beekeeping equipment how to

How to make follower boards for a Langstroth hive

Here is one method of making follower boards for a Langstroth hive (also known as dummy boards). I made these for a deep brood box, but you can make them for any size box using the same method.

1. Start by measuring your frames from top to bottom and from side bar to side bar. Measure from the outside of each piece of wood to the outside of the opposite piece, but exclude the ears on the the top bar.

Measure the frames using the outside dimensions.

2. Select a regular top bar and cut it in half lengthwise.

Cut a top bar in half lengthwise.

3. Cut two pieces of masonite or other thin material according to the measurements of your frame. Also cut 4 small pieces of wood from scrap. (I show eight pieces in the photo but you only need four for a pair of follower boards.) The wood I used was the wedge from a wedged top bar. My pieces measure 3/16″ x 1/2″ x 4″ (0.5 cm x 1.25 cm x 4 cm). The length and width are not important but the thickness provides part of your bee space.

Cut two pieces of masonite and four spacers.

4. Center the masonite along the cut side of the top bars, lining up the top edges.

Make sure the masonite is centered along the top bar.

5. Fasten the masonite with a brad gun or stapler.

Fasten the masonite to the top bar.

6. Fasten the spacers to the side of the masonite without the top bar.

Fastern the spacers to the masonite.

7. The follower boards are now complete. Here is a view of the complete board on the top bar side.

Follower board showing top bar side.

8. Here is a view of the complete board on the spacer side.

Follower board showing the spacer side.

9. Here is the completed deep brood box with nine frames and two follower boards. The spacing works best if the top bar side goes against the walls of the box. The spacer side lines up with the adjacent frame.

Follower boards in place.



  • I made my first two follower boards today by following these instructions. Given my lack of carpentry skills, I’m surprised how well they turned out.

    I only made two of them. I suppose I should make another two to complete the set. But at least I know it’s possible now.

    Thanks Rusty.

    • Cutting a top bar in half lengthwise is difficult. I used a radial-arm saw and made a cut called ripping, which means cutting it along the grain instead of across it. It can be dangerous to the unskilled because the wood can go shooting out from the blade.

      If you are inexperienced and haven’t many tools, you might ask a friend to do it for you, or sometimes a lumber store will do it for a small fee. Alternatively you can use the alternate method of making follower boards where you use two whole frames instead of cutting one in half. I have a post on that somewhere.

      I will try to come up with a better and safer way to make follower boards. Does anyone have any ideas for Zoe?

  • Zoe, here’s a post that show’s exactly how I did it:

    I’m an incompetent carpenter and I don’t have many fancy tools. Poor starving artist types are like that. I used a hand-held jig saw to cut my bars down the middle. I could have used a regular hand saw, too, but the jig saw reduced my chances of cutting my thumb off in the process. I was careful and I did it slowly. I drew a line down the middle and did my best to follow the line with the jig saw. It wasn’t exactly a straight line but close enough.

    I have to build another one soon.

    I installed the follower boards a few weeks ago and haven’t checked on them since, but I assume they’re working the way they should. I’m checking on that hive tomorrow. I’ll let you know.

  • Update: I made the follower boards today by using a grooved top bar. I clamped it first, then it was easy to cut with a hand saw by cutting along the groove. Thanks Rusty & Phillip!

  • Do you put these in the bottom box only? I am not using deeps so I wasn’t sure if I should make them for only the bottom box, or if it would benefit having them in 2 or all 3?

    • Toby,

      It is best to have follower boards line up, especially if you are using a screened bottom board. If they don’t line up from box to box, the frames won’t line up and mites won’t be able to fall freely from the upper box, through the lower box, and out the bottom of the hive. The exception is that I don’t use them in the honey supers because the bees don’t do a lot of grooming or housecleaning in that area and the supers are on for only a short while.

    • When I first installed follower boards, I only put them in the bottom brood box, which left the frames in the second brood box misaligned with the frames in the bottom box — which means there was an empty space above every top bar in the bottom box. The bees subsequently built 3 inch burr comb in that space above the top bars. If that’s hard to follow, here’s a photo:

      I’ve since added follower boards to both brood boxes and everything is cool.

  • I noticed a beekeeper in California who made thick follower boards from plywood:

    I’d think the Masonite follower boards would provide more space for the bees to relieve congestion, etc., but I can also see the appeal of the simple plywood design.

  • Thank you very much for the information and photos supplied for the making of a dummy board. A picture is worth a thousand words. I love this website.

