Wednesday, April 15, 2015


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!

Wax foundations
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!

Beehive frames
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!


kymber said...

1st Man - you are sooooo NOT boring me with these posts! my friend, Pioneer Preppy (from the blog is a real pro at bees and if you don't read him already - you should! any probs or questions that you might have - he can definitely answer for you. i am loving your blog posts because you are explaining each of your steps and what you are doing and that is key for any bee-admirer (like myself) to learn from. sometimes the old pros use terms and such that bee-admirers don't understand - so your posts are providing awesome information for people like me. please - kill me with the details and as many bee posts as you can. i am learning tons from you guys and i am sure there are others who are learning too!

much love to you and 2nd Man! your friend,

Peg said...

I found a blog from Warren in West Virginia which includes a link to his honeybee data. He's got hives, too, and shares what he's learned. There are several tabs at the top of his home page and one of them links you to his honeybee information. You might enjoy it and maybe learn something. He might be able to answer questions if you have any. Here's a link:

Colleen said...

Not that I intend on having beehive housing, I found your blog post very educational and interesting reading.

Daphne Gould said...

I love the explanation. I've read a lot of posts about bees but they rarely explain all the terms.

Elephant's Child said...

Not boring. At all.
Fascinating glimpse into another world. And an education.
Thank you.

FionaG said...

You have mentioned a few times about the weight of the boxes in regards to moving them. I thought hives were suppose to stay in the one place. I do recall seeing a programme on bees once where the owner wanted to move his hives to a more protected site quite a distance away. I was amazed when they said you had to do it really slowly, like a metre or so at a time, otherwise the bees get confused. Is this still the case?

Texas Rose said...

I like being able to understand how something works - and your explanations break it down into easily digestible parts. An amazing look into the art of honey farming!

Sandy said...

1st Man,

Not boring at all, great information especially for those people who know nothing about bee's. They're learning with you ;-)

Can't wait until you get your bees!!!

1st Man said...

thank you for that sweet lady! I had to wade through the technical terms to figure it out so I understand and wanted to keep the explanations simple. Thank you for the link I will check him out.

1st Man said...

Another great link, thank you! Lots of great info. Thank you!!!

1st Man said...

Well thank you for that. :-)

1st Man said...


1st Man said...

Thank you, that's what I was aiming for, ha.

1st Man said...

You do have to move them to get to the screen bottom to check for mites and other things. Sometimes lift them off and set them aside to work on other parts the hive. And then when you harvest honey, it's usually carried elsewhere for that process. So they say 40lbs full is better than 80lbs full, ha.

1st Man said...

Thank you very much! Hey, there will be lots more for me to learn, the hard way, ha.

1st Man said...

Well thank you! We are expecting rain again this weekend (and possibly BIG storms on Friday) so we'll see when they get installed. Might end up being Sat afternoon or even Sunday.

deborah harvey said...

not boring.
i'd like to have bees one day and need the outlook of a 'new bee'.
those who are very experienced don't seem able to be straightforward enough or nontechnical enough, or they forget to mention what is second nature to them.
you have a very clear way of explaining.
many thanks.
deb harvey

Practical Parsimony said...

I love the naming and describing of each part of the hive. This is not at all boring to me. I love it.

Farmer Liz said...

We are building hives and frames at the moment too, so its interesting to see what you're doing. Our foundation doesn't have wire in it, we have to put wire through the frame (horizontally) and then melt the wax onto the wire.

Leigh said...

What an excellent series of posts; well written and loaded with of the kind of information all new beekeepers need. I love your choice of hive colors. Here's hoping for rain free bee arrival days!

1st Man said...

Well than you for that. Yes, I want to make sure I explain what I learned and what I did right or even wrong. Thank you!!!

1st Man said...

Thank you, there will be more coming!

1st Man said...

Hi! And thanks for commenting!! Very cool, I saw that method and I almost chose that, I was just afraid I'd run out of time, ha. So neat that people all over the world are doing the same thing at the same time. Very synchronistic. ;-)

1st Man said...

Coming from you, that's a wonderful compliment. You always write such great explanations and descriptions of things yourself.

Like I said above, isn't the synchronicity of thousands of us doing this at about the same time?

Rain is not going anywhere for now. It's POURING as I type this and supposed to be even worse tomorrow. Saturday 'looks' clear(ish) for now anyway. We'll see!!

Thanks again for the kind words!

Midnite Baker said...

Interesting Informative Post, guys. Didn't know Queenie only lived in the ground floor abode. And didn't know the worker bees had an in and an out doorway. Have a beekeeper client, but have never
asked him to explain the details of beekeeping and the housekeeping skills needed to keep a hive healthy and wealthy with honey. He lost 30% of his hives in 2014 due to the mites. Hope you have better results this year than he did last year. Have a great weekend . M

Teresa Martens said...

Hello and thank you for your bee posts! I've enjoyed reading several of them to this point. This particular post has been very helpful in explaining the parts of the hive. I'm new to bee keeping and will be taking my first classes next week. I hope to have my hives up and running by next year.

Thank you again and I look forward to reading more of your adventures on the farm and in particular about your bees!

Warm Regards,
Maple Leaf Alpaca Farm