled, the joints are exactly ¾ inches which is the same as the boards and grooves they will be going into. You can make a few test cuts to make sure the rabbets are cut to the correct depth and width. Dry-fit the frame, then glue it together. You can use wood staples or small screws to add strength to the joints.
  4. Assemble the pieces of wood into a bottom board by installing the side rails onto the fully assembled frame. The ¾ inch dado on the side rails takes the assembled frame. The wide board of the frame is the front side. Use glue, and nails or screws to hold everything together.
  5. Install the back and front fillers of the bottom board. One filler at the front goes below the frame, while the one at the back goes above the frame. The fillers fill the gap between the frame and the top or bottom of the side rails.
  6. Install your hardware cloth to complete the screened bottom board. A piece of 14 x 19 inches is big enough for a 10-frame Langstroth beehive bottom board. Fold each edge over to do away with the sharp stubs of wire sticking out the edges of the hardware cloth. Staples are best for attaching the hardware cloth to the frame. The hardware cloth goes to the bottom of the frame. ½ inch staples work well here. Make sure to keep the screen taught when stapling it down. If you have some scrap aluminum strips, you can make trim stock for the screen edges. ½ inch wide trim is great for the hardware cloth. It requires you to cut the aluminum strips into 1-inch wide strips and then fold the strips in half, enclosing the hardware cloth in the fold. Staple the hardware cloth through the aluminum strip binding.
  7. Make a sampling board for your screened bottom board. At this stage, the bottom board is nearly finished. A sampling board slides into the ¼ inch dado on the side rails of the screened bottom board. Sampling boards can be made of any material and is best white in color. The white color helps you see mites better. Popular materials for the sampling board are hardboard, plywood and corrugated plastic. Sampling boards of strong durable material can be used to convert your screened bottom board into a solid bottom board if necessary.
  8. The last bit of work you need to do is paint your now-complete screened bottom board. Use a primer and then apply two top coats of paint. If you want, you can paint the bottom board before installing the hardware cloth mesh. Painting the bottom board prolongs its life. Do not skimp on the paint since you do not often paint the bottom board.

Using a dado blade that is stacked helps you get through some of the required cuts quickly. If you do not have one, multiple passes are required for the cuts to be completed. If you do not have a dado blade, your standard saw blade can be used to nibble away at the wood strips.

 

How to Make a DIY Solid Bottom Board

A solid bottom board helps your beehive be more natural and similar to the enclosures honeybees use in the wild. Natural beekeepers love using solid bottom boards for this reason. Most challenges encountered with screened bottom boards are also avoided by using a solid bottom board. The unwelcome behavior of honeybees clumping at the bottom of the beehive is not observed when a solid bottom board is used. This can be attributed to retention of beehive-specific pheromones, unlike where they escape through the screen in a screened bottom board.

As with the screened bottom board, a solid bottom board can be of 3 sizes: 10-frame, 8-frame and 5-frame nuc beehive sizes. Each of these bottom boards has different measurements in length. The width and height are similar for bottom boards of these 3 sizes.

Materials

You need the following materials and equipment to make a 10-frame sized solid bottom board:

  • Pieces of wood. Cut them to the appropriate sizes, with:
    • 1 wide board of ¾ thickness
    • 2 side rails of ¾ x 3 x 22 inches
    • 1 back filler strip of ¾ x 13/16 x 14.75 inches
    • 1 front filler strip of ¾ x 1 9/16 x 14.75 inches
  • A table saw or other appropriate saw to cut the pieces of wood and help make grooves and other cuts in the wood pieces
  • Deck screws or nails of 1.25 inches length
  • Drill when you are using screws for joinery
  • Wood glue. Using wood glue on the joints makes them stronger than when you use nails or screws only
  • Sand paper or wood sander
  • Exterior wood paint

Collect all the materials to the work area you will be using so that you build the solid bottom board uninterrupted. You need to have a hammer if you are using nails to join the wood pieces together. Rotary tools can be used in building the solid bottom board.

Steps

Follow these steps in building a solid bottom board:

  1. Cut your wood pieces to the appropriate sizes. A solid bottom board has two side rails, one wide board, back filler and front filler. The wide board makes the bulk of the solid bottom board. It should be strong and thick enough to serve its purposes well.
  2. Make grooves in the side rail wooden pieces. A single groove on each side rail is required. The groove takes the wide piece of wood that will make your bottom board. It should be at least ¼ inches thick, so the groove should also be ¼ inches wide. The grooves should run the whole length of the side rails, and should be 3/8 inches deep. These grooves begin at least ½ inch from the bottom edge of the side rails.
  3. Assemble the pieces of wood into a solid bottom board by inserting the wide piece of wood into the grooves in the side rails.
  4. Add the back filler and front filler to the solid bottom board. The back filler covers the back while the front filler covers the bottom part of the front of the bottom board.
  5. Paint the outer surfaces of the bottom board. The paint helps preserve the wood since the bottom board is close to the ground or rests on it. It is not advisable to paint the inner surfaces of a solid bottom board that honeybees will come into contact with.

