Constructing a Beehive

Original post: 5.26.11. Updated: 2.26.13

Beehives can be made of wood or styrofoam. I’ve argued elsewhere that styrofoam hives are my choice because they have several advantages: they are warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, and are not prone to mold (as wooden frames are).

Strictly speaking, foam hives don’t need to be painted, as wood does, but the foam is subject to degradation from too much sun. You’ll get longer life by painting. Painting provides a couple other benefits, too. Using a dark color paint on a foam hive will help heat the hive in winter. Also, painting hives different colors helps limit “bee drift” – bees accidentally returning to the wrong hive.

Beehives have two types of bodies. So-called Deeps are the main bodies reserved for hive building and expansion. Generally, two Deeps are sufficient for a strong colony. On top of Deeps are “Supers,” or “Mediums.” Supers are not as deep. They serve as extra hive space in which bees can store honey, and it is from the Supers that beekeepers harvest.

Both Deeps and Supers are filled with narrow pre-made “forms” that are hung in the body, and on which the bees build their comb.

My first two beehives were built for me by a friend who got me involved in beekeeping in the Spring of 2010. However, I built my own third hive from a kit I purchased from BetterBee in Greenwich, New York, a couple hours from me.

Altogether, it took me about 45 minutes to put my hives together. Here are some photos and directions. Click on an image to see it larger:

Image of two-prong and 3-prong dove tail joints being maneuvered into position.Step 1: Gently fit the dove-tailed corners together by sliding the 3-pronged ends into the 2-pronged. Leave a gap for the adhesive.

Distant view of frame clearly showing gaps where the dove tail joints are loosely fitted together.I found it most efficient to loosely fit all 4 corners together before gluing (R).

Here is a close-up view of a dove tail joint showing beads of adhesive.


Step 2: Apply a double bead of adhesive. When you partially complete all of the corners before gluing, you can apply adhesive to all of the seams at once.

this is a close-up of a dove tail corner with glue in all of the open spaces.Here (R) you can see adhesive in all 4 spaces on one side of the frame.

In this image I am pressing the dove tail joints together, gently and evenly.Step 3: Press ends together by placing the frame on a solid survace. Put a hand on each end and press down. All of the parts will slide together.

The dove tail joints are all pressed closed in this image, and there is a bead of adhesive  showing clearly along one of the seams.Here (R) is a view of the compressed box, with excessive adhesive squeezing out from the seams. If you like it neat, scrape the excess off with a drywall spatula or a hive tool.

This image shows me holding a piece of plastic angle with beads of adhesive applied to  both inside edges.Step 4: Place beads of adhesive along both ends of the plastic angle.

This is a close up image of the plastic angle material being placed inside one of the hive bodies.Press the Angle into the molded indent on the short ends of the frame (R).

In this picture, two completed hive bodies are stacked  on my garage floor while they dry.Step 5: Allow completed bodies to dry 24 hours before loading with comb frames.



Related articles

If you’re curious about building a traditional wooden beehive, check out this how-to article from the blog, Miss Beehaven with Hobbit Queen:

Hive Building 101 – It has begun…

If you are lucky enough to live in Virginia, the state will pay your start up expenses to get you into keeping bees! Check it out:

Virginia will pay you to take up beekeeping…



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