Best Bee Hive: 2023 Beehive Starter Kit Reviews & Guide

Last Updated on June 13, 2023 by Georgie Smith

Why are you interested in beekeeping? Do you want to make your own honey? How about hosting bees to pollinate crops? There are many reasons why you might want your own beehive. The motivation or goal you have, plus your budget, will determine which kind is best for you.

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Best Bee Hives

You may already know that there are three main types of hives used by beekeepers: top-bar, Warré, and Langstroth. When you picture a beehive, chances are you’re thinking of the iconic cone-shaped bee skep or Langstroth boxes. Let’s go over some basics about Langstroth hives first.

Langstroth hives for honey on a large scale

Commercial beekeepers usually have Langstroth hives, those white boxes you’ll see out in fields. Inside the boxes are ten frames that can be lifted out to remove the honey. Wire-reinforced frames can go in a centrifuge to spin out the honey from the comb, then be placed back in the box for the bees to use again.

Boxes can be stacked on top of each other without divisions between them—meaning no tops of bottoms, just frames suspended from the sides. Stacking two boxes allows hives to survive a harsh winter if the bees have stored up enough food. One box is usually enough for a nucleus colony to survive a mild winter.

The parts of a Langstroth hive consist of several pieces. The bottom is a stand or base to protect the lowest part from rot and cold. On top of that is the entrance for the bees. Then comes the brood box where the queen lays eggs. On top of that (in a two-box arrangement) is the super, or box where honey is stored. Around the hive are protective covers for insulation and protection against the weather.

There are some specialty parts that make beekeeping easier, like Cloake boards that divide a hive in two parts without having to lift the box on top. A queen excluder is a mesh that separates the brood area from the super so that queen can’t enter the super, or honey collection box.

An escape board allows bees to leave the super and enter the rest of the hive, but then makes it hard for them to re-enter the super. This is handy when you want to retrieve the honey. Finally, some beekeepers have a feeder for their bees. It contains sugar for the bees in the winter.

The advantages of a Langstroth hive

  • Standard-size frames and boxes make it easy to swap and add parts
  • Honeycomb can be reused
  • Collects the largest amount of honey
  • Common among Western beekeepers so it’s easy to find parts and knowledge

The disadvantages of Langstroth hives

  • Beekeeping with Langstroth hives requires a larger investment to start
  • Boxes are rather heavy to move, around 40 pounds at times

One variation on the traditional Langstroth frame is showing promise for making honey harvests easier on the keeper and the bees, too. It’s called the Flow Frame and we’ll cover it in our reviews below.

Warré hives, are a good choice for northern climates

Warré hives are growing in popularity because they combine the best of Langstroth and top-bar hives. They are modular and stacked like Langstroth, plus they use top bar frames to support the honeycomb. This style is considered more natural for the bees.

As the colony grows, the keeper can place a new box underneath the existing ones instead of on top. This keeps the hive warmer in cold weather and protects the brood. There’s an insulated top to protect it, too. There’s not as much need to open the hive, so there’s less stress for the beekeeper and the bees.

The advantages of a Warré hive

  • Better protection against cold weather
  • Combines the best of Langstroth and top-bar designs
  • Can have an observation window

The disadvantages of Warré hives

  • Less common
  • As expensive, or even more so, than Langstroth
  • Boxes are rather heavy to move, around 40 pounds at times

If you’re on a budget or want to raise bees in as organic a manner as possible, take a look at top-bar hives.

Top-bar hives are the economical choice, but not as good for cold winters

If you’ve ever seen fancy honey sold in jars complete with a piece of honeycomb, that may have come from a top-bar hive. Beekeepers with these kinds of hives may also make money selling beeswax products. While they have a more difficult time extracting as much honey as Langstroth hive owners, top-bar hive owners don’t need so much money to get started raising bees.

The top-bar hive is much simpler in design. It originated in Africa. Some hives are barrels sliced in half. Others are custom-built from wood. What matters to the design are the frames. The frame design is simply a bar cut to fit across the hive, sometimes with a foundation of honeycomb to encourage the bees to make more below it.

