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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I began my 11th year of beekeeping in April 2016. Now there are about 1275 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a
Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Slatted Rack and the Empty Bottom Box in Early Spring

Every spring in most of my colonies, the bees have moved up in the hive and when I open the hive for the first time, there is nothing going on in the bottom box.


I keep a slatted rack on all of my colonies and this serves at least two purposes. I say "at least" because I'm sure there are other ideas than mine on what the slatted rack does. As you can see in the photo above, the slatted rack is simply a box about 2 inches deep fitted with slats that parallel the frames in the hive boxes. If the slats parallel the frames, and if you are using a screened bottom board, varroa mites fall through the cracks and through the SBB. If the slats run 90 degrees, then the varroa mite might bounce on a slat and not fall through the SBB.

Note: the photo above is an adapted slatted rack in that the slatted rack is for a 10 frame hive and my boxes are eight frame, so I have put a board above the unused two slats and put an eight frame box above that, but ideally the slatted rack is the same size as the hive. I just hated not to use the available 10 frame and that's the only photo I could find this morning!

First the slatted rack gives the bees somewhere to hang out in the hot summer. In the heat of Atlanta summers, the slatted rack cuts down on hive bearding. The slatted rack helps keep the brood from being chilled. And secondly, because the slatted rack provides a layer between the hive entrance and the bottom box, the cold air coming in through the entrance doesn't immediately chill the brood. As a result in the brood frames, the queen often builds brood from end bar to end bar instead of the usual football shaped pattern.

In the spring in Atlanta, the nights can be pretty cool. This spring we had a particularly cool-night laden spring, with night temps often in the 40s. In my survivor hives, over the winter the bees move up in the boxes. Partly this is to orient the cluster to the food sources so they can live.

However, in every hive when I open it for spring for the first time, there is no brood in the bottom box. There are some exceptions. My nuc hive was only building brood in the bottom box but it was not on a screened bottom board and was in a solid nuc box. In the other hives the bees were up at least two boxes and the queen was building her early brood there.



While my first thought was to remove the empty box to give me the convenience of being able to clean out the old wax, I re-thought it and left the empty box on at the bottom. After all, with no bees in it and these cool nights, the empty box and the slatted rack together should give the bees more protection from the air and allow the brood to thrive.

When I consolidate the box for winter, I will remove the box and clean out the wax in the frames, but for now, I will let it act with the slatted rack as an insulator. Now that we are deep into the nectar flow, I only check my hives for the need for a new box, so I have no need to go all the way down to the bottom box. We'll see what leaving the empty bottom box on this bee season does for my hives.


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