Choosing the Best Bee Hive + Beginner Beekeeping Guide

It doesn’t matter if you just have a backyard or if you’re working on a 100-acre farm – starting a bee hive is an excellent addition to any homestead. The bees will provide you with delicious honey, bee’s wax, and other goodies we’ll discuss later. Keeping a bee hive also pollinates plants which is essential for the survival of our ecosystem (source).

We start by introducing you to a variety of bee hives currently available. We give you our top picks followed by more detailed reviews. After  you decide which bee hive is best for you keep reading for our beginner’s guide to beekeeping.

bee-with-flower

Table of Contents

We’ve packed a ton of information into this article. We hope you’ll take the time to read the entire thing, but if you’re looking for something specific you can use the table of contents below to skip around the page.

Our Picks for Best Bee Hives

We’re not going to waste any time letting you know which hives we think are the best. Below you’ll see our top 3 picks. More detailed reviews are in the next section.

Ware
Best Value
Classic Langstroth Design
Priced Competitively
2-Stage
Mann Lake
Lowest Price
Pre-Assembled
Expandable
Single-Stage

Bee Hive Reviews

We took a look at 4 popular honey bee hives plus an extra hive for Mason bees. Each bee hive is different so it’s important to make sure you buy the one that works best for your situation. We’ve listed the honey bee hives in order from our most favorite to our least favorite.

Apimaye Insulated Bee Hive Review

The Apimaye is a really exciting product. It’s built from the ground up to withstand harsher climates than traditional bee hives.

This hive is made of plastic and includes an insulated core that keeps your bees warmer when it’s cold, and cooler when it’s hot.

This hive comes with all the traditional features while also adding in some advancements of their own – such as active ventilation and easy access pollen trap.

All of this combined is why the Apimaye Insulated Bee Hive is our #1 pick.

Pros:

  • Insulated – The insulated design allows bees to survive in harsher climates. It also allows the bees to consume less honey over the winter. Less honey for them means more honey for you.
  • Durable Plastic – Over time, wooden bee hives tend to warp and fall apart at the seams. They require maintenance and eventually need to be replaced. The Apimaye is made of a strong and durable plastic that doesn’t break down from the weather like a wooden hive does.
  • New Take on Classic Design – At it’s core the Apimaye is a traditional Langstroth hive, but manages to innovate at the same time.
  • Active Ventilation System – This feature helps to resist fungal growth which can harm your hive.
  • Interchangeable – This system will work with standard Langstroth frames – wood or plastic.
  • Pollen Trap – Easily collect excess pollen by opening a small door at the bottom and sliding out the collection tray.

Cons:

  • Price – The Apimaye isn’t nearly as expensive as the Flow Hive, but it still costs more than a traditional wooden bee hive.

Recommended For:

This is a terrific bee hive for beekeepers at any stage (beginner – expert). It’s going to cost a little bit more so if money is a top priority then try a wooden alternative. This bee hive is highly recommended for anyone who lives in an environment with a harsh climate – cold or hot.

Click to See Current Price of Apimaye Insulated Hive

 Ware Manufacturing Beehive Review

If you’re looking for a great 2-stage bee hive then the Honey Keeper is a great choice.

Built of solid cedar with a peaked roof to keep water off your hive.

Having two boxes allows you to keep the queen in the bottom box allowing the top box to make just honey.

This is the classic langstroth hive that has been used for over a century. The timelessness of this bee hive is why it’s our #2 pick.

Pros:

  • 2-Stage Design – Allows you to use the top box as a honey super. This kit includes a queen excluder for the inside of your hive.
  • Price – The Honey Keeper is a low-cost way for you to start up your hive. There’s a link below the ‘recommended for’ section that will show you the current price.
  • Classic Langstroth Design – This modular style bee hive has been a tried and true method of beekeeping for well over a century.

Cons:

  • Assembly – The Ware Manufacturing Hive comes as a kit and requires assembly, but most users have found the construction is not difficult.

