Building Beehives For Dummies
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Langstroth frames for bee hives come in three basic sizes — deep, medium, and shallow — corresponding to deep hive bodies and medium or shallow honey supers. The method for cutting and assembling deep, medium, and shallow frames is identical. Regardless of its size, each Langstroth frame has four basic components: one top bar with a wedge, one bottom bar with a slit or groove running its length, and two side bars.

The only difference among the frame sizes is the vertical measurement of the side bars. Each frame holds foundation, which consists of a thin, rectangular sheet of wax embossed with a comb pattern; it encourages your bees to draw even and uniform honeycombs.

[Credit: Illustration by Felix Freudzon, Freudzon Design]

Credit: Illustration by Felix Freudzon, Freudzon Design

Vital stats for Langstroth frames

  • Size: The measurements of the side bars vary depending on whether the frames are deep, medium, or shallow. Deep frames are 19 inches x 1-1/16 inches x 9-1/8 inches; medium frames are 19 inches x 1-1/16 inches x 6-1/4 inches; and shallow frames are 19 inches x 1-1/16 inches x 5-3/8 inches.

  • Capacity: The bees build wax comb in the frames and use this comb to raise brood and store food. Generally speaking, the beekeeper uses either the medium or shallow frames for collecting and then harvesting honey. The deep frames are typically reserved for the bees' use (for raising their brood and storing the food the colony uses).

    So when considering capacity, consider how much honey each frame is capable of holding (when the comb is loaded with capped honey). Each deep frame can hold 6 pounds of extractable honey; each medium frame can hold 4 pounds of honey; and each shallow frame can hold 3 pounds of honey.

  • Universality: These frames are designed to fit only those hives that accept the very popular and widely used Langstroth-style frames. In this book, that includes the nuc hive, the observation hive, and the Langstroth hive.

  • Degree of difficulty: This is likely the most intense of all the builds in this book, mostly because there are so many little details and so many parts to cut out and assemble.

  • Cost: The materials, hardware, and fasteners to build ten frames will likely run around $15, or less if you use scrap wood.

Materials list for Langstroth frames

The following table lists what you'll need to build 10 frames of any size (deep, medium, or shallow). Multiply these quantities by 2 if you plan to build 20 frames, by 3 if you need 30 frames, and so on.
Lumber Hardware Fasteners
1, 4' length of 1" x 8" clear pine lumber 10, sheets of crimp-wire beeswax foundation. Select the size that corresponds to the size of frame you plan to build (deep, medium, or shallow). 65, 5/32" x 1-1/8" flat-head, diamond-point wire nails
1, 8' length of 2" x 3" spruce or fir Optional: weatherproof wood glue 35, 5/8" finish brad nails
45, foundation support pins

Here are a few notes about these frame materials:

  • Be sure to save all the scrap wood from your other projects; you may just have enough on hand to build the frames you need. Waste not, want not!

  • Beeswax foundation isn't something you're likely to make yourself; the equipment needed to make it is expensive. You can buy foundation for Langstroth-style frames from any beekeeping supply store (many suppliers are on the Internet; just do a search for "beekeeping supplies").

    Note: Depending on your beekeeping supplier, crimp-wire foundation is sometimes called hooked-wire foundation. For this design you want the kind of foundation where the vertical wires protrude from one side and are bent at right angles, and the wires on the other side are trimmed flush with the foundation.

  • You have a few extra fasteners in case you lose or bend a few along the way. It's better to have a few extras on hand and save yourself a trip to the hardware store.

  • You won't find foundation pins at your local hardware store. This specialty item is available only from beekeeping supply vendors (many are on the Internet; order the foundation pins when you order your beeswax foundation).

  • These plans assume making ten frames at a time, but after you set up your workshop to make frames, why not crank out as many as you can? You can always use an inventory of extra frames.

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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