Articles

How To Assemble A Langstroth Beehive

Excerpted from: BeeKeepClub

Common Blue Violet, Viola sororia
Reverend L. L. Langstroth

Beehives are available to beekeepers in various designs, and perhaps the most popular design is the Langstroth beehive. Beehive manufacturers sell most beehives unassembled. This makes it necessary for beekeepers to know how to assemble a Langstroth beehive.

  First, The Basics

To assemble a Langstroth beehive, you first require prior knowledge of how the hive is built. Beehives use wood, typically pine or Western red cedar, as their primary material. The boxes and movable frames are made of wood that is easy for bees to take to. The wood should not have any knots that could lead to cracks in the beehive structure.

Langstroth beehives are loved by beekeepers because they are economical. They are well priced due to being prolific in the beekeeping industry. The space available in a Langstroth beehive gives you excellent honey yields per volume. Langstroth beehives are also loved due to their durability. They keep providing adequate space for honey bees in your apiary for years.

In 1851, Reverend L. L. Langstroth invented a better beehive and changed beekeeping forever. The Langstroth Hive was built on a foundation of methods and designs developed over millennia.

  Preserving The Beehive

Due to its use of wood, you may apply preservation techniques to your beehive before or after assembly. Treating the wood of a Langstroth beehive preserves it in pristine condition without rotting or weakening at the joints. Tung oil is used to provide a layer of weatherproofing for Langstroth beehives. Beekeepers may prefer to paint their Langstroth beehive with a favorite color. A coat or two of primer should be applied to your beehive before painting it.

  Beehive Assembly

It’s a good idea to use of glue in addition to nails and screws. And though doing so isn’t mandatory, supplementing fasteners with weatherproof yellow carpenter’s glue surely makes your hives and equipment as strong and long-lasting as possible

For best results, before using your fasteners, wipe or brush a thin, even coat on both surfaces of the joint. Don’t goop it on so much that it oozes out of the joint when the pieces come together. Work fairly quickly, as the glue will start to set up in a few minutes.

The frame should be nailed immediately after gluing. A total of ten 1¼-inch frame nails will be nailed into the frame. Four on the bottom, four on the top and one nail into each side of the frame.

  Expanding The Beehive

Once it is assembled, a Langstroth beehive is expandable and interchangeable. To add more space, you only need to stack additional brood or super boxes. More brood boxes in your assembled Langstroth beehive increase space for honey bees to raise their young. Adding super boxes to a beehive gives bees more space to store honey that you later harvest. Langstroth beehives have a standard of construction with laid out dimensions. The parts may thus fit into any other hive you may have.

  Disadvantages of The Langstroth Beehive

Langstroth beehives have a few weaknesses despite their popularity. They can get heavy especially when full of honey and a colony of bees. Lifting boxes during hive inspection and honey harvesting can get tiresome for beekeepers. Of the 3 most common beehive designs, the Langstroth beehive presents the most problems with weight. This comes to the fore when you need to inspect brood boxes and have to lift off all super boxes twice — once while removing them to reach the brood boxes and once returning them on top of your Langstroth beehive brood boxes.

Should I paint my Langstroth beehive?

If you have pine boxes we think the answer is “yes — paint your hives.”

Your beehives are exposed to the elements year round. The primary reason to paint the hive box exteriors is to protect them. You’ve invested a fair amount of money and time into these hives so you’ll want them to last as long as possible.

If you went for cedar boxes, which are more expensive, then I would not paint them. Cedar stands up to the elements much better than pine. Applying tung oil will give cedar boxes a beautiful natural look while providing water resistance to preserve the wood.

What Color Paint? Honey bees are not picky about the color of their hives. As long as there is no paint on the inside, your bees will be fine. In Wisconsin, it’s nice to have a color that will absorb heat, such as green or brown. But if your hives are not in the sun, the outside color won’t have much of an effect on the inside temperature.

Alternatively, you could apply timber oil to the pine honey bee hive. One product popular among beekeepers is Cabot Australian Timber Oil which comes in a variety of shades and is a long-lasting protectant.

  Parts of the Langstroth Beehive

Labeled parts of a Langstroth beehive

  Hive Stand (not shown)

It is important to note that Langstroth beehives rest on a stand. Beekeepers use various stands to hold up the hive. These stands have features suitable to each beekeeper including ability to hold frames and elevating the beehive from the reach of predators. A hive stand also prevents moisture from seeping into the beehive which would happen with the beehive sitting on the ground. Durable stands for Langstroth beehives mostly feature plastic and metallic materials.

  Bottom Board

Sitting on the stand is usually the bottom board. It makes up the floor of the Langstroth beehive. The bottom board can be either solid or screened. Screened bottom boards may allow you to check for pests easily without having to carry out a hive inspection that involves opening up the hive. It additionally facilitates better aeration of the beehive. A screened bottom board may be taken out and replaced with a solid bottom board in winter. This is because a solid bottom board enabled better heat retention in the hive. A solid bottom board prevents fire ants from gathering under the assembled Langstroth beehive.

