How to Make a Beehive: An Affordable Easy to Follow Guide

Keeping bees is a good, sure way to put some extra money in your pocket, pollen in your plants, and honey in your cupboard. Wondering how to make a beehive? Beekeeping is the maintenance of bee colonies for the purpose of collecting their honey, beeswax, flower pollination, and more. You can certainly purchase all the equipment you’ll need, but some of you more hands-on folk may prefer to build your own beehive.

Not only will this save you some money, it’ll also give you a close-up look at the inner workings of the place your bees will call home. Modern beekeeping attempts to revert to a less industrialized way of obtaining honey by utilizing smaller colonies, usually between 10,000 and 30,000 bees and the whole operation is based around the hive. 

Today we will be looking at how to build a Langstroth hive which is common to North American and Australian beekeeping. This particular type of hive is customizable to the size of your colony which means you don’t need to build and plan out everything at the beginning of the journey. You can keep building and adding depending on how many bees you want. 

Recommended Product: The Warre Garden Hive Construction Guide 2.0.

The Warre Garden Hive Guide Set

Tips to Remember 

When building a beehive you may be confused about so many things in the sense of what to and what not to do. Below are some tips that will guide you and help you in deciding on what to use, what to do and what not to use and what not to do. 

The great thing about making your own beehive is that you can fit it to your budget and work with what you have. Later in future when you start generating money from the honey, then you can get yourself a better quality stand. So check these tips:

  1. The type of wood is really not all that important. I generally use the cheapest I can find, so long as the wood is solid and without cracks.
  2. It is extremely important to make sure all eight corners of each super are matched up before driving any nails. After glue is applied and the joints are slipped together, match up each corner one-by-one, and drive in the nail closest to the matched corner to hold it in place while you nail the remainder of the joint. 
  3. When nailing the top corners of the supers, be sure to place the corner nail down low enough so that it does not go into the rabbet joint instead of the wood itself.
  4. It is always a good idea to use plenty of waterproof wood glue when assembling beekeeping equipment. It’s better to use too much rather than too little 
  5. Paint the equipment with exterior latex paint. I use white, though the color is not terribly important. A light-colored hive tends to stay cooler in summer. For as little paint as the equipment requires, I spend the extra money and get a pretty high quality paint. It pays me back in longevity of the equipment. Use at least two coats, preferably three or four. You 
  6. can shield the outer cover with some sort of sheet metal if you wish, but with adequate paint, this is optional.

Tools Required

  • dado stack
  • Drill
  • Hand saw
  • Miter saw
  • Table saw
  • Tin snips
  • Materials Required
  • 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

Parts of the Beehive 

As we take note of the parts of a beehive you will have an idea of where each specific part of the hive goes, which will guide you in making your beehive. So let’s not waste much time. 

Hive Stand

This is the stand that lifts the hive off the ground, and may have an angled landing board for the bees. While you don’t need a technical ‘hive stand’, you will need a stand of sorts to prop your super off the ground. A small table or bench built to fit your honey bee box will work, if you’re looking for a home-made substitution.

Bottom Board/Floor

This is the base of the beehive. As you continue to build up, you’ll realize that you don’t want the bees to get out of the top of the hive. This is their only exit.

As we said this is the first section/layer of your box. It is a flat piece of wood that serves as the base for your super.

The bottom board can either be solid or screened, the only difference being that screened bottom boards are better at keeping out pests and have an added bit of ventilation. Your bees will come and go from an entrance in the bottom board.

Entrance Reducer

An entrance reducer is a cleat used to adjust the size of the hive’s entrance and controls ventilation and temperature during cooler months. You won’t fasten this small piece to the rest of the assembly but rather use it as an optional accessory. 

They are used more frequently during the winter months when other animals, such as mice, will try to enter the hive for warmth. During the 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. The hive bodies contain the comb frames. The height is standardized at 9-1/4 in. which makes building one out of dimensional lumber very easy. You can have two deep hive bodies and then continue with the honey supers above. 

In cold weather locations, a bee colony can survive with only one deep hive body. You can  add foil tape to the rabbets on the boxes. It doesn’t necessarily make the frames come out easier, but it 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

This part is only used during honey season. The queen bee isn’t involved with the actual production of honey, so you place the queen excluder between the brood and honey production. There are slits to let colony bees through but not the queen. Excluders come in plastic or metal.

Honey Super

This is where the surplus honey is collected. This is your honey, the stuff you can harvest from the bees. You need to leave the honey in the deep hive bodies for the bees to survive. Supers are identical in design to the deep hive bodies but are slightly shallower. 

The typical sizes are 5-3/4 in. tall or 6-5/8 in. tall, known as an Illinois super. You’ll only need one honey super during your first season of beekeeping but can add two or three for the upcoming seasons.

Frames

Bees build their honeycomb into the frames. You can easily inspect and work on the frames because they’re removable. You will often see frame ends have a taper in them. You can decide to not use a taper but if you want to, cut 1/8-in. from each edge of the part. The wider part at the top is to make them space correctly by just pushing them together. The narrow part allows the bees to walk through.

Each frame needs a single sheet of beeswax foundation. Foundations come in three sizes, corresponding to the different depths of hive bodies and supers. Beeswax foundations are delicate and tough to work with at first, so be patient. By the third frame, you’ll be a master. Many beekeepers now use plastic foundations.

Inner Cover

The inner cover is a tray with a hole and small notch used for ventilation. Screened inner covers have gained popularity because they provide great ventilation with no fuss.

Outer Cover/Roof

Just like the roof on your house, the outer cover protects the bees from the elements. You can extend the life of your hive by attaching a weatherproof material like aluminum flashing to the top of the roof.

Alternative 

There are two main alternatives you can go for if building a hive on your own is definitely not part of your plan. You can either buy a hive.

Here you can just work with a budget that you have set, then you find ways in which you can fit that budget to getting yourself a good hive. Things may not be that simple as the lower your budget goes the lower the quality of the beehive is. 

Second option would be to get yourself a professional to build you your own beehive. It may sound like a good plan, but most professionals are expensive. So unless you are ready to deepen your pockets, this is not the best way to go. 

Final Thoughts 

People who have gardens and appreciate the importance of bees in the natural environment may seek to keep bees of their own. Bee boxes, or hives, today are designed to encourage the health of the bee society as well as make it easy for the beekeeper to remove the honey from the hive with the least disruption possible.