Building a beehive

Most beekeepers build their beehive out of unassembled wooden hive parts at some point. Most beekeepers buy their unassembled hive in advance and others are adventurous enough to cut their own beehive equipment. This article provides valuable information about individual hive parts, and how to assemble them to create a solid, safe home for your bees.

The following steps outlined below are a guide for a standard 8 or 10 frame Langstroth hive box.

Tools you will need for assembly (not supplied):

  1. Hammer OR drill motor with phillips head bit or a phillips head screwdriver. Drill bits should be 3/32"–1/8" (3mm-4mm)
  2. Nails 1 1/8 inches (50 mm) OR flat-headed screws 1-5/8 inches (41mm)
  3. Clamps (optional) - one that opens to at least 15" and one that opens 17"
  4. Carpenter’s square (optional)
  5. Non-toxic glue (optional)
  6. Rubber mallet (optional)
  7. Sandpaper (optional)
  8. Tung oil or exterior-grade paint
  9. Paint brush and/or small roller

Time commitment: it should take you 1 to 2 hours to complete.

Tip: Have fun constructing your hive by inviting over friends, ordering food and beverages and playing music! Instagram the event (share)

When should you start building your beehive?

Bee hives should be built several days before the bees arrive. This will give you several days to paint them after building a beehive. Wet paint smell isn’t attractive to bees (or even most people) and won’t help them settle into their new hive.

Background information: Types of Supers

The wooden boxes that hold the frames of comb are called 'supers'. The standard super has an external length of 50.7 cm (20 in.) and a width of 41.8 cm (16 ½ in.). There are three types of supers, each with its own standard depth

  • Deep aka 'Standard' aka 'Full = 41.3 cm (9 5/8 in.) - this is a large size hive box and typically placed at the bottom of the hive as the brood chamber. Commercial beekeeping operations use mostly Standard or “Full Depth” boxes for brood and honey supers
  • Dadant 16.8 cm (6 5/8 in.) - good for brood and honey supers
  • Shallow 14.7 cm (5 13/16 in.) - this is used only for honey supers

Each super holds 10 frames inside it that the bees build wax onto.

Should you use wood glue while building a beehive?

You can assemble your hive without wood glue. That said, wood glue in a well-assembled beehive goes a very long way to make sure water is kept out of the joints. This will make the boxes last quite a bit longer.

How about nails or screws?

Box nails (50 mm or 1 1/8 in.) are ideal for nailing supers. Or you can instead use flat-headed screws for maximum durability. Interestingly, commercial beekeepers sometimes use air-powered staple guns.

Steps to building a beehive!

  • Lay out all pieces of your hive box. The box will be finger jointed, which means it will have several tapered "fingers" so that the sides fit together like a puzzle. This configuration makes the joint stronger.
  • Put all the pieces together to make a box. Make sure the handles are on the outside of the box, at the top. Make sure the sections fit together well. You may need to tap the pieces together to fit together. If they fit too tightly, use sandpaper to adjust as needed.
  • Once you know the sides fit properly, you can add wood glue to the joints prior to nailing or drilling.
  • If you’re using clamps to build your hive, this is a also good time to clamp one on each side of the hive box toward the top. You’ll have an easier time if you use clamps since they’ll allow you install the nails or screws without the other sides of the box falling apart. If you don’t have a clamp, make sure the joints are placed firmly together before driving in screws. If the sides fall off, don’t worry, they’re easily reassembled.
  • If you’re using the carpenter’s square, make sure the box is square . Adjust as needed. If you don’t have a carpenter’s square, eyeball the box or place it at the corner of a square table to check.
  • Screw or nail the sides together, checking that the box is square as you go along. If you’re using screws and an electric drill, use the low torque setting.
  • Since each hive is unique, you may come across some knots or other imperfections that need to be sanded down.
  • After building your beehive, you’ll need to add paint or prime outside as a waterproofing layer. Unpainted hives tend to rot sooner
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