The Anatomy of a Beehive, Types & Where to Place It

On the outside, a beehive looks like a simple box. However, there are so many different parts in it that make it one of the best self-contained units. These parts working together ensure bee stay alive and, in the process, we get our honey and our crops keep producing.

There are many types and arrangements for beehives. A beehive primarily consists of 4 parts: the covers, the supers, the frames, and the bottom boards. It can have a queen excluder as well. Typical arrangements use middle or shallow supers for the honey and deep supers for the brood chambers.

With the many different types of beehives, knowing what is necessary is important in ensuring your bees are healthy and protected against the elements, bee diseases, and predators in all seasons. 

The Anatomy of a Beehive
Image Credit: Galena Farms

Parts of a beehive

The main parts of a hive are as follows:

1. Hive stand  

The purpose of a hive stand is to raise the hive off the ground. This helps to insulate the hive and keeps the bottom board dry. Even though some beekeepers build their hive stands, retail establishments sell a range of designs. 
By keeping the bottoms dry, they prevent the buildup of diseases which might lead to the colony collapse disorder.

2. Bottom Board

A beehive’s bottom board creates the floor and acts as the bees’ primary entry and exit point. This entryway has two sizes: one wide for warmer months and another one smaller for colder weather. Additionally, the bees use this entrance to protect the hive from potential dangers.

3. Screened Bottom Board 

Over the past few decades, screened bottom boards have become more common. A screened bottom board increases airflow, which helps to keep the beehive cooler in the summer and better control moisture levels in the winter.

4. Hive (body)

The colony’s housing, called the hive body, is a series of wooden boxes that rest directly on the bottom board. They are usually the biggest parts of the hive, standing 9-12″ tall. There is adequate room in each hive body to accommodate 50,000–60,000 workers.

Some beekeepers combine two hive bodies to enhance space, allow growth, and prevent swarming.

5. Queen Excluder

The queen excluder is a flat hive area with a gauged metal grid. The grid’s precise dimensions allow worker bees to get through while preventing the bigger queen from leaving the hive body. 

As a result, the workers fill frames in the higher portions with honey, leaving the queen to raise the brood and lay eggs in the hive body.

6. Honey Supers

The term “honey super” refers to a structure which resides “superior,” or above, the hive body. Initially called honey superstructures, the name is simply shorted to “super” denoting the same structure. 

They are smaller than hive bodies to keep them lighter and more straightforward to handle when filled with honey. They are available in 6-5/8″ and 5-11/16″ depths. Beekeepers “pull” honey, or take complete frames out of honey supers, to get at the honey inside.

7. Inner Cover

An inner cover’s function is to increase honey bees’ insulation, let moisture out of the hive, and promote fresh air circulation. In addition, it serves as an upper entrance and exit while deterring bees from monopolizing the hive’s exterior coat. Depending on the season, they can be altered for hot and cold temperatures.

8. Telescoping Beehive Cover

A telescoping beehive cover is supposed to cover and extend over the sides of the hive to help protect your colony from harsh weather conditions.

Although different hive types tend to have additional components and applications, the breakdown above has all the features of a primary hive.

Types of beehives

Below are the four most common types of beehives:

1. Langstroth Hive

This refers to any vertically modular beehive with the essential components of vertically hung frames. A bottom board with a bee entrance, boxes with frames for brood and honey, and an inner cover and top cap for weather protection are referred to as a Langstroth hive.

2. Horizontal Hive

A horizontal hive is made up of just one long box. Bees construct their comb in the box containing bars or frames. Due to the structure’s resemblance to a bee’s natural nesting location, horizontal hives are frequently utilized in natural beekeeping.

The top bar hive, the horizontal/long Langstroth hive, and the Layens hive are the three different types of horizontal hives.

3. Warre Hive

This hive is a vertical top bar hive that uses bars rather than frames. Typically, the bars have a wooden wedge or guide from which the bees construct their comb, just as they would in the wild.

This hive is a top bar hive that stacks vertically and uses a natural comb to retain heat and fragrance from the nest. They are generally regarded as the least controlling hive design.

4. Top Bar Hive

The top bar hive is the world’s oldest and most popular type of hive. Over the hive’s top are individual bars lined up in a pattern. Without the aid of a foundation or a four-sided frame, the bees spontaneously construct their comb from these bars. 

The bars are typically a wooden strip or wedge with a guide to ensure that combs hang straight.

Where do you place a beehive?

A novice beekeeper should consider where and how the bees want to live if they wish their hives to be happy. The factors to consider include the following:

1. Food

To reach the closest food source, honey bees travel up to 6 miles in the air. But they must be in dire straits if they ever have to go that far. Moreover, the energy used is probably not worth it. 

The lesson in this instance is that having a food supply close to your bee colonies would be a smart idea. They can be more effective as a result of energy conservation.

Plant flowers such as mums which attract bees within a short distance from the hive. They will get their food from it.

2. Water

Bees, like all other living things, require water to survive. Therefore, bees need a quick and dependable source of water. You might be close to a lake, pond, creek, or stream, but that isn’t always the case. 

Depending on your land, you can install a birdbath or place a container with water for the bees outside to address the water source issue. Your water source does not have to be elevated. Wherever you put it, the bees will discover it.

3. Air (ventilation)

The wind can destroy even the most rigid colonies! This is especially true if the hive is filled to the brim with numerous bee boxes. You should thus consider creating wind barriers to protect your honey bees. 

Wind barriers will reroute the wind, so it passes over or around your hive, protecting it from heavy gusts.

4. Hive flooring

Since honeybees use gravity to grow their honeycomb straight down, having a level hive is essential. If the hive is not level, they can start to build combs in places and ways you don’t want them to.

Aim for dry terrain that won’t sink after a rainy day if you’re looking for a level hive. Beehives are undoubtedly capable of weighing over 100 pounds. However, if you place your hive in a swampy area, it can sink into the earth. This might easily tilt your hive.

5. Security

A bee shelter is required to help protect the beehive from the elements and anything that could harm it. A bee shelter is a fairly straightforward construction. But, first, the structure must be raised somehow, its most crucial component.

It is ultimately up to you as the beekeeper and property owner to choose the optimum location for your hives while considering what the bees want. This way, they can carry out food pollination while still making honey and other bee products.


Understanding the anatomy of a hive is important given that it enables you as the beekeeper know the best way to take care of the bees for the maximum benefits. With this knowledge, harvesting honey and other bee products is much easier and safer. If you haven’t already, learn more about the look of your specific type of beehive(s). 

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