Langstroth Hive – Starting a Honey Bee Hive

Welcome back to the Novice Rancher! Today I wanted to cover another decision that new beekeepers will have to make, and hopefully give you some insight into what a Langstroth hive is and how it works. Picking out which hive you want in your yard should be fun, so before you read this somewhat daunting post, take the time to enjoy this fascinating experience every step of the way.

This was another tough decision for us to make starting off. We tried a couple different setups and layouts, but at the end of the day we settled on the Langstroth hive to be our winner. This is the hive that I use in my apiary, and with all the new fancy stuff that’s hitting the market now, this setup has taken the crown on our ranch.

Every set up has its ups and downs, but I’ll try and give you some insight into why I chose this one…

The Langstroth Hive

The Langstroth hive is an iconic figure in the beekeeping community, as it the most commonly used set-up in the world to this day. For many reasons, the modern Langstroth hive has held true to its original design dating over 160 years ago and has only been slightly altered over that time.

The features of the hive make it an excellent choice for both amateur and experienced beekeepers alike and are both used in backyards and larger scaled operations around the world.

For the past year I’ve tried my hand at both the Langstroth hive, and the newer hives designed for easy honey extraction without disturbing the bees. Even though both performed wonderfully, I will say that it is my personal preference to only maintain Langstroth hives in my apiary now.

Without further ado, let’s get into what makes this setup so great…


Before I get started, I’d like to give credit to the man that changed the way we keep bees more than a century and a half ago. In 1852, a reverend by the name of Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth, discover that when bees had less than 9 mm (3/8 inch) but larger than 6 mm (1/4 inch) of space to move around inside the hive, they wouldn’t build comb inside this space.

This fascinating discovery is known as the bee space. A development such as this allowed the reverend to design and patent the Langstroth hive, one where the bees would essentially be guided to build comb only on the frames inserted inside the box and not along the walls or lid.

The modern Langstroth hive is slightly different from the original design which consisted of a portico entrance, integrated floor and non-removable brood box, a single removable honey box that sat inside an outer box that extended from the brood box, and a hinged roof.

Modern Langstroth Layout

The hives used today consist of vertically hung frames, a bottom board with an entrance into the hive, boxes of different sizes to put the frames in, an inner cover, and a top cover for weather protection.

  • The bottom board, inner cover, and top cover are fairly standard with a couple of variations both cosmetic and purposeful. A bottom board can be found with a screen bottom which I find to be very useful as it can help regulate and monitor mite activity and temperature inside the hive. As for the covers, unless you want a copper arched roof on your hive, the basic flat top works just fine.
  • The boxes can be found in quite a few different sizes: deep, medium, and shallow. They also come in different widths as well for holding various amounts of frames. You can use any of this how you see fit, which is one of the perks of this hive. Every beekeeper will have their preference as to which size they want on their hive. Check in with your local beekeeper’s association if you want some advice for what’s generally used in your area.
  • There are even a variety of frames to choose from. Obviously, the size will be determined by which box you choose, but there are foundation, plastic, and foundationless frames to choose from. The foundationless frame allows the bees to draw out all the comb without any artificial interference or guidance. The foundation and plastic frames are used to guide the bees in cell size, direction, and serve as a general head start to establish the comb. One downfall to the foundation and plastic frames is that you won’t be able to neatly harvest your honey locked in the comb should you want to.

Easy to Handle

Not only are the hives easily customizable to your needs, they are cheap to obtain. If you decide you want to jump in to beekeeping, but you’re starting on limited funds, consider a pine 8 or 10 frames set up. Those are the two most common sizes you’ll find on the market, and another nice feature with them is that they are interchangeable between brands and companies. The pine boxes are cheaper than the oak or cedar, but do require painting to protect the wood. Easy enough though, we found some cheap colorful OOPS paint from the hardware store and they are sealed up tight. Depending on your ability to lift a good amount of weight, you may want to start with a medium honey super. Keep in mind when choosing the size of the boxes that a deep 10 frame honey super will weight upwards of 80 pounds. The medium can easy weigh up to 60lbs, and the shallow boxes are better suited for feeders and other hive accessories you may want to add.

My Yard

You have so many options when it comes to purchasing your first hive. I will leave you with this though… My first hive wasn’t a Langstroth, it was another design that appealed to me for its simplicity. At the time I knew very little about bees or how to care for them, so this seemed like a great option to start with. I read plenty of reviews on both designs and was a little conflicted when I read that the veteran beekeepers didn’t care much for the new style. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to test both, not only did I choose to rely on the faithful Langstroth hive, I also could have bought close to 10 of the hives for the price of the new fancy one. Either way, the decision is yours to make. Like I said in my previous post, you can’t go wrong either way, your still helping preserve a much-needed population of pollinators!

Best of luck in your future endeavors! If you have any questions, feel free to post them below and I’ll get right back to you.

-Novice Rancher





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