The most important piece of equipment for any budding beekeeper is clearly the hive.
However, with so many currently available (brand new, second hand and build your own kits), it can be difficult to decide which is the best beehive for you.
Well, relax and enjoy the fact that we have done the research so that you don’t have to. In this article, we have pulled together 5 top-rated hives and taken an in-depth look at the pros and cons of each.
For our findings at a glance, just head to the table below. For full reviews of each beehive, plus a dedicated buyer’s guide, keep on reading.
Top 5 Best Beehives
Bee Hive Reviews
A top-rated beehive in our view should be able to house multiple honeycombs in their natural orientations, as well as provide optimum conditions for the growth and prosperity of honeycombs, in addition to the survival of individual bees.
Here are the top 5 best beehives for 2020
1. Top Pick: Mann Lake HK170, 10-Frame Painted Hive-Kit
The 10-Frame Complete Painted Hive-Kit is manufactured in the U.S by Mann Lake, a leading provider of quality beekeeping supplies.
It is made of high-quality pine wood and is shipped as a fully assembled unit ready for housing bees.
The complete hive kit is 22″ long and 18.5″ wide, with an assembled weight of about 31.6 pounds.
Despite this relatively compact size, the HK170 packs a spacious hive body, 10 assembled wood frames, and a fully assembled telescopic cover that contains a superb inner cover.
The outermost aluminum lid protects it from adverse weather conditions. It also features a fully assembled bottom board, which also incorporates a properly-positioned entrance reducer.
This entrance reducer is oriented to face slightly downwards because honey bees show a marked preference for entrances that downward-facing entrances. The bottom board is already fully treated.
Additionally, the hive kit comes with the most unique proprietary foundation patented by Mann-Lake, the waxed Rite-Cell foundation.
This key addition ensures that bees are able to properly build new straight combs that attach well to a wood frame.
If there was no foundation, the bees could still form new combs but these combs could grow while misaligned with their wooden frames, hence making it hard for the beekeeper to remove the wood frames from the hive kit.
Also, misaligned honeycombs can touch each other hence reducing the amount of bee space. The wood frames need to be detached from the hive body so that honey can be harvested.
Generally, honeycombs need to grow parallel to each other, with the recommended distance between two adjacent honeycombs being 1.5 inches.
Therefore the Rite-Cell foundations serve to ensure that honeycombs are formed in their proper parallel orientation which also ensures a uniformity of bee space.
Still following? Great. As you will know, bees are housed in the hive body. The assembled hive body of this hive kit consists of a deep body hive and a medium body hive.
Both hive bodies are supported by vertically hung frames. The maximum number of vertical frames that can be fitted is 10.
The deep hive body needs to be placed atop the assembled bottom board, and the medium body hive is then placed on top of the deep hive body.
The medium hive body is lighter than the deep hive body and can be easily detached. The queen bee is housed in the deep hive body where she lays eggs, and this part of the hive kit is called the brood box.
The medium hive body houses the honeycombs where the bees store their pollen, as well as the honey that is produced.
Pollen storage cells form the next set of rows directly beneath the honey-storage cells.
Beneath the pollen-storage cells are work-broods cells, and the lowest section of the honeycomb is occupied by drone-brooding cells.
There is a need to prevent the queen bee from moving up from her brood box and then lay eggs in the honey-storage cells of the honeycomb as this greatly reduces the quality and amount of honey harvested.
In the HK170, a Queen Excluder is placed between the deep body hive and the medium body hive.
The Queen Excluder contains a series of small gaps that allow worker bees to move between the two hive bodies but prevents the queen bee from moving into the medium hive body.
This hive kit also features a mite screen that keeps out disease-transmitting mites. It also incorporates a feeder that allows the beekeeper to feed the bees with a water-sugar solution when the bees are unable to source food on their own.
The Mann Lake 10-Frame Hive-Kit is a feature-rich beehive whose compact design allows for portability and easy retrieval of honeycombs for honey harvesting.
