December 14, 2021

Can you build your own beehive? A detailed Guide

Yes, you can build your own beehive. Make a great environment to harvest honey by starting beekeeping. All you need to do is purchase all the equipment you need for the project. However, you might need more hands to build your beehive. Building your beehive will not only save you money but will also give you a close-up look at the inner workings of the beehive. You are at liberty to choose materials that match your budget. 

How much does it cost to build a beehive?

A single new hive may cost about $150. You need to invest in supplies such as a hive, proper protective clothing, a smoker, and a hive tool for a successful project. Clothing and gear may cost about $160.

Consider variables that affect your total cost to start beekeeping. Account for the beekeepers involved and the kind of hive configuration you plan to use, the colonies you are starting with, the type of bee package you want, and where to place your hives. 

These calculations help estimate your cost to start beekeeping. The cost also depends on the choices you make. As much as your actual costs vary, you will have an estimate for shopping.

Types of beehives

  • Langstroth Hive
  • Top Bar Hive
  • Warré Hive

How to make a simple beehive

  1. Make the bottom part of the beehive. Glue and screw the floorboards into place as you fill the screw holes with wood filler and sand to 100-grit.
  2. Make the entrance reducer.
  3. Press foil tape into the rabbets in the hive body ends.
  4. Center the handles on each face of the hive body and fasten them in place with glue. Fill the screw holes with wood filler and sand to 100-grit.
  5. Build honey supers.
  6. Make frames. 
  7. Assemble the inner cover.
  8. Install the roof.

How to build Langstroth beehive

  1. Gather your tools and materials.
  2. Cut and build the supers.
  3. Cut a notch at the tops of each box.
  4. Make the base.
  5. Make frames for each box.
  6. Make the inner cover and outer cover.
  7. Apply a coat of primer.
  8. Finish with a top coat of paint.

Can you start a beehive without a queen?

You cannot start a beehive without a queen. A hive without a queen will not grow and survive. They die since the queen is the only bee in the beehive that lays eggs producing the next generation of bees. 

Will bees move into an empty hive?

Yes, but it needs time and effort to lure bees to an empty hive. Adding wax frames can act as bait. A smaller hive opening makes it easier for new bees to protect.

What wood is best for beehives?

Pine

Pine is the most widely used choice and is readily available everywhere. It is one of the most affordable lumber to purchase, and easy to work with. Bear in mind that there are different grades of pine.

How long will a beehive last?

The structure of the beehive will last several years. They will require cleaning up at the end of every season.

Parts of the Beehive

        Bottom Board/Floor

Bottom Board is the base of the beehive. When building up, you will realize that you do not want the bees to get out of the top of the hive. The base is their only exit.

        Entrance Reducer        

An entrance reducer is a cleat used to adjust the size of the hive’s entrance. It also controls ventilation and temperature during the season. There is no need to fasten it to the rest of the assembly, but you can use it as an optional accessory. 

It is used frequently during the winter months for other animals, such as mice, will try to enter the hive for warmth. That is why during summer, especially at the height of nectar flow, you can remove it to maximize honey production.

        Hive Bodies/Deep Super

Hive Bodies are the boxes where the bees live. They contain comb frames at the height of 9-1/4 inches. That makes dimensional lumber very easy. You can have two deep hive bodies. That is one for the brood or family and one for the food. In cold weather locations, a bee colony survives with one deep hive body. 

Adding foil tape to the rabbets on the boxes makes it easier to scrape the wax and propolis from the rabbet when the frames are out. The metal protects the wood from getting scraped away.

        Queen Excluder

The queen excluder works during the honey season. It is not involved with the actual production of honey. Place the queen excluder between the brood and honey production. There are slits to let colony bees through but not the queen. Excluders are in plastic or metal.

        Honey Super

That is where the surplus honey is collected from the bees. You do not take all the honey from the hive. Leave it in the deep hive bodies for the bees to survive. You only need one honey super during your first season but can add two or three for the later seasons.

        Frames

Bees build their honeycomb into the frames. Inspecting frames is easier because they are removable. You can use the wider part at the top to make space for bees. Push them together. Each frame needs a single sheet of beeswax foundation. 

Foundations come in three sizes, matching different depths of hive bodies and supers. Be patient since beeswax foundations are delicate and tough to work with at first.

        Inner Cover

The inner cover is a tray with a hole and small notch used for ventilation. Screened inner covers are popular due to efficient ventilation with no fuss.

        Outer Cover/Roof

The outer cover is like the roof of your house. It protects the bees from the elements. You can extend the life of your hive by attaching weatherproof material like aluminum flashing to the top of the roof.

Material for building a Beehive

  • 1-1/2” trim-head screws
  • 1-1/4” trim-head screws
  • 1/4” plywood
  • 1×10 board
  • 1×2 board
  • 1×3 board
  • 2″ trim-head screws

Taking Care of Your Beehive

  • Repair or replace damaged parts.
  • Install entrance blocks.
  • Install excluders and supers.
  • Replace any lost beeswax.
  • Install a rain cover and shade structure.
  • Give enough ventilation.
  • Add a windbreak.
  • Control woodlice and termites.
David D. Hughes
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