Here is some info on the parts of a beehive. It helps to be familiar with the terminology when you are learning and each part of a hive has a specific name. This graphic pertains to a LANGSTROTH hive which is what we chose. There are also WARRE hives and TOP BAR hives.
CLICK HERE for a great Mother Earth News article that shows pros and cons of each of the three types of hives.
|Cutaway graphic of a Langstroth hive|
The stand is the bottom that the entire hive sits on. It's not necessary, but sort of provides a landing pad for incoming bees. You can also get and/or make a stand that the whole hive sits on, not to be confused with this part.
Above that is the bottom board. This is the entrance to the hive. I forgot to label the entrance reducer. It fits in the front of the bottom board and allows the bees in and out, in a controlled method if needed (larger opening one way, smaller another way).
Each "box" on the hive is actually called a super. There are three sizes that you will read about. Deep super, medium super and shallow super. These alternately have other names as well. For example, whichever box you use for the bees and their babies, where the queen is, is called the brood box (in most cases, this is the bottom box initially as bees naturally move downward)
Between that is a screen that is called a queen excluder. The queen can't fit through the excluder and so it keeps her below the honey stores but allows the workers to move back and forth. Some beekeepers don't use the excluder as the queen will usually stay at the lower point anyway, but for new beekeepers, it can make it easier.
Above the excluder, or if you don't use one, above the brood box where the queen is, these boxes are called honey supers. You can go as high as necessary, though for obvious reasons you don't want it to be crazy high. This is where the bees draw out comb and fill it with honey. This is also where the beekeeper get his honey from (but always leave some for the bees!)
On top of the last super is the inner cover, as the name implies, it's a cover for the last (top) box.
On top of it all goes the outer cover, or roof. On our hives, we have the peaked, copper roofs but generally they are flat roofs, often with galvanized metal as an outer covering.
Inside of each super or hive box are what are called frames. The frames are where the bees create the honeycomb and fill with eggs and/or honey. For LANGSTROTH hives such as ours, there are two options, 8-frame and 10-frame. We opted for 8-frame for weight purposes. 10-frame, honey/wax filled boxes can weigh a lot and be difficult to move and work with. And let's face it, with the big 5-0 happening a couple weeks ago, the 'gentler' I can make this adventure, the better, ha!
Here is a package of what is called foundation. These are wax cell foundations. They are made of 100% pure beeswax. You can get plastic/artificial but of course, being plastic, many beekeepers don't like them. While the plastic does have the advantage of being reusable in following seasons, we still liked the wax better. Whatever you start with, foundation gives the bees something to start with and keep the comb more uniform.
With 8 frames, times two supers times two hives, we have 32 of these!
These frames are where the wax foundations go. There are options on how to insert them, some people wire their own, some leave them empty and let the bees draw out their own comb (that's the honeycomb that most people are familiar with) and some use these wax cell foundations. We opted for this method to keep it easier the first season as we learn.
The frames have simple grooves, one in the top and one in the bottom.
|Wax foundation in a frame|
The wax foundation just pops into place. You put it in the bottom groove, bend it slightly (be gentle) and pop it into the top groove. Later, I might experiment with the method of just using the frames without foundation, rubbing beeswax along the top edge to tell the bees where to draw out comb.
|Beehive frame with wax foundation|
One thing for sure, you will know you are working on a beehive if you use beeswax foundations, they smell heavenly when working with them. Here it is holding it up to the sunlight...the wire supports inside the wax help hold the future honeycomb in place as it gets larger and heavier with honey. Finally, the frames simply hang in the supers (boxes) as you can see in the cutaway image at the top of this post.
Hope we're not boring you with the bee posts! I'm just spilling out much of what I've learned (and still have SO much more to learn) to others in case they stumble across this blog looking for beekeeping information from a beginner beekeeper himself!