There is no honey super like in a Langstroth hive. Instead, each frame must be lifted out to reveal the comb hanging from it. This is a much smaller burden of weight to lift instead of managing an entire super. Not as much honey can be harvested, and not all the frames need to be removed at the same time, but this can be beneficial to the bees. It leaves them food to continue their colony without making them dependent on sugar syrup supplements.

Some beekeepers with top-bar hives crush the comb to extract the honey, then strain it. They then have two products instead of one. No bees need to be killed or driven out.

The advantages of a top-bar hive

  • Frames are simple and the hive is low-cost to build
  • Frames are lightweight and don’t need to be harvested all at the same time
  • Can harvest honey and beeswax at the same time
  • The side have an observation window

The disadvantages of top-bar hives

  • Less common among North American beekeepers
  • Doesn’t protect well against cold weather
  • Less honey is extracted

Now that you’ve seen an overview of the most common hive types, let’s review the best beehives for sale.

The top beehives

PICTUREPRODUCT NAMEFEATURES
q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B016YJ9A1A&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1Complete Box Kit with Metal Roof for Langstroth Beekeeping– 20 Frames (10 Deep & 10 Medium)
– 22.8 x 19.8 x 11.1 inches
– Very easy to assemble
q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B00B8L5ZJ6&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1Complete Bee Hive Kit, Painted, Assembled (USA)– 10 Frames
– 22 x 18.5 x 13.1 inches
– Complete hive kit
q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B0184SJ0J6&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1Deluxe Beehive Starter Kit – Premium Bee Hives for Beginners– 8 Frames
– 6-5/8 inch depth
– High quality wood
q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B00NU9I2I0&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1Valley Bee Supply-Bee Hive– 10 Frames
– 28 x 25 x 25 inches
– 40 pounds
q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B00TSQ5AW0&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1Ware Manufacturing Home Harvest Bee Hive– 18 x 18 x 28 inches
– 2 Windows
– Adjustable Airflow
– Easy to Use
q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B01J9CG2A6&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1Official Flow Hive Classic Cedar – Langstroth style beehive– 6 Frames
– 1x Flow Key
– 19.9 x 14 x 9.7 inches

Honey Keeper Beehive 20 Frame Complete Box Kit (10 Deep and 10 Medium)

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Our first review today is the Honey Keeper Langstroth Beehive Kit. It needs assembly but comes with everything you need to get started. You may want to finish it with a coat of paint or tung oil once it’s ready.

The 20 frames are divided between 10 deep and 10 medium-size ones. They are made of white pine with unwaxed foundations that have a hexagonal-shaped surface.

The body of the box measures 23 inches long by 18.25 inches wide by 19.75 inches tall. It has pre-cut finger joints and comes with nails so all you need is a hammer to build it. There is an inner cover, a galvanized metal-capped telescoping roof, and a bottom board to protect against bad weather. The kits also include an entrance reducer and a queen excluder.

Overall, users seem very pleased with this hive, reporting that it’s well-made and easy to put together. If you would like to combine it with Flow Frames for easy harvesting, check out their review later down in the article.

Mann Lake 10-Frame Complete Painted Hive Kit, Assembled & Made In The USA

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The Mann Lake 10-Frame Hive Kit comes pre-painted but with fewer accessories than the Honey Keeper kit above. It’s made of pine wood and comes assembled and ready to use. It includes the hive box with a telescoping cover and bottom board, as well as an inner cover and entrance reducer. There is no queen excluder. It measures 22 inches long by 18.5 inches wide by 13-1/7 inches tall.

Each of the ten frames is also made of pine. They are pre-assembled and measure 9-1/8 inches wide. They are coated with a Rite-Cell foundation to encourage a straight comb. This is a good basic starter kit that requires minimal effort to start using.

