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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 19th year of beekeeping in April 2024. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here.Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

How to Build a Hive Box

In 2006 when I got my first hives, I had no idea what to do. I hadn't ever seen anyone build a hive box. So for those of you who are starting this year and may be as intimidated as I was, here's a primer on how to build a hive box. Now, I'm a novice beekeeper so the experienced beekeepers are going to be much more expert than I am but I am posting this so that you won't be as alone in your efforts as I was the first year.

Note: Be sure to read the comments as more experienced beekeepers have already written some about what I have posted....and they are (probably not older) but certainly wiser than I am.

At this time of year, most new beekeepers are crossing their fingers and ordering their initial equipment. To have bees, if you are going to use Langstroth hives as most of us do, then most new beekeepers order hive boxes. These are wooden and come in pieces for you to put together. (Note: some boxes are Styrofoam and others can be ordered already assembled...for a price.)

Some of the catalog companies send nails with the hive boxes. I have a ton of left over nails, enough to fill a 9 inch cake pan. Since I am moving to all medium boxes, I am screwing my boxes together in order to be able to take them apart if something gets broken.

If it looks like I am doing this assembly in my living room, it's because I am. I like to put these things together in front of the TV. What's really boring is building frames - that I definitely do in front of the TV!

Step One in hive box construction:
Make sure the cut-in handle is facing the same direction on each box part. In this medium box from Brushy Mountain (I think - I've had it since last year) you can't put the box together wrong, but in some box sizes and from some companies, the notches are exactly the same either direction and it's possible to turn one side so that the handle is upside down. A comment (see below) also notes that it doesn't work if you have the handles on the inside of the box, so also make sure that you have the handles facing to the outside of the box!

Step Two: I use a rubber mallet to hammer the notches in place before I permanently attach them. These boxes fit quite tightly and need the mallet to fit together. The boxes I ordered from Dadant fit together with more ease.

At this point most people (see comments on this post) put glue in the joints. I haven't been doing that and will probably regret it, although since I screw my boxes together, I expect them to stay more securely than if I nailed them.

Step Three: Make sure you have the box notched together properly and the handles are all facing the same direction.

Step Four: Nail or screw the box together. My daddy taught me to lubricate the screw with soap. You can also use beeswax for this purpose. Whether you nail or screw, I go around and do one fastener (nail or screw) in each corner, rather than screwing all of them in at once on one side. I don't know if that is good construction or just what I do. It seems to make sense to put it together in a balanced way.

Then you are done and you paint the box. I used interior paint on all of my boxes and they've held up just fine, but ideally you will use exterior paint to help your box last longer. You only paint the outside of the box - not the inside and not the rail inside for hanging the frames - simply paint the outside four sides of the box.

I'll post another beginner help post in the next day or two...maybe how to build a frame with a word or two about foundation. Posted by Picasa


  1. Anonymous11:12 PM

    I just love this lesson. Mostly because this is what I will be doing this week with the nuc I received from Brushy Mt. You inspired me to try to put that together. Now I do have a question, do you also glue the joints? I know they usually mention glue.

    Thanks for the information Linda.

    Annette from Placerville California

    1. Anonymous9:04 PM

      She doesn't mention glue..She screws them together so if they brake she can replace broken boards easy..

    2. Anonymous2:41 PM

      You don't want to glue hive bodies because when you glue them and put them together, the glue will set up fast due to the tight fit and not give you a chance to tap the different sides and get them squared so they fit well with the other hive bodies when stacked. The nails and finger joints do just fine for construction.

  2. Hi Annette, I don't glue the joints on the hive boxes.

    I am going to glue the frame joints this year. I didn't the last two years and had some frames come apart on me when I pried them up on inspection.

    I never have had a problem with the hive boxes, though. The notched joints seem to make using glue unnecessary. Hope that helps,

    Linda T

  3. Anonymous1:14 AM

    Oh you sooo much want to go back and glue those joints. All of 'em. If you don't you'll regret it.

    To quote Bogart "...you'll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life."

    1. Anonymous11:18 PM

      I read your post...Your probably right but it sure sounds funny the way you put it...Got a good laugh from it...

      If,,you don't use glue and things later down the road start to go a rye...Use what is called dowel rods in each corner...Drill holes in the corners and use glue on dowel rods to secure the corners..Should work okay...Dowels should only have to be 2" long..
      Really like this forum...Lots of very nice persons here...Good Luck...Tom

    2. Anonymous11:25 PM

      Question: will bees that find your swarm trap bring the Queen to it or does the hive have to swarm to have the Queen follow them to your trap...?

      There a few bees in my sisters yard. They seem to be on the hunt for pollen or nectar.....If they enter my swarm trap do you think they would bring a Queen or start to maybe build in the tray and raise a Queen inside...? Newbie here and have a lot of questions...I am learning and enjoying every minute I get to deal with bees...
      Thanks Tom

    3. A bee swarm includes a queen. At first there are scout bees looking for a place for the swarm, but if a swarm moves into a swarm trap, they will have a queen with them.

