You can purchase hive kits or build a hive that meets your needs. However, in order to build your own, a little knowledge about the hive’s construction is needed.
Standard hives are also known as Langstroth hives. They consist of a series of boxes known as supers. Each super typically holds ten frames that contain the comb, just as a filing cabinent holds hanging folders. Bees must draw the comb from a thick wax template, also known as foundation.
A typical hive consists of either two hive bodies put together, a hive body and a medium/Illinois super or three medium/Illinois supers. This will make up the main living area for the bees.
In order to harvest honey from the hive, additional supers are added above the main living area. When honey is available for harvest, bees can be driven from this area back to the main hive while the additional supers are harvested.
Selecting a Super
When selecting a super, it is important to consider height and weight.
Supers are available in different heights. The largest is the hive body, followed by the medium/Illinois super and then shallow. Supers can become heavy; for people who are unable to lift a lot of weight, extra shallow supers are available.
As you decide which configuration is best and what size super you wish to use for surplus honey, it is important to remember that honey is heavy. It weighs approximately 12 pounds per gallon, and a full medium/Illinois super can hold nearly 3 gallons of honey. Without considering the wax and wood, a full medium/Illinois super can weigh up to 36 pounds.
If you want to keep equipment standard in your bee yard, use medium/Illinois supers for the hive configuration and for surplus honey supers. This will eliminate the use of hive bodies that may be too heavy to lift and also makes inspection of hives much easier. However, be prepared to harvest surplus honey supers that could weigh up to 50 pounds.
Once you’ve housed your bees, some equipment is necessary to care for them. At the minimum, every beekeeper should have a veil, hive tool and smoker. If you are concerned about being stung, consider a bee suit and gloves. If you chose to make your own suit, or chose to wear only a veil, remember that dark colors aggravate bees and will encourage them to sting. Wear white or pastel colors to avoid this.