It incorporates a Queen Excluder which serves to ensure that the honey harvested is of high-quality, and that it is free of eggs, pupae, or larvae.
In our opinion, the unique features and overall capacity to sustain an optimized honeycomb ecosystem makes it one of the best beginner bee hives on the market today.
2. Deluxe Beehive Starter Kit
The Deluxe Beehive Starter Kit is a deluxe version of the popular beehive starter kits marketed by BuildaBeehive.com.
It is geared towards beginner beekeepers and features a simple assembly process.
The beehive kit is made from birch wood. The reason behind building beehives from wood is that bees in their natural environment tend to show an obvious preference for building their nests in hollow woods, as compared to other materials.
Unlike the Mann Lake HK170, the Deluxe Beehive Starter Kit is shipped in an unassembled state. The average shipping weight is about 48 pounds.
Sometimes, the medium hive body is shipped after it has already been fitted atop the deep hive body. In this state, the two bodies are separated by a Queen Excluder.
A bee smoker is also provided. The bee smoker plays an important role in allowing the beekeeper to inspect the honeycombs.
During this process, the cover of the medium hive body is removed, and bees usually notice this disturbance and they become agitated.
The agitated bees communicate with other bees through special chemicals called pheromones that are produced by their bodies and serve to alert other bees of danger within the hive environment.
This can lead to a few agitated bees recruiting a swarm of bees to attack and sting the beekeeper.
To prevent this nasty outcome, the bee smoker produces smoke which dilutes the concentration, as well as effects, of the pheromones. This helps keep the bees calm during a hive inspection.
Also shipped with the kit are two 10-Frame Langstroth supers. This means that an 8-frame or a 10 frame assembled hive body can be built.
The Deluxe Beehive Starter Kit is a portable, affordable, and quality beehive made of high-quality wood, and designed for both beginner and professional beekeepers.
It is shipped as an unassembled kit and requires basic beehive construction skills to create a functional beehive kit.
3. Ware Manufacturing Home-Harvest Bee-Hive
The Home Harvest Beehive comes fully assembled and is designed by Ware Manufacturing.
It features a solid cedar wood construction with a peaked roof design to allow rainwater to drain quickly. The rooftop is vented which also allows air to easily enter and circulate inside the beehive.
The hive weighs about 28.3 pounds and has a square base measuring 18 x 18″. Its total height is 28 inches.
The beehive supports natural honeycombing formation and comes with 2 windows that can be used to monitor the progress.
Unlike the Deluxe Beehive Starter Kit which uses a bee smoker to make the bees calm when the beehive is opened, the Home Harvest Beehive from Ware achieves this by using a specially designed hand brush.
This hand-brush has soft and gentle bristles made from natural materials. The beekeeper gently strokes the honeycomb and bees will calmly fall off into the assembled hive body.
A special area where the Home Harvest beehive is used is garden pollination. Bees play an important role in plant pollination, by picking up pollen from male reproductive parts of plants and then transferring it to the female reproductive parts of plants.
However, the bees need to be transported from one farm, (or section of a farm) to another where they can establish a new colony and then promote pollination of the nearby plants.
Colony transfer can also be used to reverse the negative prognosis of the phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
In CCD, worker bees abandon their beehive and thus leave behind immature bees and the queen bee, both of which need to be attended to.
Even though the worker bees leave behind enough food stores, the immature bees cannot feed by themselves and often die of starvation.
If this happens, a section of honeycomb from a healthy beehive is cut off and is then attached to the wooden frame of the medium hive body.
This colony is then left to mature and form a full honeycomb, which is then retrieved from the Home Harvest beehive and thereafter fixed into the beehive affected by CCD.
The Home Harvest Beehive built by Ware Manufacturing is a complete well-designed setup purposely created for natural beekeeping, as well as easy retrieval and relocation of honey-bee colonies for garden pollination.