Things to Note

With a solid bottom board, you can treat the underside with insecticide. It discourages insects and pests of honeybees from occupying the space under the wide board of the bottom board. It is also great if the lower edges of the bottom board sit well on your beehive stand so that insects and pests of honeybees cannot crawl under it.

You can include a groove for a sampling board in the solid bottom board. It requires you to have a second groove for the sampling board, above the groove for the wide piece of wood that makes the bigger part of the solid bottom board. A sampling board is only needed when you are checking for mite drop. It should be colored white to help you see mites better. If you do not want to use a sampling board but still want to use the bottom board to check for mites, you may use while water-based paint on the inner surface of the bottom board. Make sure the paint dries well and is odorless before using the solid bottom board in a hive.

A solid bottom board often gets covered with propolis by honeybees. Significant amounts of propolis can be found along the inner edges of the board where wooden pieces meet. This propolis has been found to help European honeybees with increased immunity to some diseases, parasites and pests of bees.

Screened Bottom Board with Drawer

Beekeepers generally prefer the screened bottom board with a drawer due to a number of reasons, including its assistance in mite control. The drawer allows for sliding in of a board that will arrest falling mites so you can count them. These screened bottom boards with a drawer also allow you to see what beehive debris is being generated in the hive. During cold months, the drawer is used to convert the screened bottom board into a solid bottom board.

The making of a screened bottom board with a drawer follows the steps outlined in making a screened bottom board. If you want a bigger drawer groove, feel free to build the screened bottom board with the lower groove on the side rails wider than a quarter (¼) of an inch.

Despite its name, the drawer on a screened bottom board is not used to collect any beehive products. The potential of contamination of the beehive products with debris makes the drawer unsuitable for this purpose. For the collection of specific beehive products such as pollen, different equipment is used which targets specific products.

Choosing Between Screened and Solid Bottom Boards

The choice between a solid bottom board and a screened bottom board is really up to the individual beekeeper. It is largely based on the local climate and the pest management strategy of the beekeeper.

A screened bottom board allows mites to fall to the ground where they cannot crawl back into the hive. Solid bottom boards on the other hand, arrest falling mites, keeping them in the hive. The mites can then crawl back into the upper regions of the hive if they are well and continue causing problems. The mites that exhibit this behavior are those that fall off bees due to the grooming activities of honeybees. Those that fall off bees due to the effects of mite treatments applied in the beehive cannot climb back into the hive and die on the bottom board.

Solid bottom boards help conserve heat and hive odor in the beehive. In warm climates, you can use screened bottom boards during the warm seasons, and solid bottom boards during the cold seasons. In cold climates, it is often best to use a solid bottom board all year round.

Another advantage of screened bottom boards over solid bottom boards is that they can be viewing ports into the beehive. Well, this involves crawling or squatting under the beehive, but it is still rewarding to be able to see into the beehive without opening it up. Through the screened bottom board, you are able to see what is happening in the lowermost brood box. You can even spot the queen bee if you are patient enough. Pests and diseases can also be noted through the screened bottom board. Unfortunately, this advantage only applies when you have a see-through stand for your beehive.

The wood used in making a bottom board and other beehive parts can be treated, or untreated. Untreated wood requires painting over to preserve it. It is however safer for bees because it does not contain any chemicals that it can release into the beehive and possibly contaminate beehive products. Treated wood has an assurance of being long-lasting. It risks releasing the wood treatment chemicals into the beehive over time. The beehive can have an unpleasant smell and beehive products may carry that smell of the wood treatment chemicals too. The best wood for making the bottom board for your beehive is cider and pine. Other wood types can be used, but you may find that honeybees do not like them very much.

Landing Board

Some beekeepers include a landing board in their beehive entrances. The landing board helps bees get into the beehive with greater ease. It is featured at the bottom of the hive, and extrudes outwards next to the bottom board. You can incorporate a landing board in the design and build of your bottom board. The screen frame or wide board of the bottom board is made longer at the front to provide a landing and take-off area for honeybees coming to, and going from the beehive.

A Final Word

Building beehives and their parts can be engaging and time-consuming. It is however cheaper than buying already built beehive parts. Building your own beehive and its parts is also very satisfying and gives you beehive parts whose quality you are sure about. Experience building beehive parts is also very handy when you do buy beehives that you have to assemble yourself. Both experienced and beginner beekeepers with woodworking skills can build a beehive bottom board using the steps as detailed in this guide. If you cannot, do not worry about it and buy pre-made beehives. Your ability to make a beehive or its parts does not reflect on how good a beekeeper you are.

What are your thoughts on this DIY guide? Leave a comment below and let us know.

GET YOUR FREE EBOOKS BEFORE YOU GO!
As our gift to you, we're offering you our very own eBook bundle on getting started in beekeeping. Just enter your email and we'll send them to you.
No thanks, I don't want the free ebooks.

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of