>1) Bottom of hive: Screened or solid board? I've read so many different things I can't decide which way to go.
Solid. Bee should control their ventilation. It's hard to get them not to abscond from a hive with an open bottom...
> Improved ventilation
It's not improved. It's out of the bees' control... they need to control the ventilation winter or summer. That's why a swarm prefers to move into a hive with a small opening...
> some say even leave open in winter
Less and less people are saying that... and more and more are saying the solid bottom hives are building up sooner and quicker.
>(Will this work or be too cold for the mid-Atlantic (I've also read articles where we should insulate the hives better in winter))?
Put some sytrofoam on the lid and hold it down with a brick, or if you are really cheap, bag up some leaves in the fall and put those on top...
> Help with varroa mite control?
I have seen no evidence that a SBB helps with Varroa.
> Reduces 'bearding' in the summer because of the improved ventilation?
Maybe it reduces bearding because instead of loafing on the front of they hive they all have to go back in to work hard at controling out of control ventilation. In the summer they need to COOL the hive. How do you do that when someone leaves the windows and doors open...
> Improved structural strength of hive -- particularly if it has to be moved (This is an assumption on my part.)?
> Improved heat retention in winter? Decreased ventilation?
Better, controlled ventilation.
> Less expensive?
Yes. And simpler.
>2) Hive entrance:
>I'm aware of 3 options I've seen:
>On side in middle: I've rejected this one as I'd prefer the brood at one end or other
>Or on side at one end. Better ventilation or will the bees tend not to like their combs more exposed?
>Which is better?
Mine is just the gap at the end. No holes.http://www.bushfarms.com/images/TBHEntranceDiagramChrisGraham.jpghttp://www.bushfarms.com/images/TBHEntrance1.JPG
The bees prefer their entrance to be at a 45 degree angle from the entrance. You can approximate that with any entrance that is near the corner at one end.
>Should the bees have a landing area? Pro: helps new forager bees acclimate and orient. Against: Natural nests don't have a porch and helps mice access hive.
I call them mouse ramps... I guess that clarifies my view... I've never seen a tree with a landing board and I've never seen any loss of productivity on a hive without one. I cut all of them off of all my bottom boards...
>When building are there any considerations I should absolutely (or at least forcibly) consider/do?
Here is the simplest one I've built:http://www.bushfarms.com/beestopbarhives.htm#ktbh