How to Make a Beehive as an Amateur Beekeeper

how to make a beehive

Part of the fun of being an amateur beekeeper is doing as much as you can for your bees on your own. You want to be as industrious as your bees rather than taking the easy way out. It is with that in mind that some amateur beekeepers decide to make their own hives. It doesn’t hurt that commercially built beehives can be expensive.

This comprehensive guide on how to make your own beehive looks at the project from two angles. The first is building the actual boxes that will house your bees and their honey. The second is setting up those boxes and populating them with bees.

Remember that a box is not a hive. A hive is a community of bees that work together to build the honeycomb structure in which they birth their young and store their honey. Hives can be built in man-made boxes or in tree hollows. Your goal is not just to make a beautiful box; it is to make one that will allow your bees to thrive season after season.

The Tools You Will Need

Building the box that will become your beehive requires at least a basic collection of tools. You can spend more than $1000 buying brand-new power tools at the DIY store but, if this is your first carpentry project, you probably don’t want to do that. You might complete your first box and decide you never want to do it again. Do not invest a lot of money in expensive tools until you know for sure you’re going to keep making your own boxes.

For your first project, you can get by with:

  • a hand or table saw
  • a miter saw or chisels
  • a drill and screw drivers
  • wood glue and clamps
  • a pair of tin snaps.

You can make a beehive ornate or simple, so it’s up to you. On a first project with limited tools, it is better to keep it simple. You will be working with different types of screws along with plywood and several sizes of boards. Choosing pine boards will keep your costs down. Whatever you choose, do not buy pressure-treated lumber. It has chemicals that can be deadly to bees.

Choosing a Box Design

This post assumes that you have no experience building beehives. You can come up with your own design, but a safer bet is to look online for plans that detail how to build the most common types of hives. The three most used hive types are:

1. The Langstroth Hive

If you have ever driven past a beekeeping operation and seen stacks of wooden bee boxes, you have seen Langstroth hives. The Langstroth hive is the de facto standard among amateurs and professionals alike. It is more or less a square box that holds ten frames. It is popular because it can be stacked.

Langstroth hives are comparatively easy to build. They are also easy to place and transport. This is a good choice for a first hive project in that it will teach you the basics of box construction in relation to the natural habits that honeybees display.

2. The Warre Hive

The Warre hive is similar to the Langstroth in terms of its design. However, it offers two notable differences. First, the box itself is slightly smaller based on the idea that bees naturally build their hives in trees. Being as narrow as trees are, the inventor of this design wanted his boxes to be narrow as well.

The other key difference with the Warre hive is that new boxes added to the stack are not placed on top. Rather, they are placed at the bottom of the stack. Inventor Abbé Émile Warré observed that honeybees build downward as they need room to expand. He decided to add new boxes to the bottom of his stack in order to mimic that behavior.

Proponents of this particular hive style say that it is more natural for the bees. It supposedly requires less work at inspection time because frames are not removed. However, there is more work involved when you are adding new boxes. Why? Because you have to lift the entire stack up. One last thing to note is that some U.S. states have banned Warre hives.

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  • Carter, Anthony (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 194 Pages - 02/28/2024 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

3. Top Bar Hive

The third type of hive on my list is known as the top bar hive. You can easily identify this hive style on a single look. It has no foundation or frames, just a series of up to twenty-four wooden bars that hang from the top of the box. Bees construct their honeycomb structures on the undersides of the bars, just as if they were building nests on tree limbs.

In theory, each bar can be individually removed for inspection without disturbing the others. Some amateur beekeepers build small windows into their boxes to allow for inspection without having to remove the bars at all. But of course, all of this is contingent upon leaving enough space between the bars to accommodate normal honeybee activity.

Regardless of the style of hive you choose to make, the general rule of thumb for ‘bee space’ – the amount of space bees need between honeycombs to work comfortably – is about three-eighths of an inch. Leave too much space and you will have bees that may struggle to stay warm when temperatures drop. Make the space too narrow and you will have honeycomb in places where you don’t want it.


