Different Types Of Beehives

One of the most important decisions you will be making if you plan to be a beekeeper is what type of beehive you want to get!

Different Types Of Beehives

You might have picked up some misconceptions and heard some biased opinions, but it is worth stating right here at the start; no type of beehive is perfect for everyone, and just because you may have heard someone rave about a certain type, this does not mean that it will be the best choice for you.

Because of how common these misunderstandings are, we have put this guide together.

This guide goes in depth on all the different types of beehives that are available and will let you know what we like and what we do not about each.

This will hopefully help you work out which beehive will be the best choice for you, or will at least make you aware of all of the choices which are available for you.

We will give you some key information about each type of beehive, (see also: How To Get Rid Of A Beehive)and then explain which type of people will suit each type so you can understand which will suit you best!

If you are wondering what the most popular type of beehive is, this actually has a different answer depending on where you are based. In regions like North America, as well as Australia, you will find that Langstroth type hives (see also: Knowing The Correct Langstroth Hive Dimensions – An Easy Guide)are the most popular.

In the UK however, the most popular type of beehive used there are National hives. Other types of beehives that are growing in popularity for varying reasons include; top bar, warre, and flow beehives.

These are mostly popular due to overcoming some of the limitations in place with Langstroth hives.

Types Of Beehives

This is the main section of the guide and we will be going in detail on each type of beehive we are choosing to highlight so you know all the basics about them before you go onto further research.

In this guide we will be covering the most commonly used 9 types of beehive. While there are more types available, these are the ones we are focusing on since they are the most popular and widely available!


As we mentioned in the introduction, Langstroth beehives are incredibly popular. They are designed to be a vertical stack of boxes in a rectangular shape and they have a framed design; this specific type of beehive has been in use since 1851.

This is the most common thought when people think of beehives, and this is partially because of how this type of beehive has been in frequent use for so long. The vertical stack shape of boxes will house the colony’s brood, as well as honey and other food supplies as well.

You will find that in each box there will be foundation cells in each frame, and these are what helps the bees build comb at a faster rate. There are also around 1 or 2 deeper boxes which are at the base of this hive and these are on a bottom board.

The purpose of this board is that it is where the brood is housed. There will be supers on the top of these deep trays, and these are what are used by bees for building up honeycomb.

This type of beehive is popular, especially when considering how much they cost. They also have standard sizing for the components, and you can easily scale them up when the hive begins to grow.

However, some users of these beehives do not like all the work with heavy boxes and find it quite cumbersome. You will also need extra space for housing your spare supers, as well as equipment like extractors for the honey.

What We Love About This Hive

This type of hive is perfect for being able to quickly expand or reduce the size of your hive by adding or removing a super. Since this type of beehive is so popular, there are also plenty of easily available guides which make learning to use one easy.

You also have the ability to mix and match your equipment from different providers and manufacturers since it all usually fits and works. It is also one of the more affordable options when it comes to beehives!

What We Do Not Love About This Hive

There are intrusive inspections which make it so you have to move all of the boxes on the top of the brood if you want to be able to access the brood box.

It can be hard to move the boxes around, especially when they are completely loaded with honey. You also need quite a bit of space for storing the equipment if it is not in use.


This type of beehive is a vertical stacking type of beehive as well with it using 12 inch modular boxes which have top bars. It is another popular choice and it has been in use since the mid-1950s.

The Warre beehive is also occasionally referred to as the People’s hive since it was invented in the 50s.

This makes it a lot younger when compared to the century older Langstroth. This design uses a similar design to the Langstroth however, and because of this, the two designs are quite commonly conflated.

The best way to distinguish between the Warre and the Langstroth is that the Warre’s boxes are smaller as well as square. The main principle that helps the Warre work is that the bees manage themselves differently.

The Warre does not use a box that is full of frames, and instead there are 8 top bars that can be removed and this makes it, so the bees can build the comb however they want to.

So, when the hive will start to outgrow the building, you can add more boxes underneath, the opposite of a Langstroth that adds boxes on top.

A feature of the Warre that is incredibly useful is that it has a quilt box, this features materials like wood shavings which make it perfect for insulation in colder months. This also makes it easy to remove moisture which is often something that freezes colonies in bad weather.

These boxes are also a lot easier to work with since they are a lot smaller. This is especially useful when they are full of honey. This type of beehive also requires a little less hands-on time, however, it is still recommended to inspect it regularly.

What We Love About This Hive

You only have to manage boxes in this type of beehive instead of dealing with an increased number of multiple frames. This design also cycles out older comb easily and makes bringing new comb in simple.

The process of lifting the boxes is also quite easy. This type of hive is designed to mimic a tree cavity in how it works.

What We Do Not Love About This Hive

You usually get a lower honey yield when you are working with this type of beehive. By making comb that does not have a solid foundation, the comb tends to be a lot more fragile as well. You of course also need extra boxes that you can add onto the bottom of your hive.

Top Bar Hive

This type of beehive is designed to be a horizontal box that is held up by legs and is then filled with top bars. This is another beehive that is pretty popular, and it has been in use since it was invented in the 1960s.

You will often find a top bar hive being shortened to a TBH, so if you see this terminology when talking about a beehive, now you know what it means. This style of beehive is pretty radically different when compared to its predecessors. 

By using the horizontal box that is held up using legs, it has a very different structure. Then there is a removable roof and you can add the top bars that have no frame and no foundations either.

So, the bees in these hives will use the top bars to build out a comb which is used for a brood and for honey, as well as food sources.

This type of beehive is especially popular with beekeepers who do not want to be doing as much lifting or bending making it a more popular choice for those with limited mobility as well. 

