In this guide we’ll take a look at the best bee hives for the UK market.
I’ve compared size, design, build quality and cost
to give you my top recommendations.
What Is The Best Bee Hive For Beginners?
More Detailed Bee Hive Reviews
The Easipet WBC Beehive is the best beehive for beginners as it’s simple to use but has all the basics and accessories you’ll need including frames and wax.
This hive is made from cedar, which has natural antibacterial properties, so it’s a healthy choice for a bee colony.
You get a varroa floor with mesh, a sliding inspection tray, entrance blocks with winter and summer holes, a brood box for all the gang to keep warm, 11 board frames so the bees can produce their wax and honey with ease, and brood wax foundation sheets. The whole hive is based on metal runners.
But that’s not all.
There are also two super boxes, super wax foundation sheets, a queen excluder, and a crown board with porter bee escapes.
This excellent buy is a WBC flat roof hive, but to keep out rain there’s a four-inch gabled aluminium cover.
Phew! No wonder this is the best beehive for newbies The Easi-pet hive comes with full set up instructions which are essential for the beginner.
Just add bees!
This Wildlife World Solitary Bee Hive is designed for solitary bees, it’s not a hive for a honey harvest but a home for mason and leafcutter bees to shelter and lay their larvae in.
The pleasure in buying this little bee hotel isn’t in taking honey, it’s about helping nature, educating your kids, and boosting pollination in your garden.
Bees are great pollinators of flowers, fruits, and veggies. When they live in your outdoor space they head straight to your nectar sources and spread pollen as they buzz about.
This little bee hotel is easily taken apart for cleaning which is essential if you want bees to live there. It has a solid backing to prevent the wind tunnel effect, a gabled roof, and small feet to keep out the damp.
This is a cute little bee home that’ll grace any modern or old style garden.
The Easipet National is a great little starter hive for beginners with nearly everything you need to get started.
There’s the all-important varroa mesh floor, to help control the destructive varroa mite, with an inspection tray. You also get entrance blocks with winter and summer holes which are an important method of maintaining the safety and health of your colony.
There’s a brood box and two super boxes with frames to hold all that honey. There’s a queen excluder with porter bee holes stop her Majesty laying eggs in the honey production frames. The hive has metal runners and an aluminium roof for weather protection too.
Overall this is a well-made beehive starter kit that’ll last for years with some care.
Here’s another great value beginner’s beehive. This Easipet Bee Hive is made from top quality antibacterial and antifungal cedar wood and has all the necessities a trainee beekeeper could need.
There’s one brood box to hold your creche, two super boxes to hold honey-filled frames and a queen excluder crown board with cutouts for porter bees.
There are entrance blocks for summer and winter use, and a varroa floor slide-out mesh so you can keep an eye on that destructive mite and treat it before it drains your colony.
As with the other Easipet hives, runners are constructed from metal and it’s all covered with a four-inch aluminium roof for protection.
You’ll need to buy frames and wax separately but that’s reflected in the price.
Making a change from Easipet’s offerings, here’s Wido’s best beehive.
This is an excellent wooden beehive that looks especially attractive in your garden. The square sturdy structure lends plenty of design appeal.
For your money you get summer and winter entrances, a varroa mesh, a brood box, two super boxes to hang frames in, a queen excluder to keep her majesty away from the frames, a crown board to close off the top before you remove the roof, and a metal top cover for protection against the elements.
This one has a two-year warranty and is perfect for the beginner with it’s decent instructions.
Just add frames, wax, and bees.
Bee Hive Buying Guide
If you’re interested in harvesting honey and helping our bee population, you’ll learn lots and have lots of fun too.
To make sure you get the most from this rewarding hobby here are some things to think about before you part with your cash.
Beehives are available in several designs but the most popular are the basic British National and the WBC. Hives were invented to help beekeepers harvest honey without damaging or disturbing the colony. An angry beehive is not a productive one!
If you’re just starting out the best bee hive for beginners is a flat-roofed National because it’s simple and more cost effective.
When buying your bee hive look out for these sections.
- Varroa mesh: This stops mites that fall off bees getting back into the hive and encourages good air circulation.
- Super box: The box which the frames sit inside. Bees produce the hexagonal wax framework and fill them with honey.The best bee hives hold 8-10 frames with spacers in between.