Step-by Step Guide for Constructing a Langstroth Hive

Here’s a detailed step-by-step guide to help you construct a basic Langstroth beehive, which is the most common type used in beekeeping:

Step 1: Gather Materials and Tools

  • Materials: Untreated wood (pine is commonly used), wood glue, nails or screws, wire mesh for the bottom board.
  • Tools: Saw, hammer or screwdriver, measuring tape, square, drill.

Step 2: Build the Hive Stand

Purpose:

  • The hive stand serves to elevate the beehive off the ground. This helps to protect the hive from moisture, pests, and makes it easier for the bees to access their home.

Materials Needed:

  • Untreated wood, preferably pine for durability and cost-effectiveness.
  • Nails or screws for joining the wood pieces.
  • Wood preservative or paint for weather protection (optional).

Tools Required:

  • Saw (hand saw or power saw).
  • Hammer or screwdriver (depending on whether you’re using nails or screws).
  • Measuring tape.
  • Level (to ensure the stand is even).

Instructions:

  1. Designing the Frame:
    • Plan a simple rectangular frame that matches the dimensions of the bottom board of your beehive. Typically, this would be around 16 inches by 20 inches.
    • Consider adding cross-beams for additional support.
  2. Cutting the Wood:
    • Measure and mark your wood according to the planned dimensions.
    • Use the saw to cut the wood pieces to the required lengths.
  3. Assembling the Frame:
    • Lay out the cut pieces on a flat surface to form the rectangular shape of the stand.
    • Join the corners using nails or screws. Make sure the corners are square by checking with the square tool.
    • If you have designed cross-beams, attach them evenly spaced across the frame.
  4. Adding Legs (Optional):
    • For added elevation, you can attach legs to each corner of the frame. This could be short pieces of wood or even metal legs.
    • Ensure that the legs are of equal length to maintain balance.
  5. Finishing Touches:
    • Use a level to check that the stand is even.
    • Apply a wood preservative or weather-resistant paint to extend the life of the stand, especially if it will be exposed to the elements.
    • Let the stand dry completely if painted.
  6. Positioning the Stand:
    • Choose a level spot in your apiary for the stand.
    • It’s ideal to position it facing east or southeast to catch the morning sun.

Tips:

  • Ensure the stand is sturdy enough to support the weight of a full beehive, which can be quite heavy.
  • Keep in mind the height for your convenience during hive inspections.
  • Make sure the stand is in a place where it won’t be disturbed or need to be moved often.

Building a hive stand is a foundational step in beekeeping. A well-constructed stand not only supports the hive but also contributes to the health and productivity of your bee colony.

Step 3: Create the Bottom Board

Purpose:

  • The bottom board forms the base of the beehive. It supports the hive bodies and provides an entrance for the bees.

Materials Needed:

  • A flat piece of untreated wood, ideally pine for its durability and affordability.
  • Wood for making the entrance reducer (smaller piece, can be a scrap from the main wood).
  • Nails or screws.

Tools Required:

  • Saw (hand saw or power saw).
  • Hammer or screwdriver.
  • Measuring tape.
  • Wood glue (optional, for added stability).

Instructions:

  1. Measuring and Cutting the Wood:
    • Measure a piece of wood to the dimensions of 16 inches by 22 inches. This size is typically suitable for standard Langstroth beehives.
    • Using the saw, cut the wood to these dimensions.
  2. Creating the Entrance:
    • One side of the bottom board will serve as the front, where the hive entrance will be located.
    • Cut a notch or an opening along this side. This entrance should be about 3/8 inch high and can run the length of the board or be shorter, depending on your preference.
  3. Building the Entrance Reducer:
    • Cut a small piece of wood that will fit snugly in the hive entrance. This piece serves as an entrance reducer.
    • The reducer helps to control ventilation and security. It’s particularly useful in winter or when establishing a new colony.
  4. Attaching the Entrance Reducer:
    • The reducer should be removable or adjustable.
    • You can simply place it at the hive entrance without attaching it permanently, allowing for easy removal or adjustment.
  5. Finishing Touches:
    • If desired, apply a coat of wood preservative or paint to the bottom board for weather resistance. Avoid painting the inside or the entrance area.
    • Allow it to dry completely before installation.
  6. Installation:
    • Place the bottom board on the hive stand.
    • Ensure it’s level and stable before adding hive bodies on top.