Recommended For:

This hive works well for any skill level (beginner – expert). You will need to be prepared to assemble it yourself. You’ll need a few hand tools, but overall it’s a pretty simple kit.

Click to See Current Price of the Ware Manufacturing Hive

Mann Lake Traditional Complete Hive Kit Review

This single stage hive is a great way to get started. You’ll eventually want to expand into a 2-stage but it’s not necessary at first.

This is also a great hive for someone who is mainly interested in pollination instead of honey.

This bee hive also lacks some of the bells and whistles like a queen excluder.

Because you can get started cheaper and easier than ever we made this our #3 pick.

Pros:

  • Arrives Assembled – Most hives are going to require you to assemble a kit. It’s usually a simple kit, but it’s an extra step none the less. The Mann Lake hive comes fully assembled so it’s ready to use right out of the box.
  • Price – This is the cheapest bee hive we looked at, but it’s also the only single box hive.

Cons:

  • Needs Expansion – Eventually, you will probably want to add a second box on top. This box is called a honey super. They’re not necessary to get started, but once the hive has built out the bottom box it’s time to expand.

Recommended For:

The Mann Lake Bee Hive is great for beginners who really need a low price. If you have the money I would go ahead and invest in one of the 2-stage options above.

Click to See Current Price of Mann Lake Hive Kit

Flow Hive Classic Cedar Review

Beekeeping and bee hives have been unchanged for centuries. Flow Hive is a new company that’s out to change how we think about bee hives.

The Flow Hive allows you to collect honey by simply turning a key. You no longer have to worry about scraping frames.

With this patented technology beekeeping is now more accessible than ever. Now, virtually anyone can harvest honey.

Pros:

  • Turn-Key Honey Harvesting – Collecting your honey has never been easier. All you have to do is turn a key and your honey comes dripping out of a spout for you to collect. No mess – no hassle.
  • Easier on the Bees – Many people argue the Flow Hive’s harvesting method doesn’t disturb your bees as much as the traditional method of harvesting frames.
  • Clear Viewing Area – The Flow Hive has a really cool plastic viewing area. This allows you to know when it’s time to harvest honey and also allows you to keep on eye on your bees.
  • Beautiful Cedar Casing – The unit just has a great look to it. The outside is more of a traditional wooden box design while the inside houses all the new technology. The cedar looks great so you won’t be afraid to show this bee hive off.

Cons:

  • Plastic Honeycomb – Since the honeycomb is preshaped out of plastic it’s one less product that you’re able to harvest. Some beekeepers also argue that natural honeycomb is preferred by bees and it helps filter the honey.
  • Lack of Interaction – Some argue the automated aspect many praise is actually a drawback. The system creates an environment where you don’t interact with your bees.
  • Price – The Flow Hive is the most expensive beehive, but it’s also the most advanced.

Recommended For:

We recommend the Flow Hive for someone who doesn’t have much time but wants to keep bees for honey and pollination purposes. You’re going to spend a bit more on this hive, but you’re also going to save a lot of time when harvest season comes around.

Click to See Current Price of Flow Hive

Mason Bee House Review

This product is very different from the others. In fact, it’s made for an entirely different species of bee. Instead of honey bees, this product is designed for mason bees.

You’re not going to get any honey from these bees, but they will pollinate your garden and boost it’s productivity.

Pros:

  • Great for Pollination – Mason bees will visit up to 20x more flowers than honey bees.
  • Non-Stinging – Mason bees don’t sting. I think that pretty much speak for itself. No more explanation needed.
  • Price – This thing is crazy cheap, but of course it also much less involved than a honey bee hive.

Cons:

  • No Extra Products – You won’t get any honey or other products like bee’s wax.

Recommended For:

If you’re only interested in pollination then this may be perfect for you. It’s intended to be a no hassle solution. Once it’s hung and the bees have been introduced you don’t have to do anything to maintain it.

