Planning for first new hives next year need advice

Hey guys :slight_smile: thank you for letting me join your forum. My husband and I want to start two new hives next year. Were new to bee keeping. I think my location is listed on here but we live in the northern California mountains. Zone 7.

There’s a lot of information on beekeeping out there and I’m not entirely sure where to start. I’ve located a good area for the hives away from the house. The area seems to have a wind buffer. It gets morning sun and afternoon shade. It is in the bottom of a little valley outside our house, And by outside our house I mean about 20 to 25 feet away from our front door.

Now the summers where we live get to be about 95° and the winters don’t go below 20. On our heaviest snow day we got about 13 inches of snow for three weeks this last winter.

I’m wondering what kind of hives would be best for our area? The Langstroth hive? Styrofoam? Or wood? I’ve heard Styrofoam was warmer in the winter.

I know they’re supposed to be elevated off the ground but I’m not really sure how big of a hive to get to ensure that we have enough honey for our family of four while still leaving enough honey for the bees to use in the winter?

I was also thinking of making a heated birdbath near the hives to give them water throughout the year. Not sure if this is necessary.

I’m sorry for the rambling post but I’m kind of just trying to get my bearings with all this. I expect we will be ordering the bees in January for a spring delivery and I wanna make sure everything‘s ready in time.


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Welcome to the forum Bianca, you have joined a friendly forum with lots of folks happy to help with advice and tips.
You have already made a start, a good idea to have two hives and have thought about where to place the hives.
This is a Flow Hive forum and they have 2 hive sizes, an 8 frame and a larger 10 frame hive. Their hives are made of wood with two types of wood used. The design is based on a Langstroth Hive but has a different super and frames in the super that make it less hassles when you extract the honey.
A Langstroth hive is also either 8 or 10 frame size and there is a lot of difference in weight when a hive is full of honey, I used to run 10 frame hives but at 72 years young I’m now using 8 frame hives.
When you begin I would set up the hives with a single brood box but later on you might consider a double brood box but going on your climate a single would work well there.
Any hive of wood or styrofoam (polystyrene but higher density) would work there, there is also plastic hives and I bought one to experiment with, they have zero insulation and in my climate it was a very bitter lemon. Polystyrene has great insulation against hot and cold, it is lighter than a timber hive and won’t rot or absorb water even in constant heavy rain. A wood hive is by far the most popular.
At my apiary I have Flow Hives, wooden Langstroth’s and polystyrene hives, each has benefits.


Hi Bianca, welcome! All your questions are good and they show your thoughtfulness for the bees in your climate. The high heat and wet snow extremes you have make me lean toward polystyrene boxes, but you could also provide top and side insulation for wood hives. To my knowledge the poly gear only comes in ten frame size. When you think about “enough honey for your family of four” and the size of your hives, think seasonally and vertically, rather than a permanent number of hives or the width (8 vs 10 frame). In a good season, one strong colony might easily produce enough and more, since regular honey supers can be stacked and Flow supers can be emptied and refilled.

Thank you for the help. Honestly I’m such a beginner at everything that I’m
Having to research each part of a hive individually to see what it does and what I need. And I find all these little things in the process (like marking a queen, cross combing and fixing it with rubber bands, using frameless hives, and raising a spare queen to prevent swarming) and I have NO IDEA what any of those things are lol. So it’s good I have half a year before we do this because it’s going to take a lot of research to figure all this stuff out.

I wish there was a combo between the Langstroth and the Kenyan Top Bar hives, as I want to look in the hives occasionally to monitor the bees but I would rather not lift 80 lbs of honey supers to do it (or crush the bees in the process). I looked into the Flow Hives and from the beekeepers perspective it seems awesome but I worry how the hive vibrates and responds properly being a plastic frame coated in honeycomb, versus a 100% malleable honeycomb hive. Regular Honeycomb is supposed to reverberate like a spiders web but I don’t know how a plastic frame can do that. I can’t find a lot of information on that part of the flow system.

I’d recommend you take a beekeeping class - try Flow’s nice set of videos or Girl Next Door Honey’s On Demand Pages on Vimeo Hilary Kearney has online classes. You’ll start to feel more confident seeing all the different parts in action.

Haha good! If you have heavy supers, it’s time to harvest :smile: - no lifting at all with a Flow super of course, and traditional supers can be lifted/removed incrementally by box or even frame by frame if the whole box is too heavy.