Tips:

  • The bottom board can be made as a solid board or as a screened board for better ventilation.
  • Ensure the entrance is not too large to prevent robbing and make it easier for bees to defend their hive.
  • Regularly check and maintain the bottom board, as it’s prone to wear and damage over time.

By carefully constructing and maintaining the bottom board, you provide a solid foundation for the rest of your beehive, contributing significantly to the health and security of your bee colony.

Step 4: Construct the Hive Bodies or Brood Boxes

Purpose:

  • Hive bodies or brood boxes are where the bees live and raise their brood (young). They are the central living quarters of the hive.

Materials Needed:

  • Untreated wood, typically pine, for the sides of the boxes.
  • Nails or screws for assembly.
  • Wood glue for added strength (optional).

Tools Required:

  • Saw (hand saw or power saw) for cutting wood.
  • Hammer or screwdriver.
  • Measuring tape.
  • Square tool to ensure right angles.
  • Sandpaper (for smoothing rough edges).

Instructions:

  1. Cutting the Wood:
    • Measure and cut the wood to the appropriate dimensions. For deep boxes: 19 7/8″ x 16 1/4″ x 9 5/8″; for medium boxes: 19 7/8″ x 16 1/4″ x 6 5/8″.
    • You’ll need two longer pieces for the front and back, and two shorter pieces for the sides.
  2. Assembling the Box:
    • Lay out the cut pieces on a flat surface and apply wood glue along the joining edges if using.
    • Assemble the four sides to form a rectangular box. Use the square tool to ensure the corners are at right angles.
    • Secure the sides together using nails or screws. Make sure the box is sturdy and the joints are tight.
  3. Finishing Touches:
    • Sand any rough or sharp edges to protect both yourself and the bees.
    • If you wish, you can apply a coat of non-toxic paint or wood preservative on the outside for weather protection. Do not paint the inside of the box.
  4. Adding Frames:
    • Once the box is assembled, you can add the frames where the bees will build their comb. Ensure the frames fit snugly but are easily removable for inspection.

Tips:

  • Make sure that the boxes are square and level to prevent gaps and ensure a snug fit with other hive components.
  • The choice between deep and medium boxes depends on your management preferences and physical strength (deep boxes can get quite heavy).
  • It’s good practice to build more boxes than you currently need, as you may need to expand your hive or replace damaged boxes.

Constructing the brood boxes with precision and care is crucial as they form the core of your bee colony’s home. Properly built and maintained brood boxes will help ensure a healthy and productive hive.

Step 5: Make the Frames

Purpose:

  • Frames are essential components inside the hive bodies or brood boxes. They hold the wax foundation where bees will build their comb for rearing brood and storing honey.

Materials Needed:

  • Thin strips of wood for the frame (usually pine or a similar lightweight wood).
  • Wax foundation sheets.
  • Wire for reinforcing the frames (optional).
  • Nails or small staples.

Tools Required:

  • Saw (hand saw or power saw) for cutting frame pieces.
  • Hammer or staple gun.
  • Wire cutter (if using wire).
  • Frame assembly jig (optional, for easy assembly).

Instructions:

  1. Cutting Frame Pieces:
    • Measure and cut wood into four pieces for each frame: two top bars (19″), two side bars (9 1/8″ for deep frames, 6 1/4″ for medium), and two bottom bars.
    • Cut a groove in the top bar to fit the wax foundation.
  2. Assembling the Frame:
    • Lay out the pieces to form a rectangle.
    • Join each corner using small nails or staples. The top and bottom bars fit between the side bars.
    • Use a frame assembly jig for more precise construction if available.
  3. Adding the Wax Foundation:
    • Slide the wax foundation into the groove in the top bar.
    • Secure it at the bottom bar, ensuring it’s taut and flat within the frame.
  4. Reinforcing with Wire (Optional):
    • If you’re using wire reinforcement, notch the side bars to hold the wire.
    • String wire horizontally across the frame, weaving through the wax foundation if necessary.
    • Secure and tension the wire on either side of the frame.

Tips:

  • Ensure the frames are square and flat to fit properly in the hive bodies.
  • Reinforcing frames with wire adds stability to the wax foundation, especially for extracting honey.
  • Pre-waxed foundations or plastic foundations are also available and can simplify the assembly process.

Final Thoughts:

Properly constructed frames are key to maintaining a well-organized hive. They provide the structure needed for bees to build uniform comb, which is crucial for effective hive management and inspections. Care in this step will greatly aid in the health and productivity of your bee colony.

Step 6: Construct the Super(s)

Purpose:

  • Supers are the boxes placed above the brood boxes in a beehive. They are used primarily for honey storage, allowing bees to deposit honey in these frames, which can be harvested.

Materials Needed:

  • Untreated wood, typically pine, for the sides of the supers.
  • Nails or screws for assembly.
  • Wood glue for added strength (optional).

Tools Required:

  • Saw (hand saw or power saw) for cutting wood.
  • Hammer or screwdriver.
  • Measuring tape.
  • Square tool to ensure right angles.
  • Sandpaper (for smoothing rough edges).

Instructions:

  1. Cutting the Wood:
    • Measure and cut the wood to the appropriate dimensions. The dimensions for supers are similar to brood boxes but can be shallower. Standard dimensions might include 19 7/8″ x 16 1/4″ x 6 5/8″ for a medium super.
    • Cut two longer pieces for the front and back, and two shorter pieces for the sides.
  2. Assembling the Box:
    • Lay out the cut pieces on a flat surface.
    • Apply wood glue along the joining edges if using.
    • Assemble the four sides to form a rectangular box. Use the square tool to ensure the corners are at right angles.
    • Secure the sides together using nails or screws. Ensure the box is sturdy and the joints are tight.
  3. Finishing Touches:
    • Sand any rough or sharp edges.
    • Apply a coat of non-toxic paint or wood preservative on the outside for weather protection, if desired. Do not paint the inside of the box.
  4. Adding Frames:
    • Once the super is assembled, add frames for the bees to build honeycomb. These frames are the same as those used in brood boxes.

Tips:

  • Make sure the supers are square and level to fit seamlessly with other hive components.
  • The choice between deep, medium, or shallow supers depends on your management preferences and the intended use (e.g., honey production, comb honey).
  • Building extras can be useful for rotation during the honey flow or when managing multiple hives.

Constructing the supers with care is crucial for effective honey production. Well-built supers facilitate easy honey extraction and help maintain the overall health and productivity of the bee colony.

Step 7: Build the Inner Cover

Purpose:

  • The inner cover sits on top of the uppermost super. It provides insulation, ventilation, and helps regulate the internal environment of the hive. It also prevents the bees from gluing the outer cover to the frames with propolis, making hive inspections easier.

Materials Needed:

  • A flat piece of untreated wood, typically plywood, which is lightweight yet durable.
  • A small piece of wood or dowel to create a ventilation hole.

Tools Required:

  • Saw (hand saw or power saw) for cutting wood.
  • Drill with a hole saw attachment or a standard drill bit for the ventilation hole.
  • Measuring tape.
  • Sandpaper (for smoothing edges).

Instructions:

  1. Cutting the Wood:
    • Measure and cut the plywood to the dimensions of approximately 16 1/4″ x 20″. This size should be slightly larger than the super to fit snugly.
  2. Creating the Ventilation Hole:
    • In the center of the cut plywood, mark a spot for the ventilation hole.
    • Use a drill with a hole saw attachment or a standard drill bit to create a hole. The hole should be about 1-2 inches in diameter.
  3. Adding a Rim (Optional):
    • Some beekeepers add a wooden rim around the edge of the inner cover, creating a recessed area. This can help reduce condensation.
    • If adding a rim, cut additional strips of wood and attach them around the perimeter of the plywood piece.
  4. Finishing Touches:
    • Sand the edges and the surface around the hole to remove any splinters or rough spots.
    • If desired, treat the wood with a non-toxic sealant for durability. Avoid sealing the ventilation hole.
  5. Installation:
    • Place the inner cover on top of the uppermost super.
    • Ensure the ventilation hole is unobstructed for air flow.

Tips:

  • The hole in the inner cover also serves as an upper entrance or an escape route for bees during inspections.
  • Ensure the cover fits well but is easily removable.
  • Regularly check the inner cover for wear or damage and replace it as needed.

