There are many hives to choose from. The differences come from your purpose and personal preference.
In the United States, the Langstroth hive is the most popular. Designed by Rev. Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth, it was the first removable frame hive designed with “BeeSpace” in mind. There are 10 frame and 8 frame versions.
The basic components of the Langstroth hive are:
The Bottom Board: The bottom board comes in a couple of different styles. There is a solid reversible bottom board which has a large summer entrance and a small winter entrance. There is also an IPC (Integrated Pest Management) Screened Bottom Board. The purpose of this board is so mites fall through and can not hitch a ride back into the hive on passing bees.
The Deep Super: Sometimes called the “brood box” or the “Foundation Box”, this box is 9 5/8″ Deep. It is primarily used as the brood chamber, however most commercial beekeepers also use it as a honey super.
The Medium Super: This box is also called the “Dadant Super”, “Illinois Super”, or “Western Super”. It is 6 5/8″ deep. It can also be used as a brood chamber.
Other Supers: Less common, there are two other supers. The shallow super is 5 11/16″ and a comb honey super is 4 13/16″
The Inner Cover: The inner cover sits under the lid, and can be made of wood, plastic, or Masonite. The inner cover serves several purposes:
- It keeps the bees from “gluing” the outer cover down to box
- Helps with moisture control in the hive
- Has an oval hole to make use of Porter Bee Escape
- For use as a top feeder during the winter
The Outer Cover: There are two common types of outer covers. The telescoping cover is the most common for hobby beekeepers. It telescopes down over the top box. The next cover is the migratory cover. This is popular with commercial beekeepers because it allows the hive boxes to be placed next to one another.
The Top Bar Hive:
Top bar hives are single story hives. The bees make their own comb and hang it from removable bars you provide them. The bars are typically 1 1/4″ to 1 3/8″ wide. The hives can be made of virtually anything.
Top bar hives are very inexpensive and easy to build. They are very popular with Natural Beekeepers.
The entrance is usually located on the side. Most hives have a “follower board” to contain the size of the hive. As the hive expands, you add top bars between the brood chamber and the honey storage.
Extracting honey with a top bar hive is inexpensive compared to the Langstroth design. You do not have to buy expensive extractors, uncapping knives, or the like. Most people just cut the comb from the top bar, crush, and strain out the honey.
The Warre Hive:
The Warre hive is also known as “The People’s Hive”. It is somewhat of a combination between a Langstroth and a Top Bar Hive. It was designed to be bee friendly and inexpensive to build. The top of the hive is the “Roof”. It has a breezeway to allow airflow, and sits over top the “Quilt” Box. The Quilt box helps insulate the hive and removes moisture from the hive.
The brood box contains 8 removable bars. The bees draw out their own comb on these bars as they do in a Top Bar hive.
In Warre Hives, you add boxes to the bottom of the hive instead of “supering” the top. This process is know as “Naidering”. The idea is that is less disruptive to the hive. Instead of breaking the hive open, you merely raise the box off of the bottom board and insert another box of bars for the bees to draw comb on.
The Warr hive is another hive popular with natural beekeeping.
More Hive Styles:
There are several other hives that are available.
In South America, the Perone hives are very popular. These hives are a modification of all of the above styles.
In Europe, the British National Hive is the standard. There is also a modification of this hive called the Commercial Hive. A Commercial hive has deeper brood boxes than the British National. There is also the WBC hive which is a double wall box.
The Slovenian beehive is another hive type. It is a cabinet style hive.
There is a plastic hive designed for Urban beekeepers called the Beehaus.
The latest new hive is the Flow Hive. This hive is designed and built in Australia. It has the same features as the Langstroth hive, however, it has specially designed frames in the honey super where the honey flows out of the frames without using extractors.