Types of Beehives
The first step in getting fresh honey is to have a nice cozy home for the bees! I did a lot of research on the different types of hives and found the most common were one of three options:
- Langstroth Hive
- Warre Hive
- Top Bar Hive
Out of the three, Langstroth was the most popular and widely used here in the US. But just because everyone else likes it doesn’t mean I have to as well… so I decided to really dig into the ins and outs of each hive to make a well informed decision.
The Langstroth hive comes in two forms, 10 frame or the less common 8 frame. The 10 frame langstroth is essentially a square box with frames that hold the broodcomb & honeycomb. Those frames can either be completely natural wax built by the bees from the top of the frame, a pre-made wax foundation for them to build upon or even a plastic foundation (or with the Flow Hive plastic comb as well). One of the reasons this is the most popular is because when you want to add another box (super), all you have to do is remove the top cover, place the new box on top, add in the frames and cover – now your bees can expand upwards to a new box for either brood or honey. One of the issues though is the weight of these boxes, specifically a 10 frame box full of honey can weigh around 60lbs.
Top Bar Hive
This hive is really neat; it consists of a long wooden box, with bars (frames) that hang from the top but instead of having any type of foundation, it’s completely natural and you let the bees build it however they see fit. One of the problems with this though is that they can cross build from one bar to the next so you have to frequently check them out. The costs and equipment storage over winter for these can be pretty low, especially if you build your own. But here in the US it’s not a very popular option so you may be hard pressed to find many others in your local community that share their knowledge.
I really liked this option because it felt even more natural but looked similar to the Langstroth – natural frames inside a vertically stacked box. When I say natural, this really enforces that idea because the frames are not removeable – the bees will build however they please and you don’t mess with their design. The biggest issue with this one is the lack of movability – in fact it’s actually illegal in some states. One NC law use to say; “Beekeepers shall: 1. Provide movable frames with combs or foundation in all hives used by them to contain bees”. The supers are on bottom and the brood reside on top, so you’ll definitely need some help adding more supers to a hive.
Which one is right for me?
All of this amounted to me ultimately deciding on the Langstroth. Everywhere I looked there were supplies, resources, and practically everyone I met used them. Honestly though, if my bees are successful I may consider building a top bar hive next year as an alternative; I’d really like to harvest honey comb and I think this would be the best option for that.
Where to buy the equipment?
So I checked around online to see where I could get my supplies. Unfortunately there aren’t many options near Charlotte, NC where I can view and purchase equipment. I read about a place in Concord and another in Lancaster, SC. After meeting some people at a local Beekeeper’s Association, I was informed that the holy mecca of bee supplies was Brushy Mountain Bee Farm up in Moravian Falls, NC. I had decided to make a trip up there Saturday morning but after a bit more looking around I found that the place in Lancaster, Dixie Bee Supply, also sold bees and since I needed bees as well I figured it was best to go some place a little closer than Moravian Falls.
Dixie Bee Supply had everything I needed, including a complete beekeeping kit for $179.95 with the following items:
- 1 unassembled 10 frame complete hive
- IPM bottom board
- deep hive body
- entrance reducer
- 10 deep wood frames
- inner cover
- telescopic cover
- 10 sheets wax crimpwire foundation
- 7″ stainless steel smoker
- smoker fuel
- bee brush
- hive tool
- hatless veil
- leather gloves
- entrance feeder
- and 1st Lessons in Beekeeping book
Pretty good deal but I decided to spend and extra $10 for an assembled kit. By the time I bought the special small nails and everything I needed to assemble them it would have equalled close to the same amount. I also decided to go ahead and buy my first super (assembled as well) along with a jacket/veil combo. The jacket/veil combo was really a splurge purchase because the kit came with a veil but since I was going to be all up in the beehive I thought it best to have a nice ventilated jacket that zipped to the hood and pulled in tight with elastic around the wrist and waist. I’ll let Carina or the kids use the veil from a distance since they won’t actually be handling the bees.
While I was there I put in my order for some italian honeybees. These bees are raised just south of us in Georgia so they’re definitely no stranger to the southern weather. I really wanted some NC bees but everywhere I looked was either sold out or like Dixie Bee, they imported from Georgia or Florida. Much like my lovely wife the queen bee making her home in our backyard will be an immigrant as well… although only a state away and not an entire ocean and country.
Putting it all together
Since I got my beehives home I did what practically everyone else does and grabbed a brush to paint my boxes white. Now painting beehives is a huge topic in itself, one I went back and forth for quite some time. The main reason people paint their beehives is to protect and prolong the woodenware. I really liked the look of the natural wood but from what I have found, the stains don’t hold up as long and require more frequent touchups. This led me back to paint, but why white? Well in general you want to paint your beehives a light color – there’s a ton of articles on what works best but white is most common because it reflects the sun so it doesn’t get too hot. I saw some really nice pastel colored boxes as well. Because bees favorite color is purple (and so is mine!) I almost went with a pastel purple color but again I gave in to the most commonly used option and went with mundane white. I did ponder this for quite some time… several days in fact but in the end I stopped by Sherwin Williams for a can of white paint with primer and the lowest VOC. Luckily it only required 2 coats and I have a ton leftover for any additional boxes.
Ok, so knowledge… check. Beehives and equipment… check. What’s left? BEES! Currently my bees are on schedule to arrive the 2nd week in April – maybe sooner with how the weather’s been lately. I’m going to work on a nice spot for the hive and look at setting it up outside about a week prior to the bees arrival just so it can acclimate to the outside weather a bit. More to come soon!!