How to Build a Beehive (2024)

We talked with Gary S. Reuter, an apiculture technician in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Entomology, and he flooded us with great information about beekeeping and hives. He strongly recommends that beginner beekeepers take a few classes or read up on beginning beekeeping. Gary, along with some of his colleagues at the University of Minnesota, has written a comprehensive guide to beekeeping in northern climates.

How to Build a Beehive (1)Family Handyman

Parts of the Beehive (From Bottom – Up)

Bottom Board/Floor:This is the base of the beehive. As you continue to build up, you’ll realize that you don’t want the bees to get out of the top of the hive. This is their only exit.

Entrance Reducer:Anentrance reducer is a cleat used to adjust the size of the hive’s entrance and controls ventilation and temperature during cooler months. You won’t fasten this small piece to the rest of the assembly but rather use it as an optional accessory. They are used more frequently during the winter months when other animals, such as mice, will try to enter the hive for warmth. During the summer, especially at the height of nectar flow, you can remove it to maximize honey production.

Hive Bodies/Deep Super:Hive Bodies are the boxes where the bees live. The hive bodies contain the comb frames. The height is standardized at 9-1/4 in. which makes building one out of dimensional lumber very easy. You can have two deep hive bodies (one for the brood or family, one for the food) and then continue with the honey supers (see below) above. In cold weather locations, a bee colony can survive with only one deep hive body. We added foil tape to the rabbets on these boxes. Gary told us that the foil tape isn’t necessary, adding “I like a piece of metal in the rabbet. It doesn’t necessarily make the frames come out easier, but it makes it easier to scrape the wax and propolis (a resin-like material) from the rabbet when the frames are out. The metal protects the wood from getting scraped away.”

Queen Excluder: This part is only used during honey season. The queen bee isn’t involved with the actual production of honey, so you place the queen excluder between the brood and honey production. There are slits to let colony bees through but not the queen. Excluders come in plastic or metal.

For the plastic one we used, click here.

Honey Super:This is where the surplus honey is collected. This is your honey, the stuff you can harvest from the bees. You need to leave the honey in the deep hive bodies for the bees to survive. Supers are identical in design to the deep hive bodies but are slightly shallower. The typical sizes are 5-3/4 in. tall or 6-5/8 in. tall, known as an Illinois super. You’ll only need one honey super during your first season of beekeeping but can add two or three for the upcoming seasons.

Frames:Bees build their honeycomb into the frames. You can easily inspect and work on the frames because they’re removable. You will often see frame ends have a taper in them. We decided to not use a taper but if you want to, cut 1/8-in. from each edge of the part [what part?] with a jigsaw. As Gary Reuter told us, “The wider part at the top is to make them space correctly by just pushing them together. The narrow part allows the bees to walk through.” Each frame needs a single sheet of beeswax foundation. Foundations come in three sizes, corresponding to the different depths of hive bodies and supers. Beeswax foundations are delicate and tough to work with at first, so be patient. By the third frame, you’ll be a master. Many beekeepers now use plastic foundations.

Click here to find the beeswax foundations that we used.

Buy plastic foundations from Amazon here.

Inner Cover:The inner cover is a tray with a hole and small notch used for ventilation. Screened inner covers have gained popularity because they provide great ventilation with no fuss.

Outer Cover/Roof:Just like the roof on your house, the outer cover protects the bees from the elements. You can extend the life of your hive by attaching a weatherproof material like aluminum flashing to the top of the roof.

Cutting List

How to Build a Beehive (2)Family Handyman

Beehive Project Plans

How to Build a Beehive (3)Family Handyman

Click here for a printable PDF of all the different beehive parts.

How to Build a Beehive (2024)


Is it cheaper to build your own beehive? ›

You might be asking is it cheaper to build your own bee hive? Absolutely yes! A new Langstroth beehive costs well over $150 but we made ours for only $17. That's an amazing savings!

What is the easiest beehive to build? ›

Top Bar Hives are the simplest type of beehive that you can build. They are very forgiving and you can construct these out of materials that you have on hand. Not only are they the easiest to build, but they are also the easiest to maintain for new beekeepers.

How much does 1 bee hive cost? ›

The cost of a beehive varies depending on factors such as size, materials, and location, but can range from $100 to $500.

How much honey does 1 beehive make? ›

It depends entirely on the health of your bees, their hive style, your location, the weather and available forage. You should never plan to harvest in your first year, but you can expect to pull anywhere from 25 - 100 lbs of honey from an established colony in a successful year.

Can I put a beehive in my backyard? ›

Can you keep bees in your backyard in California? Yes, the Flow Hive is perfect for beekeeping in backyards in California. You don't need acres of space, just a couple of square feet in which to put your hive. The bees will travel in a radius to find food and return to the hive laden with pollen and nectar.

How do you attract bees to a beehive? ›

Simply rub the oiled cotton bud or pastry bush around the entrance to your hive. Lemongrass essential oil is believed to mimic the pheromone released from the abdominal gland of the scout bees which they use to entice the swarm into an empty hive.

How many acres does a beehive need? ›

In suburbia, your lot size will dictate how many hives you can realistically and safely keep on your property. Generally, the best practice to follow is no more than three colonies on any lot of one-quarter acre or less (not counting nucs). Then, for every additional one-quarter of an acre, add another three hives.

What is the best hive for a beginner? ›

One thing you don't have to worry about is what kind of beehive you should get. Really! I recommend ALL beginner beekeepers start out with a Langstroth style beehive. If you'd like to experiment with other hive styles, thats great, but, do that once you're comfortable keeping bees, not when you're first starting out.

How many beehives should a beginner start with? ›

However, keep in mind that bee colonies can die, even if you do everything right. That's why we recommend beginner beekeepers start with two hives. With only one hive, your entire bee supply would be gone.

What is the lowest maintenance bee hive? ›

Warre hives were designed to require minimal to no maintenance. Warre simply wanted beekeepers to add empty boxes to the bottom of the hive in the spring and harvest full boxes of honey off the top of the hive in the fall. Thus, Warre hives are meant to be managed by the box rather than by the comb.

What is the 7/10 rule in beekeeping? ›

This rule says that the proper time to add a super to a beehive is when the bees have already covered 7 of the 10 frames in the existing box or boxes.

What month should you start a beehive? ›

When starting a beehive, the spring is ideal time. As soon as the weather begins to warm up and flowers start to bloom, you can set up your hive. Plan well and get your bees into the hive as soon as possible to allow them the time to gather as much nectar as possible through the next few months.

Is it difficult to keep a bee hive? ›

Caring for a hive of bees requires several hours of husbandry a year, involving opening and inspecting the frames inside, and getting stung. Keeping your bees alive and healthy these days requires management for the varroa mite–most beginners fail at this, and their colonies die an ugly death.

Is beekeeping an expensive hobby? ›

So, let's construct a rough estimates for the cost. So, very generally…. Depending on your source, your bees will cost anything from $100 to $400 (although “free” is potentially an option, if capturing a swarm). The cost of the beehive itself can vary considerably, based on type and options.

What are the disadvantages of a beehive? ›

Disadvantages include (usually) unsupported combs that cannot be spun in most honey extractors, and it is not usually possible to expand the hive if additional honey storage space is required. Most horizontal hives cannot easily be lifted and carried by one person.

How many acres does one bee hive need? ›

The Final Buzz on Beehives per Acre

Generally, one acre of land should house at most two hives. However, the natural behavior of bees will show you what's truly feasible in your area.


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