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Best Type Of Beehive For Beginners (And Why)

Beginner beekeepers must first decide on the sort of hive they want to employ. Langstroth, Warrè (pronounced WAR-ray), and Top Bar hives are the three basic kinds of hives. Hives like the Langstroth and Warrè are made up of vertically stacked boxes. Single-body horizontal bodies make up Top Bar hives. Horizontal hives come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

The Langstroth hive is the ideal form of beehive for new beekeepers. Langstroth hives offer significant benefits over other kinds of beehives due to their widespread appeal and modular design:

  • There are more beekeepers accessible to help with advice or mentoring; there are more equipment providers, and there are more beekeepers ready to help with advice or mentorship.
  • Adding boxes increases honey production potential; interchangeable boxes and uniform dimensions across producers;
  • Honey may be extracted in a variety of ways, and comb, brood, and food storage can be easily transferred between hives as required.

Beginner beekeepers may want to avoid Langstroth hives since they have specific drawbacks.

  • Langstroth boxes with bees and honey may weigh between 50 and 90 pounds, making them difficult to carry for someone lacking physical strength.

  • Langstroth beekeepers need storage room for equipment that isn't in use (like over the winter), which may make them unsuitable for individuals with limited space.

We'll go through the Langstroth hive in great depth in this essay. We also go through why you may choose to start beekeeping with a Warré hive or another style of the horizontal hive.

A Langstroth hive is a kind of beehive.

Langstroth hives are made up of rectangular boxes that are all the same length and breadth. Vertical stacking is now possible. Inside the hive, frames offer a place for comb construction.

Rev. L. L. Langstroth is "considered to be the father of American beekeeping," according to Wikipedia. Langstroth's Hive and the Honey-Bee: The Classic Beekeeper's Manual was his first book (available here on Amazon).

Concerning Bee Space

Langstroth is credited with inventing the concept of "bee space." Bee gap is the 3/8-inch spacing between two points where bees may fly but not construct comb.

The Langstroth hive is totally modular, with all elements depending on bee space. In general, bee space is supplied as follows:

  • between the frames and the hive walls; between the lower box's frames and the bottom board; between two frames; between frame bottom bars in one box and top bars in another; and between the upper box's top bars and the inner cover.

There are certain occasions when bees use the comb to enter the bee area, however, this is typically a minor issue. With a hive tool, remove any "burr comb."

Components of the Langstroth Hive

A Langstroth hive is made up of the following components from the bottom up.

Board at the bottom

A bottom board serves as the hive's foundation and entrance. Solid or screened bottom boards are available.

A chloroplast board may be used to open or shut screened bottoms. When open, screened boards aid in ventilation. For examination, closed boards trap mites and other waste from the hive.

To keep it off the ground and away from dampness and predators, the bottom board should be placed on a stand (like skunks and raccoons).

On the bottom board, an entrance reducer is utilized to change the size of the entrance as required.

Bodies of the Hive

One or more swarm bodies lie on the bottom board.

To accommodate frames, the hive bodies are 19 inches long (described below). Depending on whether it stores 10, 8, or 5 frames, the breadth of the body changes.

There are three basic depths that govern the size of frames to use:

  • For the brood and part of its food storage, use deep boxes (9-5/8").
  • Medium boxes (also known as supers – 6-5/8") for harvesting brood and/or honey.
  • Only use shallow supers (5-11/16") for honey harvesting.
If you're interested, you can find detailed size requirements on Wikipedia at Langstroth Hive.

Brood rearing in a Langstroth hive is usually limited to the lowest boxes. Honey is kept in the upper boxes. As a result, a popular setup is two deep boxes on the bottom and medium supers above.

Foundations And Frames

Frames are rectangular wooden or plastic constructions that are put into Langstroth hives. Bees construct their comb inside the frames. The comb is utilized for food storage and brood raising.

For more information on how bees make and utilize wax comb, see our article What Is Honeycomb? (Talking Beeswax).

For beehive inspections and honey harvesting, the frames may be removed.

Each hive box is filled with the right amount of frames and at the right depth.

Inside the frames, a plastic or wax "base" is optional. The hexagon-shaped foundation provides a foundation for bees to create wax comb. (Note that certain Langstroth hive alternatives do not utilize frames or foundation.)

"Foundationless" frames are possible. Honey bees are just only basic guidance on the top bar to begin constructing comb.

Beginning beekeepers, on the other hand, should start with the foundation. You may always switch to foundationless beekeeping later.

 Covers, both inside and out

The highest box has an inner cover with a ventilation hole in the middle. It may include a notch on one side to allow for an upward entry if desired. Bees may also access a feeder installed on top of the inner cover via the ventilation hole.

A migrating or telescoping outer cover may be used over an inside cover. To help transfer the hive, a migratory cover fits snugly over the boxes. The hive is protected from the outdoors by a telescopic cover that drapes over all sides.

Langstroth Components (Optional)

Langstroth hives come with a variety of alternative components. We believe there are just two that deserve your attention as newcomers.

