Types of Hives

You may be surprised to learn that apart from the hive itself, beekeeping requires very little equipment. On this page we’ll cover the standard components of the hobby beehive as well as the basic “tools of the trade." You'll find that a number of reputable companies offer kits for beginners. These kits often present savings when compared with the price for the same components ordered separately. However, kits may also contain components you do not need. (For example, if you're ordering two hives, you may not want two smokers.) Carefully consider the contents of a kit before ordering it.


The Langstroth Hive

As a beginner, you should first understand the standard components in the hobby beehive. Most beekeepers today use Langstroth hives, which have remained largely unchanged since 1851, when Lorenzo Langstroth first created a hive with easy access to honey. Components are interchangeable, making your job much easier. Here are the basic parts of the hive:

Outer cover: protects the hive from harsh weather.


Inner cover: not only provides an insulating space to help the bees regulate the hive temperature, but also prevents them from attaching honeycomb to the outer cover.


Shallow honey “supers”: provide storage space for surplus honey (your harvest).


Frames: provide a foundation on which your bees create honeycomb. Standard equipment comes with either 8 frames or 10 frames per super or hive body.


Queen excluder: prevents the queen from entering or laying eggs in the shallow super. This section is not always necessary, particularly when the hive body has two chambers.


Hive body: serves as a brood chamber, or nursery for bees, as well as storage for honey and pollen. In colder climates where bees need more winter food, beekeepers often place two deep hive bodies below the queen excluder—one becomes a brood chamber and one a food chamber for the hive.


Bottom board: serves as the hive floor. During cold weather beekeepers may use an entrance reducer to minimize heat loss from the hive.


Hive stand: elevates the hive to protect it from ground moisture. The stand also creates an insulating pocket of air between the hive and the ground.


Feeder: provides a means for delivering food to the hive during winter or other times when nectar is not readily available. Some beekeepers use feeders to medicate their bees, or to provide a water source.


Four Basic “Tools of the Trade”

Smoker: calms bees, allowing the beekeeper to inspect the hive, work on it, or harvest from it. Commercial fuel is available, but straw, grass, wood shavings, rotted wood, burlap and other combustible materials work just as well.

Protective Clothing: allows beekeepers to work easily without concerns about bee stings. Although honey bees are generally passive, they are curious and disposed to explore nostrils and ears. For this reason, the most important protective clothing is the veil. Beekeepers who don’t wear full suits should work in long sleeves and full-length trousers. Beginners should wear gloves as well.

Hive Tool: allows beekeepers to pry apart components of a hive stuck together with propolis. These tools are also handy for scraping wax and propolis off the hive components.

Bee Brush: helps beekeepers remove bees from a variety of surfaces, including hive frames and clothing.