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dimensions for bee hive

Posted by thisbud4u San Diego (My Page) on
Sat, Jul 8, 06 at 19:58

We need two new beehives, and rather than buying pre-made ones, I was thinking I should be able to make them. I realize that I'll need to buy the frames that the bees will use for building the comb because the plastic part with its hexagonal grid is very precise, but I should be able to build at least the outside box. Questions:
1) Does anybody have the plans for making a beehive?
2) I've heard about a new way of making the frames, but I'm not sure if I heard correctly. I think someone said you just hang one frame in the middle and let the bees do the rest. Perhaps I heard wrong. Does anyone know anything about this.

Many thanks from a complete newbie!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: dimensions for bee hive has a nice plans archive.

Are you looking for a 10 or 5 frame hive?

You'll find both here, aswell as plans for frames. Yup, you can make your own frames.

Here is a link that might be useful: plans

RE: dimensions for bee hive

After 50 yr. of beekeeping, I have some "unbiased" opinions, and suggestions. I do however live in N. Indiana and the climate is just a bit different from CA. Likewise, bee management is a bit different too.

You may find that making your own supers (5 3/8' or 6 1/4") and hive bodies (9 1/8") may be more expensive than buying them outright, because of waste lumber in the process. The dimensions above are frame sizes. The supers and hive bodies are a bit deeper in order to provide what is known as the "bee space". That's the space that bees are least likely to fill with wax and propolis (bee glue).

If you are young, and stronger than you are intelligent, go ahead and use the full depth hive bodies. ;-) My preference is the 6 1/4" super. Three of them provide the same space for the brood chamber as two 9 1/8" bodies. Additionally, you can use them for supers, and in that way, all of your equipment is of uniform size; AND when you get old, you'll still be able to pick 'em up. A full-depth hive body full of honey, weighs over 65# and you are picking it up with the tips of your fingers in the shallow "handholds" on the sides!

Foundation: The sheets of wax that are placed in the frames. (I apologize if I'm telling you things that you are already quite aware of.) There are at least 3 options. 1/ A plastic sheet coated with pure beeswax and the cell bases impressed on it. 2/ A sheet of pure beeswax only, with the cell bases on it. 3/ And a sheet of pure beeswax with the cell bases, and with crimped wires imbedded in it to help prevent sagging of the comb. The inside temp. of the hive is approx. 92 and beeswax melts at 153 to 154. So it is getting a little soft at 92. The problem with the "beeswax & plastic sandwich" is that the bees often chew the wax off of the plastic down in the corners and those areas are then wasted space. This may be an even bigger problem In Calif. than here, because of the "slower" honey flows, but that is only a guess on my part.

I have no doubt that your hearing is good, but the information wasn't! If you place one frame with foundation in it, in the center of the hive body or super, and the rest of the frames are open, you will be severely disappointed! The bees will probably build the center comb in the frame, but don't expect the rest of the combs to be where you want 'em. The natural spacing of honeycombs is 1 3/8" from center to center to center. (The honeybee is a European insect and I can't for the life me understand why they didn't use the metric measuring system!) Given the opportunity to be creative, they will deviate from that "rule" somewhat, and wind up with some of the combs built across through 2 or 3 frames. Believe me, it takes a lot of profanity to get those combs out of the hive. Secondly, it is probably against Calif. State law, to have cross-comed hives because, the bee inspectors can't get into the hive to check for diseases. They will kill the bees and burn the combs here in Indiana.

You should not have posted your question my friend. I seem not to know where to quit. Its a common failing with beekeepers. ;-)

Good luck! Youre in for a lifetime of fascination-!!!

ibeewise (Paul)

RE: dimensions for bee hive

Ibeewise, almost everything you said sounded like complete Greek to me. Fascinating, but unintelligible to the total newbie.

I had no idea my question was going to be so difficult to answer. I've found plans for beehives on several websites now (and thanks kcook for the link to beesource), but I am completely confused by the myriad of box designs. Beesource as plans for a Langstroth hive, a Nuc, a Brood, and a ten frame WBC, whatever the hell that is. Some other sites have "top bar" hives, Stewarton, Catenary, CDB, Glen, Dadant...good grief, I'll be using false teeth and a cane before I figure all this out. I've seen many beehives in my life, but never inspected them carefully. I just assumed they all were the same, since beekeepers (including some on this forum) insist that if you don't get the proportions just right, you'll regret it. So, if the dimensions are so demanding, how can there be so many different designs?

At our farm, we won't be extracting the honey from our beehives. That sounds like robbery to me...yes I eat honey, but I never had to steal it from my own bees to get it. All I need, right now, is a "standard" (if there is such a thing) bottom box where I can put the swarm that's just taken up residence in our irrigation box. Can someone tell me which of the myriad of designs is the "standard" one?

