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Anatomy of a Beehive!

Have you ever been curious about what a beehive looks like and how it functions to give us all those lovely products?

 In the world of beekeeping, we obviously don’t work with the kind of hive you see in cartoons like Winnie the Pooh but instead with a Langstroth hive.

Langstroth Hives in Action!

This type of hive allows for beekeepers to easily inspect the colony, collect honey and other products without disturbing the busy bees which makes for less stings (happy bees, happy beekeeper!). Let’s take a look!

Bottom Board: 

The bottom board is the foundation of the hive and serves as the hive entrance. In the winter and when the colony is small, an entrance reducer can be added so that the hive is less drafty and so there is less space the bees have to defend from unwanted guests. The hive may also sit on a stand such as a pallet, cinder blocks, or crates. 

Beehive with an Entrance Reducer

Brood Box:

This is where the queen lays eggs and new bees grow and develop. Each box holds ~10 frames. Frames are made up of wood and wire and wax or waxed plastic. This provides the foundation on which the bees build honeycomb. Once the comb is built, the queen can lay eggs in the cell or they can be used to store honey or pollen.

(Honey) Super:

Supers have a similar structure to the brood boxes although they have a different function – providing space for excess honey! A good way to think about this section is like the overflow area where the bees can go for more room when the colony expands. However, some beekeepers put a queen excluder between the super and brood boxes as to prevent the queen from laying eggs where beekeepers extract honey. This super can get HEAVY, so some beekeepers (unless they are bodybuilders on the side 😉 ) may use a shallow box (about half the height) to make lifting easier.

Flow Super:

At YYC Beeswax, we use another cool apparatus to limit our disturbance to the bees when we collect honey. Flow supers replace a traditional super using special frames that allow us to extract honey in the field. This means we don’t have to remove the frame, lift heavy boxes, scrape off wax cappings (a very sticky process!), and use a centrifuge to extract the honey (a special honey extracting machine). Instead, we leverage the warm temperatures in summer and gravity to remove honey directly from the hive without disrupting the colony. Less disruption to the colony also means fewer bee stings resulting in a happy beekeeper too! Take a look at the first drops of honey coming out of our hive from the first year we used the Flow supers here!

Roof Section:

In this part of the hive, there is an inner cover, which has a small hole in the middle. On top of this is the outer cover which fits over the entirety of the top box creating a bit of seal to help protect the bees from the elements. 

The Whole Thing:

An illustrated diagram of the hive!

Curious to see it all in action? Watch our Anatomy of a Beehive video: