Browse Categories
Shopping Cart
Your cart is empty.

Beekeeping 101

Essential Hive Components
So, you want to start keeping bees - but don't know where to start? Here's a quick description of a basic bee hive. Below are the common elements of the majority of hives. For each of the components below you do, indeed, have many choices but the basic principles are essentially the same. We are going to build our standard hive from the ground up.

Stand and Bottom Board
The bottom of the hive is the bottom board, which come in two varieties: solid and screened. Screened boards incorporate a screen open to the space below to help with ventilation, which helps the colony keep the temperature at the right level, as well as removing moisture. To make working on the hive easier, the bottom board is often placed on a stand that raises the hive off the ground, to make working on the hive easier.

Entrance reducer
An entrance reducer can be placed between the bottom board and the brood box (see below). The intent to reduce the entrance to keep out unwanted creatures, such as mice. They are often used while a hive is establishing itself.

Langstroth Deep Box (brood box)
The brood box sits on the bottom board and is, in many ways, the soul of the hive. This is where the queen will live - the hive is constructed to ensure she can't leave the brood box - and therefore where she will lay her eggs and young bees are raised. The deep brood box is also used by the colony to store reserves of pollen and honey. The brood box is the deepest and largest component in the hive. It houses a number of vertically hanging "frames", either 8 or 10 of them. A common size for a deep brood box is approximately 20" x 16" x 9 1/2". For some hobbyists this is a large and heavy unit to handle and so some prefer to use a medium brood box, with a height of 6 1/2".

Queen excluder
The queen is constrained to the brood box by placing a framed grid on top, which has gaps sufficient to allow worker bees to pass through, but not the larger queens or drones.

Langstroth Medium Box (supers)
Above the queen excluder there are generally one or more "supers". These are areas in which the colony can expand (in the summer, a lack of space can lead to swarming, so it's important to ensure the colony has sufficient space). The supers, which are less tall than the brood box, are used by worker bees to store honey. Many beekeepers have three supers in total, including the brood box, during the active season, allowing the colony to expand and for the storage of yet more honey.

As a guideline, a fully laden brood box can weigh 80 lbs or more - not easy to move around. Therefore, the honey supers are less tall, to reduce their weight, although they can still exceed 30 lbs. Another tradeoff is associated with the claiming of honey by the beekeeper. The number of frames in a deeper super is the same as a shallow super but obviously has a greater surface area (read: volume of honey). Therefore larger supers allow the retrieval of more honey, for the same amount of physical work by the beekeeper.

Inner and Telescoping covers
Topping off the hive is the inner cover, along with a telescoping cover. The inner cover is helpful in ensuring bees don't glue the top of the uppermost super to the roof. It also forms an air pocket which is helpful in regulating temperature. The telescoping cover is generally covered in aluminum or plastic, and covers the entire hive.

Additional Resources
Find a Local Beekeeper
State beekeeping organizations