    4. Anonymous10:33 PM

      Thank you for your response...
      I made a swarm trap from information I got off watching YouTube and other sites on building hives and traps...So, I got the idea of just setting one out to see what happened. I put one frame with cone on it and four other fresh frames...After several days I saw nothing happening...So, I had an idea..I was told that bees have a great memory and can relocate food sources then return to their own hive to let others know what they have found..So, I caught one bee from the yard and placed it inside the new trap I made..The next day I was really surprised what I saw..That little bee got back out of my trap and brought other bees back with it to the trap..I saw several bees going in and out of the trap and was really surprised as well as thrilled to see what was happening..So, I am hoping to soon have some bees of my own with little to no effort...I think bees are just awesome..
      Thanks Tom

    5. Got my first hive started on Tuesday of this week. Really excited about. Still learning something everyday. I want to thank everyone here and on other Blogs that I have commented on.
      I have started my BLOG now and would enjoy having anyone take a look and leave some pictures and comments as well.
      2012 Bee Hive...Beekeepers are really nice people...See ya later Tom

    6. I have finally got two hive now and they just got inspected by the NC Ag. Inspector. She gave me a good bill of health so far.
      But, now I have a question about getting the Japanese Beetle under control without killing my bees. Email me at : honeydothis@gmail.com,,,How can I kill the beetles without killing my bees. Tks Tom

  4. Even when I screw the boxes together? I can see using the glue if you are nailing, although I nailed the last two years worth and haven't had any problems without the glue. Maybe it's because I'm in Hotlanta where the winters aren't so damp and cold???

  5. The Long Island Beekeepers Club website is really fantastic - I added a link to it on my sidebar - thanks, Jim.

  6. Anonymous9:11 AM

    "Even when I screw the boxes together?"


    "I'm in Hotlanta where the winters aren't so damp..."

    But the humidity levels do vary all
    over in Hotlanta, so wood is going
    to swell and shrink, over and over.
    That's going to tear the joints
    apart over time. Ask any experienced beekeeper.

  7. I second the recommendation for glue. Every point that is glued, its like another nail (or screw) attaching the two surfaces. Go for glue.

  8. Anonymous12:08 PM

    Use caution not to put the handle on the inside of the box.

  9. Hi Linda,
    Your sharing is such a wonderful thing. I would definitely use waterproof glue and I also use a framing square when I am nailing each corner to minimize out of squareness. It makes less airgaps you stack the boxes.
    Keep up the great work Linda, it is appreciated.


  10. I'm so glad I posted this! I'm learning so much from the comments - keep 'em coming! Maybe one of these days I won't be constructionally challenged.....

  11. Linda, I know I'm here to learn. But I can't help but keep looking at your rug. I've fallen in love with your area rug. Did you make it ? Okay, now that I've gotten that out of my system, I want to thank you for the pointers. Maybe some of my Father's woodworking abilities have worn off on me and I'll do well at putting my first one together. We'll see.

    Take Care,

  12. Hi Dawn,
    Actually that rug came from LL Bean but I have a lot of braided rugs that my mother braided for me that are small area rugs - I LOVE them.

  13. Shawna / Placerville, CA / newbie-beekeeper1:26 PM

    You are such an inspiration! I am ready to assemble my frames and wanted to know if you would recommend good old fashoned Elmer's wood glue? And do you use it for the frame joints too? Lastly, would screwing my boxes together make them more sturdy than using nails? I am a just starting out in the adventure...along with a group of 4-H kids. I am their "clueless" leader. I really appreciate your practical, accessible advise.

    Wish me luck!

    The newbie beekeeper
    Shawna, Placerville CA

  14. Hi Shawna, Yes, glue the frames for sure. I do screw most of my boxes together in case I need to replace a side o something. Good luck with your beekeeping adventure and do you know my Placeville beekeeping friend Annette (see first comment above)?

  15. Anonymous9:55 PM


    Shawna is the project leader for the 4H beekeeping club of Placerville. I am teaching the 4H club beekeeping and helping Shawna figure it all out. Shawna is an amazing women and assembled all the frames and supers herself following your instructional videos. Shawna is going to start 2 beehives at her home under my tutelage. These are the hives that the kids from the 4H club will work with and learn from. I have you to thank for this wonderful opportunity because you brought us together.

    It is a very exciting year for me and the bees.

    Take care
    Annette from Placerville

  16. Anonymous11:54 AM


    I was hoping you or others here could give me some more insight on hive boxes. I'm building three for a photographic/sculptural work I'm doing on Colony Collapse. I'll be using 8 frame super shallow boxes from Brushy Mountain which means the frames will be 3/8", I was wondering if there will be some space below the frames or do they sit flush with the bottom of the hive box?


  17. The frames sit almost flush with the bottom of the box. All hive boxes are built with bee space in mind which is the about 3/8" of space the bees keep for themselves to move about the hive

  18. Anonymous12:50 PM

    Thank you so much! Now I can plan further!


  19. Like many have mentioned, gluing is recommended. The purpose of the finger joints in the box is to increase the gluing surfaces between the pieces. Take advantage of that. Use a good waterproof glue. Nails do well but screws will hold better. If you have the time, use screws. A word of warning, if you do use screws, pre drill the holes and use countersink for the head of the screw to prevent splitting and stressing the wood.

  20. Linda! I am sooo loving your blog! We are getting ready to purchase hive boxes for the first time. Does it matter whether they are dove-tailed like yours or non-dove-tailed? We want to be able to build additional ones and the non-dove-tailed would certainly be easier to build.

    You spoke at our bee club in Clarksville and now we're planning on doing things just like you! No plastic foundation, medium boxes, and, hopefully, no chemicals. You are amazing. Thank you so much for all you share.

  21. I don't think it matters. Dove tailed go together tightly and securely - which is probably their advantage but more important than how they come together is that your measurements are precise if you are building your own. I order hive boxes unbuilt from the bee companies and then build them.

  22. Amazing work, doesn't look as hard as I thought it might be!

  23. Great information on your blog, gives me encouragement on building my own box. I have purchased my first hive box completely assembled, but that gets expensive. I want to expand next spring, but want to build my own hive boxes. Have you ever tried building from scratch?


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