7 Types of Beehive Designs For Backyard Beekeeping
When it comes to beehive design, not a lot has changed over the years. But we found a few new, innovative beehive designs that are as good as classic, all-time favorites. Is it great for your busy honey bee friends? Let’s find out.
Here are seven types of beehives to keep your busy bees safe and sound.
1. Langstroth Hive
In the mid 19th century, Rev. Langstroth, from Philadelphia, invented the Langstroth hive and revolutionized beekeeping. One hundred and fifty years later, this beehive is still the most commonly used type of hive in the United States (1).
The Langstroth consists of a series of boxes, called supers, stacked on top of each other. There are deep supers (or brood boxes) and honey supers. These supers rest on a bottom board and are topped by an inner and outer cover. Each super holds frames where the honey bees build comb.
A queen excluder restricts access to the honey from the queen and drone honey bees. The queen excluder sits on top of your brood box.
Since Langstroth hives are so popular and come in modular layouts, you can easily source brand-new replacement parts should you ever want to expand your hive or do repairs.
There are many advantages to this design. The removable frames make it easy to inspect your hive and maximize honey production. Harvesting honey is also convenient since modern honey extractors are specifically designed for Langstroth hive frames.
All in all, Langstroth hives are a great choice for beginning beekeepers.
You will need to invest in equipment like a beekeeping suit for this type of hive. Read this article to learn our picks for the best beekeeping suit.
a. Ten-Frame Langstroth Hive
Each super in a Langstroth Hive contains frames. These frames are where the bees build their honeycomb. The idea is the bees attach the comb to the edge, usually on a foundation made from beeswax. Now the bees are building their honeycombs where you want, rather than in hard-to-reach areas.
The standard Langstroth hives have ten frames per super. But this can be extremely heavy. A ten-frame super full of honey can weigh as much as 60 pounds!
b. Eight-Frame Langstroth Hive
Eight-frame Langstroth hives use the same design as the classic ten-frame hives do. But there is one main difference. I bet you’ve guessed it. That’s right! It only has eight frames instead of ten. Are there pros and cons? Yes, there are.
The smaller number of frames means your supers are smaller and lighter. So rather than a full super weighing 60 pounds, the eight frame supers only weigh 30 pounds. If you plan to move your hive boxes, the smaller frame count can save your back.
The main downside to the eight-frame hive is that it is not as common as the ten-frame. So, parts are more difficult to find, and it’s more difficult to work with other beekeepers.
2. Top Bar Hive
When it comes to different types of beehives, the top bar hive is the oldest (2). People have been using some variation of the Top Bar hive since ancient times. But what makes it appealing?
The attraction to the top bar hives is their super simple design. Plus, you don’t have to shell out a ridiculous amount of money nor need to have pro-level building skills to set up a beehive with a top bar design.
Unlike other hive designs, you’ll keep bees inside a triangular wooden box. Inside are wooden bars resting along the top over an open cavity (the top bars that give the hive its name). These bars are where the bees build their comb. This layout allows them to build their comb downwards more naturally than the Langstrom hive. (3).
“Bees naturally build comb in deep, catenary curves (the shape made by a chain or rope suspended by its ends). But the use of preformed foundation inside rectangular frames forces bees to build comb according to our requirements, not theirs.”
To protect the colony, a wire mesh is available at the bottom of the long box. On top, there is a cover that you can easily open and close to access the space.
Unfortunately, like other types of beehives, the top bar hive design has its cons.
One downfall to top bar hives is that the bees often don’t build straight across each bar. Sometimes they build their comb at an angle. When this happens, it is more complicated to inspect the hive.
Moreover, It is also very difficult to extract honey from a top bar hive since there isn’t any standardized extraction equipment.
However, this type of beehive is great if you just want to keep pollinators in your yard. Click here to learn more about the different kinds of bees you may have nearby.
3. Warre Hive
A French beekeeper named Emile Warre spent 50 years designing the “People’s Hive,” or as it is often called the Warre Hive.
You can think of the Warre bee hive as a vertical version of the top bar hive. You’ll get a series of frame-free boxes. Unlike in Langstroth hives, the boxes are added on the bottom rather than the top.
This design mimics a hollow tree trunk for more bee space and a more natural way for a colony to construct its beehives. As a result, the bees are happier and healthier. Plus, you’ll spend less time maintaining your Warre hive.
But, what makes Warré hives unique is its quilt box.
