Apiculture Factsheet #106
There are various types of beekeeping equipment in use but it is
recommended for beekeepers to use only standardized and common
equipment for ease of operation and higher resale value. A
comprehensive guide called "Beehive Construction" is
available from the Apiculture office upon request.
Hive Bodies (Supers)
Supers are the wooden boxes that hold the frames of comb. For
Langstroth or standard equipment the outside length of the hive is
20" (50.7 cm) and the width 16 1/2" (41.8 cm).
There are three common depths in use:
- Standard - 9 1/2" deep
- Dadant* - 6 5/8" deep (16.8 cm)
- Shallow - 5
13/16" deep (14.7 cm)
*Dadant boxes are also known as "Illinois" boxes.
The lengths of the frames are the same for all depths of hive
bodies. The depth of the frame varies with the hive body used. The
end bar length equals the depth of the frame. Frame
- Standard - 9 1/8" (23.0 cm)
- Dadant - 6
1/4" (15.8 cm)
- Shallow - 5 3/8" (13.6 cm)
Since all frames are the same length, all foundation is also the
same length - 16 3/4". Depth varies according to size of frame:
- Standard - 8 1/2" (1.5 cm)
- Dadant - 5 5/8" (14.3 cm)
Shallow - 4 3/4" (12.0 cm)
- Plastic foundation inserted into a standard wooden frame, or one-piece plastic frame with foundation (~Pierco frame), have become standard for many beekeepers because of durability and cost. No assembly is required and it is excellent in disease control.
- For those using wax foundation, pre-wired wax foundation is standard. The wiring is vertical and is usually crimped wire.
- Unwired medium broad foundation is available. It is only used for brood frames since it is not strong enough for honey extraction.
Types of Frames
- Standard self spacing Hoffman frames - most popular - good
resale value but difficult to make the end bars.
- Non-spacing -
i.e. no shoulders on frame; easy to make. Frame spacers are used as
frame rests, or staples are sometimes used to provide spacing.
- Plastic Frames - labour saving and durable - foundation can be
wax-coated to improve acceptance. Excellent for honey supers.
- Plastic Foundation/Standard Wood Frame - the same as the plastic
frame except that a conventional wooden frame is used with a
plastic, wax-coated foundation.
The telescoping lid with metal covering is standard. Plywood is
most often used and is durable when well painted. Lids may also be
insulated by using wood shavings, styrofoam or fibreglass within the
Migratory lids are used by some beekeepers. The lid is flat with
lips only on front and back which allows hives to be placed close
together during transportation.
Standard reversible - It has a deep side and a shallow side, for
summer and winter use respectively. Designed for use with a hive
stand. Most new equipment is not reversible, but has two cleats
fastened to the hive floor either crossways or lengthwise to the
bottom board. This keeps the bottom board off the ground, and makes
for one less piece of equipment to construct, buy or maintain.
The standard inner cover has a rim around the outside on one side
only which makes it reversible; rim side up in summer, rim down in
winter. A section can be cut from the rim allowing for an upper
entrance and for added circulation.
Metal or plastic excluders are used to prevent the queen from
moving up into the honey supers. The space between the wires of the
grid is sufficient to allow workers to pass through, but not queens
A well-ventilated sun helmet is usually used, made from plastic
or woven material. Cloth or felt hats should not be used as they
cause defensive behaviour in bees.
The folding wire veil is used in combination with a bee hat. The
veil can be folded up when not in use, it is durable and provides
for good air circulation and visibility. The nylon net veil is also
popular as it can be rolled up and placed in a pocket. It is very
good for air movement, but can easily be damaged by sparks or
contact with a hot smoker. Some other designs are hat-veil
combinations that are zippered onto the coverall.
Coveralls are considered essential. White or pastel colours are
most suitable because of coolness. Dark colours cause defensive behaviour in bees.
A smoker is essential. Several types and sizes are available. The
smoke bomb (an aerosol container) is useful for quick checks and for
areas with high (forest) fire hazard.
A suitable hive tool is essential; several types are available,
all made of durable spring steel.
Used for short periods of time for the collection of pollen. The
Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) type is most commonly used.
Construction plans are available from the Apiculture Office.