Click to See Current Price of Mason Bee House

Additional Equipment Recommended for Starting a Hive

There are plenty of tools and gadget you can buy, but we’re just going to focus on the basics. Over time, you will more than likely pick up additional equipment, but for now you really only need 4 things to get started. We’ve covered the bee hive themselves so that’s one item already down. The other 3 things are a smoker, a frame tool, and protective clothing. Each of these is discussed below.

Choosing a Bee Smoker

A smoker does exactly what one might think it would do. It’s a handheld piece of equipment used to generate clouds of smoke. The smoke calms the bees and makes them easier to work around.

The good news is smokers are very inexpensive. A quality smoker can be bought for less than $20.

We recommend the VIVO Bee Smoker. It has all the functionality you need at a terrific price.

It’s got a mounting hook on the front so it’s easy to hand up on the edge of a box when you need to free both your hands.

See Current Price of VIVO Bee Smoker

How to Use A Bee Smoker

A bee smoker is a really simple, but also a very effective method for controlling your hive. You burn fuel inside the chamber then squeeze the attached bellow to produce the cloud of smoke.

Once you’ve purchased the smoker itself you’ll need to decide what material you’ll want to burn. There are really endless amounts of things that could be used as fuel. Here are a few items that work well:

The truth is, you can use just about anything that will burn as a fuel, but some things are going to work better than others. Experiment. Just make sure whatever you’re using is non-toxic and dry. Ideal fuels produce lots of smoke at low temperatures.

How To Light Your Bee Smoker

bee-smoker

Each type of fuel material is going to light a little bit differently, but the overall process is the same. Here’s a step-by-step guide to lighting your bee smoker

  • Step 1 – Start with a piece of kindling. If you are using hay or pine needles then you can use the fuel as the kindling. If you’re using wood chips then you’ll want to use a piece of newspaper or something of the like. Light your kindling and drop it in the bottom of your smoker.
  • Step 2 – Drop a little bit of your fuel on the burning kindling .
  • Step 3 – Pump the bellows until you see a flame.
  • Step 4 – Add more fuel while pumping the bellows ever 2 or 3 seconds. Continue this step until your smoker is full and tightly packed.
  • Step 5 – Once everything is packed down, replace the lid and pump the bellows for about a minute to make sure you really get it smoldering.
  • Step 6 – That’s it! Your smoker is now ready to go and should last most of the day with normal use. You may have to add some extra fuel if you’re using the smoker heavily.

Do I Really Need a HiveTool?

This is a question we hear a lot. You will need something to open the hives and help lift your frames. People use all sorts of things such as screwdrivers or paint scrapers. If you’re absolutely strapped for cash then you can get by with these, but we wouldn’t recommend it.

A quality hive tool is such a cheap investment there’s really not a compelling reason to go without.

We recommend this steel hive tool from KINGLAKE. It’s a durable tool with a handy J-hook. The best part is it costs less than $10.

The features are designed to work with bee hives so you’re going to find a tool like this is much more efficient than a screwdriver.

Click to See Current Price of KINGLAKE Hive Tool

Best Protective Clothing for Beekeepers

protective-clothing-for-beekeepers

It’s true you’ll see veteran beekeepers who walk around in normal clothes without any protection, but this is not advised for a beginning beekeeping. Even those veteran beekeepers will tell you that a beginner should wear protective clothing. This is for several reasons.

The first reason is you need your hive to get used to being handled. When you first start working with a hive they will be more defensive and more likely to sting. It’s also possible that you’ll mishandle the bees by accident as a beginner.

Another reason is because you’re actually going to gain more of an immunity to bee stings the more often you get stung. If you decide to become a beekeeper then the occasional sting is just part of the game. Over time you’ll find that the stings hurt less and less.

When it comes to protective clothing for beekeepers there are a lot of choices. We looked at 3 different styles and ranked them from our favorite to our least favorite. Proper safety gear also includes gloves which are discussed in the next section.

