Did you know that there are two different types of bottom boards?

Some people aren’t aware of that, but there are. Each brings a different set of benefits to the table for each individual beekeeper. So if you have ever wondered which is better then this is the article for you. Let's look at the benefits of each, so you can decide which type of board most benefits you.

Solid Bottom Boards

I have seen many people use solid bottom boards. But when I first got started no one really explained to me the benefits they could bring. So I automatically jumped to screen bottom boards. However, solid bottom boards definitely deserve a moment of your time and some consideration.

Solid Bottom BoardSolid bottom boards help keep your bees warmer during the blistery winter months.

Because they keep the bees warmer you will find that it will also encourage your bees to brood earlier in the spring.

The bees make brood earlier in the spring.

Because of the extra warmth a solid bottom board provides, you could well find more brood in the bottom of the hive.

No clumping bees under the hive.

I don’t really have this problem with my hive, but if you find that your bees actually clump under your hive a solid board is supposed to deter them from doing that.

Deters fire ants from gathering under your hive.

If you live in a warmer climate with fire ants then you probably are willing to do whatever you can to keep them away from under your hives. Well, bottom boards can help with that too. Because the solid boards catch all of the hive debris then the loose debris will not attract ants to your hives.

It is easier to treat mites.

Some people claim that they have better results at treating mites with solid boards. This would be because there is nowhere for the mites to run. It also means that you have less of an area to have to treat for mites because they won’t fall under your hives.

They are cheap and easy to build.

Another benefit of a solid board is that they are usually cheaper to buy. But they are also cheaper and easier to build too.

But before you get too sold on solid bottom boards let me introduce you to the benefits of screen bottom boards.

Screened Bottom Boards

Truthfully, screen bottom boards are what my husband and I still use in our hives. We have been very satisfied with them and have found no reason to switch all of our hives over to solid bottom boards. That said, some of the benefits listed above are making me want to try them again.

However, screen bottom boards still have a ton of perks and from my experience are probably the better option for where we are in beekeeping.

Screened Bottom BoardScreen bottom boards are helpful with mites.

When the bees clean themselves and remove mites, they will fall straight through the hive, instead of laying in the bottom and creating more work for you to clean or for your bees to have to take care of.

Screen bottom boards provide great ventilation.

If you live in a super cold climate then you might need solid bottom boards for warmth. However, we don’t. We live in the south. This means that we have extremely hot summers. Winters can get cold but nothing in comparison to the winters that the north receives.

So for us screen bottom boards work well. You have to remember, bees need air even during the winter. We have found that screened bottom boards allow air to keep circulating. Bees are very smart creatures and know exactly how to regulate their hive’s temperature.

It is easier to see what is going on inside your hive.

Obviously screen is see-through. Therefore, you can spot your queen and any other activity going on within the hive from the bottom if you need to. There are no surprises.

However, it should be mentioned that this benefit only applies if you have a see-through stand (like cinderblock.) And if you are willing to crawl around under your hive. My husband and I get this benefit because we are always on the look out for pests since we live in a wooded spot so we spend a lot of time inspecting under our hives.

And so we often check what is going on in our hives from a bottom view point especially in our larger hives. We have also been able to find our queen when we were struggling to find her in a larger hive because we used screened bottom boards.

Plus, it is a great benefit just to see what kind of activity your bees have going on. But as mentioned, this may not be a benefit many want to take advantage of, understandably so.

So now that we have discussed the benefits of both I want to give you some food for thought.

What Are The Downsides (If Any) To Each Bottom Board?

The Solid Boards Require Cleaning…And It Can Be Gross!

Solid boards obviously do not allow debris to fall through your hive. This means that you will have bugs in the bottom of your hives, pollen, propalis, and bees wax.

So if you aren’t in the mood to pull a carpet like substance out of the bottom of your hive then you will probably not want to go with the solid bottom boards.

The Screen Bottom Boards Mean You Have A Greater Risk Of Pests

Screen bottom boards are mesh. This means that pests can climb up through them. We battle this ourselves.

And even if you try to stop pests then you have to treat your stands, under your hives, and anywhere else they can sneak through because of the mesh. It gets frustrating at times.

They Each Provide Ventilation Issues

Bees need ventilation. If you live in a really cold climate then the screen board might provide a little too much ventilation for your bees. But if you live in a warmer climate then the solid bottom boards could actually make your hives stuffy for the bees.

So this is a personal choice you’ll have to make depending upon where you live.

How Do I Choose?

I recommend that you don’t make a large investment in either if you have multiple hives. If you have only 1 or 2 then I recommend that you make the small investment in one of each and try them out yourself.

This will give you hands on experience for your particular area and the challenges (that all beekeepers face) that are unique to your hive.

For instance, we have friends that also keep bees. Their hives don’t have a single pest in them. But they also keep them in direct sunlight year round.

