The beehive is the cornerstone of all modern beekeeping. It provides a safe place for honey bees to store food reserves and raise the constant supply of young needed to keep colonies healthy and strong. Understanding the various components of the hive and how they function is an important first step to successful beekeeping.
In 1852, Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth patented a design for a moveable-frame honey bee hive. Today, variations on the Langstroth design are still the standard for professional and hobbyist beekeepers throughout the world.
The design’s greatest asset is the ability to remove or swap out combs without damaging or significantly disturbing the colony. This improvement over older hive designs helped lead a great expansion of the beekeeping industry that started in the 1800s and continues to this day.
High-Quality Beehive Components from Dadant & Sons
To maximize longevity, the modern beehive by Dadant is constructed of Ponderosa Pine sourced exclusively from the Northwestern US. Each piece is hand selected, moisture metered and precision milled at our woodenware plant in Polson, Montana to ensure the highest quality end product.
Parts of a Beehive
A basic configuration for a hive consists of seven components: a hive stand, bottom board, hive body, queen excluder, honey super, inner cover, and a hive cover.
1. Hive Stand
A hive stand functions to elevate the hive off of the ground. This keeps the bottom board dry and helps to insulate the hive. While some beekeepers opt to create their own hive stands, Dadant sells a variety of styles including wooden hive stands, stainless steel hive stands and our newest hive stand made from recycled materials.
2. Bottom Board
The bottom board forms the floor in a beehive and provides a single point for bees to enter and exit the hive. This entrance has two settings: a wide setting for warmer months, and a reduced size for colder conditions. This single entrance also helps bees to defend the hive from possible threats. The bottom board should always be kept off of the ground for proper moisture control in the beehive.
2a. (Alternative) Screened Bottom Board
Screened bottom boards have gained in popularity over the past few decades. By providing more ventilation, a screened bottom board keeps the beehive cooler in the summer and improves control of moisture levels in the winter.
Using a screened bottom board has also proved effective in keeping down Varroa mite numbers by allowing the mites to fall through the screen and out of the hives. The Dadant Screen IPM Board has an additional removable monitoring screen for checking Varroa levels of a hive.
Dadant Pro Tip: Using a screened bottom board alone is not an effective way to treat Varroa infestations! Screened bottom boards should be combined with other mitigation methods to keep Varroa numbers in check. Learn more about identifying and combating Varroa and other pests in Honey Bee Pests and Diseases, Pt. 1: Common Honey Bee Pests.
3. Hive Body (AKA Brood Chamber, Brood Nest, Brood Box, Deep Super)
Hive bodies are wooden boxes that serve as the living quarters for the colony and sit directly on top of the bottom board. Measuring 9-½” tall, they are typically the largest components of the hive. Hive bodies hold either eight or 10 frames where the queen lays her eggs and workers store pollen and honey for food. Each hive body has enough space to house between 50,000 and 60,000 workers.
To allow room for expansion and prevent swarming, some beekeepers stack two hive bodies together to provide increased space. This configuration is especially useful in regions with cooler temperatures, as it allows for the larger colonies and increased food storage needed to survive longer winters.
Dadant Pro Tip: To keep components interchangeable, some hobbyists and beginner beekeepers elect to use medium-sized 6-5/8″ deep supers as a brood box.
4. Queen Excluder
The queen excluder is a flat section of the hive with a gauged metal grid. The precise size of the grid prevents the larger queen from leaving the hive body but allows worker bees to pass through. This restricts the queen to laying eggs and raising brood in the hive body while the workers fill frames in the upper sections with honey.
Dadant Pro Tip: Use of a queen excluder is usually not necessary in hives with more than one hive body.
5. Honey Supers (AKA Shallow Super)
Honey supers get their name from their position in the hive: they are “superior,” or above, the hive body. Available in 6-5/8″ and 5-11/16″ depths, they are smaller than hive bodies to keep them lighter and easier to handle when full of honey. When “pulling” honey, beekeepers are removing full frames from honey supers to extract the honey they contain.
6. Inner Cover
The inner cover helps provide the proper amount of working space and ventilation bees need. Dadant offers a variety of inner cover designs, including the Innerview Inner Cover, made with two layers of laminated glass. This innovative design aids in insulation and allows beekeepers to easily check on their hives without disturbing the colony.
7. Telescoping Beehive Cover
Using a telescoping cover that extends over the sides of the hive helps to protect the colony from inclement weather. The Dadant Painted Tele Cover features a galvanized top layer that adds an additional protective barrier and aids in longevity.
Additional Beehive Components and Accessories
While there are a number of additional hive components available for different applications, most beekeepers follow the above basic beehive setup. The majority of these components can be purchased pre-assembled and painted from Dadant. However, some beekeepers enjoy the process of assembling and properly painting unfinished beehives.
Want to know more about the tools beekeepers typically keep close at hand? Check out our article on Second-Year Beekeeper Equipment Needs!
Ready for more? Check out the next article in this series, Beehive Components Part II: Frames and Foundations, where we’ll discuss the uses and benefits of different frame styles and foundations.
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