#1 Mann Lake Beekeepers Suit Review

A full beekeepers suit should be a part of everyone’s list of equipment. They may cost a little bit more than the other options, but there’s no better solution for keeping yourself safe. 

The suit is made from an extra heavy blend of cotton and polyester. There is elastic around your wrists and ankles. There are also elastic straps for your thumbs which keep the sleeves securely in place.

Protecting yourself is important – especially when you’re first starting out. We firmly believe that while there are some aspects you can cheap out on, but protective clothing isn’t one of them.

Pros:
  • Full Body Protection – the importance of full body protection cannot be understated. This suit protects every part of your body except your hands and feet. We’ll discuss gloves a bit later in the article.
Cons:
  • Bulky – This suit is going to take a bit longer to put on than the jackets or veils so they’re not the most convenient for quick trips.
  • Price – Honestly, the price is only a little bit more than the alternatives listed below. In our opinion, spending a few extra bucks for a full suit is well worth the investment.
  • Heat – Due to the thick cloth, this coverall style suit may get very warm – especially in the summer months.
Recommended For: 

Everyone! We believe that every beekeepers should have a full protective suit. Even when you get to a point where you’re not always using it, a beekeepers suit is a must have item in your repertoire.

Click to See Current Price of Beekeeper Suit

#2 Mann Lake Beekeeper Jacket  Review

The jacket is a pretty good compromise between the suit and the veil.

If you’re mostly making short trips to attend a single hive then this is a solid choice. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time around bees then we recommend going with the suit.

The jackets also typically cost less than the full suits. Click the link below the ‘recommended for’ section for current price.

Pros:
  • Full Torso Coverage – Going with a jacket style of protective clothing provides great coverage without being too bulky.
  • Easier for Quick Trips  – Putting on a jacket is much quicker than suiting up. If you’re just making a quick trip then usually the jacket will suffice. If you’re going to be working with bees all day then suiting up is well worth the effort.
Cons:
  • Mesh Hood – Some users have complained about the hood sitting right up against their face. Adding a baseball cap will keep the mesh at a comfortable distance.
  • Hot – The heavy material that helps keep you from getting stung can also be really hot, especially during the summer.
  • Doesn’t Cover Legs – Since you don’t have the full body protection of the suit you are still left with vulnerable areas.
Recommended For: 

The jacket is a great choice for people who are going to be making quick trips to the hive. We highly recommend having a full suit, but also owning a jacket is terrific for certain times.

Click to See Current Price of Beekeeper Jacket

#3 Mann Lake Veil Review

The stand alone veil is designed to only protect your face. If you are just starting out as a beekeeper then we highly urge you to start with protective clothing that has more coverage.

If you are just starting out as a beekeeper then we highly urge you to start with protective clothing that has more coverage.

Once you’re a more experienced beekeeper and your hives have gotten used to you then you may want to scale down to a veil.

Pros:
  • Price – The veil is much less expensive than the suit or jacket for obvious reasons.
  • Easy to Put On – The stand alone veil is by far the most convenient piece of protective clothing for a beekeeper. The veil can be put on and taken off very quickly.
Cons:
  • Minimal Coverage – This is, of course, the problem with buying just the veil – everything except your head is left vulnerable to bee stings.
Recommended For: 

We only recommend the veil for experienced beekeepers who are already very familiar with their hives. If you are a beginner then we highly recommend more protection than a stand alone veil has to offer.

Click to See Current Price of Beekeeper Veil

Gloves for Beekeepers

The last piece of protective clothing you’ll want to consider are gloves. You can use any pair of gloves, but if you’re planning on making a long time hobby or supplementary income then you may want to invest in a pair of beekeeper’s gloves. You’ll also see that beekeeper’s gloves have additional benefits over other gloves.

You’ll also see that beekeeper’s gloves have additional benefits over other gloves. Plus, these gloves are really inexpensive (see link below for price).

These gloves are made out of a heavy canvas and goatskin leather which bees can’t sting through.

