What is an Ecofloor anyway?

Ecofloor, deep floor, litter filled base, I have heard it called a few things.
I first came across the idea through a youtube video by Phil Chandler
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWB-pdlqeFQ

It probably sounds more complicated than it is where basically it is a removable box the same width and length as the bottom of the hive’s bottom.
The box is about 100mm deep, though as long as it can hold a decent covering of wood chips it isn’t that important.
The bottom of the box can be solid (which can be expected to rot over time) or a mesh allowing excess moisture through.
The box should contain well-seasoned wood chips. If you have a nearby sawmill grab a bag for ~£1 and leave them in a pile somewhere in your apiary until you are ready to ecofloor.
The biggest question with the eco floor is whether or not to have something between the hive and eco floor.

Kenyan top bar hive with ecofloor retro fitted

Kenyan top bar hive with ecofloor retro fitted

Option 1: Retrofit eco floor so the bottom of the hive still has varroa mesh. 
PROS –
Easy peezy.
Uniform comb depths.
If you fit the eco floor on adjustable clips you can lower it to increase ventilation (if ventilation is your bag).
If you need to remove the ecofloor at any point due to damage or infestation you still have a self-contained hive.
CONS –
You have compartmented habitats.
The bees cannot access the ecofloor area to police the area.
NB – You can get around this by poking a few larger holes in you mesh. The bees then have access and they are easily plugged if you need to remove the ecofloor.
Option B: The use of a wider mesh (bees can fit through). 
PROS –
Uniform comb depths.
The bees have access to the eco floor to police it.
CONS –
Hard to retro fit to hive with bees already in.
As the material rots down the bees will have access under the follower board to the rest of the hive so you’ll be unable to keep multiple colonies in one hive.
Still requires covering if ecofloor needs to be removed.
NB – This can be mediate by having a hard floor which can clip on underneath the mesh using the same connectors as the ecofloor.
Option iii: The is no need for a bottom!
PROS –
Obviously the easiest when making a new hive.
The second easiest for retrofit (not as much work to remove a mesh floor, as to remove one and fit a new one).
The area is completely open to the bees so accepted as part of the hive and policed as such.
The material can be piled up against and around the follower to provide better side insulation.
CONS –
As the material rots down the bees will build the comb down to the material leading to different comb depths in different parts of the hive and difficulty topping up.
Still requires covering if ecofloor needs to be removed.
NB – This can be mediate by having a hard floor which can clip on underneath the mesh using the same connectors as the ecofloor.

Currently I am leaning towards retrofit on old hives and option iii on new ones.

Although the ecofloor is presented as a more “natural” environment there are a number of much more obvious advantages. It provides a significant thermal mass resisting changes in temperature as a result of external influences. It could provide a cache allowing the hive atmosphere to return to normal much more quickly after an inspection. The wood chips will absorb excesses of moisture and release moisture if the atmosphere should it become too dry.

Although this is presented for TBHs but there is no reason why this can’t be used for other hive types.  I have an ecofloor under some national boxes and plan to add them to my warré hives.

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6 Responses to What is an Ecofloor anyway?

  1. Emily Scott says:

    Interesting. Would it be possible to have a space to put a board in so you can check the mite drop? Otherwise you would have no way of knowing how bad levels were in the hive, unless you were doing drone uncapping.

    • deweysanchez says:

      Of course. You can build it anyway you like. I don’t tend to do varroa drop counts as I don’t “treat”. If you don’t treat then the varroa drop doesn’t really tell you the count on the bees. Plus if you don’t intend to treat them why count them. In reality varroa are here to stay. We will not eradicate them. The absence of varroa is therefore not the important point. The bees ability to thrive inspite of the varroa is. This cannot be assesed with a sticky board.

      • Emily Scott says:

        I see what you mean… but you can do things about the varroa without chemical treatments. Husbandry treatments such as a shook-swarm or queen trapping, for instance. They can’t be eradicated but they can be controlled.

      • deweysanchez says:

        Indeed. You can “treat” your bees differently as opposed to treating with chemicals. The best inhibitor of mite replication is a consistently maintained brood temperature. I try to keep it so the bees can do just that. I also intend to let mine swarm naturally where possible and collect or trap in bait hives. I do live enough in the country though to make this possible.

  2. Julie says:

    Great exploration of the various options. I’m intrigued by the idea of an ecofloor, but I haven’t tried them out myself. I know you had some last year. How did you like them? Have you noticed any significant differences between colonies that have ecofloors & colonies that don’t?

    • deweysanchez says:

      Unfortunately my top bar hive with a deep floor swarmed in august while I was on holiday and failed to re queen. It was very strong though. 18+ bars of solid brood. My national hive with a deep floor appears to have survived winter despite being very weak at the end of the year. Even without the “hive ecosystem” argument they make sense from a temperature and moisture control point of view. I guess we’ll see how they go.

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