DIY Guide: How To Build a Beehive

DIY Guide: How To Build a Beehive

If you’re interested in becoming a beekeeper, you aren’t alone. 

According to a 2021 report from the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, the United States is home to over 100,000 beekeepers.

Beekeeping is a wonderful hobby because it provides essential pollinators a place to thrive. It’s also an excellent way to learn firsthand about the intriguing colonies these tiny buzzing creatures develop.

Luckily, the hobby is as affordable as it is fascinating.

You can build your own beehives that will last outdoors, providing wild bees with places to live and produce delicious honey.

This article will show you how to build a Langstroth hive – the most popular DIY option for beekeepers.

We’ll discuss:

  • Parts of a Langstroth Hive
  • How to build a DIY beehive
  • Tools and materials required
  • Costs involved in the project
  • An alternative hive design

Parts of a Langstroth Hive

Lorenzo Langstroth launched modern beekeeping with his unique hive design in the mid-1800s.

His hives contain a series of wooden slats that encourage bees to build flat honeycombs, which beekeepers can easily pull from the hive to inspect or harvest.

The slats provide bees with spaces to live, raise young, and store honey. 

The table below shows the parts of a Langstroth hive from top to bottom.

Hive Part Description and Function
Outer Cover 
  • The top cover or “telescoping cover” that keeps your bees safe from the elements.
  • If your hive is in an open, windy space, place a brick or rock on top of the outer cover to prevent it from blowing off.
Inner Cover
  • Insulates the hive and keeps condensation from dripping on the bees.
  • Keeps the bees from sealing the outer cover onto the hive with propolis.
Honey Super
  • A section high in the hive where the bees store excess honey.
Queen Excluder
  • A divide above the brood chamber that prevents the queen bee from traveling into the honey super and laying eggs.
Brood Chamber and Hive Body 
  • The section where the worker bees live and the queen bee lays eggs.
  • Bee larvae – also known as “brood” – live and grow here.
Varroa Screen
  • A screened portion of the bottom board that provides ventilation and keeps parasitic varroa mites out of the hive.
Bottom Board
  • The floor of the beehive.
  • Some bottom boards include a tray of mineral oil that eliminates unwanted insects from entering the hive and harming the bees.
Hive Stand
  • The structure – usually a set of legs – that keep the hive off the ground.
  • Reduces the risk of wood rot or termite damage.

Before diving into the logistics of building a Langstroth beehive, we want to caution beginners that beehive construction is an advanced DIY project.

If you’re new to the beekeeping game, you may want to buy a beehive kit.

A beehive kit is the best option for beginners because it only requires assembly – no need for woodworking skills, electric saws, and tedious measuring.

Amazon sells a variety of kits at around $100-$200.

So, instead of spending hundreds on tools and materials, you’ll get exactly the items you need. You’ll also avoid building a wobbly hive that bees won’t use. 

Building your own beehive from scratch is a wonderful idea and definitely a project you should pursue. However, it’s best to buy your first one to gain a hands-on understanding of each part before constructing one from scratch.

Nevertheless – we’ve got you covered if you’re absolutely bumbling to build a DIY hive. 

The following sections will go over the tools, materials, and costs involved in this project.

Tools and Materials Needed

Tools

Materials

  • Untreated lumber
    • 1-by-3-inch boards
    • 1-by-10-inch boards
    • 1-by-2-inch boards
    • ¼-inch plywood
  • Wood glue
  • Screws
  • Beeswax foundation 
  • Frames 

Costs Involved

The table below shows average prices for the tools and materials required for your DIY beehive. These costs will vary depending on what you must buy, how much of each product you use, and the tools you already have.

Tool or Material Average Cost
Cordless drill $80 to buy

$25 for 24-hour rental

Table saw $400 to buy

$50 for 24-hour rental

Hand saw $20
Dado stack blade $60
Tin snips $15
Plywood $25
1-by-3-inch board $3 per 8-foot board
1-by-10-inch board $23 per 8-foot board
1-by-2-inch board $2 per 8-foot board
Wood glue $7 for 18-ounce bottle
Screws $10 for a 100-pack
Beeswax frames and foundation $40 for a 10-pack
Queen excluder frame $10
Aluminum sheet $30 for a 24-by-36-inch sheet 

How To Build a Beehive

Now, we’ll jump into our step-by-step guide to building a DIY beehive.

Step One: Hive Stand

The hive stand doesn’t connect to the rest of the hive. Its sole purpose is to keep the beehive up off the ground and away from potential threats like rot, termites, and moisture. 

Build a simple stand by setting the hive on cinder blocks. Stands should be over a foot tall to keep the structure safe while making hive maintenance more manageable.

