If you’re interested in becoming a beekeeper, you’re not alone. According to a 2021 report from the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, the United States is home to over 100,000 beekeepers. Beekeeping is a wonderful hobby because it provides essential pollinators with a place to thrive. It’s also an excellent way to learn firsthand about the intriguing colonies these tiny buzzing creatures develop.

Luckily, the hobby is as affordable as it is fascinating. You can build your own beehives that will last outdoors, providing wild bees with places to live and produce delicious honey. This article will show you how to build a Langstroth hive — the most popular DIY option for beekeepers. We’ll discuss:

  • Parts of a Langstroth Hive
  • How to build a DIY beehive
  • Tools and materials required
  • Costs involved in the project
  • An alternative hive design

Read also: Flower Specie that attracts Pollinators

Parts of a Langstroth Hive

Lorenzo Langstroth launched modern beekeeping with his unique hive design in the mid-1800s. His hives contain a series of wooden slats that encourage bees to build flat honeycombs, which beekeepers can easily pull from the hive to inspect or harvest.

The slats provide bees with spaces to live, raise young, and store honey. 

The table below shows the parts of a Langstroth hive from top to bottom.

Hive PartDescription and Function
Outer Cover The structure — usually a set of legs — keeps the hive off the ground.

Reduces the risk of wood rot or termite damage.
Inner CoverInsulates the hive and keeps condensation from dripping on the bees.

Keeps the bees from sealing the outer cover onto the hive with propolis.
Honey SuperA section high in the hive where the bees store excess honey.
Queen ExcluderA screened portion of the bottom board provides ventilation and keeps parasitic varroa mites out of the hive.
Brood Chamber and Hive Body The section where the worker bees live and the queen bee lays eggs.

Bee larvae — also known as “brood” — live and grow here.
Varroa ScreenThe top cover or “telescoping cover” keeps your bees safe from the elements.

If your hive is in an open, windy space, place a brick or rock on top of the outer cover to prevent it from blowing off.
Bottom BoardThe floor of the beehive.

Some bottom boards include a tray of mineral oil that keeps unwanted insects from entering the hive and harming the bees.
Hive StandThe structure — usually a set of legs — that keeps the hive off the ground.

Reduces the risk of wood rot or termite damage.

Before diving into the logistics of building a Langstroth beehive, I want to caution beginners that beehive construction is an advanced DIY project.

If you’re new to the art of beekeeping, you may want to buy a beehive kit. These kits are the best option for beginners because they only require assembly — no need for woodworking skills, electric saws, or tedious measuring. So, instead of spending hundreds on tools and materials, you’ll get exactly the items you need. You’ll also avoid building a wobbly hive that bees won’t use. 

Building your own beehive from scratch is a wonderful idea and definitely a project you should pursue. However, many beekeepers like to purchase their first hive to gain a hands-on understanding of each part before constructing one from scratch.

That said, we’ve got you covered if you’re absolutely buzzing to build an urban beehive. The following sections will go over the tools, materials, and costs involved in this project.

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Tools and Materials Needed

Tools

Materials

  • Untreated lumber
    • 1-by-3-inch boards
    • 1-by-10-inch boards
    • 1-by-2-inch boards
    • ¼-inch plywood
  • Wood glue
  • Screws
  • Beeswax for a wax foundation 
  • Frames 

Types of Wood Used to Build a Langstroth Beehive

To build the best Langstroth beehive for your own apiary, you should use high-quality pallet wood. Bees tend to show a preference for wooden behives, likely because it reminds them of their home in the wild. Your location can influence the wood available for you to use, and the durability and cost of the wood can influence your decision. I’ll go over the best types of wood to build a Langstroth beehive.

Cypress

Cypress wood is a great choice of wood for building your Langstroth beehive. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but the wood stays preserved due to its natural oils. Cypress wood also naturally keeps away mold and other insects.

Pine

Pine wood is a very common option for Langstroth beehives. It is affordable, easy to work with, and aesthetically pleasing.

You can choose from either clear or knotty pine wood, but you should know that the clear pine wood will cost a little bit more than the knotty pine. Pine is durable, but it needs exterior protection when building the hive. You can use a few coats of outdoor paint to protect it, or you can use marine varnish or exterior polyurethane.

