The majority of bee hives in Europe and North America before the 1840s were simple shelter structures for bees. During that period, the common types of hives were log gums, box hives, and skeps.
Skeps comprised grass straw and sticks that provided support for the honey. Beekeepers used hollow logs to make log gums, which they fitted with roofs. Box hives were created with a simple shelter design to provide housing for a swarm of bees.
Some box hives and log gums had boxes or containers inside them. The purpose of these containers and boxes was to store honey.
Getting honey from these archaic hives was too much of a hassle. Beekeepers couldn't avoid destroying the bee colonies while harvesting honey. In the process, they'd risk bee stings because they'd upset the bees.
In the mid-1800s, farmers began to design their hives in a manner that encouraged queens to lay eggs in specific sections of the hives. These clever designs made it easier to harvest honey without damaging the colonies.
Wild bees attached their wax combs on walls and roofs of their hives. Nowadays, these kinds of bee hives are referred to as fix-comb hives.
What is a Bee hive and Who Uses Them?
A honeybees' house can be either a man-made structure or a naturally occurring structure where bees live and raise their pupae. Artificial structures made for the sole purpose of domesticating honeybees are what we refer to as bee hives.
The area where beekeepers keep their bee hives is called a bee yard or an apiary.
Not all bees are suitable for beekeeping. Out of the 44 honeybee species, humans domesticate only the western honeybee (Apismellifera) and the eastern honeybee (Apiscerana).
An artificial bee hive is built like the perennial nest that wild honeybees inhabit. It consists of honeycombs, which are hexagonal cells made of beeswax. Honeybees use these cells to store their source of food (honey) and pollen. They also store larvae, pupae, and eggs in honeycombs.
The primary purpose of building an artificial bee hive is to produce honey and enhance pollination of crops around the apiary. Farmers prefer to build these structures because they're easy to transport, unlike naturally occurring bee hives.
Most modern-day farmers are overwhelmed by the choices they have when it comes to beekeeping. There are a variety of options for tools, protective clothing, and equipment. Additionally, there is a vast range of choices of bees to use for commercial purposes.
Nonetheless, the focus of many beekeepers is on selecting the right kind of bee hive.
What should you consider when selecting a hive? To answer this question, you first need to know what options are available.
What Are the Different Types of Bee Hives?
Different hives have different functionalities. Nevertheless, the vast majority of bee hives are under the queen bee. Each type has its own benefits and drawbacks.
If you're into beekeeping, you should find a hive that works for you since what works for another farmer may not necessarily work for you. You'll want to assess your objectives and situation. Chances are, you'll find the most suitable bee hive for your situation if you’re aware of your needs and goals as a beekeeper.
Let ‘s look at the common types of hives used today.
The Warre bee hive is named after Abbé Émile Warré –the mastermind behind its design. When creating this hive, Warré drew his inspiration from nature. He considered the kind of space bees prefer when living in the wild.
This bee hive's structure consists of square boxes. New boxes are added beneath the existing ones. Many beekeepers opt for this kind of hive because its boxes are small and lightweight, which makes it easier to lift when adding new boxes.
Its interior is similar to that of a hollow tree. The top features a roof that includes materials developed to absorb the condensation that bees generate. The roof is often referred to as a quilt box.
The key innovation for the Warre bee hive is the series of slates in each box. Bees use the slates to build their honeycombs vertically downwards. The Warre is attractive to beekeepers that prefer low-maintenance hives.
The Langstroth's design has evolved over the years, but its basic structure hasn't changed much. It includes a modular, which is an expandable bee hive that allows beekeepers to easily access the honeycombs.
This type of hive contains boxes. However, unlike the Warre, new boxes are stacked on top of the existing ones to achieve expandability. The boxes, also called supers, come in different depths.
There are bee spaces between the inside of the boxes and the frames. The function of the spaces is to discourage bees from joining the combs with propolis. This design offers a workable environment for bees.
This is one of the most popular hives. The Top Bar Hive (TBH) has a different design to that of the Warre and Langstroth hive. It features the most comfortable structure for beekeepers because it presents the bees at a convenient height. The hive is easy to move, as there are no heavy boxes to lift. Farmers only have to lift the individual comb frames.
An important aspect of the TBH is that it has a single, long box. This characteristic simplifies the design, thereby making the hive a significant attraction for those who practice beekeeping as a hobby.
The design of the Top Bar Hive is wide and includes a long roof to protect the contents. Below the roof, there are 24 wooden bars. Each of these bars is fitted with a “starter strip”. Honeybees use the starter strips to begin building their combs vertically.
If you enjoy foundationless beekeeping, you should consider trying out the TBH. Unlike the Warre, it doesn't involve foundation building.
How Do You Use Bee hives?
For those who are wondering how a bee hive works, it is important to understand the contents of the hive as well as the activities that happen in it.
Inside a hive, you'll find a matrix of cells that make up the honeycomb. The combs hang depending on the type of hive you're looking at.
The Roles in the Hive
The queen bee is the “leader” of worker bees in a honeybee hive. Her primary function is to reproduce worker bees that create drones. At one point, a new virgin queen will replace the queen bee.
Worker bees focus on collecting nectar and pollen. Additionally, they take care of the queen and her babies, store supplies, maintain the hive's internal structure, and clean the nest. Some workers provide protection and water to other members working and living in the hive colony.
During the swarming season, worker bees seek locations to establish new colonies and make sure that the hive doesn't become overpopulated. The queen can leave the hive if she feels unhappy with her current living conditions. The new colonies allow the honeybees in the existing structure to continually reproduce and produce honey all year round.
Steps for setting up a bee hive
When preparing and installing a bee hive, you should follow these simple steps.
In addition to the structures discussed in this piece, there are other types of bee hives available. Some of these hives combine different aspects from the most common designs. Many beekeepers across the globe use variations of the Warre, Top Bar Hive, and Langstroth.
A notable modification in some Top Bar hives is the option of including a viewing window. This feature is of interest to those who wish to check on their bees without disturbing them.