An IPM Pallet From Our Perspective

Have you ever been so addicted to something (good things) you just couldn’t stop improving on concepts and methodologies?  Well, we have that type of addiction with our honey bees.  Our desire to expand to 150 colonies in 2013 came up against some budget constraints and we had to start searching for more economical ways of managing our growth.  We needed to move from individual screened bottom boards to an IPM Pallet.

The expense of individual components isn’t so bad when you are buying for a few colonies, and sure, with the right supplier free shipping helps save some money.  Managing the number of components and their costs can be challenging when keeping to your management strategies for honeybees.  As we were new to beekeeping with our first 50 hive installation we wanted to stay with tried and true methods.  We were concerned about Integrated Pest Management (IPM) when selecting our hive components.  Screened bottom boards were very important to control mites and other pests.  Most commercial operations used pallets with solid bottom boards and migratory covers, not an IPM Pallet.  Great options if you couple them with chemicals for pest control which is something we want to avoid.

Quite frankly, we didn’t expect to get so addicted to beekeeping so quickly.  Our desire to expand left us with several questions:

  • How can we control pests (IPM) without individual screened bottom boards?
  • How will we move major quantities of hives around the ranch or to other locations efficiently when carrying capacity is reached?
  • How can we incorporate benefits of migratory pallets and IPM based screened bottom boards and create an IPM Pallet?
  • Can we build an IPM Pallet with a screened bottom that will survive forklift abuse?

The answer had to be in the design and construction of a screened IPM Pallet for bottom boards that will survive some level of forklift mishaps.


  1. Incorporate all the benefits of an individual screened bottom board into an IPM Pallet design that holds four colonies, with minimal construction waste.
  2. Evaluate costs of materials and labor and compare to individual screened bottom boards. (wow, what a difference in cost)
  3. Build jigs to replicate pallets quickly.
  4. Pre-cut all components for rapid assembly.

Spiral Horn Apiary uses 8 frame Langstroth hives as we are not spring chickens any longer and the extra weight of 10 frame hives was a little more than our backs desired.  A lot of plans/ideas exist on the Internet for 10 frame solid bottom board pallet designs.  Incorporating the screened bottom board and sticky board (varroa counts) or oil pan (beetle traps) was not found in our search.  We drew up some plans and started with a jig for ensuring that the IPM Pallet would be square and one person could assemble the pallet (two hands vs four).  The jig is made from 3/16 inch angle iron.  One 20 ft. length is plenty for our 8 frame hive measurements.

Each of the 3 support rails in the IPM Pallet required a dado cut allowing the easy insertion/removal of a sticky board.  The two outer rails have 1 dado each, with the slot facing inwards, the middle rail has one dado cut on each side allowing sticky boards to be inserted easily under each hive on the IPM Pallet.  Once the dado slots were made, each rail goes into its respective place in the frame.  The center rail has a guide slot to allow one person to assemble the IPM Pallet and not worry about center rail alignment or it falling over during nail-up.

Once the rails are in place, cross members are added with side boards.  These cross members are standard 1×4 pressure treated boards.  Nail each of these boards in place where appropriate to secure the rails and cross members.  We added side boards (ripped 1×4 in half) to eliminate the space created by the cross members and adds a stapling area for the screen.  We nailed 3 pieces of 1×4 on the bottom side of the pallet after removing it from the jig.

We used 36 inch wide hardware cloth (1/8 x 1/8) purchased from cut right down the middle thereby eliminating any waste.  The individual pieces were the perfect size for each section of the IPM Pallet.  We stapled (pneumatic staple gun) the hardware cloth squarely across the side and cross members side to side, using 1/4 inch staples.  All those tools collected over the years (and my wife thought I was a “hoarder of tools”) sure have come in handy.

The hive sits on top runners which also add extra hold-down for the screen, the middle runner has pallet “w” brackets purchased from screwed into it at appropriate distances to hold the hives from shifting side to side.  All of these runners are 1/2 inch thick to provide appropriate “bee space”.  We went a little above the 3/8 inch normally considered appropriate bee space for stability.  We have a planer that allowed us to use the same 1×4 pressure treated boards, ripped in half for the two sides; ripped 2 1/4 inches for the center piece, and the waste strip used to cut the four pieces required to support the back end of each hive.

Making the IPM Pallet build go a lot faster required all of the pieces to be pre-cut and planed (where appropriate).  Using the jig was critical to our success by keeping the IPM Pallet square and our pre-cut pieces fitting perfectly.  We have built 25 of these IPM Pallets so far and will use them for the 100 hive expansion in 2013.  If you would like a measured drawing to build an IPM Pallet send us an email via the “contact us” section of the website.

Next up, building more brood boxes, supers, and frames.  Seems early for a 2013 expansion but with one guy doing the work it takes a while.