When I migrated from Top Bar Hives to Langstroth hives, I was faced with a conundrum. What the hives sit on. Most Langstroth hives sit on a foundation or footer of sorts. It keeps the bottom-board itself off the ground to reduce rotting issues. A lot of people seem to use bricks or build fancy stands to put their hives on. But, if you have a bunch of hives, either option is expensive. Not to mention that bricks are heavy to lug around and stands can have a tendency to tip over, especially as the colony matures and the hive gets very heavy. Additionally, the taller a hive gets, the harder it is to work. My concern is not with a short two-box baby hive, but a full grown hive that’s five deep-boxes tall or six even. Put that on top of eight inches of brick and it’s just that much taller to have to deal with.
Using bricks is a bit of a hassle. Up until now, I’ve been digging a shallow depression where I want my beehives to go and then painstakingly positioning some bricks I had on hand, making sure they’re perfectly level since I don’t use foundations. It is a bit of a pain – I’d get this brick looking good and the next brick is skewed so I’d have to level that and then the bricks behind it are out of whack and so-forth. Cinder-blocks – large concrete blocks – are another option, but still has the same issues with leveling. I’ve seen people use just two of them and with the hive tall it looks like it’s just about to teeter over with the slightest breeze. Three or four would be better, but then the cost gets up there, plus that’s three or four heavy bricks to lug around and position. Not ideal if you have a lot of hives. I don’t yet, but will so it pays to think forward.
As I vacillated between the different options for footers, Dee Lusby suggested using 2×4′s on the bottom-boards. Hers are actually integrated into the bottom-board itself and can also serve as a lid. But it’s good advice even for regular bottom boards. So that is what I settled on – placing a pair of treated 2×4′s across the bottom of the bottom-boards and screwing them in place. I only use the 3/8″ side of the bottom-board so it’s no problem for me to screw the 2×4′s to the 3/4″ side. Now, I just kick a plot level, plop down the bottom-board, tweak it a bit and start stacking boxes on it. That has simplified matters enormously. For one, there’s no other components to keep track of – it’s all built in. Secondly, it’s light – no problem at all to pick up the bottom-board and move it if need be. Placing this has also become much easier. Just a little digging to level the ground – sometimes just kicking it a bit – and I plopped the footer down and checked level. If a slight bit of a slant forward can be facilitated, it’s all the better. That way less water would puddle inside during heavy rains.
I can do two hives per single 8′ stick of lumber. I cut this 2×4 into 2′ sections. I supposed 4×4 lumber could be used too, but where my hives are situated, 2×4 is perfectly adequate. I take two of these and position them on the bottom-board – the 3/4″ side for me. One I place at the back and across the back. Remember, all the weight of the hive transfers to these footers thru the bottom-board, so letting the full back rest on the rear footer is surely a good thing. I then drill guide holes to ensure no splitting, and drive in a couple of screws – the kind meant to be used with treated wood. The front footer I place at about where the front of the hive itself rests rather than the full front of the bottom-board. I don’t want the rails of the bottom-board have to take any more stress than needed. Perhaps I’m over-thinking it, but it’s worked out well. Same thing as the rear footer – just drill and screw and that’s it. I only used one screw per rail. After all, the weight of the hive will keep it put, the screw just holds it together when I’m moving things.
Of course, this is a system that depends on no flooding in the area – after all, the hives do sit really low to the ground. The best placement for hives is high and dry anyway – where it doesn’t flood even during heavy rains. Tupelo hives excepted, perhaps. If it’s unavoidable that some puddling may occur, the 4×4 option may prove useful too. A little heavier, but still easier to transport and situate than heavy concrete blocks or fabricated bee-stands.
Another benefit is with the wider foot-print, high winds are less of a problem and the hive sits lower to the ground. The boxes themselves resist sliding mainly because of weight and the bit of paint that coats the edges. Of course, enough wind and any hive will come apart, but having a secure footer will be helpful in anything up to that. Let’s also not forget that some critters will push against the hive as well, attempting to topple it. Top-heavy with a narrow base just makes that job all the easier. With footers like this, that keeps the center-of-gravity a bit lower and provides a wider foot-print, this is less of an issue.
Of course, if that critter happens to be a bear, this is a moot point and additional exclusion measures must be taken. However, here we just have coons and skunks to deal with. Skunks won’t push on the hive and just scratch on the entrance and gobbles up bees that come out. A raccoon tho will push against the hive. If it’s not heavy with honey yet, they could even topple it. I have also found deer hairs on the corners of my hives – deer seem to like using beehives as a scratching post too, which can also topple a tall hive. So for me, lower and with a wider foot-print just seems to make better sense than some of these really tall hive-stands I’ve seen. Your mileage may vary, of course, but give it some thought. For those concerned about treated wood, untreated wood could be used and changed out every couple of years or three, or the treated wood can be painted. I plan on slapping on some exterior paint onto mine here after a bit.