Beekeeping in the Florida Panhandle: beekeeping equipment – part 1

Danny Bos

Danny Bost, Central Panhandle Beekeepers Association

Like any new hobby, beekeeping can be expensive. 

There are fancy, high-priced hives marketed today, offering unique capabilities for beekeepers. To be honest, though, honey bees do not care. They live in trees, eaves of homes, under shed flooring, and any other place they can find suitable for their one purpose: survival. 

However, as we insist on putting thousands of stinging insects in a box, we use equipment that works for us and does not break the bank. Several have become the tried-and-true versions preferred by beekeepers.

Developed by L. L. Langstroth in 1851, the Langstroth hive is the most widely used version. Its removable components allow beekeepers to inspect honey bee health, available resources, brood production, and pests and viruses. The wooden hive components are easily assembled and are suitable for moving when required.

The Langstroth hive consists of a bottom board, brood box, honey supers, and a top cover for protection during incremental weather. A hive stand keeps all the components off the ground to prevent the wood from deteriorating. These stands can be anything from concrete blocks to whatever the beekeeper wishes. 

The bottom board is the hive base and provides a means for the bees to access the hive. The brood boxes (9 5/8” high) are where honey bees store pollen and honey to assist with raising their brood. Honey supers come in two heights to allow beekeepers to manage lifting capacities. 

Medium supers (6 5/8” high) weigh up to 65 pounds when filled with honey, while shallow hive bodies (5 3/4” high) weigh up to 40 pounds. Both brood and supers have specific-sized frames where honey bees build comb for their intended purpose. Langstroth hives can be eight or ten-frame systems. Reduce your hive size, and lifting weight reduces further.

For individuals with mobility issues, a long-hive or horizontal hive may be a better choice. Both contain all the components discussed above in one box. They can be installed at a specific height, allowing beekeepers to sit during inspections. As the bee colony grows, you insert additional frames for brood or honey, as required.

Regardless of your hive selection, you must paint or stain all exterior components to preserve the wood. If not protected, the Florida humidity will quickly deteriorate your equipment, requiring you to replace it every three to five years. Future beekeepers should be acquiring and preparing their hives soon for their bee’s spring arrival.

Your local beekeeping association can assist you in identifying what equipment is required based on your future beekeeping goals and capabilities. Their guidance will prove invaluable along your beekeeping journey. Your honey bees will appreciate it as well.

Danny Bost is the District 1 Representative for the Florida State Beekeepers Association and previous President of the Central Panhandle Beekeepers Association. He has been a beekeeper since 2019 and works in honey bee preservation and promoting beekeeping in this area.