How to Choose a Beehive that Is Best for Your Needs

So with all the different beehive plans to choose from, how do you decide which one to build? Maybe you just like the look of one hive over another. A better way to decide is to determine the primary reasons you’re beekeeping and select the hive best suited for those reasons. You also need to consider your level of woodworking experience.

A hive for learning and teaching

Suppose you’re really interested in bees but don’t want to deal with all that outdoors stuff every week. Your primary interest is to learn more about bees — to study their behavior and observe the fascinating things that take place inside a hive. Kind of like having an aquarium and watching the fish do their thing. You feed them a little and occasionally clean the glass on the tank, but that’s about it.

Or maybe you want to make presentations at schools, nature centers, and farmers markets, and you need a hive that’s portable and can safely display live bees.

The choice for you is the four-frame observation hive. It’s a terrific portable hive for show and tell and for, well, observing.

Hives for pollinating your garden

Suppose your primary reason for having bees is to improve pollination in your garden. You don’t care about harvesting honey. You don’t care about a show and tell hive. You just want larger and more abundant flowers, vegetables, and fruits. Bees can make that happen.

The good news is that any beehive helps pollinate a garden. But they accomplish this to varying degrees. The larger the hive, the larger the bee population for pollination but the more work for you. So if your intent is to max-out pollination, consider the Kenya, Warré, British National, or Langstroth hives.

If you don’t want all the work associated with larger hives, a nuc hive tucked into the corner of your garden or fruit orchard will likely do a decent job of pollinating during the growing season.

A hive for harvesting honey

Ah, honey. Maybe you just want tons of that liquid gold!

The Langstroth is likely the hive for you. Though all the larger hives produce honey you can harvest, the Langstroth is the granddaddy of honey producers.

Hives to match your building skills

Maybe you’re fairly new at carpentry, so you think you should start with a few easy builds and work your way up.

Though experienced woodworkers can jump right in and tackle any of the hive plans they come across, new woodworkers may want to get their feet wet by starting with some easy builds. The Kenya top bar hive, the nuc hive, and the four-frame observation hive (with purchased frames) are easy builds.

Hives for selling

Perhaps you’re an experienced woodworker and would like to make hives and bee equipment to sell to other beekeepers. So, which of the many designs would be the most marketable?

The Langstroth hive is the most widely offered beehive in the world. The commercial beekeeping suppliers make these hives by the thousands, and competing with their discounted pricing would be difficult. The most marketable hives and equipment are those not typically offered by the major bee suppliers.

Consider making and selling the hives that are gaining popularity but aren’t widely available, such as the Kenya hive and the Warré hive. These can be very marketable, particularly if you jazz ’em up with some special design details.

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