- Frames: Frames should be solid and hang easily inside the box
- Brood box: This is where the queen bee lays her eggs. It’s the living heart of the colony filled with larvae and pupae.
- A crown board: A board that closes off the main hive so its roof can be removed.
- Queen excluder: This is a piece of wood that stops the queen moving onto the frames to lay her eggs. It should have escape holes for the porter bees.
- Winter/Summer entrances: Bees buzz and in and out of the hive in summer so more holes are needed, but in winter they’ll sleep and feast on the honey they’ve produced. Use winter boards to prevent predators from gaining access.
Cedar is the best wood for a beehive. It’s strong but not heavy and it can stay outside for years without preservatives.
Cedar also has lots of anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Bees produce propolis which is a resin packed with anti-bacterial properties, but it doesn’t hurt to give them a helping hand with cedar does it?
The main point about beehive care is that it starts as soon as the hive hits the floor. You can’t just sit there and expect honey!
Beehives naturally rot, and they wear out over time. It’s usually the weather that causes rot, but pests and wood-eating insects create havoc too.
Woodlice and beetles feed on wood and they can destroy your beehive especially if they breed around the structure. Place your beehive on a slab and keep it as dry as you can to avoid rot that attracts insects.
Always repair damage before rot sets in and cover your hive to stop rain from rotting it.
Placing your hive in a sheltered location will help beat the elements but keep the entrance clear of vegetation.
Keeping your hive covered 24/7 leads to ventilation problems so only cover it if rainstorms are predicted or it’s a boiling day with unrelenting heat.
If the area around your hive is windy install a windbreak – don’t allow it to topple over and if it snows get the white stuff off straight away.
Use winter and summer entrance blocks. Ventilation is important but blocks provide enough whilst keeping out the elements, plus any creepy crawlies or wasps that fancy a sweet meal or nice dry winter at the expense of your colony.
If your bees get consistently wet, overheated, blown about, or invaded by pests they’ll swarm away to a better location.
Wax is essential to the health of your colony.
If you break off wax when you’re removing honey or simply checking on your bees, make sure any wax is put back in the hive.
If it’s destroyed, buy some specialist wax from the Bee Keepers Association and give the bees back their basic building blocks as soon as possible. They use it to make the honeycombs and to seal any cracks in the structure – it’s super important.
How To Start A Beehive
First of all, I’d recommend joining your local beekeeper’s association.
They have all the knowledge and experience to get you started and if you run into difficulties, there will be someone on hand help.
The best time of year to install a bee hive is in spring when the bees are up and about looking for food and shelter. Starting in spring also gives them plenty of time to create enough honey for the winter months.
If you have a garden with a sheltered corner that’s warm in the morning you can keep bees whether it’s in the town or countryside.
Bees will fly up to four miles to find the nectar they turn into honey, so if there’s not much around (apart from your well-stocked flower garden of course) they will find somewhere nearby.
To get your hive started you can buy a swarm of bees from the local beekeeper’s association. These bees are bred to have some resistance against local diseases.
A colony starts out as 4-6 frames with a queen, but as you get the hang of it they’ll breed and your colony will grow.
How Does A Beehive Work?
A beehive is a structure with several compartments all specially designed to help bees and the beekeeper.
There’s space for the queen to lay eggs and frames for bees to make wax honeycombs filled with honey.
Worker bees collect nectar, feed the queen, and keep the hive running efficiently. It’s the queen’s job to lay eggs, and the drones to mate with the queen. It’s frighteningly efficient!
Honey is produced to feed larvae and it’s eaten in winter when there are no flowers about.
Remember not to take all of your bee’s honey or they will starve to death over winter. You can buy replacement food and let the bees eat it from a sugar syrup feeder– this is essential, you can’t expect them to be your personal chef without some recompense.
How To Remove Honey From A Beehive
You will need:
- Beesuit or jacket with veil
- Hive tool
Have all of these items ready before attempting to take the honey. Bees don’t like it when you steal their meal!
A smoker is also important as it keeps bees away from the section of hive you’re working with – that’s the super boxes with hanging frames if you’re harvesting honey.
Smoke from a bee smoker is cool and it won’t hurt the bees. A hive tool allows you to prise apart the frames which bees seal shut with propolis.