Little Giant Deluxe Beehive Starter Kit – Premium Bee Hives for Beginners and Pros

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If you’d prefer a complete kit with a Langstroth hive, this may be just what you need. It comes with a hive plus 8 frames, a bee veil (with no hat), sting-resistant gloves, a smoker plus fuel, a hive tool, an entrance feeder, and an instruction booklet. Once you assemble everything, all you need are the bees. BuildaBeehive says they offer a money-back guarantee if you’re not completely satisfied.

The hive itself comes with two 8-frame wooden supers with sixteen 6.25-inch grooved frames with a plastic-based foundation. (You can leave off the foundation or substitute your own if you desire.) There is a telescoping metal cover, an inner cover, a bottom board, and a reversible entrance reducer. This kit may be one of the least expensive ways to dive into beekeeping with Langstroth hives.

Valley Bee Supply Bee Hive (10-Frame)

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Valley Bee Supply’s 10-Frame Hive is made from unfinished New England White Pine that you’ll have to assemble and will probably want to paint or coat in tung oil before you use it. Users recommend this for experienced beekeepers or new ones who are willing to purchase other supplies like frames to get started. (Check out the Flow Frames described lower down in this article).

The package includes two deep boxes and three medium-sized boxes, all with pre-drilled fingers for easy assembly. The handles are now undercut to give a better grip and to better resist rot. The body of the hive boxes is made from high-grade plywood. There is a telescoping roof made of heavy gauge aluminum to resist rusting. Both it and the inner cover come pre-assembled, as does the screen bottom board and slide-out tray with the counting grid. Besides all of this, there is an entrance reducer, but there are no frames, no foundation, and no nails.

Ware Manufacturing Home Harvest Bee Hive

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If you want to see a Warré hive, take a look at this one from Ware Manufacturing. It’s made from white-stained cedar, a durable wood that keeps other insects away from your hive. You’ll need to assemble it, but users say it’s not too hard.

Notice the peaked roof that lets rain run off without soaking to hive. There are two observation windows into the hive and ventilation with adjustable airflow that you can control. This allows for healthy changes between hot summer and cold winter weather.

When your colony grows, just add new boxes underneath to accommodate the new bees and their honeycomb.

Top Bar Bee Hive Plans_Includes Precision Milled Top Bars _Golden Mean Ratio Hive Design by Corwin Bell

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If you wish to build your own top bar hive, you may appreciate this helping hand from a professional architect. It comes with pre-cut precision-milled top bars plus plans and hardware to get started. You’ll have a list of materials and instructions, as well as window latches and spacers. Follow these plans and you can build your own Golden Mean top bar hive.

The top bars included in the box measure 17-3/4 inches in length. They have a wedge shape to encourage comb building. Customers estimate that the average cost to build the rest of the hive according to these plans may be between $75 to $200, depending on the wood you select and the material you use for the observation window.

Flow Hive Classic Cedar 6 Frame

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The Flow Hive Classic Langstroth hive is from Flow, the company that ran an Indiegogo campaign to support the production of their innovative Flow Frames. Check out these frames that we’ve mentioned before below in the next review.

This hive, both the super and brood boxes, are built from Western Red Cedar that resists funguses and repels other kinds of insects. It has a screened bottom board, an inner cover, a roof, and a queen excluder. There is an easy-to-follow assembly manual so you can put it all together.

The brood box comes with 8 standard foundationless frames, while the super comes with 6 Flow Frames plus honey collecting tubes and a Flow Key. What is this business about Flow Frames, tubes, and keys? Check out the next review below.

Flow Frame Classic

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The Flow Frames here are a different size than is used in the Classic 6 described above, but the way they work is the same. They are built to fit a Langstroth hive 10-frame box. Instead of wire mesh in the frames, they have a unique design to make it very easy and safe to harvest honey. You can see when the frames are ready because they have a clear end that lets you see inside.