The position the box is kept in is very convenient at the waist height, and only having one roof to remove makes it very easy to work with.

Since you are not working with multiple boxes, you are instead managing individual frames, and these are easier to move, as well as a lot less invasive.

This type of hive is also significantly more hands off than the previous options, so if you want a more natural option, this is a good idea.

The TBH also has a viewing window, and this means that doing inspections from the top level are both quick, as well as simple and not too intrusive.

These hives are kept as a self-contained unit, and this means they are unable to extend when you grow your hive.

This means that you will not be able to maximise your output of honey with an option that scales, however, if you want to keep the honey output lower, this is a good option.

What We Love About This Hive

This type of hive will not need nearly as much lifting or bending making it an accessible option. You also do not have to spend much to get started, nor do you need expensive tools either. You also will not need to be as invasive when it comes to shifting your whole box.

What We Do Not Love About This Hive

There are some noticeable drawbacks with this type of beehive, however. For example, you get much less honey production when compared to scalable options. Also, since it is not scalable, you can not improve the capacity of the hive either.

The parts used in a TBH are also not standardized which can make learning how to use it a little more awkward.

Flow Hives

This is another design that uses vertically stacked boxes, however it has a much more innovative honey extraction system. While this is a less popular option currently, it is slowly growing, it has only been in use since 2015 as well which is worth pointing out.

What We Love About This Hive

We love how easy it is to extract honey with this option, it also encourages bee friendly practices with beekeeping as well. You also do not need any expensive tools, as well as this it also saves on space.

What We Do Not Love About This Hive

You will need to drop a more expensive up front cost when investing, and a lot of people do not like working with plastic frames. It is also notable for being a more hands-off approach.

Bee Skep

This type of bee hive is designed with a traditional dome shape made like a basket and it does not have any internal structure either. It is currently not a very popular option, and this is partially due to how dated they are having been around since 800 CE.

These are one of the earliest known types of hive that was used for honey collection, and it is just a rope that was made from long grass or straw and then coiled into a simple basket. 

You would flip them upside down and then the bees would use them to build a home.

As you can tell based on the description they have a very basic design with only one smaller hole being used for entrance and there are simply no frames inside or extra features.

When it was time to harvest, the bees would be killed with sulfur and the ripping the comb out, or even putting the whole skep (see also: What Is A Bee Skep?)into a vice and getting the honey squeezed out.

Because of the method of extraction, these bee hives are not really used, and you have to inspect to fight against threats, but it is very hard to inspect because of the design.

What We Love About This Hive

This is one of the more affordable options, and hanging them can keep away pests. The bees have control over the comb which they are building, and you can simply use them as a home for bees if you do not want to harvest.

What We Do Not Love About This Hive

The bees are treated very inhumanely when the honey is being extracted, and because of this they are outlawed in a lot of countries. You are also unable to inspect the colony or treat it properly either.

Because of the lack of structure, you also get a relatively low honey output as well.

Horizontal Layens Hive

This is a simple horizontal box that features 20 larger frames, and its popularity is pretty high in Europe where it has been in use since the 1800s.

It is a great option for keeping your bees alive when living in a colder climate and since the walls are thicker, their insulation aids in keeping bees over winter.

What We Love About This Hive

This option is not very intrusive to the bees when you are inspecting, and the process of lifting the boxes is less effort since they are not that heavy. You have a much easier time managing the hive as a beekeeper as well.

What We Do Not Love About This Hive

There are no scalable options with the hive remaining the same size even when the population grows inside it. You also get a little less honey production compared to a similar style which is modular.

WBC Hive

The design of this hive is actually very similar to a Langstroth, but it has double walls instead. It is moderately popular and has been in use since it was invented in 1890.

It is named after William Broughton Carr and it is particularly popular in the UK for use in beekeeping, but also as an ornament in the garden.

What We Love About This Hive

Very attractive design which fits a lot of different aesthetics, and the design ensures that you have great insulation. The design is also scalable.

What We Do Not Love About This Hive

Some have found that this design can be quite difficult to assemble, and the entrance can be relatively difficult to unblock.

Apimaye Hives

This bee hive is designed to be a stack of vertical boxes which is perfect for working in extreme climates due to the insulation. We do not actually know when this type of beehive was invented, but while its popularity is low, it is growing as well.

What We Love About This Hive

This hive is perfect for its insulation, and it usually comes assembled already as well. You can lock the boxes together to keep your hive secure, and the plastic it is made from is durable.

What We Do Not Love About This Hive

This hive has a relatively high cost and a lot of people do not like how it looks.

The British Standard National Hive

Finally, this hive is a modular design being a vertical stack using frames. It is very popular in the UK especially, and it has been in use since 1920.

What We Love About This Hive

The design is lightweight with easy to grip handholds, and if you are in the UK there are plenty of spare parts available. You can also handle the honey supers easily.

What We Do Not Love About This Hive

One of the more expensive options.

Other Types Of Hives

While we have gone over a wide variety of different hives in this guide, there are still other options we have not covered. So, if none of the options here appeal to you, then it might be worth researching some of the other available options.

Some other types of beehives that we have not covered include; the hexagon hive, the golden hive, the dome hive, the dadant hive, the commercial hive, and the smith hive.


Hopefully this guide has given you all the advice you need on which type of beehive will be the best choice for you.

There is of course a wide variety of options, so our best advice when it comes to choosing is to consider how you want beekeeping to fit into your lifestyle, as well as the amount of space you are working.

You also want to consider how much honey you want, you might want to opt for an option that produces less honey if you only want a certain amount, however, if you want to be able to scale up, take this into consideration!

Thomas Callaghan
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