Another critical aspect of the beekeeper’s gloves is they extend all the way up to around your elbow. There is also an elastic band that keeps the gloves firmly against your arm. With a regular pair of gloves, it’s much easier for bees to get inside the wrist opening.

Click Here for Current Price of Beekeeper’s Gloves

What Products do Bees Produce?

products-from-bees-honey

Bees are truly amazing creatures. In addition to pollinating the surroundings, a bee hive will also supply you with lots of awesome products. Here’s a list of the products you could potentially get from your have.

  • Honey – Of course, this is the most commonly thought of product when it comes to a honey bee hive. Once extracted the honey requires no processing and won’t spoil for decades or longer.
  • Bee’s Wax – Your bees will produce a honeycomb that is made of wax. This wax can be harvested and used for candles, cosmetics, polishes, and more.
  • Propolis – This is often called bee glue. It’s a substance that bees produce in order to help seal off the hive. Propolis is widely used in the health industry.
  • Queens / Broods / Workers – If properly taken care of your hive is going to continuously produce more bees. You can use these bees to expand your hive or you can sell your bees to other beekeepers.
  • Bee Venom – A specialized aspect of beekeeping is to extract bee venom. The venom is used primarily for health and research.
  • Pollen – This is also referred to as bee bread. It’s used in a variety of cosmetic products.
  • Royal Jelly – This is a substance that bees secrete in order to feed larvae. It’s primarily used in health and nutrition products.

Picking the Perfect Spot for Your Bee Hive – 10 Guidelines

picking-the-perfect-spot-for-your-bee-hive

Before starting a bee hive it is important to know all the local laws and codes that surround beekeeping in your area. Once you have determined where it’s legal to keep bees you may want to consider the following 10 guidelines for placing your bee hive:

  1. Safety – Honey bees don’t sting nearly as much as other species, like yellow jackets, but if someone were to walk up on your hive then they could certainly get stung. If possible, put your hives within a fenced area. Also, make sure to tell your neighbors you are starting a hive before hand.
  2. Predators – There are plenty of animals who would love to get their hands on that delicious honey. This is especially a concern for those living in rural areas. The last thing you want is a bear getting into your hive. If wildlife is a concern then you’ll need to construct a sturdy fence around your hives. There are also predators like spiders who will eat your bees without concern for the honey. It is important to know what animals are already living around the area you want to place your hive.
  3. Accessibility – Of course, you’re going to need easy access in order to properly care for your bees. Make sure you have plenty of room all the way around the hive.
  4. Level – You will need a flat spot to place your bee hive(s). This may require some grading on your part (i.e. digging into the dirt to create a level area). It should be level front to back and side to side.
  5. Drainage – Make sure your hive isn’t in an area that collects water. This can kill your bees and rot your hive.
  6. Water – This is especially important if you live in a dry area. Bees need water just like pretty much every other living organism. If there isn’t a water source nearby for your bees then you’ll need to provide one for them.
  7. Sunlight – Bees need sunlight to thrive, but too much causes the hive to overheat. Avoid areas of constant sunlight. With that said, a healthy amount of sun is necessary – especially in the morning time. The morning sun wakes your bees up so they can start the day. Face the front of the hive towards the southeast.
  8. Wind – Avoid placing your hive in a particularly windy area, but it also shouldn’t be in an area where the air sits completely stale. A light breeze to circulate air is appreciated by your bees.
  9. Pollen – Of course, bees need a source of pollen to survive. This isn’t usually a problem since bees will go several miles for food, however, some farms using mostly GMO crops may need to plant some additional forage for the bees.
  10. Poop – Just like everything else, your bees have to poop. If you have a house or car between the bees and their food source then you’re likely to be washing off some bee poop. It’s part of the gig.

Getting Bees for Your New Hive

getting-bees-for-your-new-hive

Make sure you purchase your hive and have it all set up before you purchase your bees. It’s crucial you have their new home ready when you get there.

