Mesh floor

I hope to become a beekeeper. I am planning to build a warre hive using the plans I downloaded from the internet. I am told by my cousin who keeps bees that when this hive was designed there was not a problem with varoa. He says I need a mesh floor so should I have one and how would I do it please?

Lou

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6 Responses to Mesh floor

  1. simplebees says:

    Mesh floors are often said to control varroa. The idea is that mites that accidentally fall from adult bees fall through the screen and become ant food. However:

    1) Varroa mites are very difficult to dislodge from bees. They hold on tightly and are specially shaped to prevent them being knocked off accidentally. Mites that are found on the hive floor are very likely to be damaged in some way; damage that caused them to fall off in the first place.

    2) Even if a mite were to fall off a bee accidentally, only the mites on bees at the very bottom of the comb would fall to the floor. Mites falling from bees higher up the comb will land on another bee. If they are undamaged they will attempt to hold on to the bee they land on. If they are damaged, they will continue to fall and will end up on the hive floor.

    3) Open mesh floors allow cold draughts and eddies of wind to enter the hive, disturbing the thermal equilibrium and allowing essential scents and volatile hive atmosphere components to leak from the hive, thus disrupting the delicate hive equilibrium.

    For all of these reasons, I no longer use mesh floors in my hives.

    Gareth

  2. FollowMeChaps says:

    Lou – Welcome to the site and thanks for asking a very good question; not that there is a bad question mind you.

    Like Gareth I don’t believe in mesh floors on my hives for all the reasons stated above.

    I believe that mesh floors have a further huge disadvantage which is that they mean that there is a part of their colony that the bees cannot access to clean and decontaminate – in a wild/feral colony bees clear out and sterilise floor debris and propolise the bits that are too large to remove. eg dead mice! Only this week-end we rescued a colony from a tree and the floor debris was a sweet smelling solidified mix of microbia and propolised sawdust.

    Mesh floors also provide nooks and crannies where other nasties can breed, eg wax moth and other bee nasties. If bees can’t reach the floor under the screen they cannot deal with the problem. Consequently I’ve removed the mesh floors from my hives.

    I believe that with mesh floors beekeepers fell into the trap of thinking that a human intervention would benefit the bees more than letting them stay in control themselves. I prefer to let the bees have total control of their colony, disturb them as little as possible so they stay healthy and let them deal with mites their own way. Undisturbed feral bees survive this way so I say support your bees, don’t try and control them!

    I believe as natural beekeepers we need to learn lessons from the problems that conventional bee husbandry seems to have caused – If we try to prop up bee colonies with human inventions and interfere with them it eventually comes back and bites us in the bum!
    Warré sump floor
    Incidentally, the one modification I make to my Warré hives is to use a sump floor – see point 3. on this page. I started using these so I could add a temporary mesh floor before I ‘saw the light’. However, I continue to use them without the mesh as they better replicate a natural colony. I now even provide an inch of sawdust on the floor to better replicate a natural tree cavity.

    I hope this helps.
    Robin

  3. Paul says:

    TBH designs are evolving rapidly. When I started using them two years ago, the accepted wisdom was to use mesh floors. The reasoning was that bees have more problems from damp than cold, so ventilation was desirable. Thus both my hives have mesh floors and I must say it makes it easy to do varroa counts – I simply put a piece of vaselined paper below the mesh and count how many mites get trapped in a 2 – 3 day period, then watch for changes in the rate of mite drop. The colonies have survived fine, even through winter.

    Opinion now seems to be swinging towards solid floors to mimic a natural tree cavity; some people argue for a hinged solid floor so you can open it to clean the hive if you want, to get the best of both worlds.

    Basically – you will get as many opinions as you get people who answer. I don’t know the absolute, correct answer; all I can say is mesh floors haven’t killed my colonies yet.

    • simplebees says:

      Paul
      Perhaps it is worth emphasizing the distinction between mesh floors and open mesh floors. A study in Canada published in 2002 found that open mesh floors increased the level of varroa in hives in comparison with the same arrangement but with closed floors (below the mesh). The authors suggest that the negative effect of open mesh floors is due to the cooling that this produces in the hive. Other work indicates that cooler brood nest temperatures increase varroa reproduction rates.

      Am I right in saying that you have closed (or closeable) floors below your mesh?

  4. Robert Gray says:

    If you have mesh floors, use a greased corex board underneath to monitor mites. In the winter use a corex board that is only three quarters the depth. This will reduce winds cooling the hive but will still allow sufficient ventilation to reduce the damaging condensation.

    • simplebees says:

      Better still, stop putting treatments into your hive and go treatment-free. Then there is no need for mesh floors 🙂

      Gareth

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