Usually filled with wood shavings and other natural insulating materials, a quilt box is responsible for keeping the colony warm during winter. It also minimizes water condensation and moisture build-up, ensuring your bees are dry even after raining cats and dogs.
To prevent it from getting stuck with the hive body box, a top bar cloth is typically wedged in between or underneath the thick layers of wood shavings.
4. Long/Horizontal Hive
The Long/Horizontal Hive has the same building principles as the Langstroth hive with one key difference. Instead of being set up vertically, this hive is a horizontal box. That means less lifting since you won’t be stacking boxes on top.
Another bonus to this hive design is that it uses the same frame size as a standard Langstroth hive. If you have a Langstroth hive already but are finding that it is becoming difficult to deal with the height, you can easily move your bees to a horizontal hive.
Check out this video to see a transition from Langstroth to Horizontal Hives:
Horizontal hives aren’t as common as the Langstroth hives, so they are more expensive, and parts are harder to come by. But since both these types of beehives use the same frames, you can use a Langstroth hive honey extractor.
If you are new to beekeeping and don’t have an extractor, check out this article to learn our picks for the best honey extractors.
5. Dome Hive
Not only do Dome Hives look amazing, but bees love them. A more modern beehive, the dome hive is a variation of a top bar hive. But here, the top bars are curved rather than straight. This shape helps provide extra insulation for a stronger honeycomb.
Dome hives are designed and constructed in Australia and made from quality wood to survive in the elements. The packs can either be hung from the central ring or elevated on stakes. No matter what mounting style you choose, a dome hive’s unusual design will surely attract bees and attention.
6. Golden Hive
The Golden Hive is also referred to as the Einraumbeute or one-room hive. It was designed 30 years ago by Thomas Radetzki for European biodynamic beekeepers. So, this type of hive is much more common in Europe than in the US.
It is similar to the horizontal hive, but the frames are much larger. Each frame can hold brood, pollen, and honey. The large size makes the honey difficult to extract without specialized equipment.
While this hive is exceptional for bee health, it has some downsides. It is very heavy to move and requires extreme precision when cutting and assembling the hive.
7. Hex Hive
If you’re interested in natural beekeeping, you’ll love this type of beehive because it mimics bees’ natural environment. Instead of rectangular boxes, this hollow-tree-trunk-like hive consists of hexagonal boxes stacked on top of another.
Inside each super are ten foundationless frames where the bees can build their comb. While this encourages the bees to build a natural comb, you can still use a centrifugal extractor to harvest the honey.
While the shape is innovative, the hex hive is a variation of stackable boxes’ in the Langstroth or Warre designs.
Yes, beehives require maintenance. During winter, you can add a windbreaker and reduce the size of the hive. But what’s the most important thing to do is to feed your colony. Remember, cold temperatures discourage them to leave the hive and look for food.
In warmer months, you will need to move top bar hives, Warré hives, and other types of hives in a shaded area and near a water source. Many beekeepers also split their hives into two to give the colonies enough space and enough time to prepare for winter.
Download a hive tracking app from our list of the best beekeeping apps to help you with hive maintenance.
Horizontal hives are better for people who have challenges lifting and for people with disabilities. With this style hive, everything is on one level. So you don’t have to stack boxes or lift heavy supers. A super full of honey can weigh as much as 60 pounds! With a horizontal hive, you can remove one frame at a time.
You should put honey supers as the bees begin to fill the frames in your existing box. If you have a ten-frame Langstroth hive, you will want the box to be at least half full before adding a new super. But most beekeepers wait until 6-7 of the frames are full before adding a new super. If you add your super too soon, your bees could get too cold.
You should only insulate the beehive during colder months. If you insulate the beehive during hot summer days, you put the entire colony at risk of overheating. The queen will stop laying new bees and the entire honey production is put on hold.
- The Secret to the Modern Beehive is a One-Centimeter Air Gap. Retrieved from: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-secret-to-the-modern-beehive-is-a-one-centimeter-air-gap-4427011/
- Beekeeping in Ancient Greece. Retrieved from: https://www.evacranetrust.org/uploads/document/2949b8a5ef604548975b4b0eb7d9e738cd654435.pdf
- Keeping Bees Using the Top-Bar Beekeeping Method. Retrieved from: https://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/keeping-bees-top-bar-beekeeping-zmaz09onzraw
Rachael and her husband arrived on Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua in 2011. There they founded El Jardin de la Vida, a tropical micro food forest, focusing on Sustainable Living Education. She teaches others to build with natural materials, live off-grid, and appreciate slow food.