Cedar

Cedar wood is another good choice for building your beehive. It doesn’t easily rot or warp, and it smells good. Luckily, other insects do not typically infest beehives made of cedar wood and it is a beautiful type of beehive wood.

One of the only factors that makes cedar wood a less popular choice for building a Langstroth beehive is that it costs more than other woods. You can either leave the cedar wood untreated, or it can be painted.

Spruce and Fir

While spruce and fir wood are not good to use on the exterior of your beehive, they are great to use when building your frame. This type of wood is considered stud timbers, which are best used for frameworks.

Costs Involved

The table below shows average prices for the tools and materials required for your DIY beehive. These costs will vary depending on what you must buy, how much of each product you use, and the tools you already have.

Tool or MaterialAverage Cost
Cordless drill$80 to buy
$25 for 24-hour rental
Table saw$400 to buy
$50 for 24-hour rental
Hand saw$20
Dado stack blade$60
Tin snips$15
Plywood$25
1-by-3-inch board$3 per 8-foot board
1-by-10-inch board$23 per 8-foot board
1-by-2-inch board$2 per 8-foot board
Wood glue$7 for 18-ounce bottle
Screws$10 for a 100-pack
Beeswax frames and foundation$40 for a 10-pack
Queen excluder frame$10
Aluminum sheet$30 for a 24-by-36-inch sheet 

How To Build a Beehive

Now, we’ll jump into our step-by-step guide to building a beehive.

Step One: Hive Stand

The hive stand doesn’t connect to the rest of the hive. Its sole purpose is to keep the beehive up off the ground and away from potential threats like rot, termites, and moisture. 

Build a simple stand by setting the hive on cinder blocks. Stands should be over a foot tall to keep the structure safe while making hive maintenance more manageable.

Remember that you can add beehive boxes as needed. More hive space will encourage your bee colony to grow and increase its honey production.

Step Two: Assemble the Bottom Board and Inner Cover

The bottom board will serve as the hive’s base and the entry point for bees.

Start by building the walls of the bottom board. 

Use the dado stack to create a groove in the center of two 1-by-3-inch boards. You’ll slide the bottom board into the groove to form the base of the hive.

After cutting grooves into the sides, attach them to the backboard by drilling screws into the connecting parts.

Once you have an outer frame for the bottom board, you’ll apply wood glue to the grooves. Slide the bottom board in, drilling screws into the sides for added support.

The inner cover is on the opposite end of the beehive, but it’s the same structure as the bottom board. The notch on a hive’s inner cover sits under the outer cover. Repeat the building process of the bottom board to create your hive’s inner cover. Drill a hole in the middle of the cover’s surface to provide ventilation.

Step Three: Construct the Hive Body and Honey Super

The hive body and brood box honey super are both boxlike structures that hold frames for the bees to live in and store honey. 

Construct the walls of the hive body by cutting your 1-by-10-inch boards to length for the sides of the hive. 

You’ll want to cut an open-ended groove known as a “rabbet” at the top of the boards. The wood rabbets will form a lip that holds the queen excluder.

Connect the four walls with wood glue and screws.

Step Four: Outer Cover

The outer cover is a box lid that sits atop your hive, protecting it from the weather.

Construct the cover using the same materials you used for the bottom board. However, you won’t cut dado grooves into the sides of the outer cover. You’ll glue and drill the 1-by-10-inch boards directly onto the walls to form a roof. 

Weatherproof the wooden lid by covering it with an aluminum flashing sheet. Use the tin snips to cut the aluminum sheet to size. Then, attach the tin to the outer cover with construction glue, using a hammer to press it flat.

Step Five: Add an Entrance Reducer

Next, you’ll add an entrance reducer to the base of the hive body. 

The entrance reducer is an opening that allows honeybees to enter the hive, but not other pests like mice. 

Make an entrance reducer by cutting a small piece out of any leftover aluminum. Then, attach it to the hive body with nails or screws.

Step Six: Install Frames

Most hives have 8–10 frames in the hive body and honey super, depending on the size of each section.

Leaving the correct amount of space between each frame is essential for your 10-frame Langstroth beehive. 

Bees will produce extra honeycomb to fill the gaps if you leave too much space. But if you place the frames too close together, the bees will fill the nooks with propolis, a sticky sealant.

