Building Beehives For Dummies
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As you plan your new beehive-building adventure, you may want to start by deciding which hive design to go for based on your woodworking skills and beekeeping needs. You will also need to know which tools and fasteners you'll need for that particular build. Plans may differ somewhat depending on the type of hive you choose, but you can follow some basic steps to build most types of beehives.

Choosing the best beehive plan to build

When you have a lot of beehive-building plans to choose from, how do you decide which is best for your needs? Aside from aesthetics, several factors should influence your decision. One relates to your woodworking skills, and others relate to the reasons that you’re beekeeping.

  • Experienced woodworkers can jump in and tackle any hive they like. However, new woodworkers may want to get their feet wet by starting with some very easy builds, such as a Kenya top bar hive, or a nuc (short for nucleus colony), or observation hive with store-bought frames.

  • If (like many people) you’re into beekeeping for the honey, most hives will do well for you (with a Langstroth hive likely producing the mother lode of honey). Honey harvesters should make a beeline to any of these build plans:

    • Kenya top bar hive

    • Warré hive

    • British National hive

    • Langstroth hive

  • Where there are bees, there is pollination. So if optimizing the bounty and yield of your garden is what’s important to you, consider any hive you want. But remember, the bigger the colony of bees, the better the pollination. In this case, size definitely does matter.

  • You may want to sell the hives you build. The most sellable ones are those generally unavailable from conventional beekeeping supply stores. That means you can build any hive and make it more desirable through the use of special materials, unique hardware, or fancy finishes.

    The Kenya top bar hive and the Warré hive are becoming increasingly popular among backyard beekeepers. These hives aren’t offered by major beekeeping supply shops and therefore can be quite marketable to those seeking them.

  • If your primary interest is to study bees or make beekeeping presentations at schools and events, the building plan for you is an observation hive.

Tools and fasteners used to build a beehive

You may be surprised to find out that you can build the beehive of your dreams with only a few simple tools and fasteners. Most of what you need is probably sitting in your garage or shed right now, and you can easily pick up what you don’t have at your local hardware store or big-box home improvement store.

Basic tools for building a beehive include the following:

  • Carpenter’s hammer (16- or 20-ounce head)

  • Carpenter’s square (8-inch to 12-inch size is fine)

  • Folding ruler or tape measure (calibrated in inches, not metric)

  • Hand-held circular saw (with combination blade and plywood blade)

  • Hand-held power drill

    • 7/64 inch drill bit

    • 1/8 inch drill bit

    • ½ inch drill bit

    • 1 inch drill bit

    • 1-½ inch drill bit

    • 3 inch drill bit

    • #2 Phillips head screw bit

  • Staple gun (heavy-duty)

  • Table saw (with combination blade, plywood blade, and stacked set dado blade adjustable up to ¾ inch)

  • Tin snips

Typical fasteners you need for building beehives include the following:

  • #6 x 5/8 inch wood screws, #2 Phillips drive, flat-head

  • #8 x ½ inch lath screws, galvanized, #2 Phillips drive, flat-head with a sharp point

  • #6 x 1-3/8 inch deck screws, galvanized, #2 Phillips drive, flat-head with coarse thread and sharp point

  • #6 x 2-½ inch deck screws, galvanized, #2 Phillips drive, flat-head with coarse thread and sharp point

Nails you typically use when building beehives include the following:

  • 6d x 2 inch galvanized nails

  • 5/32 inch x 1-1/8 inch flat-head diamond-point wire nails

  • 5/8 inch brads

Other fasteners you use to build beehives include

  • 3/8 inch staples for use in a heavy-duty staple gun

  • Foundation pins (available from beekeeping supply stores)

Easy steps for building any beehive

Specific plans for beehives may differ, but you typically follow the same basic steps during the building process. Here are the fundamental stages of building a beehive:

  1. Read and reread the plans.

    Become familiar with the plans and procedures before you purchase or cut any wood. Make sure the project is up to your skill level and applicable to the type of beekeeping you’re involved with.

  2. Check the materials list and make a shopping list.

    The plans for building a beehive include a materials list. This is your shopping list, which will be helpful when you head to the store or lumberyard to purchase your lumber, hardware, and fasteners.

  3. Plan your cut list.

    Go through all your lumber stock and lay out where each cut will go. Plan so you wind up with the least amount of scrap wood. Also, plan cuts so you minimize your saw adjustments (do all the crosscuts first and then all the rip cuts).

  4. Cut and mark the pieces you need.

    The pieces are the various parts of the puzzle you’re assembling. The cut list and illustrations in the plans for a hive label these parts and what they’re used for. Use a pencil to mark the parts in an inconspicuous place (indicate handrail, short side, and so on). That makes assembly much easier.

  5. Cut the joints and other details.

    Some parts you cut have some additional detailed cuts to make (finger joints, dados, rabbets, and so on). Make these cuts as you’re cutting out the various parts of the hive.

  6. Drill guide holes.

    Wherever you’re placing a nail or screw, pre-drill a guide hole (in most cases using a 7/64 inch drill bit). This makes it easier to get nails and screws to go in and helps prevent the wood from splitting.

  7. Dry fit the assemblies to make sure everything fits properly.

    Make sure your assemblies fit together before you apply any glue or fasteners. Make adjustments as needed to get a perfect fit. Also, you can use this procedure to practice the assembly process. Repeat until you can do it smoothly and efficiently. Practice makes perfect.

  8. Square the parts.

    Most beehive builds require the assemblies to be perfectly square (otherwise, you’ll have some seriously wobbly hives). Use a carpenter’s square to ensure squareness before putting all the fasteners into place.

  9. Nail or screw parts together.

    Consider using all-weather wood glue in addition to the fasteners. It helps make the assemblies as strong as possible. Apply a thin coat of glue wherever wooden parts are joined together.

  10. Paint or polyurethane.

    Protective coats of a good quality exterior house paint, exterior polyurethane, or marine varnish greatly extend the life of your woodenware. For the hives you build, never paint, polyurethane, or varnish interior parts. Treat only those surfaces that are directly exposed to rain and sun.

  11. Clean shop and take a break.

    Clean up your shop before calling it quits for the day, and take a well-deserved break.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

C. Marina Marchese is an author, beekeeper, and honey sensory expert. She is also the founder of the American Honey Tasting Society and the Red Bee ® brand.

Howland Blackiston is the bestselling author of Beekeeping For Dummies and Building Beehives For Dummies, and founding board member and past president of Con­necticut’s Back Yard Beekeepers Association.

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