When you start Beekeeping, there are certain pieces of essential equipment. Most of these, you will have to buy, but when it comes to the beehive itself, you have a choice. You can buy one (either ready assembled or as a flat pack for self assembly). But you also have the option of building your own beehive.
Obviously, this will not be for everyone. You do have to have a certain level of basic skills to be able to build a beehive. But you certainly do not need to be an expert carpenter – it is surprisingly easy to build your own beehive if you have a good set of plans and follow some basic rules.
The main advantage of building your own beehive is that it is much cheaper. Beehives can be quite expensive to buy – particularly fully assembled beehives, which have extra shipping charges because they are bulkier. You can build a beehive for a fraction of the cost. In some cases, you might be able to use recycled materials, making it even cheaper still – and doing your bit for the environment into the bargain.
As well as saving money, it is also immensely satisfying to build your own beehive. Beekeeping itself is a very rewarding hobby, but it really is the icing on the cake knowing that you built their home with your own hands!
So, if you would like to give it a go, here are some tips on how to build your own beehive and help to ensure that it turns out as you hoped – well-built, attractive, and long lasting.
Choose the right beehive plans
When building a beehive, you will need detailed plans and instructions. You can easily get free plans on the internet, but they are often very poor quality and difficult to follow – particularly for a beginner. Make sure that the plans you are using are comprehensive and easy to understand. The best plans include pictures from each stage of the building process or, even better, video.
Fully read the instructions before you begin
It can be difficult to resist the temptation to just get started, before you are properly prepared. Resist the temptation! Read your plans from start to finish before lifting any tools. This will give you an overall picture of the whole job. Without this, you will be likely to get confused and make mistakes.
Use untreated wood
When you are buying the wood for your hive, make sure that it has not been treated in any way. A lot of modern methods of pressure-treating wood use chemicals which can be poisonous to honey bees, so stick with untreated materials.
Do not take shortcuts with the glue
As well as nailing the parts together, be sure to use glue. Apply this just before nailing. It is easier to just rely on the nails, but glue provides extra strength and the extra effort will pay of in the long run.
Keep your beehive square
It is not essential that your boxes and frames are perfectly square, but they need to be reasonably square to allow the frames to fit properly. Use a carpenter’s square to make sure they are as true as possible.
Use paint or wood preservative
Hive bodies must be treated with wood preservative or paint. Apply a coat of good quality latex base paint, followed by an exterior latex paint, or else just double coat with an exterior wood stain. Either is equally effective – which you use is down to personal preference. Do not paint or stain the inside of the supers.
In very hot locations, painting the beehive white will help to stop it getting too hot in the summer. If you are going to keep a lot of hives in one location, it can be a helpful identification aid to the bees if each hive is a different color, although this is not essential.
Hopefully these tips will set you on the right path. The key really is having good plans. Nick Hampshire, a well known natural beekeeper, has produced a set of plans and detailed instructions (which now actually include video and audio) for building your own Warre hives (Warre hives are just vertical top bar hives).
If you would like more details about Nick’s plans, click here.