View Full Version : Bottomless beekeeping

Fat Nancy
02-21-2005, 08:32 AM
I've just read Charles Simon's bottomless beekeeping and was wondering what you all thought of his idea of not using bottom board at all. Being that this will be my first year keeping bees, what he says makes a lot of sense to me. But like I said this is my first year and i have a lot to learn (but not unlearn, if you catch my drift!). He keeps his hives elevated high enough off the ground to eliminate mouse and skunk damage. Thoughts and experiences?

02-21-2005, 08:37 AM
<<high enough off the ground to eliminate mouse and skunk damage. >>

Mice will climb:)

Michael Bush
02-21-2005, 09:48 AM
I think he's in California and you're in New Jersey. I'm not ready to open the bottom board completely all winter. I did kind of the opposite. I went to all top entrances because of the skunks. But I do have SBB and I do close them up in the winter.

02-21-2005, 10:11 AM
SBBs have all the advantages and none of the disadvantages of bottomless.


Fat Nancy
02-21-2005, 10:37 AM
To Dcross,

I have Cats!


Thanks, I really like the idea of the increased ventilation. Do you think that leaving the bottoms open will have that much effect on internal temperature? (assuming of course that I keep them protected from the wind.

Michael Bush
02-21-2005, 11:54 AM
In the winter? Yes. I close all of mine in the winter. I open them once the bees start to beard on the fronts of the hives and leave them open until we start getting frosts in the fall.

I have left some partly open and they seem to do all right. I'm sure the amount of breeze on the bottom has a lot to do with success or failure.

02-21-2005, 02:48 PM
I ran one hive without a bottom last year, mainly because I ran out of bottoms at the time. It was a gum I split and they crawled into a box I set next to them. The box sat on a small open pallet all summer and fall, then I put a proper bottom under it for the winter. They were quite confused for a spell, as they were used to coming and going from all directions.

It would have been a brave mouse that would go into that nasty tempered hive. I came close to torching them on more than one occasion.

The colony gave me an average yield, but I saw nothing that would convence me to not use a SBB. As stated above, the SBB has all the advantages and none of the disadvantages.

02-21-2005, 05:57 PM
Perhaps the hive will seem more defensive, having all that area to defend,.?
I see more disadvantages than advantages to bottomless beehives. I think the wind would be your biggest enemy. Gets real windy around here,

Michael Bush
02-21-2005, 06:34 PM
>Perhaps the hive will seem more defensive, having all that area to defend,.?

That would be my expectation.

02-21-2005, 08:09 PM
I ran 10 hives this winter with open screen bottom boards and 11 on solid boards. The SBB hives so far seem to have done well enough with temps down to -20F.

02-21-2005, 11:00 PM
>The SBB hives so far seem to have done well enough with temps down to -20F.

Did the snow cover the lower part of the hive when it was that cold? Or was it exposed to the wind?

02-22-2005, 05:24 AM
My hives are set on 2 x 6 base frames. They are not on high stands.
The snow cover this winter has been variable. However, the wind blows around the hives fairly clean of snow.
However, as for the wind, the bottom of the hive is low to the ground and perpendicular to the wind direction, unlike a hive side or entrance. This fact along with a significantly smaller open area for the upper ventilation, keeps the wind effect from the open SBB to a minimum.
The temperature in a hive, without solar gain or heavy insulation is approximately the same as outside only a few inches fom the cluster.

Fat Nancy
02-22-2005, 05:45 AM
according to mr simon
Advantages and Disadvantages of Going Bottomless

Bottomless hives are difficult if not impossible to steal. The bee thief, looking for the easy way, will find exactly the opposite of what he or she was looking for. It goes against his or her nature to mess with a bottomless hive, especially a big, strong, competent colony housed in falling-apart equipment (my favorite kind).

The breathing capacity of the hive is immediately and dramatically increased. No more moisture build-up or moisture-related diseases. No more debris on the bottom boards. Bottom board rot is a thing of the past, along with the need to replace.

No more slanting hives forward. Vertically straight hives make straighter combs (not that that matters), support weight better, and ride earthquakes better (that does matter around here).

And no more mouse worries. Without a bottom board and sufficient space between the board and the bottom of the cluster, mice can't even get started.

No more facing the entrances to the sun. You might think this is not important but it can be. I moved some colonies onto a lovely piece of land overlooking a large slough designated as a wildlife preserve, faced to the sun as I had been taught to believe was right. They steadily lost vitality and died. There is a fierce wind blowing straight up the slough directly into the hive openings facing south, which is the direction they need to face to get the most sun. Most sun means quickest warm-ups and most light for the longest duration, which means most work which means most production. I still catch myself feeling uncomfortable about it from time to time. Unlearning is apparently harder than learning.

With bottomless hives, smoking for manipulations is much more effective with much less smoke.

There are some disadvantages: Decreased honey production for one. Or, is that a good thing?

You might think bottomless hives could be invaded easier by yellow jackets and cleaned out by robber bees. But there is a dtfference between how the guard bees function with bottomless as opposed to conventionally bottomed. In the conventional setup, the robbers have only to get past the guards, which are positioned at the entrance looking out. Once in, yellow jackets can have their way virtually without challenge. With bottomless, the guards cover the complete territory, scanning in every direction, and it is not possible to get past them. I have watched yellow jackets working the bottomed hives while avoiding the bottomless. I think with the guards out in the open, the yellows get attacked a lot quicker and heavier, and they learn fast. Of course, the strength of the colony is going to be the key, as it always is. I just can't see a good strong colony getting invaded by any thing except maybe bears, but we don't have bears around here. (Earthquakes, yes. Bears, no.) And besides, a bottomless hive would be no more vulnerable to bears than a bottomed one. And if a weak colony gets wiped out, maybe that's a good thing too, saves the trouble of nursing it only to have it die off anyway, and it will; they always do.

Michael Bush
02-22-2005, 06:39 AM
Most of those advantages you get with a SBB.

02-22-2005, 09:11 AM
Robbing is the biggie. SSBs are my prefered method. Plus, I rather work a hive that has a single entrance side. I work from the back like most people and reduce the entrance to advoid thieves.