A well-constructed inner cover plays a vital role in the health and maintenance of your beehive, contributing to proper ventilation and ease of management.

Step 8: Create the Outer Cover or Telescoping Cover

Purpose:

  • The outer cover, also known as the telescoping cover, is the topmost part of the beehive. It’s designed to protect the hive from the elements, such as rain, snow, and excessive sunlight.

Materials Needed:

  • A flat piece of durable wood, like plywood, for the base of the cover.
  • Metal or heavy-duty plastic sheeting for weatherproofing.
  • Wood for the rim (if making a telescoping cover).
  • Nails or screws.

Tools Required:

  • Saw (hand saw or power saw) for cutting wood.
  • Hammer or screwdriver.
  • Measuring tape.
  • Staple gun (if attaching metal or plastic sheeting).
  • Tin snips (if cutting metal sheeting).

Instructions:

  1. Cutting the Wood:
    • Measure and cut the plywood to a size that’s slightly larger than the inner cover dimensions, typically around 17″ x 21″. This allows the cover to extend over the sides of the hive, providing better protection.
  2. Adding a Rim (For Telescoping Cover):
    • Cut strips of wood to create a rim around the edge of the plywood base. This rim should be about 2-3 inches high.
    • Attach these strips to the edges of the plywood base using nails or screws, forming a shallow box.
  3. Applying the Weatherproofing Material:
    • Cut a piece of metal or plastic sheeting slightly larger than the plywood base.
    • Attach the sheeting to the top of the plywood base, wrapping it over the edges. Secure it with staples or small nails.
    • If using metal sheeting, use tin snips to cut it to size and be careful of sharp edges.
  4. Finishing Touches:
    • If any edges of the metal or plastic sheeting are sharp or protrude, fold them under for safety.
    • Ensure the cover fits snugly over the top of the hive but is easy to remove for inspections.

Tips:

  • The outer cover should be sturdy and well-secured to withstand strong winds.
  • Regularly check the cover for damage and ensure it remains waterproof.
  • A telescoping cover provides extra overhang, offering better protection and reducing the chance of water entering the hive.

A well-built outer cover is crucial for protecting your beehive from external weather conditions, helping to maintain a stable and healthy environment for your bees.

Step 9: Assembly and Finishing Touches

Assembly Instructions:

  1. Start with the Hive Stand:
    • Place the hive stand at your chosen apiary location. Ensure it’s level and stable.
  2. Add the Bottom Board:
    • Place the bottom board on top of the hive stand. This is the base of your hive structure.
  3. Stack the Brood Boxes:
    • Place the first brood box on top of the bottom board. This is where the queen bee will lay eggs and the colony will raise brood.
    • If you have multiple brood boxes, stack them on top of each other.
  4. Add the Supers:
    • Place the supers above the brood boxes. These are used for honey storage. During the honey flow, you may add more supers as needed.
  5. Place the Inner Cover:
    • Put the inner cover on top of the uppermost super. This helps with insulation and ventilation.
  6. Finish with the Outer Cover:
    • Cap everything with the outer cover to protect the hive from the elements.

Finishing Touches:

  • Painting or Treating the Hive:
    • Choose a non-toxic, weather-resistant paint or wood treatment for the exterior surfaces of the hive. This helps protect the wood and extends the life of your hive.
    • Avoid painting the inside of the hive, as bees prefer natural wood and certain chemicals can be harmful to them.
    • Lighter colors are preferable as they reflect sunlight and keep the hive cooler in summer.
  • Allowing Paint to Dry:
    • Let the paint or treatment dry completely before introducing bees to the hive. It’s best to do this a few weeks in advance.
  • Regular Maintenance:
    • Periodically check the hive for any damage or necessary repairs, especially after harsh weather conditions.
  • Positioning:
    • Ensure the hive entrance faces a direction that gets morning sun, preferably southeast. Avoid placing it in direct wind paths.

Tips:

  • Make sure each component fits snugly with the others. Gaps can allow pests into the hive or cause drafts.
  • The hive should be easy to access for inspections and honey harvesting.
  • Remember, the overall weight of a fully assembled hive can be quite substantial, especially when supers are full of honey.

Assembling your beehive correctly and applying the finishing touches are crucial steps in establishing a successful and healthy bee colony. Proper assembly ensures a stable and secure home for your bees, while the finishing touches protect the hive and make it a more efficient and productive environment for your beekeeping endeavors.

Step 10: Placement and Baiting the Hive

Placement Instructions:

  1. Choosing a Suitable Location:
    • Look for a spot with good sun exposure, ideally where the hive can get morning sun. This helps to activate the bees early in the day.
    • Ensure the location is protected from strong winds. A windbreak like a fence, wall, or natural vegetation can be beneficial.
    • The area should be dry and not prone to flooding or pooling water.
    • Keep the hive elevated from the ground, either by using a hive stand or placing it on blocks or a platform.
  2. Orientation:
    • The hive entrance should face southeast or east to catch the morning sun.
    • Avoid direct exposure to hot afternoon sun in very warm climates.
  3. Accessibility:
    • Ensure that the hive is accessible for management and inspection, but not in a high-traffic area where people or animals might disturb it.
    • Consider the bees’ flight path and place the hive so it’s not directly in line with footpaths, doors, or windows.
  4. Water Source:
    • Bees need water, so make sure there’s a fresh water source nearby. A shallow water dish with stones or floating wood for bees to land on can prevent drowning.

Baiting the Hive:

  1. Using Lemongrass Oil:
    • Lemongrass oil is an excellent natural bee attractant as it mimics the pheromone scent of queen bees.
    • Place a few drops of lemongrass oil inside the hive and at the entrance.
  2. Commercial Bee Attractants:
    • You can also use commercial bee attractants, which are usually applied inside the hive or near the entrance.
    • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results.
  3. Adding Frames with Old Comb:
    • If available, placing frames with old comb inside the hive can be very attractive to bees. The scent of the comb signals a suitable home.

Tips:

  • If attracting a wild swarm, the best time is during spring, which is the swarming season.
  • Regularly check the hive after baiting to see if bees have moved in.
  • Be patient, as it might take some time for bees to discover and move into your hive.

The proper placement and baiting of your beehive are crucial in establishing a new colony. A well-placed and attractively baited hive increases the chances of attracting bees and provides a safe and conducive environment for them to thrive.

Safety and Maintenance

Safety Precautions:

  1. Protective Gear:
    • Always wear protective beekeeping clothing. This includes a beekeeping suit or jacket, gloves, a veil to protect your face and neck, and a hat.
    • The gear should be light-colored as bees tend to be less aggressive toward lighter colors.
  2. Using a Smoker:
    • A smoker can help calm the bees during hive inspections. Smoke masks alarm pheromones released by guard bees.
    • Learn to use the smoker properly, producing cool smoke that doesn’t harm the bees.
  3. Gentle Handling:
    • Move calmly and gently around the bees. Avoid rapid movements or vibrations that can alarm them.
    • When inspecting the hive, handle frames smoothly and with care.
  4. Be Aware of Allergies:
    • Be mindful of bee sting allergies, either in yourself or others nearby. Always have a plan for emergency medical care in case of an allergic reaction.

Maintenance Practices:

  1. Regular Inspections:
    • Regularly inspect your hive to check the health of the bees, the presence of the queen, and for any signs of disease or pests.
    • Look for healthy brood patterns, adequate food stores, and overall hive cleanliness.
  2. Managing Pests and Diseases:
    • Be vigilant about pests like varroa mites, wax moths, and hive beetles. Use appropriate management strategies to keep these under control.
    • Watch for signs of diseases like American Foulbrood, European Foulbrood, and Nosema. Follow best practices for treatment and prevention.
  3. Seasonal Care:
    • Prepare your hive for different seasons. This includes ensuring adequate food stores for winter, providing ventilation in summer, and managing swarming in spring.
    • Replace old combs with new ones periodically to prevent diseases and keep the hive clean.
  4. Record Keeping:
    • Keep records of your hive inspections. Note down observations about bee behavior, brood pattern, honey stores, and any treatments applied.
    • This information can be invaluable for tracking the health and progress of your hive over time.
  5. Cleaning Tools and Equipment:
    • Regularly clean and sanitize your beekeeping tools and equipment to prevent the spread of diseases.
    • Store your equipment properly to keep it in good condition.