4. Flow Hive Classic 6-Frame
The Flow Hive Classic is a revolutionary beehive kit manufactured by BeeInventive.
Its most prominent feature is an innovative honey collection system that allows the beekeeper to tap the honey without having to open the medium hive body.
The hive is made from high-quality western red cedarwood.
The honey collection system consists of the following; a plastic comb, outlet pipes, and a tap. The outlet pipes are fitted at the bottom of the plastic comb.
The plastic comb contains hexagonal cells that can be opened up in the middle so as to allow their contents to drain down.
Honey is formed by bees and stored in the upper section of the plastic comb. Once the tap is turned on, the cells in the plastic combs are opened up and honey allowed to drain into the outlet pipes.
This outlet reaches outside the beehive kit for the contents to flow out.
This allows beekeepers to simply turn on the tap and then wait for the honey to drain out of the outlet pipes into the collection vessels.
This process greatly reduces the time it takes to harvest honey. Also, it can be automated to allow for unattended honey harvesting.
The beehive kit is shipped as a fully assembled product. It measures 14″ by 9.7″ and its total height is approximately 20″.
It also contains a Queen Excluder which ensures that the queen bee is confined in its brood box.
Its base contains a screened bottom board. The Flow Hive Classic is supported by 8 standard foundation-less frames. There are 6 flow frames and a single flow key.
The plastic combs are waxed to allow bees to establish their natural honeycomb and honey-storage cells.
The natural honeycomb covers the plastic comb creating a double-walled comb construction. However, this construction suffers from one key detriment, lack of elasticity.
Ordinary beeswax can change its consistency depending on temperature, and small temperature changes elicit an adaptable response from the natural honeycomb. This ensures that conditions for optimum colony survival are always maintained.
However, the double plastic-beeswax comb construction cannot properly adapt to environmental changes and this can lead to the temperature inside the beehive either falling too low or becoming too high.
The Flow Hive Classic is an innovative and well-designed beehive kit that incorporates a superb honey collection system that allows for honey harvesting without opening up the kit.
5. Apimaye Insulated Beehive
This is a 10-Frame Langstroth beehive kit manufactured by Apimaye, a Turkey-based company.
It features plastic construction and is made using food-grade plastic that is resistant to ultra-violet rays.
The Apimaye insulated beehive is shipped as a fully-assembled kit which measures 24.5″ by 20″. Its overall height is 20″.
This beehive kit is a modification of the standard Langstroth hive, and still has features found in standard Langstroth hives including screened bottom board, pollen traps, and drawers.
In the Apimaye Insulated beehive, the screened bottom board allows pollen grains to tumbling down the beehive to fall further down where it is collected by pollen traps. When the drawer is pulled, the pollen traps can be emptied of their pollen load.
The screened bottom board also serves to prevent mites from entering the beehive. Some mites do spread a lethal disease called Varroosis, which only affects honey bees.
If unmanaged, Varroosis can cause the entire beehive to wither away as the bees perish.
To prevent moisture build-up inside the beehive, the screened bottom board features several ventilation slots that allow water to drain out and warm air to evaporate the moisture.
Another unique feature of this beehive kit is its use of special boards to divide honey-bee colonies.
This board is called the division board and it allows the beekeeper to split a colony into two separate colonies. This can be quite handy for a beekeeper who wants to relocate a colony.
The kit also features dual-layer insulation and plastic handy frames. The double-layer insulation ensures environmental temperatures do not cause erratic temperature changes inside the beehive.
Furthermore, it cannot absorb moisture and this eliminates one of the main problems that affect poorly-maintained wooden beehive kits, fungus growth.
The entire kit has 20 plastic handy frames and 10 vertical frames. The handy frames can easily snap and are meant to be used as props for a wax foundation.
Moreover, they serve to guide the growth of a new honeycomb and can also be used for swarm management.
The Apimaye Insulated Bee Hive is a fully-assembled, well-ventilated beehive kit based on modified Langstroth hive construction.