However, we face challenges with pests because our bees get a mixture of splattered sunlight and full sunlight throughout the day.

So for them, using a screen board might not be that different from using a solid board. For us, solid boards would probably help with the pest problem, but we do still use screen bottom boards for ventilation and cleanliness purposes.

The PerfectBee Store stocks both screened and solid bottom boards, made with cedar which is an excellent insulator.

Solid Bottom Board

Screened Bottom Board

I think choosing a solid or screened bottom board is a personal beekeeping choice, because we all have our bees in different geographical location and locations that vary in sunlight and other elements that can impact our experiences.

But I’d love to hear what you all think. What has been your experience with bottom boards? And which is your particular favorite? And why?

We look forward to hearing from you. Please leave your comments below.

10 thoughts on “Screen Bottom Boards Vs. Solid Bottom Boards: Which Is Better?”

  1. Randy Pitrowski

    A friend said in the Northern climate of NY she places a solid bottom board under her screened bottom board. This allows for excellent ventilation yet warmth overwintering. With a front tilt any moisture runs out. She has her fondant, her mouse guard, dry wet jet type sheets on the top of half the frames and she vapes 6-8 weeks in a row prior to insulating the hives for winter. She keeps only a screened bottom with a mite counter board for the summers with the beetle traps with oil in them.
    I am first year. How does this sound to experienced beeks?

  2. I am brand new (May10,2017).I have both types of hives.The problem I am having is with the screened bottom.The bees want to come and go through the back of the hive.They use the gap between the screen and the super.Some will use the front opening but most use the back.Should I be concerned about this and if so should I make it so they can not get in that way?

  3. WesternWilson

    I am going to switch back to solid bottom boards. I really question the efficacy of the screens in terms of any real contribution to mite control! The IPM tools are only useful IF they allow you to reduce treatment frequency and that has certainly not been my experience. No matter what I do I still have to treat for mites 2 or 3 times a year.

    Since that is the case, why accept the heat loss that is part of running with screened bottom boards? I have always used the excellent Country Rubes screened bottom boards but they are not weather proof enough for our long, rainy, windy and cold winters here in the PacNW…unless you add insulation to them.

  4. I’m using both top bar and Langston , both with screens but they both are able to have boards slid in to slow air movement in winter and taken out in the spring to help cool the hives(central Florida). One thing that I’m working on is a single pole to hold the hive keeping grass from touching the boxes and a small dab of grease around the top of the pole has kept the ants away. Still working with the girls to keep it simple. Thanks

  5. Miller Putnam

    Jennifer, all good information to consider and well presented. There is another aspect ton the screen bottom boards as many now come with an IPM slot. So, during the winter, you can keep the IPM board in to keep the bees warmer and remove it in the summer for the cooling effect.

    But, I have taken the screen bottom board one step farther. I modify my screen bottom boards to take both an IPM insert AND a slide in oil tray. Since I started using them, I have drastically reduced my SHB count. I use the stiff plastic shallow trays from eheartwood but still have some I made initially from Aluminum baking pans from the Dollar Store (these work but are more cumbersome than the eheartwood trays). I think this is basically the Freeman bottom board. For me here in the south, it is very effective.

  6. Bruce, Like so many things in beekeeping there is still a lot of debate about bottom boards. In general, I agree with you that varroa boards that have the slide out to open or close the bottom are the way to go. The latest research seems to indicate some advantage toward mite control in northern climates, but made no difference in southern climates.

    I use the varroa bottoms with the slide outs myself, but a long time beekeeper I know actually switches to the solid bottom board for winter. (we are in a cold climate in Oregon – east side not the wet west side) I always wondered about this and then this January a friend who teaches the OSU Master beekeeping school came by with a Flir One Thermal Imager to take pictures of heat loss in my hives. (The ones with the slider in the varroa bottom) We were both shocked at the amount of heat lost out the bottom of the hive. So much so that I purchased Styrofoam insulation and cut it to fit under the bottom board. So at least in cold climates its clear the screened bottom boards, even with the slider closed up, leak a lot of heat!

    They definitely are nice for summer though and help with ventilation and to some degree mites, as they do let the mites fall out of the hive and can play a roll in a mite control program. So like everything else in beekeeping, nothing is perfect. Personally I like the screened bottom boards, but in my climate I will definitely be adding foam insulation under them for winter. I just wanted to pass this along as it was new information to me and I think very valuable to know for those in northern climates.

    Thanks for your comment.

  7. Hi Jennifer, I was puzzled at first by your article until I realized that you were not talking about the good kind of screened bottom boards. I mean the so called varroa bottoms, which allow a keeper to either have the bottom open or closed as the weather demands. These work very well at allowing the proper ventilation into the hive, with the added bonus of allowing the keeper to monitor mite counts in the hive. If you want to take your game up a notch then I highly recommend you try these, and go with the Dadant’s, they are by far the best made.

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