Inside A Beehive

Since I posted on Facebook about the 33lbs of honey we recently harvested from one of our hives a few weeks ago, I have had a lot of inquiries about beekeeping. This will be a familiarization of all the parts, cost and assembly of a basic Langstroth style hive.[caption id="attachment_1925" align="aligncenter" width="660"]The basic setup with a medium super. The basic setup with a medium super.[/caption] Since I posted on Facebook about the 33lbs of honey we recently harvested from one of our hives a few weeks ago, I have had a lot of inquiries about beekeeping. This will be a familiarization of all the parts, cost and assembly of a basic Langstroth style hive. I chose Langstroth type hives for a couple of reasons. It's a proven design (patented in 1852) that allows me to remove frames of honey, extract it without destroying the honeycomb and replace it for the bees to refill. This saves them precious time and energy because they don't have to make more wax and rebuild the comb. The moveable frames also allow me to steal a frame of brood with freshly laid eggs, a few shakes of bees and start a new hive. I can also move a frame of brood to a small hive to help beef it up. Another advantage is that the bees don't tend to build comb just willy nilly, the frames keep everything fairly neat and organized. Bees make a substance called propolis which is like their version of mortar. The use it to fill cracks. They also make what is known as "burr comb" which is comb in between frame and anywhere they feel has enough space to build. The frame system in the Langstroth hive has the perfect spacing to aid in preventing propolis and burr comb from being built everywhere. Typical "bee space" is about 3/8ths of an inch. Any more and they try to build comb, any less and they try to cement it shut with propolis. Lastly, it is the most popular type of hive and parts are reasonable and plentiful. I get all my parts from the local Co-Op a little at a time and then put them all together when I have all the parts. There are other types of hives, Warre, Top Bar, Long Box and many others but for simplicity, I wont discuss those in this article. To help confuse the beginner beekeeper, there are different sizes of Langstroth hives. There are deep hive bodies that are 9 9/16ths inches tall. These are typically used as a brood chamber. This is where the queen will lay all her eggs and the bees will rear them. If it were filled with honey it would be too heavy to lift for harvesting. This is why there are different "depths" of supers. The super is the box that sits on top of the hive body. I use medium supers because I can easily lift them off when they are full of honey. The last one I harvested yielded 33lbs of honey, that does not include the weight of the super, frames or wax. If you are older or have a disability, it may make more sense to use a shallow or comb super. They will weigh much less when full. To add even more to the confusion, there are 8 and 10 frame hives. Ten frame hives are standard but, by making the box narrower by 2 frames it weighs less. I prefer 10 frame hives and I always leave one out so I have room to pry the frames apart (remember propolis is like gooey cement) and shift them over one space when doing an inspection.

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Within the hive are the frames. There are also several designs. I prefer Walter T. Kelly's "N" frame style. They are slotted on the top, sides and bottom. This allows me to simply drop foundation into the frame. Foundation is a thin layer of wax that has been ran through a device that imprints a honeycomb pattern into it. It may or may not contain vertical wires imbedded into the foundation for added strength. The bees simply follow the pattern and draw out the comb. Other designs are more complicated and require more effort, so I stick to the N type frames. [caption id="attachment_1922" align="alignright" width="300"]Components of an Components of an "N Type" frame for a deep hive body. Top, left and right end bars, bottom bar and wired foundation.[/caption] The base of the hive is called the bottom board. I have one that I made but I prefer the screened bottom boards from Kelly's Bees. It has a slot for the screen which prevents critters from getting inside and a slot for a debris board so I can look for varroa mites and small hive beetles. On a new hive, I recommend an entrance reducer. It is a small piece of wood with a 3 inch cutout that reduces the entrance to the hive so the guard bees can effectively fight off robbers (thieving bees from another hive) and other threats. I also recommend feeding them sugar syrup and pollen patties to get them off to a good start. Now, to assembly of the hive. You will need some wood glue, a hammer, a knife and all the parts. All my parts come from Kelly Beekeeping in Clarkson, Ky and they do a fine job predrilling the holes and cutting the box joints for the hive bodies and supers. The N type frames all fit snugly together as well. 1. Pre-assemble everything to ensure all parts fit together properly and nothing is missing. If needed, trim up any pieces that are slightly oversized with the knife. You should have the following items. From the bottom up.
  • Screened bottom board (with screen, debris board, entrance reducer $28)
  • Deep hive body with nails and frame rests-$19
  • Ten "N" type frames with foundation-$35
  • Inner cover-$10
  • Outer (top) cover with metal covering-$22

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This is the minimum required to get started for $114 or you can order a kit and foundation for $102. You will eventually need a super with frames and foundation. A Medium super with frames and foundation will run you about $55. The total for everything in the photo, including the smoker, hive tool and bee feeder is about $185. My first package of bees were $140. At current honey prices ($6.50 per lb) the 33 pounds I have harvested from one hive was worth $214. I harvested 35 lbs last year. They have paid for themselves and I was able to split a hive and catch a swarm to create 2 additional hives. With 4 hives, I should harvest about 120 lbs or nearly $800 worth of honey next year. What's better is knowing I have a sustainable source of sweetness.  Now, back to hive assembly. 2. Once you are happy all the pieces are there and fit together, put a thin layer of wood glue on the hive body joints and put them together with the 2 1/8th inch 14 gauge nails through the pre drilled holes. 3. Install the L-shaped frame rests along the rabbeted edge of the hive body with 11/16ths brads. These are optional but over time scraping propolis from the wood will wear out the hive body. 4. Put a thin layer of wood glue on all mating surfaces of the N type frame and fit the together. There are four parts, the slotted top bar,  2 grooved end bars and the grooved bottom bar. Place a 1 inch nail through the thick part of the bottom bar into the grooved end bars. Next place a 1 1/8 inch nail through the grooved end bars and into the top bar. Insert the foundation and secure through the predrilled holes with a support pin. (bobby pins will also work) 5. Place all the frames inside the hive body. 6. Follow the same procedure to assemble the supers and place the frames inside. 7. Place the screened bottom board on a sturdy base about a foot off the ground. I use small pallets with bricks underneath them. 8. Place the hive body on top of the bottom board and align the edges. Place the super on top of the hive body. 9. Place the inner cover on top of the super and the top (outer) cover on top of that. 10. Order 3lbs of bees and a mated queen and install into the hive or catch a swarm and install it. [gallery size="medium" ids="1924,1926,1923"] Now that you have a better understanding of the basic parts of a beehive, it should take some of the anxiety out of getting your first beehive. I don't have a fancy bee suit. When I go to raid the bees, I wear an old Army flight suit (that I also wore on raids overseas), latex exam gloves and a mosquito headnet. The only specialty item I have is the smoker. Half the time I don't use any of it, it just depends on how moody the girls are. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="1928,1927"]


Stay tuned to CAG Main for more articles and videos on beekeeping. Don't forget to check out our Forum and ask questions. [caption id="attachment_981" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Firearms, Tactical & Defense Training Firearms, Tactical & Defense Training[/caption]
Last modified onThursday, 20 April 2017 06:31
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