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Beekeeping 101: Building a Hive

May 1, 2012

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This is the fourth installment of our Beekeeping 101 series. Before you get bees, you should consider how they are going to live—and build a hive!

The most common hive uses the Langstroth method. This beginner’s guide to beekeeping explores the parts of the hive.

Below is a picture of the Langstroth hive as well as a listing of the basic parts of the hive and what they are used for.

Langstroth Hive


Credit (illustration): Sonoma Bees

Hive Parts

  • Outer/Telescoping Cover—Keeps the whole hive dry from rain. Similar to a roof on a house.
  • Inner Cover—Contains a bee escape, which is important when collecting honey. This board gets placed below the honey super, causing the workers to move into the brooding chamber but stopping them from moving back up toward you.
  • Shallow/Honey Super—Where the honey is stored.
  • Queen Excluder—Allows only worker bees to pass through, keeping the queen and drones away from the honey.
  • Frames—Where honeycomb is created and honey is collected.
  • Foundation—An artificial comb that encourages the bees to produce more honeycomb.
  • Brood Chamber—Where the queen and drones birth new bees.
  • Entrance Cleat—How the bees get into the hive in the winter (rather than using a reversible bottom board).
  • Bottom Board—What the hive is placed on. A reversible bottom board has two rims: a short one for winter and a tall one for summer.
  • Hive Stand—Keeps everything off the ground and prevents the hive from rotting.

There are a few other things to keep in mind when constructing a hive.

Make sure that the hive is

  • Sheltered from wind
  • Above stagnant water
  • Warmable by the morning sun
  • Near a source of water (bees need to drink, too!)
  • Painted. Never use toxic paints. Use different colors based on your region. For example, most hives are white to reflect the sun, but beekeepers up north may want to use black to keep warmth during the long winter.
  • Protected by a barrier from streets, etc. This will also force the bees to fly up and over cars, people, etc., thus causing them to be less of a nuisance and helping them to stay alive.

Next, learn where to get your bees.

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There are alternatives to the

By CSWoffe

There are alternatives to the Langstroth hive: the Warre Hive or the Horizontal Top Bar Hive, which is gaining popularity with back yard keepers. Both of these alternatives focus on natural beekeeping methods, and on happy, healthy bees rather than maximum honey extraction. I encourage anyone interested in back yard keeping to research these alternative hives. I use both, and love them both.

Good illustration of this

By BethR

Good illustration of this type of hive; you might consider also showing how to make a top bar hive, which is much easier and cheaper to build, is more manageable by one person and is closer to what bees do when they live in the wild.

I had a friend in switzerland

By nate dunham

I had a friend in switzerland who made something like this. He said that beekeeping is an awesome hobby. Maybe I should try it too. Thanks for posting the tutorial.

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