    • Dave,

      You should be confused. I hate the terms that mean different things to different people. Some say a division board is the same as a follower board or dummy board. Some say it is a board used for requeening, that is used to separate two hive boxes so the bees can’t co-mingle, sort of like a double-screen board. I think it’s best not to use the term “division board” at all.

  • All of the discussion I’ve seen about follower boards seems to refer to 10 frame supers. Can they/should they be used with 8 frame supers, too?


    • Jim,

      The purpose of follower boards remains the same regardless of the frame count. They provide dead-air space in winter, which insulates, and they provide a place for bees to congregate in summer, which keeps the brood nest cooler. So yes, you can use them in the same way.

      • Rusty –

        Thanks. I wasn’t sure if using them in 8-frame supers would cause problems with available space for brood. I’m starting my colony this spring with 8-frame mediums, so that’s only 21 medium frames instead of 24. I know one of the benefits is reducing swarming, but that almost seems like it could lead to overcrowding!

        • Jim,

          If you are uncomfortable with that, you can always use follower boards in winter, but not in summer. Still, the best way to manage them is to look and see what they need. If they are crowded, you can add another medium box or take out the followers. Sometimes you can relieve congestion by rearranging the honey frames, too. You can’t make plans for them, you can only respond to what they do.

  • I’ve got a case of propolis traps that I have no need for. Think I could cut these and use for follower boards? I’d put the flat side toward the bees and I’d cover the grooved side with cardboard to seal out the air. What about any other material? I’m sure there are lots of materials to use but are there any that I shouldn’t use? Will they tear up cardboard or thick poster board? Thanks.

    • Laura,

      You have the most amazing collection of stuff. Each time you write you’ve a few hundred of this or that. Anyway, I think it is worth a try to make them into follower boards. If the bees fill them with propolis, all the better because propolis inhibits disease organisms.

  • Hi Rusty,

    Newbee Elena here. I’m commenting on this blog because I screwed up and didn’t follow these instructions EXACTLY, and now I have a mess of cross combing in both hives. So for your readers’ benefit, the error was that I did not add the specified spacers.

    I had room to do both follower boards on both sides without removing a frame….not because I rationalized that at the time, I just completely missed the spacer instruction. So, I have eight frames in my L. deeps, and the follower boards on each side, with the 1/2 top bars to the outside.

    Apparently, it was all too cramped for the girls and they started cross combing. Honestly, I delayed too long in making an attempt to “fix” it all because I would have disturbed so much of their new comb and precious new brood.

    So now, I open up and do not pull frames. I simply peak in at the inner activity and figure I’m letting them and Mama nature do their thing. But it seems that forever more, I’ve created two full hives that cannot be inspected properly.

    For instance, in reading the “sticky board” for mite inspection blog, the alternative methods of powered sugar or ETOH are out because I can’t pull a frame to collect any girls! And here’s a question (apologies if I’ve missed this in your blogs): I did not see any mites on the backs of the young nurses, nor did I see mites (using a magnifying glass) on the regular board below. So, should I get a sticky board?

    Is it too early to treat prophylactally (once the outside temps are cool enough)? I saw a bunch of young nurse bees. I’m in Eastern WA and it has been hot and dry. Will these be my winter girls, or do you suppose there is new over-winter brood to come? HELP! Thank you.

    • Elena,

      Mites are “shy” and are unlikely to make themselves visible. Even phoretic ones (those riding around on adults) tend to hide between the plates of the abdomen. The only way to know for sure is to do a powered sugar roll or alcohol wash. Your winter bees will probably surface beginning in September. In the meantime, I think you should try to cut away the cross comb and straighten this out. Like I said in the post, things don’t get better by themselves.

  • Rusty,

    I’m planning to construct a version of these follower boards. For my use I would call them comb guides. I’m thinking of taking a thin material (political sign or thin plywood) and cutting it in the shape of top bar and frame. I’ll put spacers on either side to allow the bee space. This will keep the comb straight when I add a honey super. I’m going into my second year and have no drawn mediums. I can put them between each empty frame until the girls finish drawing it out. I can’t find that anyone has done this exactly. Does it sound like it will work? I’m thinking of drilling a few holes in the comb guide to facilitate movement between frames. Does that sound like it will be helpful?

    • Rich,

      If you do this, be sure to put plenty of holes in the plastic, just like you said. Some comb honey supers use thin wooden strips between frames, but they come with plenty of holes to facilitate both bee movement and air movement (which is necessary to dry the nectar into honey).

  • This will be my first year raising bees in NH what about hard Styrofoam on outside to insulate? It gets below 10 below zero in my area.