Final Thoughts:

Safety and maintenance are key to successful beekeeping. Proper protective measures ensure your safety, while regular maintenance and inspections ensure the health and productivity of your bee colony. Remember, a well-maintained hive is a healthy hive!

This guide provides a general overview, but remember, beekeeping practices can vary based on climate, bee species, and personal preference. Consulting local beekeeping clubs or experts can provide additional insights tailored to your specific situation.


What follows now is just a generalized summary of constructing a beehive:

Purchasing Supplies and Building

Once you decide on the style of the box you want, the next step in making your own hive is to obtain your materials. To that end, make sure you work out your material needs before you go to the store. Commercially available plans should come with a detailed list of all lumber, fasteners, and other supplies.

You won’t need anything fancy to build a good bee box. Everything you need should be readily available at your local big box DIY store. If you live in a more rural area, lumber might be more difficult to find during peak construction season. But don’t sweat it. Most amateur beekeepers have no problem acquiring the construction materials.

When you are ready to start building, do the following:

  • Assemble all your materials and tools to make sure you have everything you need before you start.
  • Prepare a work area that is clean and free of clutter. You are going to need space to work.
  • Read through the plans entirely, making sure you understand what you will be required to do.

As strange as it sounds, it is a good idea to take photographs at every step of construction. The idea is to document the entire process so that things you discover during your first build can be revisited later on. Document everything – even your mistakes!

Cutting Your Lumber First

Some amateur beekeepers recommend cutting all your lumber first. That way, you can put away the saws and concentrate on assembling the pieces. You will need all your measurements up front. You’ll also need to be very careful to make sure you measure accurately. If you cut everything ahead of time and get one piece wrong, you could ruin the entire project.

Other people prefer to cut lumber as they go for that very reason. Cutting as you go allows you to measure one piece off the one before it. That way, if you miss by an inch, you can make up for it with the next cut.

Assembling All the Pieces

Whether you cut everything at once or do it as you go, you will be fastening the pieces together with screws and wood glue. Wood glue is not an absolute necessity, but it does make a beehive stronger. The idea is to cover all contacts surfaces with a thin film of glue before screwing pieces together. The glue ends up holding the wood together while the screws act as a reinforcement.

Note that glue will not dry well if it’s too cold out. If you are not building in a climate-controlled space, do not attempt to make your own beehive until the weather gets warm. Also note the purpose of the wood clamps: to hold wood pieces tightly together while the glue sets up. Clamping wood pieces while they dry allows you to get away with using fewer screws.

The Different Parts of a Bee Box

Different bee box designs consist of different components. However, there are a few components that are similar across most designs. The first is the hive body. It is the main box in which the majority of the bees live and work. In a Langstroth beehive, the main box contains 8 to 10 frames.

Next up is the honey super. Top bar hives do not have honey supers, but Langstroth and Warre hives do. The honey super is a second box bees can use to produce honey when the main hive gets crowded. Between the two boxes is a piece known as the queen excluder. This is generally just a mesh frame. It is designed to keep the queen with the brood during honey production.

The third and final common component is the cover. Every hive has one. Some hive designs actually have two: an outer cover/roof and an inner cover. The second cover is just to make hive inspections easier.

Other typical hive components include:

  • Frames – Frames are the structures on which bees build their honeycombs. Again, the top bar hive doesn’t have them.
  • Floorboards – Warre hives don’t have floorboards because you add new boxes at the bottom. Most other hive designs do have them. There is generally an entrance between the floorboard and bottom box in the stack.
  • Entrance Reducers – At various locations along the stack, beekeepers may insert small pieces of wood known as entrance reducers. They help protect bees against intruders and cold air.

It is pretty normal to build Langstroth and Warre boxes with handles on them. That way, you can easily lift each box in the stack when it comes time to inspect or transport. It is a good idea to attach separate handles rather than just cutting notches in your boards. Separate handles attached to the side offer you more surface area to grab.

Installing Your Hive

The final step in making your own hive is to install the bee box and then fill it with bees. Your choice of location will play a critical role in whether your bees thrive. So, first things first.

A hive should be located within a reasonable distance of food and water sources. This may be easier said than done if you live in an urban or suburban environment. If you live rurally, choosing a location near a tree line will usually do the trick.