It is built as a moisture-resistant and fungus-resistant kit that allows for honey-bee colonies to be split.
Beginner Bee Hive Buyer’s Guide
What you should know before you buy
Beekeeping is one of those hobbies where a little planning before you begin will go a long way.
Many novice beekeepers opt for a small starter package hive thinking that this is the best way to ‘dip their toes’ into it.
While there is nothing wrong with this approach, it is worth considering the natural demands of the hive; they are constantly growing.
The ever-expanding hive
Once you have installed the bees within your hive they will get to work at doing what they do best; pollinating and collecting nectar to bring back to the hive.
The Queen bee will also take on her natural role, procreating in an effort to expand the health and size of the hive.
Within a few weeks, she will be laying several thousand eggs a day. Imagine the condition of your small starter hive by then. Overcrowded to the point of dysfunction, the bees will either begin to die off or look for space elsewhere.
Both outcomes will annoy the budding beekeeper. Your initial investment has been lost and you are forced to start again.
Getting it right from the start
That tale of woe does not need to be yours. As we said above, some simple planning is key.
Anticipate the growth of your hive and buy the correct sized equipment from the beginning. If you do wish to opt for a small, 5 or 6 frame hive, be prepared to expand upon that early on.
So with that fact of beekeeping fully explained, let’s take a look at some of the other issues you should consider before you begin.
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Things to consider when buying a beehive
We’ve established that the average bee colony grows in size very quickly. Therefore it is important to consider expansion when you buy your first hive.
You should also think about the following issues:
Medium-sized frames are a good option, to begin with as they are lighter to handle.
You should also keep the frames uniform right across the different functions, (comb honey, extracted honey, and brood).
Classed as medium supers the normal dimensions are 6 5/8″ deep with 6 ¼” frames.
Keeping everything the same size allows for better hive management. It also offers you more versatility.
For instance, it makes it very easy to bait up supers with brood, or other frames from the brood chamber.
You can also run an unlimited brood nest. It doesn’t matter if the queen lays eggs in the supers, you can easily remove those brood frames and swap them for some honey in the brood chamber.
This will help keep things simpler for you when you are starting out as a beekeeper.
Number of Frames
The number of frames is directly related to your overall hive size.
As we’ve mentioned above, the starter hives are often between 5 and 8 frames. You will need to expand upon this quite quickly.
Established beekeepers shouldn’t really settle for anything less than 10 frames within a single hive.
10 frames also make for a manageable weight.
Another advantage of 10 frame equipment is the versatility. Above all else, the hive will have space to accommodate the growth of the colony.
While 5 frames might seem like a good starting point for complete newbies, it is worth remembering the point we have made clear within this buyer’s guide, the hive will grow needing more space before long.
Where are you keeping the hives?
Another important consideration when buying a beehive is the environment it will be kept.
If you live in an area open to the elements (and prone to high winds) a wooden hive contained in a sheltered area would make sense.
A polystyrene and PVC hive in this situation may not be robust enough. Challenging weather conditions will both upset the bees and impact the longevity of a poorly built hive.
Your overall budget
When buying a brand new beehive it is important to balance your budget with the demands of your environment and the expandable nature of the colony.
This simply translates to buying the best construction quality (in so far as materials, this is normally the wooden hive), with enough frames to accommodate your beekeeping needs.
If you do opt for a smaller, lower quality beehive you should be prepared for the fact your bees will need more space very early on.
- Book: Beekeeping: Beekeeping Essential Guide: A Step-By-Step Guide to Beekeeping for Beginners and Advanced; by
- Book: The Bee Book For Beginners: 2nd Edition (Revised) : An Apiculture Starter or How To Be A Backyard Beekeeper And Harvest Honey From Your Own Bee Hives; by
- 11 Beekeeping Tips Every Beginner Should Know
- Beekeeping Tips and Tricks For Beginners And Beyond
- Podcast: HoneyBees Online