Excluder from the Queen

A queen excluder is a metal or plastic grid that allows worker bees to travel between boxes but not the queen.

The queen will not deposit eggs in your honey supers if an excluder is put over the brood boxes.

Excluders were tested, however these hampered productivity in the top boxes. The bees seemed to be taking their time entering the supers.

We had minimal trouble with brood in the top bodies without the excluder.

For further details, see this page on queen excluders.

Escape Room

Bees are confused by an escape board, which allows them to only go in one way between boxes.

Alternatively, cheap bits may be added to an inside cover to make an escape board. (An associated video is available.)

Place an escape board under a honey box before taking it. Bees will make their way down to the bottom boxes over the course of a day or two.

Honey is simpler to collect when the frames are free of bees. 

Benefits of Langstroth Beehives

  • Because of its popularity, there are a greater number of materials accessible. It's most likely the hive of choice among beekeepers in your area. Popularity also entails a diverse set of vendors and equipment.
  • The capacity to add boxes in the future increases honey output potential compared to certain alternatives that just have a single hive body.
  • Because of the consistency in size, boxes from different manufacturers are readily interchangeable and identical.
  • Honey extraction procedures employing frames with foundation provide you additional options.
  • Comb, brood, and food supplies may be easily transferred between hives using frames.

Langstroth Beehives' Drawbacks

  • Inspections of hives are more disruptive than with certain other types of hives. To view what's going on, inspections need shifting boxes and frames.
  • Boxes may be rather large and hefty. Between 70 and 90 pounds may be found in a deep hive full of bees, brood, and/or honey. Medium honey super weighs about 50 pounds.
  • On foundation, bees do not form natural-sized comb cells. Cross-combing problems may occur in foundationless hives.
  • Contaminants may be present in the foundation. If you purchase from trusted providers, the effect is minor.
  • You'll need a storage room for any equipment that isn't in use. Boxes are only introduced when colony growth is required, and they are withdrawn when no longer required.

Some of the disadvantages of Langstroth hives are offset.

We believe that the benefits of Langstroth hives outweigh the downsides, especially for new beekeepers. It is critical to have easy access to equipment and guidance.

Some Langstroth hive drawbacks may be mitigated by making the following adjustments:
  • For lighter boxes, use all 8-frame medium hive bodies. You'll get rid of the 10 frame deeps, which are substantially heavier. Your back will appreciate it.
  • We suggest that newcomers begin with a foundation since it is the most straightforward. Consider foundationless frames after you're more at ease. You won't need to purchase foundation, there won't be any pollutants, and your comb cells will be natural in size. Regular inspections and appropriate leveling may help prevent cross-combing.

The absence of some standardized components is one disadvantage of 8-frame bodies. Components for 10-frame boxes are easy to come by. However, we have yet to discover if this is a significant issue.

Warré Hive

Abbé Émile Warré, a French priest and beekeeper, invented Warré hives. He developed The People's Hive, which he describes in his book Beekeeping For All, after years of testing.

The Warré beehive is designed to look like how bees create comb in nature. Hive boxes that are vertically stacked are square and uniform in size. The interior of the hive bodies resembles a tree hollow where bees may live.

The boxes are usually exclusively utilized with top bars. However, frames with a top bar and two sidebars but no bottom bar are available. If there are any frames, they do not utilize foundation. The bees construct their comb downward using this pattern.

A quilt box stands above the hive bodies. To absorb moisture from the hive, the quilt box is filled with wood shavings or other material. Between the quilt box and the upper hive body is a fabric or screen. The quilt box will not be attached to the top bars with propolis as a result of this.

The hive is ventilated and protected from the elements by gabled roofing. New hive boxes are added to the bottom of a Warré hive, unlike Langstroth hives. This is referred to as nadiring.

The bottom box becomes the brood chamber when the honey stocks rise in this way. The brood is more insulated by being in the bottom boxes. In the colder winter months, bees will also migrate higher to remain warm. They are going up to the stored honey in a Warré hive for nutrition.

Warré hives are designed with the beekeeper in mind. A box or two may be added at the bottom in the spring. A box or two of honey is taken from the top in the autumn.

The Warré Hive's Benefits

  • Warré hives are designed to mimic the natural surroundings of bees.
  • Over the course of a year, hives need little upkeep and allow for very little intervention.
  • The bees create foundationless comb completely on their own.
  • Large Langstroth boxes are heavier and more difficult to move than smaller square boxes.
  • Interchangeable boxes are made possible by consistent box sizes.
  • In the winter, square boxes may be arranged in alternating orientations to reduce drafts and improve heat retention.

In conclusion

We believe that the benefits of the Langstroth hive outweigh the disadvantages, making it the ideal beehive for most new beekeepers.

A Warré or horizontal hive, on the other hand, maybe the perfect beehive for you if the standard Langstroth hive isn't suited for your needs.

There is no reason why you shouldn't have a variety of beehives in your apiary. Each colony is self-contained and will adjust to the conditions you supply.

Feel free to try out other options. It's all in good humor.