This is how it works: Instead of removing your hive’s frames for centrifugal extraction of honey, all you need to do is insert the Flow Key. The key splits the honey cells so the honey flows downward into the tubes and out of the hive. You don’t need to take off the lid or bother the bees at all. The bees are protected from harm because there are gaps where they can wait while the honey flows downward.

Doesn’t that sound wonderful? You don’t need to pull out the smoker and bee suit to get your honey for breakfast. One user said they get about 6 pounds of honey from each Flow Frame. Better get a bigger jar to catch it all.

Accessories for beekeeping

If you’re not up to managing a hive yet, why not start with a Mason Bee House?

Gardener’s Supply Company Mason Bee House

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This adorable bee home is made for peace-loving Mason bees that don’t sting but do a great job of pollinating your garden. They can take care of 20 times more flowers than a honeybee.

This little house is made of bamboo and designed so that the female bees will lay their eggs inside. Place it where it gets morning sun and watch the bees come. Any junior apiarists will love the chance to observe what happens.

Building Beehives For Dummies

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Perhaps you want to build your own beehive. This book from bee expert Howland Blackiston will show you how. It contains detailed materials lists, step-by-step instructions, and illustrations to explain how to build over a dozen different hives.

See how to make your own Langstroth, Warré, Kenya top bar, eight-frame garden hives, and more. There are even explanations for how to do basic carpentry.

New Professional Bee Keeping Suit, Smock with a Veil by VIVO

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One thing every beekeeper needs is protection. Honeybees are generally peaceful, but they can sting. Even if you’re not allergic, it can be painful.

This long-sleeved jacket with a veil has elastic cuffs and a waistband plus a zippered veil to keep bees outside. Check the measurements to see if it’s right for you. Try wearing a hat underneath to keep the veil in place.

Capture a swarm to start your colony

Some people prefer to capture a swarm to begin a new colony. This isn’t recommended for new beekeepers if they have no experience, and especially not recommended for anyone if they don’t have proper protective gear.

To capture a swarm, you’ll need cold water to gently spray on the bees to stop them from moving. Place a small frameless hive or box underneath and direct them inside with a smoker. Be careful not to get too close and harm the bees.

If you decided to order bees or get them from a local supplier, it’s a great idea to pick them up or have them delivered in the spring. You can purchase a nucleus colony, or “nuc,” that contains a queen, her brood, and frames. Place the box of bees near to your hive’s entrance and place the queen inside the hive but not next to the hive wall.

Release the bees into the hive and leave the box near it so stragglers will enter, too. Check the queen and the colony after a few days to make sure the queen has settled in and the bees are well. They may need a sugar syrup supplement if it’s still early in spring.

Beekeeping facts

Here’s a catchall of odds and ends that you may find interesting.

When you choose a hive, keep in mind that a Western honey bee colony prefers at least 1.58 cubic feet of space or 45 liters in volume. They won’t build their home in anything too small or too large.

You’ll get the best results if you place the hive entrance at least 3.3 feet and 16 feet off the ground with the doorway facing downward and towards the equator. If you start a new colony from an old one, move it at least 330 yards from the old one. Bees will usually stay in the same hive for years, so you won’t have to move them around much.

You’ve heard about bee space. This was described in 1845 as the correct distance between frames in a hive. It’s 0.31 inches by 0.31 inches, or 8mm by 8mm.

When you place new frames inside a hive, bees are more likely to build upon them if they have some comb or foundation already in place to guide them. A foundation can be as simple as a strip of wood or plastic for them to follow and build a straight comb.

Propolis, the plant resin that bees place around their hives, can make working with hives more of a challenge. But don’t clean it off because it helps bees take care of their health.

While you may love your colony, there is a school of thought among apiarists that says it’s better to let a sick colony collapse to weed out weaker bees.

Find a local beekeeping club in your area or online, or simply download bee coloring pages for the kids at this link.

Conclusion

We hope you discovered the perfect hive for your new bee colony today. Check back with us soon to see new reviews of the best products for beekeeping, raising your garden, and caring for your animals.

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