Beehive entrance reducer

Entrance Reducer. Beekeepers have the option of using an entrance reducer in their beehives. It is a piece of wood that reduces the amount of space available at the entrance of the hive. An entrance reducer contributes to hive security and can be integrated in pest and disease control. By giving bees less space to defend at the entrance, you free up workers and drones to attend to other hive activities. Any intruder entering a hive with an entrance reducer is quickly identified and easily dealt with by guard bees.

Beekeeper's Note: Do NOT use a plastic entrance reducer.

  Hive Body/Brood Chamber

Once a bee is inside a Langstroth beehive, it finds itself in the brood boxes in most arrangements. Deep brood boxes serve two functions in a Langstroth beehive: they hold the eggs and larvae of honey bees and store some honey to be used as food in lean times. Deep brood boxes may be larger than other boxes in the Langstroth beehive.

Large brood boxes give your bees more space to rear their young. Brood boxes used as food storage for the colony should allow the queen access. If she is not allowed to reach the food, she will die of starvation.

Beekeeper's Note: When the bee colony reaches a point when a 10-frame hive reaches 8 frames full of bees, that is when you will add another super. Use the 80% rule in adding each super.

  Queen Excluder

A queen excluder is a mesh used to allow the queen access to areas of the Langstroth beehive and deny her access to others. A queen excluder allows drones and worker bees to go through it, but not the queen bee. Beekeepers using a queen excluder should make sure that their worker bees and drones can get through the queen excluder. If they cannot reach the super boxes, they will not be able to store honey for you in your beehive super boxes.

  Super

Super beehive boxes come on top of brood boxes. A super box may be of medium depth, and is used to collect honey for harvesting. Super boxes should have the queen prevented from reaching them using a queen excluder. If the queen can access the honey supers, she will lay eggs in them and foul up your honey harvest.

Beekeeper's Note: The rule of thumb for honey supering is that the bees should never be using the entire comb available to them. When the super is one-half to ⅔ full, add another super.

  Inner Cover

Hive tool.

Hive tool.

Coming on top of the super boxes is the inner cover. It provides just the right space on top of your uppermost honey super box. The inner cover of a Langstroth beehive has the additional function of providing an avenue for ventilation of the beehive. A bee escape device may be fitted onto the inner cover’s ventilation hole to help beekeepers clear bees from their super box before harvesting honey.

Propolis. The inner cover of a Langstroth beehive may get attached to the uppermost super box due to bees sealing crevices with propolis. If this happens, gently prying the inner cover with your hive tool frees it from the super box.

  Outer Cover

Covering the whole assembly of a Langstroth beehive is a hive top cover. It is made to prevent direct sunlight, rain water and other weather elements from entering the beehive. Langstroth beehive top covers may be made of various materials including metal sheet. Beekeepers often favor the telescoping design of the top cover due to the fact that it overlaps the inner cover and hangs down the edges of your beehive. It clears water away from the beehive very well.

  Frames

Beehive frame with foundation.

Beehive frame with foundation.

A very vital component of Langstroth beehives are the frames. Langstroth beehives are typically configured to hold either 8 or 10 frames. The frames hold honeycomb for honeybees to brood and store honey.

So, why would one choose a box with only 8 frames, when 10 frames boxes can be used? A fully-laden 10 frame deep box can weigh around 80 pounds! That's a lot of heavy-duty lifting. This one reason why many prefer 8 frame hives - it's easier on the back!

  Frame Foundation

Foundation is a pressed wax or plastic frame insert with a hexagonal template for bees to build their comb on. Combs built on foundation are always straight, very stable, and are dominated by worker bee brood. The foundation easily clicks into the frame.

Foundation Type Advantages Disadvantages
Pure Bees Wax This foundation is the most natural and effective wax coated foundation available in the US. 36% thinner cell walls and deeper cell interiors allow for a higher honey capacity per frame, so bee keepers can see a larger return on their investment. An excellent foundation to get your bees started in combing out the new foundation. Mostly manufactured in large cell. Can become brittle and break or crack while in transit to your home during cold weather. The foundation can warp within the frame during hot summer days during the first 48 hours of being placed in the hive.
Pure Bees Wax Wired The wired is infused within the wax foundation to offer far better stability in keeping the foundation straight within the frame. During honey extraction you will still experience foundation dislodging from the frame if the RPM’s go too high.
Cut Comb Wax Cut comb wax foundation is very thin foundation. You can almost see through the wax as it is thin. Cut comb foundation has no wire and is used for comb honey jars. There are really no substitutes for this type of wax foundation. Can crack during shipment in cold weather. Handle with care as the foundation is so thin that it can rip or warp easy.
Plastic Wax Coated Plastic wax coated foundation is the newest product to come into the market. No fumes or vapor from the plastic. The bees do not show any negative effects towards plastic wax coated foundation. The foundation can be extracted at high speeds with no foundation separation from the frame. You can speed up honey extraction by 50% using this foundation vs. wired wax foundation at 90° ambient temperature. Make sure the manufacturer is using 100% American Bees Wax.
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