beekeeping equipment muddled thinking

Bovard rack? Really?

The following comment came yesterday in response to the post, “How to use a slatted rack.” I’ve decided to answer the allegations one by one.

Your comments about slatted racks is inaccurate. First the original designer was a man in Hawaii by the name of Bovard back in the 1960s, hence Bovard Racks was the original name.

I don’t see how it’s inaccurate to call a rack with slats a “slatted rack.” Once upon a time, the old-fashioned slatted rack with crosswise slats was referred to as a “Bovard rack.” But the original idea for a slatted resting place below the brood chamber was developed by Dr. C. C. Miller in 1900 and refined by Carl Killion in 1950. Brovard merely came up with a way to build the device in one easy-to-use piece.

Although modern slatted racks maintain the 4-inch wide board in front (conceived by Killion), the slats now run parallel to the frames instead of crosswise so they can be used effectively with screened bottom boards. With the change went the name, and the current rendition of slatted racks are called—wait for this—slatted racks. I invite you to look at the ones for sale at places like BetterBee, Brushy Mountain Bee Farm, or Ruhl Bee Supply.

In any case, the subject of the post on which you are commenting is how to use a slatted rack, not how to name one.

Second, the wide board in the front of the hive directs any incoming air to go up through the cluster so reducing cold air going up past the cluster. The strips are placed crosswise to break up incoming air at the hive entrance. Bees cluster in the 3/8″ spaces thus controlling air movement up through the cluster resulting in a larger cluster going into winter and a warmer colony in the spring – if the bee colony is large enough.

The slats are no longer placed crosswise. Plus, you are asserting that cold air going through the cluster is better than cold air going around it? Are you sure?

Third, the space below the crosswise slats is not dead air. Any space wider than 1/4″ allows for air movement or tirbulance (sic) as you refer to it. That is why thermo pane windows are spaced the way they are.

First, as I illustrated above, the slats are no longer crosswise, they are longwise. Yes, you can still buy plans for the other type, if that’s what you prefer. Again I quote, BetterBee: “Our slatted rack can be used in combination with our Varroa screens. The slats run from back to front so that they are directly under the hive body frames. That way when the Varroa mites fall naturally off the bees, they fall through the slats and through the Varroa screen.”

Regarding dead air space, let me quote Ruhl Bee Supply, “Installed between the bottom board and the bottom brood chamber, [the slatted rack] creates dead air space at the bottom of the brood chamber, keeping the bottom of the hive more protected, and encourages the queen to lay lower in the comb.” Or maybe you prefer, “The extra space produced by the slatted rack is said to keep a beehive warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer by creating dead air space.”

By the way, double or triple paned windows are designed to reduce heat transfer and prevent condensation. The space between the panes is great enough to reduce conductive heat loss and small enough to prevent convective currents. In any case, these windows are closed systems and in no way compare to slatted racks which are open to the outside air and populated with bees.

Fourth, USDA research says that non-reproductive mites are the ones that fall to the hive bottom board and through a screen bottom board. Hence the board becomes unnecessary to colony survival from Varroa.

It’s impossible to tell if your second sentence refers to the hive bottom board or the screened bottom board. But no matter—nowhere in my post do I say or imply that either one is “necessary to colony survival.” In fact, I’ve often said that I don’t believe screened bottom boards are as helpful as we once hoped. In any case, I don’t see where I’ve said anything inaccurate. Again the subject here is how to use a slatted rack should you decide to do so—not whether screened bottom boards are helpful in varroa control.

Fifth, the rack allows the bees to control air movement, and swarm queen cells can be found on the bottom bars of the bottom brood nest because it is warmer above the rack. This results in larger colonies and faster buildup in the spring provided the queens and colony size is optimal for other reasons.

In my post I say, “Because a slatted rack moves the bottom of the brood chamber further from the entrance, the queen tends to lay eggs all the way to the bottom of the frames, thus extending the brood pattern.” This comports with your assertion that queen cells may be found lower in the hive. I do not speculate on whether this results in larger colonies and faster build-up because I simply do not have any proof of that. But I’m still looking for the alleged inaccuracy. Where is it?

