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Slatted racks: how should the slats be arranged?

My inbox was full of questions about slatted racks this morning. One of the questions concerned the direction of the slats. The slats should go the long way—they should run from the front of the hive to the back of the hive. The idea here is that the slats should line up with the frames and–more importantly—the spaces between them should also line up. This way, mites that are dislodged by the bees have a better chance of falling down between the frames, falling between the slats, and then falling through the screened bottom. This continuous space also allows for better air flow.

Is this a perfect system? No. Not all mites will fall through: some will get caught on rough parts of the comb, some will intercept bees on the frames, and some will land on slats and eventually find their way back up into the hive. But if there were no spaces to fall through, all the mites would make it back—so it is better than nothing.

I think the main virtue of the slatted rack is the extra room it provides for bees to “hang out.” The hive becomes very congested in the spring and summer and worker bees can congregate in this space without making the brood nest excessively warm. An overly warm brood nest may stimulate swarming.

My hives are up off the ground about two feet and I can climb under the hive stands and look up into the hives through the screened bottom. In the summer, I am always amazed to see how the bees cluster on the slatted racks. The warmer the day, the larger the cluster. I would probably be unconvinced about the utility of the slatted rack if I hadn’t seen this again and again. It is fascinating.

Another beekeeper asked me how to get the slats to line up if you are using nine frames in a ten-frame brood box. Although I am always reluctant to endorse particular products, I have to say that Brushy Mountain Bee Farm has the perfect slatted rack in its catalog. You have to assemble it yourself (it is easy to do) and you can put in either nine or ten slats according to what you have in your brood boxes. Also, if you are using nine frames and two follower boards you can position the slats to accommodate that arrangement as well.

In the winter slatted racks provide some dead air space below the brood nest that provides a little extra insulation. I leave slatted racks in all year long and I strongly believe they have increased the health of my hives.

Rusty

Comments

Phillip
Reply

I don’t have screened bottom boards (yet), but I assume the slatted racks still do half their job on solid bottom boards by providing the extra space for the bees to hang out, along with insulation in the winter.

I wish Brushy Mountain had a Canadian store. I have a hard time finding items like this online through any Canadian supplier. I may try to build my own this spring.

Thanks also for posting the instructions on how to build a dummy board (or follower board). I’m 95% certain I’ll be going with 9-frames in the brood boxes this year.

John
Reply

I am confused … When using the 10-frame slatted rack, it goes on top of your bottom board (solid bottom board). Now when the bees enter the hive they then have to “climb” up through the slatted rack?

With a screened bottom board setup, when the bees enter, they are in the hive. So are you saying that adding the slatted rack w/ a screened bottom board is just adding more air space?

What I am most confused about is how the slatted rack works. Could someone send a pic of it in use?

Rusty
Reply

John,

Yes, the slatted rack goes on top of either a solid bottom board or a screened bottom board. It has the same dimensions as your brood boxes.

And, yes, the bees climb up through the slatted rack to get to the frames. The rack provides more air space, lots of room to congregate (especially on hot days), and it moves the brood nest further from the hive opening.

Since the queen doesn’t lay eggs near the opening, moving the nest away from the opening means the queen utilizes a greater proportion of the frames. She will lay eggs all the way to the bottom of the frame instead of stopping a few inches from the bottom.

Look at yesterday’s photo called “Hives in Spring.” It’s a little hard to see, but all three of these hives are sitting on screened bottom boards (the first green section above the cedar hive stands.) Going up, the next thing you see is the slatted rack. It is about three inches high and all three of these hives have them installed.

Steven
Reply

Hi Folks, I’m a newbie, so this may be a dumb question, but why not use a queen excluder to construct a ‘slatted board’ without any slats? I think it would be so easy to construct by sandwiching a queen excluder between appropriately sized frames and adding a bit of ply at one end. Any thoughts?

Rusty
Reply

Steven,

A queen excluder where a slatted rack is supposed to go would keep the drones from leaving. They would die and rot inside the hive.

Steven
Reply

I guess the biggest problem would be that such a rack would prevent swarming – ??

Rusty
Reply

Steven,

No, your rendition of a slatted rack would delay swarming but not prevent it. Once a virgin queen found her way through, they would be off.

Jay
Reply

Rusty,

I use slatted racks and just noticed that my bees drop off the slats onto my SBB then get back on their legs and head out of the hive. You can hear them hitting the SBB when you stand next to the hive…is this normal?

Rusty
Reply

Jay,

Yes. You can hear it without slatted racks too, when they drop off the combs onto the screen bottom board.

Sharon Klemm
Reply

I decided to try a slatted rack this year and the one I bought came with a solid bottom board attached to it. After reading all of the posts, it seems that having it sit on top of a ventilated bottom board is the more effective way to use it. To that end, I am thinking I should remove the solid bottom board. Am I being a little out of control here or is this a good idea.

Rusty
Reply

Sharon,

I have never heard of a slatted rack being attached to any bottom board. I learn something new every day. But, if it were me, I would disconnected them and use a screened bottom, at least during the heat of the summer.

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