Thursday, February 16, 2012

Parts of a Langstroth Beehive

Langstroths look like stacks of boxes.  It's hard to imagine while you're looking at the outside, just how bees move around in there and draw comb and raise more bees and make honey. 

Here's a guided tour through a Langstroth hive.

This is the hive base.  The white stuff in the middle is actually screening [which you can't see] over a white board which you can slide out.

Hives need excellent ventilation to let moisture out.   The screen keeps the bottom of the hive open and keeps mice and things out.

The white board is only used when you need to do a varroa mite count.   Slide the board in and leave it for 24 hours.   Carefully take it out and count the mites.   As long as there are fewer than 50 mites, the hive is OK.  More than 50 mites and you need to do something about them.

This is the hive door.   You can see it on top of the base, but under the supers [boxes] in the top pick. 

Notice that it has two doors.  You can rotate it to give you the size you need.   A mouse can get in the big side.  During the winter, you can tilt it so only the small door is open and that will keep out the mice that will try to winter in the hive.


This is a pic of a medium super and a deep super.   There are shallow ones, too that are 1/2 the depth of a deep super.

 Supers are the 'boxes' of the hive.   Supers come in different depths, which hold different sizes of frames.

Supers are open at the top and bottom.   They only have sides. 

Most supers are built to hold 10 frames, though some are built to hold eight.

The frames hang down in super and that's where the bees will draw comb.   Some of the comb [the inner frames] will be brood comb, where they lay eggs and raise new bees.  Some of the comb [the outer frames], will be for making and storing honey. 

Here are two supers on a hive base.    The bottom super is where the queen will be and where the brood comb will be.   The next super up will be where the bees put the honey.

That is their honey and they need it to keep the hive going, so we won't be taking that honey.

Those two supers together are called the 'hive body'.  

Because we want to have some honey for us, we can put more supers on the stack.   But we want the queen to stay below where we can't accidentally hurt her, so we put a qeen excluder screen between the hive body and the top supers that we will be harvesting.

Here the excluder has been set on the hive body, ready to put another super on top.

Here is the next super set on top of the queen excluder.

Remember, all of the supers have open bottoms and tops, so the bees will be able to walk wherever they want in the hive at all levels [except for the queen, who has to stay in the hive body.]

Factoid:  There's no flying around in the hive.   They walk around.  [No running in the house.]

We can keep adding supers as tall as we can reach.   The supers can get really heavy, so they don't recommend that you stack them higher than is comfortable to lift down.

Rog recommended that you add a new super when the last one has comb on 7 of the frames.    That way the hive won't get crowded.   If the hive gets crowded, they'll want to swarm to start a new colony.    We don't want that because we want the bees working with us in our hives.  

[Note:  One of the problems with Langstroths is that when we need to check the queen, we have to take all the supers down to get to the brood box and check on her.    That's a lot of lifting and monkeying with the hive and a lot of potential for accidentally killing or angering some of the bees.    This is one reason we're going to try a top bar hive, too.]

On top of the hive, there are two lids.   The first is the inner cover, which has a notch in the back for the bees to come and go through and a hole in the center for bees to get into the hive.   This also increases ventilation.   

On top of that, capping the whole thing off,  is the outer cover.

The whole thing will sit in a level situation, on top of cinder blocks so it's about 8 inches off the ground.   That'll help keep the mice out and ensure good ventilation through the bottom.  

We'll be building a top bar hive soon.  Look for a tour of that hive in a week or so.


  1. Thank you for the virtual tour of the Langstroth! Can't wait for upcoming "tours". I'm going to show all of them to hubby.

  2. Thanks Robin! Fascinating stuff. I can't wait for the top bar tour.

  3. So, so interesting! Who knew bees walked? And it sounds like such a microcosmic process. I hope you'll give us updates as you go along. How much honey can you get from one Langstroth?


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