Initial Thoughts on The Beekeeping Hive

Initial Thoughts on The Beekeeping Hive

Article by Ben Field

The central piece of equipment needed when starting to keep bees is the hive. It is important if you are to be successful at beekeeping that you fully understand the hive.

When beekeeping was first carried out beekeepers used raffia baskets known as skeps or pottery jars (hives) or even hollowed out trees (bee-gums). They all had the disadvantage that the bees needed to be driven out or killed so that the honey could be harvested. Then a wild swarm would need to be captured to establish a new nest in the controlled hive, skep or bee-gum. Not efficient for the honey maker, the bees didn’t like it much either.

In the 1850′s LL Langstroth developed a hive that took his name and today this hive is by the far the most popular. A different designed the ‘top-bar’ hive is now growing in popularity in areas of Africa and Asia being cheaper to establish. This type of hive is far less efficient the bees making less honey, but I am told the honey is of a better quality.

In the Langstroth hive, also known as a movable frame beehive, we have the first hive where the bees did not have to be driven off or destroyed so that honey harvest could be made. Langstroth’s objective was to protect the bees but he designed the hive that established beekeeping as we know it today.

The basic structure is rectangular boxes stacked on top of each other all supporting combs. Normally ten combs are suspended in each box. These can easily be withdrawn containing their honey when the time is right and replaced with an empty comb if required. The honey can then be extract from the comb away from the hive.

The beekeeper provides a base for the bees to build their comb. This is made either from a thin sheet of wax or plastic. Imprinted on the sheet is a hexagonal pattern this is used by the bees to hang a wax structure which forms the comb. They are then able to deposit honey and pollen into the cells of the comb.

As well as the design of the hive a prospective beekeeper needs to consider the location of the hive. Close proximity to large areas of plants is not as important as many people think as the bees will travel considerable distances to gather nectar – up to fifty miles round trip per day! It is however important that there is a supply of water close to the hive. We don’t want bees visiting local swimming and paddling pools for a drink and disturbing all the neighbours in the process. The yard where the beehive is located should be surrounded by a six foot high fence. Not to stop people seeing what you are doing but to encourage the bees to fly over head height.

It is very important that the beekeeper has first discovered whether there are any local regulations or bylaws controlling the keeping of bees. (these are rare but do exist). And most important of all is to have fully discussed your intentions with the neighbours. Many arguments why they should welcome bees into the area exist but two are: with friendly non aggressive honey bees dominating the area there is less likelihood of aggressive insects like wasps and hornets visiting. The pollinating effect of bees will mean much healthier harvests in the area. If these don’t work the promise of honey can swing most opinions.

About the Author

Ben Field is a beekeeping expert. For more information on beekeeping hive,visit

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