Northants Bee Keepers Association

Northamptonshire Beekeepers' Association (NBKA) Registered Charity No. 295593


Northants Bee Keepers Association

Copyright © NBKA 2007-2018

Northants Bee Keepers Association

A member organisation representing beekeepers in the County of Northamptonshire

The Hive


Bees have been kept for honey production in hollowed out tree trunks (log hives), earthenware pipes, straw skeps, wooden boxes and many other types of hive throughout the world.

There are several types of modern hive in use that have features common to all (exploded view left). These timber hives generally comprise a floor board with entrance block above which sits a brood chamber (deep box) containing moveable frames of honeycomb in which the queen lays her eggs and the worker bees raise her resultant offspring. Above the brood chamber sits one or more supers (shallow boxes) containing moveable frames of honeycomb in which the worker bees store the honey to be harvested by the beekeeper.

The supers are separated from the brood chamber by a 'queen excluder', a grid of slotted zinc or wire with gaps large enough for the workers to move through, but to small for the queen. A crown board covers the top super over which the roof is fitted. The only entrance to the hive is via the entrance block fitted below the bottom box (brood chamber) to which the queen is confined. For ease of manipulation by the beekeeper hives can be raised 30 to 40cm off the ground by means of a hive stand. This allows good ventilation to the underside of the floor and helps deter unwanted intruders in the hive.

Young worker bees emerging from their hive for the first time will fly backwards, facing the hive but gradually circling away until finally they turn into their line of flight and circle around the hive, gradually spiralling outwards. During these flights they learn to recognize their hive and the area in which it stands. Some beekeepers like to assist in this recognition and provide differentiation between closely spaced hives by attaching coloured shapes such as discs, diamonds or squares to the front of hives. The more elaborate and highly decorative front hive panel (illustrated right) is a fine example of native Irish art work (attributed to Phillip McCabe, Drogheda) displayed at the FIBKA summer course.


Besides providing honey for your table, and helping pollination in your garden, a beehive is a fascinating nature study for the young and not so young. The civilisation that exists within the hive, the selfless community life evolved through millions of generations whereby upwards of 40,000 bees can act simultaneously as with one mind, is still beyond explanations. The dance of the bees, their uncanny homing instincts, the wonder of queen substance; these and many other mysteries await your study. Bees were on earth millions of years before man, and their way of life has changed very little. Man has simply improved their "living quarters" to enable him to manipulate, observe and exercise a degree of control over them. If you are making your first acquaintance with beekeeping you will, like an old hand, be continuously amazed by the behaviour and myriad activities of this small, fascinating insect.

Find the Queen!

An observation hive at honey shows and craft fairs attracts an audience of all ages.