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I am using 8 frame poly hives in my apiary since last January. Mine are made in Finland so a lot of thought has gone into them and the insulation is obvious when you have a poly hive alongside a wooden hive.
I also tried a plastic hive which was a disaster in my Summer climate.
I agree with you, it is about hive management more than hive numbers to get a good honey yield.

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For a beginner my advice is to keep it simple. Two hives have many advantages with only a little extra time needed over a single hive as you are already suited up and the smoker going.
Marking a queen or not is a personal thing, I mark mine so that I can see her faster and if the hive has an unmarked queen then I know things have changed. I change the mark color each year so that I know the age of the queen. It isn’t that important to see the queen, seeing larvae in the brood is what to look for and if you see her then that is a bonus.
I use frames with wired foundation to reduce cross combing. It cuts down on time I need for inspections and a lot less wasted energy and time for the bees, but again a personal choice.
A Flow Hive is basically a Langstroth hive, the only difference really is the Flow Super and the frames in it. The honey in a Flow Hive can be taken easily, all you should do is the check the Flow Frames are at least 80% capped by taking the frames up to check them, a single frame full of honey isn’t heavy. Some care is needed in extracting a Flow Frame to be aware of, but that also applies to everything in bee keeping.
With a conventional hive you don’t need to struggle lifting a full super off the hive, a spare box and transferring some frames to it lightens the lift.
There is still heaps of knockers of the Flow Hive, I have four of them and they are an option for a bee keeper. They do work. A lot of knockers I’ve found have not owned one and there is a lot of misinformation about them even in bee groups.
In Australia most hives are Langstroth’s with Flow Hives popular with bee keepers only wanting a couple of hives. Polystyrene hives are popular in climates or excessive heat and cold. This coming Spring I’m going to experiment with a Flow Super on a polystyrene brood box.

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Does anyone have any experience attaching the flow super to a polystyrene hive? Keep me updated Peter!

Any wooden super of the same frame width, Flow or otherwise, will sit right on top of a poly hive. In fact the walls of the poly hives are thicker so it’s quite stable. As a beekeeper you don’t really attach boxes, you place them on top of one another. The bees then use propolis to seal any gaps.

You are right Eva, my poly hive is 40mm (1 and 5/8 inches) wide but the box is not flat on the top and bottom edges, there is a ridge there to stop rain water seeping in so my concern is about the increased distance between the brood frames and the super frames but the ridge is only 6mm (1/4") high so I suspect it wouldn’t be an issue. At worst the bees will build some bur comb… :grin:

This is so interesting everyone thank you! I look forward to hearing about your results, as I think in our windy climate with its extreme temperature shifts poly will be the only way to go. Hopefully we can end up attaching the flow super since it seems less invasive to the bees overall, but if not the standard poly Langstroth will work just fine for us. I’m taking a bee keeping class now online and hope to start the first hive next spring. We shall see if I’m ready by then!

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Ok! Has anyone used a polystyrene hive with flow supers attached? I’m looking at you Peter48! Can anyone let my know how it went? Hopefully I’ll get bees next year and that’s the set up I’d like to do, ideally.

I’m in the process of building a horizontal hive and modifying it to put flow frames in the non-brood side… I’ll let you know how it goes next year!

Horizontal Langstroth

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PM me your email address, one of my customers is doing that with a 10 frame brood box, not completed yet but a real fickler for getting it right the first time. I’m thinking about it but it is on my ‘to do’ list after experimenting with Poly hives for more than 6 months and seeing the benefits in my climate I’m changing over from wooden hive but would like to keep my 4 flow hives as well.

That sounds great. How do I pm?

Click on my icon and you will get a pop up screen and click on ‘Message’ then type and send.

I don’t know what your exact microclimate is but if your winters don’t go below 20°F then you’re in zone 8b! Lucky you!

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I’ve had one for a while now and built another towards the end of last season Having proven the concept with the first one. There are a few LL with Flow Frames now. There are lots of LL videos and photos now, have a look through as many as you can to work out what features you’d like to incorporate in yours. I can not recommend enough modifying the basic design to accept cover boards above the frames and below the roof.

This is a link showing mine Long Lang with Flow Frames

I like them a lot. Good luck building yours.


That’s the one I am building. I still have to figure out how I am going to access the flow frames… I like your access doors. I was thinking of just using fewer flow frames and drilling holes (that can be plugged with corks) where the key and flow tubes go.

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