RE: dimensions for bee hive

I'd suggest using the plans for the Langstroth, and the plans for the Dadant frames.

Those would be this one:

and this one:

The frames with the hexegonal plastic parts are great if you need them for collecting honey. since you stated you don't want to collect honey, homemade frames should work fine.

And if you are worried about "Beespace", my rule of thumb is that if you could fit another frame inbetween, you're good.

Also, a Dadant is a honey super. I'd run a single super on the hive (basically like its pictured in the PDF) for winter storage for the bees.

Any more questions, just ask.

RE: dimensions for bee hive

kcook, thanks so much for the help. What do you think of the "top bar" frames which I've seen mentioned here and there. Someone said, I think, that they may actually be healthier for the bees for some reason? If so, that would be a big plus.

RE: dimensions for bee hive

If you can find plans for a good sturdy top-bar, by all means, build one.

In a top-bar the comb is produced by the bees. You just supply them with a top bar, and they create the rest.

Suggested reading:

RE: dimensions for bee hive

  • Posted by asnow San Diego, CA (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 9, 08 at 12:11

To: thisbud4u - Did you have any luck setting up your hives in San Diego? We live in Encinitas and have been doing backyard beekeeping for years. We're traveling to Nicaragua at the end of the month to teach beekeeping to local farmers. We're using Top Bar Hives but have no experience with this method. Does anyone have working top bar hives in San Diego? Thanks!

RE: dimensions for bee hive

asnow, I live in Encinitas too, small world. My bees are out on the farm where the pumpkins are grown every year. Personally, I gave up my attempt to build my own hives and just went down to Knorr's. If anyone would know about Top Bar in this area, it would be old man Knorr. In order to find someone local with experience with top bar, you can also leave a message on their bulletin board too, and some local beekeeper may contact you when they come in for supplies. While I enjoy this forum, a more active source for bee-related info is'll be able to tell you buckets about top bar hives. Hope any of this helps.
BTW, if you're going to Nicaragua, you'll have to contend with AHB alot more down there. Plus, there's the whole controversy about trying to keep the native bees alive. If you have not done so already, you will need to educate yourself about all this before you go. The native bee issue particularly pushed my buttons. Anyway, best of luck.

RE: dimensions for bee hive

IbeeWise has posted some sound advice.
In the states (I'm in the UK - born into bee-keeping over 50 years ago) you would be best to go with a Langstroth hive - C1852, look him up, L L Langstroth.
But you have lots to learn by the sound of things - cruise the web, or I can send you my teaching notes as a crash course.
As IbeeWise states, non-removable framed hives in the states are banned!
Find a local bee keeping association and join them. If you buy second-hand kit - make sure it is sterile!!! Find someone to mentor you.

Hives have to be VERY accurate, tolerance is 4 thou, so you need good quality seasoned wood! Preferably knot-less cedar. I'd buy new for my first hive. (flat pack)
I would suggest to start (not what I use - like ibeewize, I have my own preferences that would not suit a beginner)
*varroa floor board
*11 frame brood
*Wire mesh Queen excluder
*2 or 3 each 10 frame supers
*2 clearer boards c/w "porter bee escapes" (you might want a glass crown board so you can look in) one of these will be a crown board, the other for when you take the honey.
*Miller feeder
*good quality veil/bee suit & long sleeve gloves.
*Hive tool
*good quality smoker - not too big (use smoke sparingly)

If you have pests that hit the hives, like badgers, I would tie the hive down.

Then go learn about diseases & swarm control. Keeping bees is not onus free!

But most of all - have masses of fun!

Big tip - movement in the apiary should be smooth and fluid, no bumping & banging!

As to not eating your own honey... We'll see :)

RE: dimensions for bee hive

There is a simpler hive to build. It marrys the benefits of a Langstroth & a TopBar Hive. There are no frames to make UNLESS you wish to. I am in CA and there has been no problem with "the TopBar issue." Semi-Critical dimension is 300mm INterior sq size, which is ~ 11-13/16ths inches & I opt to make 12". A main issue for SOME folks is that if they want to buy a "nuc" the frames do not fit a Warré, aka, "The People's Hive." I opt for using 2x lumber, but 1" is fine.

On the Home Page of (where I am only a member,) there are some links, (so you need not join.) One leads to a ~150 pg eBook on the hive & methodology. There are other links with better info and better drawings, in the Links section, for which you might have to join for some of them. Sorry I cannot offer the exact link. They merged with Onelist & eGroups. Think of a 5 letter well known word that a cowboy yells. The gardenweb feels they get SPiced HAm from them. I don't know Y they feel that waY. - BillSF9c

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