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The National Hive is designed to house eleven British Standard Frames. This is where the bees build their comb, which is used for everything from raising their young, to the storage of honey and pollen. The most important aspect of the hives dimensions, is the space left for the bees. This bee space, which should be between 1/4 and 3/8 of an inch, is vitally important to both the bees and the beekeeper. If a smaller space is left, the bees will stick the comb together, making inspection difficult. Wider, and they will try to build another piece of comb in it. This space must be maintained at each end of the frame, above and below and on each side. There are various types of spacers available for keeping the distance correct between the frames, and the construction of the hive deals with above and below and at each end.


Floor

Most modern hives do not have legs, so the floor has to be raised off the ground at a convenient height for the beekeeper to carry out inspections, without excessive bending. This is usually around twelve to eighteen inches, but depends on the stature of the beekeeper. The floor is a flat construction with raised sides and back to form the bee space beneath the combs above. The front is open and will accommodate the entrance block, which can be used to limit the entrance. The animation shows a solid wooden floor, howevcer Open Mesh Floors are being used to combat the Varroa mite, as natural mite drop can result in ridding the hive of substantial numbers of the pests, as they fall through the mesh. The open mesh floor is constructed to the same dimensions as the solid floor, but the solid base is replaced with mesh. A removable tray is accommodated beneath the mesh, and this is used to monitor natural mite drop. Figures produced by such monitoring can be used to calculate levels of infestation.


Brood Chamber

The brood chamber is the main body of the hive, and sits on top of the floor. It houses eleven deep frames, and is the area where all the breeding takes place, and the storage of food, for use when feeding the young brood. The beekeeper places frames containing a thin sheet of beeswax foundation in the brood chamber. This foundation is imprinted with the shapes of the base of cells, onto which the bees will build the walls of the cells, using wax which they produce from their glands, in perfect hexagonal structures. These frames can be replaced periodically by the beekeeper.


Queen Excluder

The queen excluder is a medium used to restrict the queen to the brood chamber. The area above the brood chamber is where the surplus honey is stored, and it is this honey which the beekeeper will harvest. It is therefore important, that no eggs should be laid, and no larvae produced in this area. Since the queen is the only individual within the hive that lays eggs, and she is larger than the workers, the problem is not difficult to overcome. There are two basic types of queen excluder. One is a thin, flat metal sheet, perforated with holes large enough for the worker bees to pass through, but not large enough for the queen. The second type is a framed structure with parallel wires separated suitably to obtain the same objective.


Honey Super

This is where the bees will store their surplus honey, which is not immediately required in the brood chamber. Since it sits on top of the brood chamber, the dimensions are the same, except that the depth is shallower. This is principally to make life easier for the beekeeper, because it reduces the weight to be carried, when honey supers are removed. Even so, a full super of honey will still weigh 30-40 pounds. Special shallower frames are required of course, but apart from that the setup is very similar to the brood chamber.


Crown Board

The crown board is a flat piece of board, usually plywood, which is used to form a ceiling to the hive. It has a 1/4 inch strip of wood around the perimeter to form a bee space above the frames in the upper honey super.


Roof

The roof is primarily a waterproof cover for the hive. The top surface is flat, with a waterproof metal cover, and the sides are usually 4 inches in depth and extend down over the sides of the hive. Deeper roofs are available for areas where it is felt that high winds might lift shallower ones.

Inside the roof there is a strip of wood surrounding the top which sits on the crown board when the roof is in place. This provides a 1 inch space above the crown board for the circulation of air above the colony. It also provides an area into which the bees can expand if necessary. For instance, on a very hot day, when temperature control within the hive becomes difficult, some of the bees can move up into this space, leaving more room below for air circulation. On two sides of the roof there are ventilation slots which allow damp air from the colony to escape and assists the bees with their temperature control.


Queen Excluder

The queen excluder is a medium used to restrict the queen to the brood chamber. The area above the brood chamber is where the surplus honey is stored, and it is this honey which the beekeeper will harvest. It is therefore important, that no eggs should be laid, and no larvae produced in this area. Since the queen is the only individual within the hive that lays eggs, and she is larger than the workers, the problem is not difficult to overcome. There are two basic types of queen excluder. One is a thin, flat metal sheet, perforated with holes large enough for the worker bees to pass through, but not large enough for the queen. The second type is a framed structure with parallel wires separated suitably to obtain the same objective.


Honey Super

This is where the bees will store their surplus honey, which is not immediately required in the brood chamber. Since it sits on top of the brood chamber, the dimensions are the same, except that the depth is shallower. This is principally to make life easier for the beekeeper, because it reduces the weight to be carried, when honey supers are removed. Even so, a full super of honey will still weigh 30-40 pounds. Special shallower frames are required of course, but apart from that the setup is very similar to the brood chamber.


Crown Board

The crown board is a flat piece of board, usually plywood, which is used to form a ceiling to the hive. It has a 1/4 inch strip of wood around the perimeter to form a bee space above the frames in the upper honey super.


Roof

The roof is primarily a waterproof cover for the hive. The top surface is flat, with a waterproof metal cover, and the sides are usually 4 inches in depth and extend down over the sides of the hive. Deeper roofs are available for areas where it is felt that high winds might lift shallower ones.

Inside the roof there is a strip of wood surrounding the top which sits on the crown board when the roof is in place. This provides a 1 inch space above the crown board for the circulation of air above the colony. It also provides an area into which the bees can expand if necessary. For instance, on a very hot day, when temperature control within the hive becomes difficult, some of the bees can move up into this space, leaving more room below for air circulation. On two sides of the roof there are ventilation slots which allow damp air from the colony to escape and assists the bees with their temperature control.

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Tour a Hive


There are several hive designs available, but they all have the same basic components, although they may differ in dimensions. They are;- a floor, a brood chamber, a queen excluder, honey supers, a crown board and a roof. By far the most popular type of hive found in Britain is the Modified National Hive. It is simple in construction and requires little maintenance. The most popular timber used in the manufacture of bee hives is western red cedar. It is light in weight and extremely resistant to the weather, even when untreated.


Please play the animation below to show the construction of the National Hive. This animation is courtesy of Tony Maggs, proprieter of The Honey Pot in Markeaton Park Craft Village, Derby who has kindly given permission to use this demonstration of the hive structure.


The Modified National Hive.

Click on the hive to see the component parts, then on each part for an explanation of its purpose.