Should my hive tilt forward?
Maybe I’m becoming too cynical, but here’s another beekeeping discussion that makes me crazy. It usually begins when someone asks this reasonable question: “If I’m using a screened bottom board, do I still need to tilt the hive forward?”
The answer is “no.” Tilting a hive forward is important for anyone using a solid bottom board because rainwater or snowmelt can accumulate on the alighting board or blow through the entrance and become trapped inside the hive. A driving wind can blow in a substantial amount of precipitation. But a hive tipped forward allows the water to drain back out.
On the other hand, a screened bottom board is—for want of a better word—screened. Water that comes in through the entrance drops out the bottom. Even with the Varroa drawer in place, the water is removed from the bees’ living quarters and eventually slides off the edge of the drawer and out the bottom of the hive.
Fair question. So far, so good. But then, like clockwork, someone offers this truly bazaar bit of advice: “Even with a screened bottom board you need to tilt the hive so moisture condensing on the inner cover will run to the edge and drain instead of dripping on the bees.” You’ve got to be kidding. Are these people serious? Would they treat malaria with a bandage?
If you have so much condensation at the top of your hive that it flows when tipped, what you need is not a system of diversion drains and downspouts. What you need is a solution to the problem.
Even if you could prevent water from dripping on the bees by draining it off the inner cover (which I doubt—some would drip anyway), much of the water is just going to run down the inside of the hive and wet the interior wall. Some of this water will evaporate and, since evaporation is a cooling process, it will further cool the hive. The saturated wood will not dry easily, but it will sprout a nice assortment of mold, mildew, and fungus.
The same holds true if you skip the inner cover and use only a telescoping outer cover. If the cover is in contact with the edges of the hive (which it probably is) the water will drain down the inside, not the outside, of the hive. This is not what you want.
Most of that moisture can be controlled by providing adequate through-ventilation, insulating the cover, and/or providing a moisture quilt to collect water vapor. Although some humans have water cascading down the walls of their living rooms and call it art, the bees will be healthier if you omit the water feature and prevent the moisture from accumulating in the first place. Dry bees are happy bees.