Lorenzo Langstroth developed a rule of thumb for spacing beehive frames. Leave ⅜ of an inch of “bee space” between each frame to keep the critters from filling it with comb or propolis.

Use this rule when installing your frames to avoid a sticky situation down the road.

Step Seven: Add Some Buzz to Your Hive

Add the finishing touch to your hive by adding the essential element: the bees.

There are two methods for stocking your hives. You can either capture a wild swarm of bees or purchase a colony from another beekeeper. 

Buying bees is the easiest way to start your first hive. 

Reach out to a local beekeeping association or look online for suppliers. With either option, you’ll be able to select a package of bees or a nucleus hive.

Bee packages typically contain a queen bee, a few worker bees, and a supply of food to get the colony started. An edible barrier will separate the queen bee from the rest of the colony until they get accustomed to one another. Acclimation occurs as the worker bees eat their way through the barrier, gaining familiarity with their new queen. 

Buy a nucleus hive to bypass the acclimation process.

A nucleus hive is a preestablished colony with honeycomb frames, worker bees, brood, and a queen. These hives are excellent for new beekeepers looking to jump-start their hives.

Catching wild bees is another way to stock your hive.

This tutorial video from Bee Built explains how to catch and install a swarm:

Are There Alternatives to the Langstroth Hive?

Langstroth hives are just one of the many designs available. Top-bar hives have a simple structure that may be appealing to beginner beekeepers. 

Instead of the multiple levels of the Langstroth hive, top-bar hives consist of a single horizontal box that sits on a hive stand. This hive design gets its name from the bars that bridge across the top of the container. 

The bars hold starter strips that encourage bees to produce honeycomb. As the bees build out the comb, it forms into downward hanging sheets that can be harvested and inspected.

The bars don’t contain a hive foundation like the frames in a Langstroth hive — you can remove the entire piece of comb to harvest the honey. These hives are another solid choice for easy honey harvesting. 

How to Build a Beehive: FAQs

Is it cheaper to build your own beehive?

It is cheaper to build beehives yourself if you have the right tools, as buying a premade beehive can cost almost double the amount it costs you to build one yourself. Note that if you don’t have the necessary tools, it might be cheaper to buy a beehive.

What is the easiest beehive to build?

The easiest beehive to build is the Langstroth beehive, which is the most common beehive in North America and Australia. However, Top Bar Beehives and Warre Hives can also be simple to build.

What is the best material to build a beehive?

Cypress, pine, and cedar are some of the best materials you can use to build your own beehive. All of these woods are durable, attractive, and do not easily warp or rot.

How do you build a beehive for honey?

To build your beehive for honey, there are specific steps to follow. Here is an outline of the steps to take to build your beehive for honey:

  • Build your hive stand
  • Assemble bottom board and inner cover
  • Construct the hive body and honey super
  • Construct the outer cover
  • Add an entrance reducer
  • Install frames
  • Add your bees

Final Thoughts

With these tools, tips, and step-by-step instructions, you’re ready to build your beehive.

Remember that you can buy a beehive kit if building your own is too daunting. You’ll get the satisfaction of assembly and setup without the stress of measuring and cutting wooden parts. 

You can also research several different hive designs to find one that fits your needs. I discussed the Langstroth and top-bar hive designs, but countless others are on the market.

No matter what design or project you choose, I know your hive will be worth all the buzz.

Interested in learning how to effectively cultivate bee balm, including bee balm’s history, types, and more? Our guide has you covered.

Article Update Log
9/22/2023
Reviewed for accuracy, cost data, industry best practices, and expert advice by Coty Perry.
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Elisabeth Beauchamp

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Elisabeth Beauchamp is a content producer for Today’s Homeowner’s Lawn and Windows categories. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in Journalism and Linguistics. When Elisabeth isn’t writing about flowers, foliage, and fertilizer, she’s researching landscaping trends and current events in the agricultural space. Elisabeth aims to educate and equip readers with the tools they need to create a home they love.

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Coty Perry

Expert Writer & Reviewer

Coty Perry is a lawn and garden writer for Today’s Homeowner. He focuses on providing homeowners with actionable tips that relate to the “Average Joe” who is looking to achieve a healthier and greener lawn. When he isn’t writing he can almost always be found coaching youth football or on some trail in Pennsylvania in search of the next greatest fishing hole.

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