It’s easy to order your hive online, but getting the bees isn’t quite the same procedure. There are two main ways to acquire bees for a hive.

The first method is to capture a wild swarm. This should only be done by experienced beekeepers. If you are a beginner then do not attempt this method. Wild swarms can bring diseases or other problems.

The second and more practical method is to purchase bees for your starter hive. You should buy your bees from a local source. The bees need to be acclimated to your area’s climate. Being shipped through the mail can also put a lot of stress on your bees.

Once your hive is ready to go, do a google search for ‘buy bees near [insert your city]’. You should be able to find someone selling bees within a reasonable distance.

Most often, people buy what’s called a nuc. This is a set of 4-5 frames including bees with a queen. You take the frames out of the nuc and put them in your pre-purchased hive, and you’re on your way to getting started.

Types of Honey Bees & Their Jobs

types-of-bees-and-their-jobs

Queen

The entire hive revolves around the queen so every hive must have one. The queen is responsible for laying eggs that will become worker bees. All the worker bees protect the queen and provide her with all the nourishment she needs. The queen is always noticeably larger than the rest of the hive.

Worker

All the worker bees are female and make up the largest portion of the hive. Although the workers are female they cannot produce fertilized eggs. At times, they may produce infertile drone eggs (discussed shortly below).

Throughout their life, worker bees assume a variety of different jobs. Here’s a list of potential positions:

  • Cleaning Cells – Worker bees start off by cleaning the cell that she was just hatched from. This leaves the cell ready for new eggs or to store pollen and nectar.
  • Body Removal – Worker bees will remove any dead bee, as well as, remove any larvae that is diseased. This avoids spreading the disease to the rest of the hive.
  • Nursing Larvae – Worker bees will take care of larvae by feeding them honey and/or royal jelly.
  • Caring for the Queen – Worker bees will provide the queen with all the food and care that she needs.
  • Constructing Honey Comb – After a few weeks, a worker bee will be able to produce bee’s wax. This is used not only in the construction of honeycomb but also for capping the honeycomb once the honey has reached its optimum state.
  • Guarding – Bees will guard the hive against other insects and animals, as well as, any bees from another colony who are trying to infiltrate the hive.
  • Foraging – Worker bees will go collect the pollen and nectar.
  • Pollen Storage – Honey won’t spoil, but pollen will. So, pollen must be carefully stored by worker bees in order to prevent the pollen from going bad.
  • Fanning – Using their wings as fans, bees will cool down a hive that has overheated. This is why it’s important not to put your hive in constant sunlight. Bees will have to focus more on controlling the temperature of the hive leaving them less time to perform their other essential functions.
  • Providing Water – Worker bees will carry water back to the hive. They’ll drop this water on the backs of fellow worker bees to cool them off.

Drone

Drones are male bees which are a product of unfertilized eggs hatching. This typically happens when a queen is not present or not laying enough eggs. The drones do not have stingers and don’t really help with any of the work. A drone’s primary purpose is to mate with the queen.

How Much Can I Make Keeping Bees for Profit?

beekeeping for profit

This is a popular question and the answer is debatable. Of course, the amount of profit depends on the health of your hive. It also depends on the going rate of honey and other bee products in your area.

The most accepted amount is $500 a year per hive. This is for established colonies so you probably won’t produce this much in your first year, but be patient.

Conclusion

Beekeeping can be extremely rewarding. Not only are you getting lots of great products, but you’re also doing the environment a huge favor.

We tried to help you out with some of the basics, but there’s still a lot to know about beekeeping. Consider joining a local bee club where you’ll gain tons of in depth knowledge.

Thanks for reading. We hope our guide helps you on your journey to becomig a beekeeper.

If you enjoyed this article, then here’s another on of our articles that we think you’ll enjoy: Choosing the Best Worm Farm Bin + Vermicomposting Guide

best worm farm vermicompost

Choosing the Best Worm Farm Bin + Vermicomposting Guide

chicken in coop

Best Chicken Coop Kit Reviews

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *