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How to make follower boards for a Langstroth hive

Here is one method of making follower boards for a Langstroth hive (also known as dummy boards). I made these for a deep brood box, but you can make them for any size box using the same method.

1. Start by measuring your frames from top to bottom and from side bar to side bar. Measure from the outside of each piece of wood to the outside of the opposite piece, but exclude the ears on the the top bar.

Measure the frames using the outside dimensions.

2. Select a regular top bar and cut it in half lengthwise.

Cut a top bar in half lengthwise.

3. Cut two pieces of masonite or other thin material according to the measurements of your frame. Also cut 4 small pieces of wood from scrap. (I show eight pieces in the photo but you only need four for a pair of follower boards.) The wood I used was the wedge from a wedged top bar. My pieces measure 3/16″ x 1/2″ x 4″ (0.5 cm x 1.25 cm x 4 cm). The length and width are not important but the thickness provides part of your bee space.

Cut two pieces of masonite and four spacers.

4. Center the masonite along the cut side of the top bars, lining up the top edges.

Make sure the masonite is centered along the top bar.

5. Fasten the masonite with a brad gun or stapler.

Fasten the masonite to the top bar.

6. Fasten the spacers to the side of the masonite without the top bar.

Fastern the spacers to the masonite.

7. The follower boards are now complete. Here is a view of the complete board on the top bar side.

Follower board showing top bar side.

8. Here is a view of the complete board on the spacer side.

Follower board showing the spacer side.

9. Here is the completed deep brood box with nine frames and two follower boards. The spacing works best if the top bar side goes against the walls of the box. The spacer side lines up with the adjacent frame.

Follower boards in place.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

Comments

Phillip
Reply

I made my first two follower boards today by following these instructions. Given my lack of carpentry skills, I’m surprised how well they turned out.

I only made two of them. I suppose I should make another two to complete the set. But at least I know it’s possible now.

Thanks Rusty.

Rusty
Reply

Phillip,

Thanks for letting me know that it worked.

Zoe
Reply

Rusty, how did you cut the top bar in half lengthwise?

Rusty
Reply

Cutting a top bar in half lengthwise is difficult. I used a radial-arm saw and made a cut called ripping, which means cutting it along the grain instead of across it. It can be dangerous to the unskilled because the wood can go shooting out from the blade.

If you are inexperienced and haven’t many tools, you might ask a friend to do it for you, or sometimes a lumber store will do it for a small fee. Alternatively you can use the alternate method of making follower boards where you use two whole frames instead of cutting one in half. I have a post on that somewhere.

I will try to come up with a better and safer way to make follower boards. Does anyone have any ideas for Zoe?

Phillip
Reply

Zoe, here’s a post that show’s exactly how I did it:

http://mudsongs.org/dummy-boards-for-dummies/

I’m an incompetent carpenter and I don’t have many fancy tools. Poor starving artist types are like that. I used a hand-held jig saw to cut my bars down the middle. I could have used a regular hand saw, too, but the jig saw reduced my chances of cutting my thumb off in the process. I was careful and I did it slowly. I drew a line down the middle and did my best to follow the line with the jig saw. It wasn’t exactly a straight line but close enough.

I have to build another one soon.

I installed the follower boards a few weeks ago and haven’t checked on them since, but I assume they’re working the way they should. I’m checking on that hive tomorrow. I’ll let you know.

Zoe
Reply

Thanks, Phillip! I believe I can do it by following the instructions on your post.

Zoe
Reply

Update: I made the follower boards today by using a grooved top bar. I clamped it first, then it was easy to cut with a hand saw by cutting along the groove. Thanks Rusty & Phillip!

Toby
Reply

Do you put these in the bottom box only? I am not using deeps so I wasn’t sure if I should make them for only the bottom box, or if it would benefit having them in 2 or all 3?

Rusty
Reply

Toby,

It is best to have follower boards line up, especially if you are using a screened bottom board. If they don’t line up from box to box, the frames won’t line up and mites won’t be able to fall freely from the upper box, through the lower box, and out the bottom of the hive. The exception is that I don’t use them in the honey supers because the bees don’t do a lot of grooming or housecleaning in that area and the supers are on for only a short while.

Phillip
Reply

When I first installed follower boards, I only put them in the bottom brood box, which left the frames in the second brood box misaligned with the frames in the bottom box — which means there was an empty space above every top bar in the bottom box. The bees subsequently built 3 inch burr comb in that space above the top bars. If that’s hard to follow, here’s a photo:

http://mudsongs.org/follower-board-mistake/

I’ve since added follower boards to both brood boxes and everything is cool.

Phillip
Reply

I noticed a beekeeper in California who made thick follower boards from plywood:

http://goo.gl/s2liu

I’d think the Masonite follower boards would provide more space for the bees to relieve congestion, etc., but I can also see the appeal of the simple plywood design.

Biddy
Reply

Thank you very much for the information and photos supplied for the making of a dummy board. A picture is worth a thousand words. I love this website.

Rusty
Reply

Glad you find it helpful!

Dave
Reply

I’m confused, (as usual) what’s the difference between division boards and follower boards?

Rusty
Reply

Dave,

You should be confused. I hate the terms that mean different things to different people. Some say a division board is the same as a follower board or dummy board. Some say it is a board used for requeening, that is used to separate two hive boxes so the bees can’t co-mingle, sort of like a double-screen board. I think it’s best not to use the term “division board” at all.

Jim
Reply

All of the discussion I’ve seen about follower boards seems to refer to 10 frame supers. Can they/should they be used with 8 frame supers, too?

Thanks!

Rusty
Reply

Jim,

The purpose of follower boards remains the same regardless of the frame count. They provide dead-air space in winter, which insulates, and they provide a place for bees to congregate in summer, which keeps the brood nest cooler. So yes, you can use them in the same way.

Jim
Reply

Rusty –

Thanks. I wasn’t sure if using them in 8-frame supers would cause problems with available space for brood. I’m starting my colony this spring with 8-frame mediums, so that’s only 21 medium frames instead of 24. I know one of the benefits is reducing swarming, but that almost seems like it could lead to overcrowding!

Rusty
Reply

Jim,

If you are uncomfortable with that, you can always use follower boards in winter, but not in summer. Still, the best way to manage them is to look and see what they need. If they are crowded, you can add another medium box or take out the followers. Sometimes you can relieve congestion by rearranging the honey frames, too. You can’t make plans for them, you can only respond to what they do.

George
Reply

Couldn’t I just insert 1/8 masonite into the grooves where the foundation goes when assembling the frame.

Rusty
Reply

George,

Yes, you can. The only down side is the boxes will hold 8 frames and 2 follower boards instead of 9 frames and two followers.

George
Reply

Thanks, I think I’ll build your recommended method!

Laura
Reply

I’ve got a case of propolis traps that I have no need for. Think I could cut these and use for follower boards? I’d put the flat side toward the bees and I’d cover the grooved side with cardboard to seal out the air. What about any other material? I’m sure there are lots of materials to use but are there any that I shouldn’t use? Will they tear up cardboard or thick poster board? Thanks.

Rusty
Reply

Laura,

You have the most amazing collection of stuff. Each time you write you’ve a few hundred of this or that. Anyway, I think it is worth a try to make them into follower boards. If the bees fill them with propolis, all the better because propolis inhibits disease organisms.

Elena
Reply

Hi Rusty,

Newbee Elena here. I’m commenting on this blog because I screwed up and didn’t follow these instructions EXACTLY, and now I have a mess of cross combing in both hives. So for your readers’ benefit, the error was that I did not add the specified spacers.

I had room to do both follower boards on both sides without removing a frame….not because I rationalized that at the time, I just completely missed the spacer instruction. So, I have eight frames in my L. deeps, and the follower boards on each side, with the 1/2 top bars to the outside.

Apparently, it was all too cramped for the girls and they started cross combing. Honestly, I delayed too long in making an attempt to “fix” it all because I would have disturbed so much of their new comb and precious new brood.

So now, I open up and do not pull frames. I simply peak in at the inner activity and figure I’m letting them and Mama nature do their thing. But it seems that forever more, I’ve created two full hives that cannot be inspected properly.

For instance, in reading the “sticky board” for mite inspection blog, the alternative methods of powered sugar or ETOH are out because I can’t pull a frame to collect any girls! And here’s a question (apologies if I’ve missed this in your blogs): I did not see any mites on the backs of the young nurses, nor did I see mites (using a magnifying glass) on the regular board below. So, should I get a sticky board?

Is it too early to treat prophylactally (once the outside temps are cool enough)? I saw a bunch of young nurse bees. I’m in Eastern WA and it has been hot and dry. Will these be my winter girls, or do you suppose there is new over-winter brood to come? HELP! Thank you.

Rusty
Reply

Elena,

Mites are “shy” and are unlikely to make themselves visible. Even phoretic ones (those riding around on adults) tend to hide between the plates of the abdomen. The only way to know for sure is to do a powered sugar roll or alcohol wash. Your winter bees will probably surface beginning in September. In the meantime, I think you should try to cut away the cross comb and straighten this out. Like I said in the post, things don’t get better by themselves.

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