Whether you are buying a beehive online or building one yourself, there are many aspects to consider before jumping in. Beehives are made with specific materials that have many benefits for you and your bees. Considering the best type of wood for beehives will significantly affect the success and longevity of your bee colony.
Pine is usually the go-to option, but other options like Cedar and Cypress can also be used depending on your preferences.
Read on to discover what beehives are made out of and what wood you should choose for your next colony!
Before going to your local hardware store to buy supplies, there are many considerations to think about first.
First, how much are you willing to spend on your hive? Whether your beekeeping endeavor is just a hobby or a full-time job, you must consider what you want to spend on materials. While exotic beehives go upwards of $1500, creating a budget is vital.
What region of the world you live in will change what materials are cheap and readily available. Additionally, if you are in an area with lots of wood, you may even have the opportunity of cutting and milling the wood yourself.
What Type of Beehive?
Various beehives have very different functions, so it’s crucial to know what type you want to build.
The most popular type is the Langstroth hive. However, the Warre hive and the Top Bar Hive have recently gained popularity due to their natural design and simplicity.
What Are Beehives Made Out Of?
All beehive components are made from wood and metal screens, although some can be made from recycled materials, clays, and plastics. Since the Langstroth hives are the most popular, this article will describe the parts for building a Langstroth hive.
Hive stands are essential for keeping the hive off the ground. They can be made out of wood, stainless steel, or recycled materials.
The bottom board is necessary for proper moisture control. The bottom board includes two parts: a larger board for the summer months as the hive expands and a smaller board for winter as the hive’s size shrinks. You can also replace the bottom board with a screen to help treat varroa mites and add extra ventilation.
The hive body is where the bees live. The hive body is where the queen lays her eggs and where the worker bees store honey and pollen for brood. It usually consists of 8-10 frames.
For larger colonies, beekeepers often connect two or more hive bodies.
Since you won’t want your queen to leave the hive, you must build a queen excluder into the hive. The queen excluder is made from precisely cut metal that allows worker bees to come in and out of the hive body but forces the queen to stay put.
Honey supers are the part of the frame where harvestable honey lives. Some beekeepers opt for multiple stacked supers since each super only has 8-10 frames. This is an excellent option for large hives for two reasons:
- You will get 2-3x more harvestable honey.
- Your bees are much less likely to swarm.
There are several unique designs for inner covers that all serve various functions. For example, one type of inner cover is designed to allow for easy, supplemental feeding. Others are intended for preventing swarming, better ventilation, and easy removal. While optional, the inner cover’s purpose is to provide more insulation for the hive and make it easier for inspections.
The primary function of this cover is to protect the hive from inclement weather. Modern hives have added a galvanized top layer to provide additional protection and help the material last longer.
What is the Best Type of Wood for Beehives?
There are several factors when choosing wood for your beehive. The primary considerations, also listed above, are usually regional availability, cost, and longevity.
Pine: Most Common, Cheapest, & Most readily available
Pine is likely the most common because of its low price and availability across the US. It’s also effortless to work with. There are two grades of pine usually available:
- Knotty/Standard: This is the least expensive type of pine. While it’s perfectly sound for a beehive, it will contain knots and cosmetic imperfections. If you ever plan to move your beehive, you will need to spend extra attention to make sure these knots are covered up.
- Clear/Select/Premium: Although this type of pine is more expensive than standard pine, it is clear of any defects. In addition, the wood is usually tighter and straighter, making construction and hive inspections easier.
One downside of using pine is that it isn’t the most durable against the elements. While you can use varnishes and paints to protect the wood, some other woods already have built-in protection.
Cypress: Cheaper, Contains Natural Preservative
Since cypress contains natural oil that acts as a preservative, it doesn’t need extra varnishes or paints to protect it from the elements. In addition, the oil repels insects and molds – which, in today’s climate, is especially useful for protecting your bees against common pests like varroa mites, foulbrood, and other parasites.
However, cypress can be hard to find and more expensive in some regions of the country as it’s a much less prolific tree than pine.
Cedar: Pleasant Smell, Natural Preservatives, More Expensive
Most everyone can recognize the pleasant smell of cedar. The scent comes from its natural oils, making the wood less prone to warping and pests. It’s also less likely to rot because of this trait.
It is usually more expensive than pine, except for some areas of the United States. Because it’s not as common as pine, it can also be hard to find in some regions.
Synthetic wood: Weather Proof, Will Never Rot
Because synthetic wood is made from a blend of recycled plastic and wood fibers, it’s entirely weatherproof and won’t rot. These make for excellent properties for a long-lasting beehive.
However, likely because of these properties, synthetic wood is costly. In addition, it isn’t as readily available as other products and is heavy.
Woods to Avoid
Although there are plenty of other types of wood to choose from, there are some woods that you should avoid in your search altogether.
- Pressure-treated wood: Although it has become safer in recent years with stricter regulations, pressure-treated wood contains chemicals. Bees are highly susceptible to chemical exposure, so you may end up harming your colony. In addition, your honey will inevitably be exposed to the chemicals as well.
- Specific, Exotic Woods: Some woods can be toxic or allergenic to the woodworker because of their dust. More specifically, black walnut and mahogany should be avoided.
Painting the Hive
Even though some woods aren’t susceptible to deterioration, painting your hive is still an essential consideration as it provides other benefits to the colony.
If you have more than one beehive in a small area, some worker bees may get confused and start “drifting” to different hives. Drifting is an easy way for disease to transfer from one hive to another, so it should be avoided. Painting is a great way to prevent this, as painting each hive a different color helps the bees to recognize their home over others.
Camouflage the hive
Even though larger pests like bears and raccoons will smell the hive before they see it, camouflage can help deter them from bothering with it.
Helps You Organize
If you have more than one hive, it can be tricky to distinguish which one you have inspected or harvested from. Painting the hives different colors is an easy way to organize and determine which hives need attention.
What Color Should You Paint a Hive?
While the color of your hive may seem arbitrary, there are specific colors that will benefit your bees over others.
For example, painting hives white is popular because it has a natural calming effect on bees and naturally reflects heat.
On the other hand, dark colors create a defensive reaction in bees and deter them from colonizing a hive.
Painting your hive light colors near the ultraviolet region is best as they reflect more sunlight and are very attractive to bees.