How to choose  your bee hive?

How to choose your bee hive?

Albert, Manager of a gardening service, Leicester

Guide written by:

Albert, Manager of a gardening service, Leicester

49 guides

Be it a Dadant, Langstroth, Warré, Voirnot, Top bar or Layens hive, determining what type of beehive you need depends on the type of apiculture you plan on having. They can be square or trapezoidal, come with or without a frame and have different dimensions for the honey super and the hive body... all these elements will help you calculate athe very important task of choosing a bee hive that will make it possible to collect honey.   

Important features

  • Conservation skeps
  • Horizontal hives
  • Beehive production
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A specific hive for each type of apiculture


Before settling on a beehive, it is vital that you consider the type of beekeeping you intend to engage in. You can choose between conservation or recreation. A conservational approach simply consists of harboring bees in your garden and sometimes harvesting a little honey, while the latter implies a commercial operation. If this is the case, ask yourself these questions. What is the desired production volume? What type of hives are other local beekeepers using? 

Believe it or not, there are even educational beehives, often installed in educational establishments or other public places. As the name suggests, these models have an educational purpose, increasing awareness of the important role bees play in nature. It is a creative way to help defend these vulnerable pollinators on which we count so much.

If you look at it from this perspective, getting started in beekeeping is more than an exciting activity for you and your family, it is also an act of solidarity aimed at preserving the species. No matter how noble a gesture, there is still some legislation that must be respected if you hope to own a bee hive. Before getting started, it's important to verifiy with your local town hall, fill out any required declarations, officially register as a beekeeper and of course, let your neighbors know!

You might also be interested in local beekeeping courses that we strongly recommend, as they are open to everyone. Reach out to your local town hall for more information.

Conservation skeps


Conservation skeps is the result of a concept whose purpose is the preservation of bees by providing them with a habitat that closely imitates their natural shelter. By choosing this type, you are prioritizing the bee's survival, asking nothing in return other than the ability to marvel in front of the wonderful spectacle that they provide.

The most common skep models are made of straw and are often shaped like a wild swarm. This highly decorative hive will bring pure joy to any garden, from the very fact that the bees will pollinate the trees and plants around, promoting optimal yield for you and your neighbors' garden's fruit trees.

It's important to note that this hive is not designed for commercial production, but rather intended to promote the protection of bees. 

Horizontal hives


In the same spirit as skeps, horizontal hives prioritize the bees' safety and habitat, again mimicking their natural habitat as closely as possible. By doing so horizontal hives offers the possibility of producing honey ecologically and at a reasonable cost.

Top bar models are the most common all around the world. Inspired by traditional Greek hives, this technique is the best way to engage in all-natural beekeeping. With some models featuring a segment with a glass partition, it can also be used as a very interesting educational hive. The top bar's distinctive V-shaped is farily reminiscent of a wild cluster of bees, but has the advantage of optimizing space. Another positive point, there is no need for wire frames or embossed wax: the bees build their own sets!

Production hives


There are several models of commercial beekeeping hives, each named after its designer. Here are the most commonly used models:

  • The Dadant hive is the most commonly used model in France. Counting 10 or 12 frames, it features a possible volume of 54 liters (with more reserves for wintering);
  • The Langstroth hive is the second most popular model in the world. These models have the particularities of having the honey super and the hive body of the same dimensions (divisible hive);
  • The Warré hive, which is slowly gaining in popularity, about 30 cm around. It is also divisible (same dimensions for the honey super and hive body) and is often used without a frame;

  • The Voirnot hive, ideal in cold regions and mountainous areas. It is a square beehive of about 36 cm around that is very efficient for fertilizing nuclei if the honey super is divided into 2 compartments;
  • The Layens hive, very rarely used in France, but very popular in other countries, especially Spain. Works without increasing, on the length (alters the quality of the honey since the treatments of the varroase);
  • The Kenyan hive, also know as a Top Bar model is also gaining popularity. Of a trapezoidal shape with no set dimensions, top bar hives do not require a wire frame or embossed wax.

With bees' great ability to adapt, any hive models will be suitable for commercial honey production. That being said, there are other factors to consider, even for a small production.

One important element that needs to be continually verified is the beekeeper's physical condition, specifically his back! As you can imagine, the bigger the hive and its capacity, the heavier and difficult to handle it will become. In an attempt to remedy this issue, most hive models will feature scaled-down versions of themselve, with frames of a reduced size.
The climate is also vital to consider, as is the ground you choose to use and the local beekeeping environment. Although concept of mutual aid is a very real effect, it is easier to benefit from if you are using the same equipment as the other local beekeepers.

Beehives and scaled versions


When selecting your hive, it is crucial to be able to recognize the difference between it and the scaled down version. Indeed, the terminology can be confusing, as it's easy to simply mistake it for a smaller hive.

Although it's been scaled down, the smaller hives are essential for swarming, dividing of colonies, and other tasks in beekeeping production. That being said, the scaled-down hives are not suitable, under any circumstances, for a permanent bee habitat.  

More Information

Getting into beekeeping is a big leap of faith. It's best to know what you are getting yourself into! To do just that follow the links below for apiculture-related accessories, advice from our editors and more helpful guides:

Discover all our bee hives and equipment!

Guide written by:

Albert, Manager of a gardening service, Leicester, 49 guides

Albert, Manager of a gardening service, Leicester

For several years I have been running a garden service with a clientele of both individuals and companies. I manage a team of gardeners and ensure the creation and maintenance of green spaces. At the same time, I bring my expertise to my clients in terms of the maintenance and improvement of their gardens. In fact, as a trainee and working in the hospitality industry at the beginning of my career, I focused on landscaping in a local community where I acquired solid technical skills through in-house training and the follow-up of major projects in a rapidly changing town. On a personal level, I am equally oriented towards the art of gardening. With my wife, I created our garden from start to finish and I maintain it carefully, the same goes for the vegetable garden. As for DIYing, it’s not to be outdone. Yes, gardening is also tinkering: pergola, hut, pavement, fence, and so on...There is always something to do in a garden. After working well together, my wife and I are proud of the result and delighted to be able to take full advantage of a friendly and warm environment. So, let us give you advice and help you in your choice of tools, maintenance, or improvement of your garden, nothing could be simpler.

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