Remember that you can add beehive boxes as needed. More hive space will encourage your bee colony to grow and increase its honey production.

Step Two: Assemble Bottom Board and Inner Cover

The bottom board will serve as the hive’s base and the entry point for bees.

Start by building the walls of the bottom board. 

Use the dado stack to create a groove in the center of two 1-by-3-inch boards. You’ll slide the bottom board into the groove to form the base of the hive.

After cutting grooves into the sides, attach them to the backboard by drilling screws into the connecting parts.

Once you have an outer frame for the bottom board, you’ll apply wood glue to the grooves. Slide the bottom board in, drilling screws into the sides for added support.

The inner cover is on the opposite end of the beehive, but it’s the same structure as the bottom board. Repeat the building process of the bottom board to create your hive’s inner cover. Drill a hole in the middle of the cover’s surface to provide ventilation.

Step Three: Construct the Hive Body and Honey Super

The hive body and honey super are both boxlike structures that hold frames for the bees to live and store honey. 

Construct the walls of the hive body by cutting your 1-by-10-inch boards to length for the sides of the hive. 

You’ll want to cut an open-ended groove known as a “rabbet” at the top of the boards. The wood rabbets will form a lip that holds the queen excluder.

Connect the four walls with wood glue and screws.

Step Four: Outer Cover

The outer cover is a box lid that sits atop your hive, protecting it from the weather.

Construct the cover using the same materials you used for the bottom board. However, you won’t cut dado grooves into the sides of the outer cover. You’ll glue and drill the 1-by-10-inch boards directly onto the walls to form a roof. 

Weatherproof the wooden lid by covering it with an aluminum sheet. Use the tin snips to cut the aluminum sheet to size. Then, attach the tin to the outer cover with construction glue, using a hammer to press it flat.

Step Five: Add an Entrance Reducer

Next, you’ll add an entrance reducer to the base of the hive body. 

The entrance reducer is an opening that allows honeybees to enter the hive, but not other pests like mice. 

Make an entrance reducer by cutting a small piece out of any leftover aluminum. Then, attach it to the hive body with nails or screws.

Step Six: Install Frames

Most hives have eight to 10 frames in the hive body and honey super, depending on the size of each section.

Leaving the correct amount of space between each frame is essential. 

Bees will produce extra honeycomb to fill the gaps if you leave too much space. But if you place the frames too close together, the bees will fill the nooks with propolis, a sticky sealant.

Lorenzo Langstroth developed a rule of thumb for spacing beehive frames. Leave ⅜ of an inch of “bee space” between each frame to keep the critters from filling it with comb or propolis.

Use this rule when installing your frames to avoid a sticky situation down the road.

Step Seven: Add Some Buzz to Your Hive

Add the finishing touch to your hive by adding the essential element – bees! 

There are two methods for stocking your hives. You can either capture a wild swarm of bees or purchase a colony from another beekeeper. 

Buying bees is the easiest way to start your first hive. 

Reach out to a local beekeeping association or look online for suppliers. With either option, you’ll be able to select a package of bees or a nucleus hive.

Bee packages typically contain a queen bee, a few worker bees, and a supply of food to get the colony started. An edible barrier will separate the queen bee from the rest of the colony until they get accustomed to one another. 

Acclimation occurs as the worker bees eat their way through the barrier, gaining familiarity with their new queen. 

Buy a nucleus hive to bypass the acclimation process.

A nucleus hive is a preestablished colony with honeycomb frames, worker bees, brood, and a queen. These hives are excellent for new beekeepers looking to jump-start their hives.

Catching wild bees is another way to stock your hive.

This video from Bee Built explains how to catch and install a swarm:

Are There Alternatives to the Langstroth Hive?

Langstroth hives are just one of the many designs available.

Top bar hives have a simple structure that may be appealing to beginner beekeepers. 

Instead of the multiple levels of the Langstroth hive, top bar hives consist of a single horizontal box that sits on a hive stand.

The hive design gets its name from the bars that bridge across the top of the container. 

The bars hold starter strips that encourage bees to produce honeycomb. As the bees build out the comb, it forms into downward hanging sheets that can be harvested and inspected.

The bars don’t contain a hive foundation like the frames in a Langstroth hive; you can remove the entire piece of comb to harvest the honey.

For this reason, these hives are also a solid choice for easy honey harvesting. 

Final Thoughts

With these tools, tips, and step-by-step instructions, you’re ready to make your beehive.

Remember that you can buy a beehive kit if building your own is too daunting. You’ll get the satisfaction of assembly and setup without the stress of measuring and cutting wooden parts. 

You can also research several different hive designs to find one that fits your needs. We discussed the Langstroth and top bar hive designs, but countless others are on the market.

No matter what design or project you choose, we know your hive will be something to buzz about.

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