    • Phil,

      Yes, Styrofoam is used to insulate hives. Just be sure to leave ventilation ports so excess moisture can leave the hive.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I like the concept of the follower boards. I am just starting up with 10 frame medium boxes for new packages. Would using 2 follower boards in place of 1 frame be okay on a new install?



  • Rusty,

    I’ve been using follower boards for 17 years. Here’s how I do it easy. Buy three eights or half-inch plywood cut that the size of the bottom part of the frame not including the top bar. Take a whole top bar and three screws leaving room on each side of the top bar above the follower board use three screws to connect. This creates be space on both sides of the follower board. More room for summer be used to hang out.

    Are you swallow or boards in each and every box which then create a chimney effect. In the winter, the condensation on the inner cover is drawn to the outside of the follower board and the inside of the hive body. And the cold or from the bottom draws the dampness down and out the screen bottom board, instead of down on top of the bees.

    In addition by removing a follower board from any of the boxes, it makes it easier to manipulate the frames and not squish bees or kill your queen. This alone makes it well worth having follower boards.

    And here is the best thing about follower boards yet. You can use regular equipment to be a nuc. It can be three frames five frames or whatever. You just use the follower boards as though they are the side of the hive body. There will be lots of space between the follower board and the hive body wall,: if you only have five frames. And here’s the good news, the bees don’t build burr comb there.

    Don’t you love it???

    Kathy Cox
    Woodinville Washington

  • I don’t understand why you have to have two follower boards for each hive. Couldn’t you just push all the frames to one side and then add one follower board?

    • Alice,

      Yes, you could. But if you are using them for insulation (dead air space), that would give you insulation on one side by not the other.

  • I am not a beekeeper but am trying to learn to help my son who is learning to keep bees. Is the purpose of these boards to keep the bees from drawing comb too large on the outside frame? Otherwise, wouldn’t leaving empty space serve the same insulation purpose? If using a frame feeder would one of these boards between the feeder and the next frame keep the comb even and help prevent comb being built on the feeder? Can the bees climb well on the smooth side of the masonite and do they ever try to build comb on the textured side? Thank you.

    • Brent,

      The purpose is extra insulation; they provide two layers of dead air space instead of just one and pull the last comb further from the outside wall. I’ve never had comb built on a feeder or a follower board, but there’s a first time for everything, which is why you have a hive tool. They do climb on the follower and congregate there if the brood nest becomes too warm for the brood to develop properly.

  • Hi Rusty,

    Thanks again for ANOTHER great discussion!

    I am in the process of making follower boards for overwintering some of my hives. I am copying the Mann Lake ones and so 2 take the space of a single frame.

    I was planning on using 2 follower boards on each side and removing two regular frames (mostly because I have some colonies with only 3-4 honey frames in a medium while the other frames are still foundation.) By condensing all the boxes, the space is more efficient — I am essentially turning a 10 frame into an 8 frame. By using 2 on each side, I was planning to fill the entire space as “wood insulation”.

    However, after reading your posts and comments I am now questioning my plan. Are you saying that leaving a half a frame space on the outside of each follower board is a better plan because it will leave more space for a warm air cushion? or do you mean leave the space between the active frames and the follower boards? Which configuration do you think would provide better insulation? Or two pieces of wood on each side?

    (In case it may be relevant: I also use quilt boxes with homosote moisture boards on top and foam insulation under the telescoping top. Not sure about wrapping or insulation this year. I may copy my commercial beekeeper employer and use insulation on 3 sides and tar paper on the front).

    • Amy,

      I think using two on each side is fine. Most people try to maximize the brood area so they prefer just the one follower per side, but there is nothing wrong with two. That would give you three air layers–one next to the wall, one between the followers, and one between the followers and first frame. I see nothing wrong with that. The outside walls are always cold, so when you can keep the bees away from the walls, the colony will lose less heat. It should work just fine.

  • I use 1 1/2” foam board to completely cover my (east central MN) hives leaving the 1” front entrance on my top deep and my 1” entrance reducer exposed open for ventilation. I also use a 1/16” shim between my inner cover and telescoping cover for “controlled” ventilation (flattened cardboard works perfectly)

  • I actually have a question. I’ll be making my horizontal hive soon and I am curious, does the follower board restrict the bees’ movement in the hive so as to build up say a brood section before allowing them to travel to another section for honey stores?

    • Robert,

      You can adjust the space available for the brood nest by moving the follower boards. The space between the follower and the end of the box is dead-air space that provides insulation. It doesn’t restrict the bees’ travel. They can easily walk around it, but they don’t.

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