Honey Bee Hives

There are a number of different types of honey bee hives. Some are more popular than others, and in part, this may depend upon the country in which you live.

So which bee hive is best?  To an extent, your view will depend on your philosophy with regard to beekeeping, and why you wish to become a beekeeper.

Honey bees are magnificent creatures, they are engineers, and left to their own devices they'll construct their nests in the wild in tree stumps or caves. 

On the otherhand, combs may be seen exposed and hanging from the boughs of trees.

In the past, skeps (pictured below) – essentially straw baskets - were used, and as soon as honey had been produced by the poor bees, a number of the colonies were destroyed and the honey taken. Nowadays, skeps may be used more commonly for capturing swarms. (Read more about the history of beekeeping).

Here is a description of some of the types of honey bee hives available.

Top Bar Hives

Used by those following the increasingly popular 'natural beekeeping' movement.

The top bar hive pictured above is by Phil Chandler, a prominent beekeeper in the 'Natural Beekeeping' movement. It is taken from his free download explaining how to build such a top bar hive, and a link to that page is featured below - see top bar bee hive plans.

Top bar hives are designed to allow the bees to make their own honey combs and cells according to the size and shape they desire.

Vertical or horizontal top bar hives may be used. The vertical top bar hive was especially advocated by Emile Warré in the early twentieth century. He designed the Warré hive, which he also called ‘The People’s Hive’.

Above is another type of top bar hive, this one designed by Corwin Bell.

Corwin Bell has also produced a DVD, advocates biodynamic beekeeping, stating that his primary focus is "on improving bee ecology and beekeeping methods that respect the honeybee".

In general, Natural Beekeeping aims for a low level of interference by humans, with Warré beekeeping traditionally advocating the least interference of all the methods.

Conventional Honey Bee Hives:

The Langstroth Hive

Widely used in the USA, it has a deep brood box and about ten frames.

The National Hive

Commonly used in Britain and Europe, and similar to the Langstroth hive, used widely in the USA.

WBC Hive

This hive - featured above - was designed by by William Broughton Carr around 1890. In Britain, it is the image many people have of the traditional bee hive. Often thought of as being inconvenient to have and dismantle.

Smith Hive

Used sometimes in Scotland. Holds 13 frames, and built to similar dimensions as a National Hive.

Dadant Hive

Again, similar to a Langstroth Hive, and all the parts are interchangeable. The Dadant is often used in France and also in some parts of Spain.

Commercial Hive

Having the same dimensions as a National Hive, this honey bee hive is designed to encourage a large volume of honey in the supers.

A few thoughts.....

I do wonder if humans have created problems for wild honey bees, through engaging in practices that have caused or promoted disease in domesticated honey bees, which have then spread through to wild populations.

There are now relatively few wild honey bee populations. However, it’s always worth remembering how, without domestication by humans, honey bees survive in the wild. I can’t help feeling that there are some lessons for all, and not just beginner beekeepers.  Indeed, some beekeepers are working to address this, such as Corwin Bell, who says:

"Our hope is that by introducing new hobby beekeepers to the rewards of beekeeping that there will eventually be backyard beekeepers worldwide that will help bring back the feral bee population and improve the genetic diversity of the honeybees. This diversity is critically important to the survival of this most precious natural resource."

In the wild, honey bees naturally seem to like to nest in the cavities of trees, caves or buildings.

In doing so, they manage to reproduce and establish new colonies to continue generations of bees.

The honey bees make their own combs with a structure and cell size deemed by the bees to be appropriate for larvae and storing the honey.  They will then eat the honey they have stored in the honey combs during the winter months when forage is scarce and conditions mean they avoid venturing out of their nest.

Honey bee hives, however, were invented by man, as a way of domesticating honey bees in order to exploit them for honey, but if we wish to continue harvesting honey, it is incumbent on us to look at bee hive design, just as Chandler and Bell have done, with the aim of providing the best solution for the bees themselves, so that beekeeping is as api-centric as possible. 

Other beekeeping equipment:

Learn more on the following links.

Bee Hive Plans
Make your own honey bee hive, with these free plans to download.

Bee Hives For Sale
Thinking about taking the plunge and purchasing a bee hive? Take a look at these few points to consider before you do.

Beginning Beekeeping
What sort of beekeeper do you want to be? This will dictate what kind of equipment and practices you should follow.

Natural Beekeeping
A look at some of the principles of Natural Beekeeping on this page.

Beekeeping Videos
Check out these great beekeeping videos.

Varroa Mite
Link to information about varroa mite (Varroa Destructor), with further links to treatment.

Honey Bee Deaths Explored
We've heard lots of reports about the plight of honey bees (and other bees and pollinators). Why have our bees been disappearing? Alook at some of the issues, including an indepth look at the neonicotinoid pesticides, and links to independent studies.

How To Start Beekeeping
The main introductory page for the beekeeping section of this site.

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Gardening For Bees

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Beekeeping Tips Etc

For information about selecting and purchasing a bee hive (new and second hand) see this link.

Here is a link for free downloadable bee hive construction plans.

Beekeeping advice about moving a beehive.

Other tips.