This post will show how to assemble Langstroth frame beehives the typical way many beekeepers go about doing it. This is a simple process, but it can be tedious. I like getting the wife involved and doing this on an “assembly line”.
Once your supers are painted, you will need some frames to put in you super. A frame is a wooden “picture fame” that hangs in the super to give the bees a place to build their comb. The frame gives the come structure so that you can more easily extract the honey. A frame also helps organize the way the bees build their comb.
This is because of “bee space”, this is a scientifically determined space requirement. Inside the hive, any space larger than 3/8 of an inch will cause the bees to build comb there. The bees will any space in the hive smaller than ¼ with propolis. Having frames will allow you to space the combs to make the best use of space.
There are three main sizes of frames, and they need to correspond with your supers. The sizes are shallow, medium, and deep. The larger the super the more honey they can hold, but the more they weigh. I chose mediums for mine.
Sizes of Standard Hive Bodies
- Shallow supers are 5 3/4″ deep.
- Shallow frames are 5 1/2″
- Approximately 30 pounds of honey when all comb is drawn out and filled
- Medium supers are 6 5/8″ deep.
- Medium frames are 6 1/4”
- Approximately 40 pounds of honey when all comb is drawn out and filled.
- Deep supers are 9 5/8″ deep.
- Deep frames are 9 1/4
- Approximately 60 pounds of honey when all comb is drawn out and filled.
You do not have to assemble your own frames, they do come assembled, but the cost is greater. My supplier charged $1 a frame kit, and $1.75 per assembled frame. Since I was buying 50 frames, I obviously chose to DIY.
Each frame consist of a top bar, 2 end sections, a bottom bar, and 1 inch and 1 ¾ inch nails.
I also used some Titebond III waterproof wood glue. This was recommended to me as strong waterproof glue that does not bother the bees.
The only tools I used was a q-tip to spread the glue in the tight spaces of the end sections, and a small hammer.
Assembly of the Beehive Frames
Consistency is the key, you need to do it the same way for each frame, as the end sections are identical, but must be installed differently depending on they are left or right side.
The top bar also has a scored end for installing foundation, and that needs to always be installed the same way.
Personally, I lay out 8 frames at a time (since I use 8 frame supers) with each top bar facing the same direction, and then complete the same step on each frame before continuing with the sequence.
I also make sure I lay out all my tools in the same spot so I don’t get my different sized nails confused, or my end pieces reversed.
- Place top bar upside down on work bench, with scored end facing away.
- Place glue on ends of top bar where the end sections will slide into.
- Push end sections onto top bar, taking care not to twist sections as they are thin and will crack.
- One side of the end piece will be flat, the other rounded. I always put the rounded facing me on the right side, and the flat facing me on the left.
- Place glue in slots on end sections that will hold the bottom bar.
- Insert bottom bar into slots on end sections.
- The bottom bar has a precut slot running lengthwise. This should face the top bar, as the foundation will sit in this slot.
Nailing the Frames Together
- Take the 1 inch nails and with the top bar sitting solidly on your bench, nail the bottom board to each end section.
- Turn the frame on its side, brace the frame on your workbench with the lip of the top bar hanging off the side. Using the longer nail through the end section into the non scored side of the top bar. – Repeat for other side
- Flip the frame so that it is sitting upright on its bottom bar, as it would hang inside the super. Once again using the longer nails, nail down through the top bar into each end section.
There are other ways of nailing the frames, but this allows for a strong connection that is not that difficult to remove if you later need to replace the bottom bar.
You will also need to take a utility knife and run it down the scored end of the top bar to remove that sliver of wood. This is can insert your wax foundation at a later date.
I have not added my foundation at this time because suppliers will refuse to ship the wax when it is cold, as the foundation is very fragile when it is chilled. I did not buy it earlier, as I don’t want wax moths to eat it, so I will order it toward the end of the month and install it inside the house and take it outside when I get my bees.
You don’t HAVE to use foundation, but it gives the bees a head start. If you don’t use foundation, then the bees will not make as much honey. This is because much of the honey will go toward making wax.