The 8 Time-Tested Parts of a Beekeeper Hive
For beginning beekeepers, it’s helpful to understand what the 8 time-tested parts of a beekeeper hive are, and the function of each part.
With a solid understanding of the beehive box, you’ll also get a better understanding of what your beekeeping responsibilities are throughout the course of a year.
Here’s a breakdown of the parts of a Langstroth hive, the most commonly used beehive.
If you have any questions, feel free to comment below and our beekeeping expert will answer them for you!
The stand serves to keep the beehive from touching the ground. Why can’t it touch the ground? Technically, it can, but you might run into some issues. Not all beekeepers use pre-made stands; some prefer homemade options.
Elevating your beehive eliminates risks posed by pests like mice, ants, and other insects. It also evades potential problems from flooding or stagnant water, and improper ventilation. Stands also help beekeepers service their hives by elevating the supers to an ergonomic lifting height. Some stands have a slanted front board; this is to make it easier for bees to land because their bodies are more or less at a 45-degree angle during flight.
There are two styles of bottom boards: solid and screened. A solid board is fairly standard, and the screened board is gaining popularity. Both serve as the floor of the beehive. A screened bottom board can improve ventilation, yet its main purpose is to help a beekeeper with pest management. With a screened board, a beekeeper can keep tabs on varroa mite populations. Varroa mites are parasites that, if not managed, can cause your colony to perish.
There are pros and cons that come with entrance reducers. Place this insert at the entrance of the hive (blocking the space between the bottom board and your deep super) to manage who/what gets into the hive. You’re trying to keep cold air out in the winter, keep thieving bees and wasps out especially if a hive is somehow weakened, and keep mite air treatments in while you’re applying them.
Typically, an entrance reducer will have two entrance sizes (one large notch and one small notch cut out of the rod). You might choose to skip the entrance reducer during bees’ busiest times of year – late summer – and use the entrance sizes to manage the hive other times of year, based on your observations. If you don’t manage the entrance well, your beehive’s production will be less than optimized. Bees will show signs of annoyance if the opening is more of a hindrance than a help to them. There’s a great article about this at honeybeesuite.com.
Deep Super (aka Brood Box or Deep Box)
This is the main cavity of the hive. A deep super will typically hold 10 frames. Bees build honey combs on these frames. A standard Langstroth hive starts with two of these deep supers. In climates where winter temperatures drop considerably (Murdoch’s store locations fall into this category), bees will typically need one full super of honey to last them through the winter. They will use the second lower deep super as the brooding area, like a baby bee nursery. As you might have guessed, the queen rules this section of the hive.
It’s a metal insert with fine mesh, which is too small to allow the queen’s passage. Remember, she’s larger than the rest of the colony population. You don’t want the queen to exit the deep supers, or she could potentially lay eggs in the honey you hope to harvest, which doesn’t taste good. Hence, the queen excluder. Whether this is essential is a point of debate among beekeepers. It is certainly helpful.
Honey supers are where bees produce excess honey. This is the honey that you look forward to enjoying! The only real differences between these supers and a deep super or brood box are placement and size. Honey supers are placed above the queen excluder, and they are typically shallower than a deep super. That said, you can use a spare deep super as a honey super; just stack it above the queen excluder.
This is like the interior ceiling of the hive. It closes off the supers, and it helps create insulated air space.
This is like the exterior roof of the hive. It sheds rain and snow, protecting the hive from the elements.