I thought you should know these issues.

And here’s an issue for you to consider: Here at Honey Bee Suite, I do not make things up . . . I look things up. I have made mistakes in interpretation in the past, so when a comment like yours comes in, I spend a lot of time re-researching so that if I have made an error I can correct it. If I don’t know or understand an issue I will say so. I probably type the phrase “I don’t know” more than any other. Your kind of shotgun approach—the everything-you-say-here-is-wrong approach—wastes a lot of time and doesn’t yield any benefit. I stand by my original post.



  • Wow! Can people disagree without attacking? In any case, before I started going on about air circulation, think I’d make sure I knew how to spell “turbulence.”

    Nice job of, er, “clarifying,” Rusty!

  • Rusty: You write so many good articles for us newbees and vets that I really hate to see you get upset when an inexperenced under achiever sends you a message that has not been researched or investigated properly. Please keep your well written and informatived articles coming. They are appreciated by us true believers. Thanks Phil

    • Phil,

      Thanks for your support. The thing is, I try really hard to correct anything that might be wrong or unclear. So when I get a comment like that, I feed compelled to check for errors and clarify, if necessary. In the time it took me to check everything he said, I could have written an entirely new post on a new subject, which is why I ended up posting his charges instead. There aren’t enough hours in a day to do both.

  • Keep writing! I love your posts – too bad some want to be controversial or critical (not in a good way).

    Never give in! Don’t get discouraged.

  • Interesting what he says about the bees making swarm cells at the bottom of the brood because of the slatted rack. My understanding is that’s where swarm cells usually are, anyway.

  • I have used these slatted racks in the past and find them unecessary. Just another bee gadget…reducing the hive entrance in winter and sliding a board under the screened bottom boards is far better at eliminating drafts. Besides, COLD/MOIST AIR BLOWING ON THE CLUSTER IS A DEATH SENTENCE TO THE COLONY!!

    There are always going to be some out there that have strong opinions on certain subjects. Rusty, I think you had it right the first time and I dont think you needed to respond, but you did a great job!!

  • Good comments on the subject, I will give some references for those who would like them. From what I have read the Bovard rack developed by Richard F. Bovard converts a standard bottom board into a Killion slatted bottom board so the queen will lay in the lower brood chamber.

    I’m interested in the subject. I have read the articles in the June of 68 and June of 70 pages 340 & 341 of 1968 Last 2 paragraphs of article. “Beekeepers are notoriously slow in accepting new ideas, they still live in the horse and buggy days as far as their bee equipment goes, yet for their personal comfort they expect the latest gimmicks in their automobiles and trucks.

    This easy to use slatted rack ends once and for all poor ventilation and excess moisture. It is up to the beekeepers now to discover for themselves a whole new phase in beekeeping.”

  • Another interesting discussion! Oddly I wonder how various people become tagged for creating things “bee keeping” when for the most part a good number of useful hive bits come simply from creative thinking and applied application. Worse is becoming defensive about them. If it were not for Rusty I would never have known anything about “slatted racks”, Mr. Bovard, or anyone else who worked with them. As a new beekeeper it was logical to me to prepare for winter by placing a shallow, empty super (200 mm – 4″) below the bottom box of our Warre Hive so as to get it off the ground. Little did I know I had the makings of a “slatted box”. If I put the normal 8-top bars back in the box I’m pretty close to having a full-functioning “slatted box”. One more design addition (the draft board) and it would pretty much replicate a “slatted box” but be just a bit deeper which I think not a problem. Once again, thanks – great information. Hopefully it will get us close to some day successfully overwintering a colony.

  • I bought slatted racks for all my new hives based on your article. Awesome website and the information gained here has been invaluable during the planning phase of bringing bee’s onto our ranch. Thank you for not letting the delusional “people-best seen-and-not-heard” spread mis-information.

  • To me, the most important modern use for the slatted rack is when sublimating OA. The air space provided by the rack puts some added distance between the heating element and any wax/burr comb that could cause a fire. Also lessens the effects on plastic frames melting, etc.

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