Next up, you want to position the hive so that it is protected against the wind. It doesn’t need to be in direct sunlight, but it does need enough exposure so that the sunlight can help keep it warm during the winter. In the northern hemisphere, a south-facing location is ideal.

Finally, choose a location that doesn’t get much foot traffic. Honeybees are not normally aggressive, but they do get agitated by a constant flow of people and objects passing by. Agitated bees are unhappy bees, and unhappy bees do not produce as much honey.

Put Your Stack on Blocks

Believe it or not, honeybees can fall victim to mold, fungus, and parasites. One of the easiest things you can do to avoid these sorts of things is to put your stack up on blocks. In other words, do not set your hive directly on the ground. Get yourself some pallets or railroad ties and put them down first. Then put your stack on top.

Elevating the hive will make it more difficult for parasites to get in. It will also reduce the chances of the hive being overcome by mold or mildew.

Filling Your Hive with Bees

The final step in making your own beehive is filling the box you have just made with bees. There are multiple ways to do this. The first is to purchase a commercial bee kit from a local or online retailer. A typical kit contains a queen along with enough worker bees to get things going.

Your other option is to go out and get the bees yourself. This is normally done in the spring when honeybee colonies are swarming in search of a new hive location. Should you decide to try this, it is a good idea to wear protective clothing. Bees are most aggressive when they are swarming.

The key to obtaining bees from the wild is to locate a swarm and then find the queen that is leading it. Capture the queen and the worker bees will follow. It is biology. It is also fascinating to watch.

Regardless of how you acquire your bees, you will introduce them to the hive by placing them in the main body. Some beekeepers recommend rubbing beeswax on the tops of the frames (or the bars if you have constructed a top bar hive) in order to entice the bees to stay.

With any luck, your bees will thrive and you’ll have a working hive in no time. You can then set your sights on building a second hive in anticipation of next year’s hive split. And if your project turns out exceptionally well, you might find other amateur beekeepers asking you to make hives for them.

How to Build a Beehive – Conclusion

In conclusion, building your own beehive is a rewarding and educational experience that allows you to connect with your bees on a deeper level. By following the comprehensive steps laid out in this guide, you can craft a suitable home for your bees, ensuring they thrive and produce honey. Remember to carefully choose your hive design, gather the necessary tools and materials, and follow best practices in constructing and installing your hive. Once completed, introduce bees to their new home and watch as they settle into their new environment. With dedication and effort, you can take pride in your role as an amateur beekeeper and contribute to the fascinating world of beekeeping.

Beekeeping Disclaimer:

Beekeeping, like any agricultural activity, involves inherent risks. It is important to understand these risks and take appropriate measures to mitigate them.

Potential risks associated with beekeeping include:

  1. Bee stings: Honey bees are generally not aggressive but can become defensive if they feel threatened or their hive is disturbed. Bee stings can cause allergic reactions or even anaphylaxis in some individuals, which can be life-threatening. It is important to wear protective clothing and follow best practices when handling bees to minimize the risk of stings.
  2. Diseases and pests: Bees can be vulnerable to various diseases and pests, including mites, viruses, and bacterial infections. These can have significant impacts on bee colonies, leading to reduced honey production or even colony collapse. It is important to monitor hives regularly and take appropriate measures to prevent and treat diseases and pests.
  3. Weather conditions: Extreme weather conditions, such as drought or cold temperatures, can affect the health and productivity of bee colonies. It is important to ensure that hives are appropriately sheltered and provided with adequate food and water.
  4. Environmental hazards: Bees can be affected by environmental hazards such as pesticide exposure, pollution, and habitat loss. It is important to be aware of these hazards and take appropriate measures to protect bee colonies and promote healthy environments for bees.
  5. Legal requirements: Beekeeping may be subject to local, state, or national regulations, such as registration or inspection requirements. It is important to be aware of these requirements and comply with them.

While beekeeping can be a rewarding and enjoyable activity, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and take appropriate measures to mitigate them. By following best practices and staying informed about the latest developments in beekeeping, beekeepers can help ensure the health and productivity of their hives and contribute to the well-being of bee populations worldwide.

Last update on 2024-05-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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