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Building a Langstroth hive & preparing for bees


#1

There are many ways to put a hive together, everyone I have spoken with has a different opinion and ultimately it’s down to you, read as much as you can and where possible draw upon other beekeepers in the local area, if there are none then you’ll need to just wing it. This is my experience based on trial and error, it’s a work in progress and I am sure there are going to be a few adjustments along way.
Step 1. Assessing your site
Do you have a backyard? Simple question but if you do not then consider a rooftop, there are plenty of spaces in urban environments for beehives. Some people even make a living from it. The backyard should have some sun, a hive in the shade maybe asking for trouble, the bees need to have warmth for the hive to survive and the entrance would best be placed in a southerly aspect for the north hemisphere and a northerly aspect for the south to catch the most light. Make sure the entrance and flight path is not pointing at your neighbours balcony. I have placed mine toward the rear of the yard away from traffic and mostly out of sight and leave enough space at the rear of the hive for you to harvest the Flow as this is the best placement. I have heard of backyard beekeepers bribing their neighbours with honey, but for what its worth, I would keep it quiet unless they specifically ask. People are mostly afraid of bees. A word of warning from a fellow beekeeper in the club, is the effect on bees due to the rise and use of saltwater pools, bees love the salt and this may cause a problem with your neighbours. If this occurs, put out a salt lick or put a sprinkle of salt into a nearby water source such as a bird bath near the hive. The provision of clean water for your bees is imperative, they need loads of it.
Step 2. Join a local Bee Club
This would have to be easiest part of the whole journey. The clubs generally hold semi-regular meetings and area wealth of experience, especially considering the average beekeepers is in Australia is somewhere in the late 50s. They usually have all the extraction equipment you’ll need as this can become an expensive outlay.
Step 3. Buying a hive
There are dozens of types of hives to choose from, the three main types that come to mind for the European honeybee is the Langstroth, Warre’ and the Top Bar. The Langstroth is the most popular hive type perfected in the 1800s and known for its simplicity, the Warre’ design comes from France and has been taken on by the permaculture movement calling itself Natural beekeeping. It’s not too different from the Langstroth however the bees build their own comb whereas the Langstroth uses wax foundation as a starting point. Another design of the Warre’ is natural ventilation, temperature and humidity control. The Langstroth can also be adapted to make the bees more comfortable through the use of screened bottom boards, ventilation holes in the top of the super and the addition of a Warre style roof to add insulation from the heat of the sun. The big advantage of the Langstroth hive is the price and standard components, a basic 2 box hive with frames and wax foundation will cost under $150, expect to pay up to $600 for the Warre. The Top Bar hive is somewhat wider than the Langstroth and Warre’ and was developed out of Africa and Canada, it is not suitable as part of the Flow Hive system, however this may change if an adapter can be modified to allow the Flow Hive on top of the horizontal bar design.

If you are a novice beginner beekeeper, then don’t muck around get a Langstroth, it’s a great way to start and most beekeepers understand them intimately. These hives have been used with huge success for over a hundred years and are the preferred choice by the commercial guys. You can buy them ready made or in pieces. The two most popular sizes are the 8 and 10 frame, which relates to the width and ultimately the weight when full of honey.

The frame pieces come pretty cheap however you will need to treat them to prevent wood rot fungi from breaking down the timber. A treated hive could last 4 times longer. Copper Napthenate is the treatment of choice; it doesn’t harm the bees as they will coat it with propolis anyway. I used a paint roller tray and thinned the Copper Napthenate solution to 1 part Napthenate and 4 parts Mineral Turpentine (Turps). I soaked the ends in the tray for a few minutes and used a wide brush paint the rest of the timbers. If you don’t wish to go to all the trouble or just don’t have the time, then buy a readymade hive, its easy, quick, only moderately more to buy and no one will think any less of you.

Leave these to cure and thoroughly dry for anywhere between 6 and 8 weeks. Assemble your hive on a flat surface or bench and use wood glue and galvanised screws or nails to put all the pieces together, I advise you to pre-drill your holes to prevent splitting and a square will come in handy to ensure the corners are exactly 90 degrees and be careful that all your pieces are the right way up, use the handles as a guide. Then apply a single coat of water based undercoat and two coats of water based gloss acrylic. I painted the inside with undercoat, but it really shouldn’t matter. Generally, this is not done. As a caution do not paint the upper and lower edges as this will cause your hive bodies to stick, a lesson I learnt the hard way.

Types of bottom boards, for this there are many. The two most common I have seen is the slotted bottom board for Small Hive Beetle control and the Screened Bottom board for varroa, beetle and ventilation. Its your choice and if you have varroa then I would advise taking advice on the best control from your local beekeeper association as the methods are continuously changing.