Work slowly with the smoker and keep your movements calm. Remove some of the honeycombs intact as honey will drain from these when you’ve got safely back indoors. Pop honeycombs in a bowl before heading indoors as the smell of honey will attract wasps.
Ensure the frames are re-hung without squashing any bees and put the whole hive back together carefully.
It’s simple once you get the hang of it, but nerve-wracking the first time!
How To Find The Queen In Your Beehive
Finding the queen sounds simple but it can ‘bee’ tricky. She likes to hide and the worker bees don’t want you to find their precious ruler.
Don your bee suit and get out the smoker first.
The queen bee is the mother of the colony and if she dies the colony will die unless another is quickly brought on.
This is done by feeding larvae with royal jelly – a substance that worker bees produce. If they can’t do it in time then bye-bye colony. Be really, REALLY careful when you’re searching for the queen.
Here are some tips!
- The Queen is by far the largest bee. She’s large, thin and long with a pointed abdomen.
- Look for the bee with splayed legs – workers and drones have neat under-tucked legs.
- Is there a stinger? Hers is barb-free.
- Where are the larvae – she’ll be close by.
- Look in the centre – she won’t be on the edge but protected in the middle.
- Watch for grovelling bees – workers and drones always move out of her way and bring her food.
How To Stop Wasps Attacking Your Beehive
Wasps are a problem around a beehive.
When wasps stop getting sugary meals from their nest they’re driven crazy by sweet smells. That’s why they descend on your picnic – they’re desperate for something sweet. Hey, we’ve all been there!
Your beehive is hopefully stacked with sweet smelling honey that’s an irresistible buffet to wasps – but wasps in the beehive is a disaster.
They steal all the honey and are especially problematic if your colony is new, small, or weak. Wasps can clear out a honey supply leaving bees to starve over the winter. Once they break the honeycomb the smell gets stronger and attracts even more wasps.
Bees can defend themselves against wasps by holding them down and raising body heat until it dies. You’ll see ejected wasp bodies around the hive if this is happening.
Here are a few ways to stop wasps attacking your beehive.
- Try a wasp screen
Wasp screens, often called ‘robbing screens’, incorporate insect mesh. They fit over beehive entrance holes and whilst resident bees seem to find their way through, wasps are baffled.
As wasps buzz around trying to find the sweet smell, they’ll be attacked by worker bees and seen off.
- Be extra clean around the hive
If you spill honey it’s like a dinner gong to all wasps in the area. Keep your beehive and surroundings ultra-clean.
- Keep the colony strong
A strong colony can fend off wasps.
Keep your hive structure in good repair, watch out for pests and mites, feed the colony and minimise your inference. This will keep the colony strong and they’ll able to defend themselves against wasps.
- Reduce the entrance holes
Make the entrance holes big enough for only one bee at a time. This stops wasps getting inside, and queuing workers bees will attack them.
- Buy wasp traps
There are lots of wasp traps on the markets, but one of the most effective is beer!
Don’t drink it and ignore the wasp problem – put beer in bowls and the wasps drown as they try to get at the sweet drink. As a bonus, it’ll attract slugs too.
A Quick Timeline
It’s difficult to know what to do and when as a beginner beekeeper, so here’s a handy calendar to help keep you on top of your beehive starter kit.
January – Check regularly for damage. Brush off snow and leaves.
February – As above. Feed your bees.
March – Treat varroa mites if you find any and clean the hive floor.
April – Full hive check on the queen, structure, and food levels
May – Up inspections to a fortnight or weekly if there’s a problem. Add another super box if the first is getting full.
June – As above, plus if your colony is healthy and running out of super box space consider getting another hive.
July – As above, plus pay special attention to wasp robberies.
August – Harvest honey and treat for varroa.
September – Feed the bees again and check for pests
October – Fit winter entrance holes but don’t open the hive now.
November – Inspect the outside of your hive for damage and keep an eye on the weather. Cover up if necessary
December – as above.
Learning how to look after bees is one of life’s pleasures. Wild honey bees hives are rare now and without beekeepers they could die out with severe consequences to our planet.
If you’ve got a quiet corner of the garden and fancy some delicious free honey then set yourself up with a beginner’s apiary.
A fully stocked beehive starter kit makes a big difference to your stress levels and gets you off to a flying start.