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Back To Basics Beekeeping – The Bee Hive

It came to my attention while writing my last post that there are many technical terms used it beekeeping that many of you won’t actually know. This quick post will go through the parts of a beehive as well as a few pictures showing how I make certain parts of the hives. Hopefully you’ll learn something new about the fascinating world of beekeeping!

The Hive Itself

All modern beehives are essentially a stack of hollow boxes with removable frames in them that the bees live on. Our beehives are called British Nationals or Standard British Nationals, which is the most common type in the UK. The height of each box differs depending on its use, although with everything in beekeeping each beekeeper does things slightly differently, so everything that follows in this post is just my opinion.

Parts Of A Hive

  • The floor and entrance block – The floor is raised to keep the bees and the hive away from the damp, it’s also made of a fine wire mesh, that allows debris and the Varroa mite fall through but because it’s fine the bees and pests can’t get through. The entrance block is simply a way for us to protect weaker colonies at certain times, we reduce the entrance size so it is easier to defend from pests like wasps.
  • The brood box – This is where the queen is, or at least should be. This deep box has plenty of room for the queen to lay her eggs as well as storage space for pollen and a little honey.
  • The queen excluder – Well if you read the above and wondered how I knew the queen would be in the brood box then this is how. This perforated sheet has holes big enough for the workers to get through but small enough that the much larger queen can’t.
  • Supers – The supers are where the nectar is stored and turned into honey, the queen can’t lay here so when we extract we don’t have to worry about contamination. While the diagram only shows one super we add them on top as needed. Some strong hives can have up to 7 or 8 supers!
  • Crown Board – This board is simply a way to reduce the space between the hive and the raised roof. Without it the bees would stick the roof down with rouge comb!
  • The roof – A pretty simple one, simply there to keep the hive dry and over the summer give it some shade.

Building Hives

As I said we build all of our own hives more or less from scratch. We use Pine and Plywood to build our hives as it works well and is very economical. All of the wood comes from our local sawmill who do a lot of the cutting for us so it means we can make our hives much quicker!

It is quite a simple process, the pine lengths have a small rebate cut into them and then we simply screw them to the plywood ends and attach the sides… you don’t have to be a master of DIY! So long as its solid and will hold up to the Great British weather it’s ready to go! To make sure they are going to last we coat all of the boxes in a bee friendly outdoor paint too.

Frames… explained

So I’ve mentioned making frames quite a few times over the past few posts without explaining what they are. It’s much easier to show you, please see a few pictures of them below. Basically the bees don’t just have free rein inside the hive, it would end up in a mess of wax that we just couldn’t check so we prompt the bees to build their comb on wooden frames that we can lift out and check.

The size of the frame depends on the size of the box and how many frames you want in each box. I personally have 12 frames in a brood box and 11 in a super, it’s just what works for me, no scientific reason at all. We buy the frames in Ikea style, flat pack! They’re easy to assemble with the help of a nail gun but the amount of frames we need to build makes it a big job!

Hopefully you’ve learnt something new!

One of the things that is really important to me and is helping to guide Holt Hall Apiary is teaching the general public about beekeeping. Although most of you will probably never become beekeepers I personally think that having an understanding of one of the most important pollinators in the world is always a good thing!

If you’ve not seen our previous posts you can find them here – The Beginning of our beekeeping story | Getting our bees through winter.

Thank you for reading and supporting our business.

Matthew Ingram

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2 thoughts on “Back To Basics Beekeeping – The Bee Hive

  1. I’m joining you in July so find these blogs really helpful pre knowledge. Really looking forward to being hands-on. Thanks.

    1. Hi Jennie,

      Thank you for your message! We look forward to welcoming you to beekeeping when you visit in July!


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