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Beehive Construction

Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth published the construction of the first hive with movable frames that preserves the “bee space” on October 30, 1851. U.S. Patent 9300, issued October 25, 1852 describes that hive still used today by beekeepers around the world. Free plans to cut a hive from two ten foot boards were published in Florida and distributed by the USDA and numerous colleges. Self-spacing frames are credited to Hoffman. The real advantage of Hoffman frames is several can be picked up simultaneously with a single grasp.

screened bottom board                 5 frame screened bottom board

Without going too much into hive parts and purposes, we will start at the bottom. The most common bottom board is 22 by 16 ¼ inches. The sides are 1 7/8 to 3 inches high. The center can be a single sheet of plywood, tongue and groove pieces, or a frame with a screen in the middle. Fit the tongue and groove pieces together or nail the frame pieces together. Glue is optional but preferred by most for longevity. Finally nail the side and end pieces onto the floor. If it is a screened bottom board the screen is the last part for bottom boards. Most staple it to the top. I staple it to the bottom. This increases cluster space and the girls do not build brace comb or propolize the screen. I can also nail wood strips over the entire edge to eliminate gaps and exposed wire ends.

deep super                                    medium super

The lower super or brood box is two long sides, 19 1/8 by 9 5/8 and two ends , 16 ¼ by 9 5/8. If they have finger joints line up the lower edges and press the fingers together. For finger or rabbet joints, fully seat both pieces and nail together. Continue for all four corners with the two log boards opposite and the two short boards opposite. Nail in both directions for finger joints, nail through the short sides into the long sides for rabbet joints. Save the frames to assemble last.

names of parts from plans

Medium, shallow and comb section super assembly is identical. Only the height or depth is different. Now that we have boxes to put the frames in, start by grouping the pieces together. Each frame has a top bar, bottom bar and two end bars. Use ten nails per frame. Use two nails through each end of the top bar into the end bars. Use two nails through each end of the bottom bar into the end bars. Use one nail from each side through the end bar into the top bar.

There are two top cover designs. The migratory top is 22 by 16 ¼ inches like the bottom board with vertical cleats on each end. The telescoping cover adds two side cleats forming a box along the entire lower edge. Join the grooved pieces if it has more than one and nail the edge cleats. Most top covers mount the cleats vertically but there could be exceptions. There may be additional cleats for the upper surface. Besides keeping rain from draining off easily upper cleats serve little purpose other than strengthening a weak design or materials.

All these sites have free plans to build beehives or beekeeping equipment. I build hives from the USDA plans that use one ten foot one by twelve and one one by eight to make a deep, a medium super, top and bottom board.