There are many types of beehives available to choose from. One of the very first steps in becoming a beekeeper is choosing which type of beehive is best for you. Do not think that one hive is better for the bees than the others. The bees do not care what box they are in. The most important characteristic you should consider is how easy the hive is to work.
Removable Frame Beehives
The first hives I will be discussing are the most common types of beehives. These hives are also the easiest to work and allow full access to the brood chamber for inspections. This is extremely important for managing bees properly.
1. Langstroth Beehive
The first hive on the list is the Langstroth hive. It is by far the most popular beehive out there. All of its components are standardized, which allows beekeepers to share resources. The majority of beekeepers use this beehive, and there is a wealth of information available to help you use it properly.
If you are interested in building your own boxes, click here for plans. If you would like to purchase your boxes, there are several good suppliers out there. My favorite is Mann Lake, because I have been a customer from the beginning. I have listed two links to Mann Lakes Amazon account. They sell a complete hive kit that makes it easy for new beekeepers to get started.
This kit includes everything you need to start your bees. It comes with a telescoping cover, inner cover, bottom board, and entrance reducer. If you would like to harvest honey, you will need to buy an extra box with frames (shown below). Click here to view on Amazon.
You will need this additional box, link on right, to give the bees enough room to expand. Adding this additional box to the kit(left) should be plenty, but you may want to consider purchasing two extra boxes just in case your bees make it into a third box.
2. Top Bar Beehives
The top bar hive would be my second choice for a hive. There are a lot of beekeepers that do really well with them. Generally, people who choose these types of beehives are looking for a cheaper alternative to the Langstroth beehive.
What makes these hives cheap, is that all components of the hive are simple to make. Someone with very little woodworking experience could build a top bar hive. For those of you who don’t want to deal with making one, Click Here for hives that are already made for you.
The only downside to top bar hives is that they are slightly harder to work than langstroth hives. Cross combing is an issue. Another downside is, there are no standard dimensions. Top bar hives may not be compatible with a Langstroth hive or other top bar hives. This means that installing a nuc or sharing frames of honey and brood with a friend isn’t as easy unless they are using the same design.
A Top bar hive would not be a good option if you plan to move your hives frequently. The combs are not as well supported as langstroth frames and cannot handle the shock of transport. For this reason, commercial beekeepers do not use them.
If you want to build your own top bar hive, here are some plans and a turorial. If you don’t want to build one, you could buy a Top Bar Hive online. There aren’t many people that sell them and they can be hard to find. I have provided a link to a few sellers on ebay who sell them. Click here to see the top bar hives available for sale on ebay.
Fixed Comb Types of Beehives
These types of beehives are not as easy to manage as the removable frame hives listed above. The biggest reason is that these hives cannot be inspected easily, and some of them are impossible to inspect. Because of this, fixed comb hives are illegal in many jurisdictions.
Despite the regulation, people still use these types of beehives. People mostly use them as novelties to admire in their gardens, or entertain guests. The bees are left alone, and the honey is never gathered. If you are considering purchasing or building one of these hives, make sure you know the laws and regulations in your area.
1. Warre Beehive
Abbé Émile Warré invented the Warré hive to mimic the conditons of a natural tree hollow. The Warre Hive has a lot in common with a langstroth hive. It is a vertical hive that consists of a stack of individual boxes. Two major difference between the Warré and the Langstroth hive is the smaller size, and lack of removable frames. Instead of frames, the Warré hive uses top bars, which are nailed in place and never removed.
Another aspect of managing a Warre Hive is that instead of placing new boxes on top of the hive like a Langstroth, you lift the entire hive and place new boxes on bottom. The reason for this is to allow the bees to build comb from top to bottom like they would in a natural tree cavity.
In order to keep a true Warré hive, you need to follow the management principles that Abbé Émile Warré intended for it. Abbé Émile Warré believed that the condition of the hive could be determined by observing the entrance, and never opened for inspections. If you would like to learn more about this style of beekeeping check out Abbé Émile Warré’s book “Beekeeping for All“.
A skep is a coil basket traditionally constructed from straw or rope. The open end of the skep faces down, and a small opening is cut in the top for an entrance. These types of beehives are illegal in some areas, mainly because the combs are not removable. So, check your local laws before putting bees in one.
Before removable frame hives existed, many beekeepers kept their bees in skeps. Skeps are cheap and easy to make, and the bees thrive in them. The only problem with the skep beekeeping industry is that all the comb gets destroyed while harvesting the honey. Check out this series of videos showing a beekeeper keeping bees in skeps.
3. Log Hives
Humans have been keeping bees in log hives for thousands of years. Today, log hives are mainly used in developing countries. Log hives are not ideal for maintenance or honey production, because the hive needs to be completely destroyed to harvest the honey.
Log hives are found throughout the world, even in industrialized countries where resources are plentiful. These hives are mostly kept as novelties. Some beekeepers create log hives in order to provide more habit for wild honey bees. Check out this video on how a log hive is made.