The finshed hive ready for bees, your landing board and top cover will differ from country to country and you may like to think about using entrance reducers for new bees (prevents robbing and helps bees protect the hive from attack such as wasps, moths, etc at different times of the year.


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#2

I’ve seen this a few times - It is Southerly aspect in the Northern Hemisphere.

Or for more clarity face the hives entrances towards the Equator


#3

Good point Valli, I’ll rectify this immediately, thanks for the feedback.


#4

Thanks Rodderick for the post! I will go this pathway and build my own langstroth. Can I ask what are your thoughts on flat or gabled roofs for ventilation? Is condensation a considerable issue here in Aus?


#5

I do like the gable roof and am in the process of modifying the standard langstroth with a Warre’ style roof and moisture quilt, the roof is beneficial in diverting rainwater away from the sides of the hive and is extra protection from our hot sun in summer.
I reckon the Warre’ has an advantage with the quilt. Condensation build up in the Langstroth seems to be issue in the winter and the moisture dripping off the roof can be a problem with mould build up inside the hive, I do use the migratory lids which have ventilation holes however the bees close them up.

See the link below for adapting a moisture quilt to the Langstroth.


#6

Interesting article and seems easy enough to build a quilt frame. I am not sure about the position though. The author puts it above the top brood box and below the telescopic cover so where are the supers then? Sorry for my ignorance.


#7

@Rodderick

I was wondering about the quilt. I’m thinking in Oz you guys up north probably don’t need it.

I have seen Rubber type sheets for sale here.

Either way does that mean we would need to construct some type of eke or will the Full Flow Hives have room in that gabled roof??


#8

Has to be below the lid, even if there was a super installed, it would still be beneath the top lid.


#9

Hi Valli, Its a matter of choice, to be true to the Warre’ method you wouldn’t use a lid just the roof and quilt. You could also use the hive mat that you are referring to, I understand this is used to keep the warmth in during winter. In this case the gabled roof may help to act as an extra buffer from snow and ice. The advantage of the quilt is to absorb moisture even in the coldest of conditions as condensation will cause mould that the bees cannot deal with during the cooler months. When its warmer, the bees are active and will circulate air around the hive to prevent mould. This purely my opinion, another beekeeper will of course give you a different opinion…


#10

I am in Norh Carolina, USA and I face my hives to the East where the first rays of sunlight will hit the front of the hives. For production purposes, the bees wake up and forage earlier than a hive that is facing South.


#11

I’ve picked a south facing spot for my Bees and there is no point facing S/E as the morning sun doesn’t come over the roof of the house until about 9am in winter even though they will be 30 yards from the house; the disadvantage of 2 story houses here. It is in front of a beautiful Wisteria which I’m hoping the bees will love

We don’t get very cold winters often - Last winter was quit mild


#12

Great. I was just asking about this and somehow over looked this post until just now! Bookmarked and will get to building after a I get a few other household things down.
Suggested places to order complete / do-it-yourself kits? Once I get connected with some local guys I can stop asking everyone on here :smile:


#13

I understand that you wouldn’t want their flight path to cross a main walking path. How much space to you recommend?

I am also trying to place it as far from where we mow as possible. The main area that doesn’t get mowed is in the chicken yard. Also near the goat and mini pig yard.


#14

I might suggest that if you can’t get the bees away from a walking path then put a screen a few feet away in front. That way the bees have to fly up as they leave the hive. I would love to have a hive where I could watch the bees from the house but having been chased 100 metres repeatedly by a naughty colony I moved them to a field 5 minutes from the house.


#15

The City of San Diego has recently approved and encouraged urban beekeeping, but they have some “requirements” to reduce nuisance effects from the bees.

  1. The hive must be 16 feet from the property boundary (urban only - rural is much greater)
  2. If the hive is not 8 feet above the average height of the ground, it must be surrounded by a 6 foot screen

Number 2) sounds hard, but actually it is pretty easy and desirable too. The rationale is that the screen forces the bees up right near the hive. Normally they commute to forage areas at least 10 feet above the ground, so it is no real inconvenience to the bees to be forced up early. Then they don’t fly into the heads of passersby, livestock or gardeners on your property. Brilliant! :smile:

All you need to do is put in some 6 foot fence posts around the hive, then attach some insect screen to the posts. We have the screens about 5 feet from the hive, but you can put them closer. I know a commercial beekeeper who puts them just 1 foot in front of the hive, and the bees don’t care at all! In fact, she thinks it reduces robbing.

Hopefully that answers your question. Just takes a bit of planning, but it isn’t hard.