Native bee hive design
I thought I would do a little post on native bee hive design. There are so many designs of boxes out there and new ones being created all the time. I myself have made at least 4 different native bee hive designs. I wanted to make a design I was happy to stick with and I drew inspiration from a few guys I know. Bob Luttrell, Russel Zable and Dean Haley.
I wanted a box that was nice and warm in the winter, resisted the heat in summer, waterproof, did not rot, was repeatable and I could see the bees in if I needed to look.
When I looked at Russel Zable’s box I liked the thick walls he had. Bob suggested a clear panel which I liked and Dean had a few tips on angled entrance and vent holes to prevent water coming into the box during rain.
Western red cedar for native bee hives.
The timber I wanted had to be western red cedar. It is highly resistant to decay from rot if kept off the ground which means end grain is ok to be exposed. A prized timber for boat building and outdoor furniture. Western red is a lightweight timber, much like the walls of a Styrofoam box, but with a bit more thermal structure to it. It has long straight running grain and very few knots. It ages nicely if untreated, turning a light grey as it oxidizes. I knew this would be the best.
To make my box repeatable I knew I had to work to milled timber widths. 140,190 etc., so I created a cutting list that works. Each side is 190mm long with a top lid that is 190 wide. The only odd piece is the base. The timber is 40mm thick for insulation. All the timber I use is 100% recycled and comes from Canada where there are strict rules in place to look after the future of the forest. For every tree that is cut seven more are planted and it is the logging company’s responsibility to make sure those seven grow to be big trees. They are motivated to comply by huge penalty’s are imposed on them for doing the wrong thing.
About the native bee hive design.
The box has two butt hinges and a latch so you can open it. A sheet of projector slide acts as a viewing panel to see what the bees are up to and a weather seal prevents pests and water from entering the box. The entrance hole is 13mm wide and angles upwards as suggested by Dean. Once the base box is filled with bees another box can be placed on top. The lid and latch and clear panel are moved to the top box and the bees continue to build upwards into their new box. Sometimes I like to make a little cedar roof also if the bees are exposed to sunlight.
Some other hive designs to look at are:
Bob the Beeman’s INPA Native bee Hive design
About Russel Zable’s Native bee Hive design
Dean Haley’s Native bee hive design
To make this box, here is an order list along with a cutting list.
All timber cut from either 140mm or 190mm WRC at 40mm thick.
Lenght of timber needed: 1x140x40@ 1000mm
4x190mm long at the height of box you want. My walls are 140 high on the base box
1×190/110 wide this is the base, Which is put in after box is screwed together. Use a mallet and block of timber to knock it in.
1x272mm / 190 wide for the lid.
Check out this updated post on making a hive.
My comment is about the standard OATH dimensions of 28cm length x 20cm width. When I first started building boxes I found it hard to find 20cm width wood. As a carpenter, do you know if this is a standard size that Bunnings and so on stock?
Also. What is your opinion of outdoor plywoods. Are any of them up to the task for making bee boxes?
Timber sizes are an interesting thing. 20cm or 200mm is not a standard size timber and can be difficult to find. I believe there are two reasons for this. Number one is when Australia was first moving into the industrial side of things we had the imperial system come in, it was taught in schools and the machinery we had suited this. Naturally the guys at the timber mill followed suit and machines where set up to finish timber in inches not mm. We followed suit with our 2×4 studs and so on. Now we still keep a lot of measurements that follow the imperial sizes because that’s what builders are used to using. Eg 42/19 , 64/19, 89/19, 140/19 , 285/19. The second resason seemly odd sizes occur is that, the timber size may suit a specific use and so is sold more often in that size. For example door jamb is sold in 92mm and 112 wide. 92mm suits a 70mm stud with a sheet of 10mm plasterboard either side. I believe when choosing a box design a person should consider the size of timbers that are available to build with. This will make their job have a quality finish and also be faster to build.
For plywood I would recommend using marine ply. Marine ply is glued together with a special glue that resists the de lamination of the ply wood layers when it is exposed to moisture. I also like form ply which is very close to being waterproof if the edges are properly sealed with a weather proof paint. Bees do prefer a raw unfinished timber surface to fix their resin to and form ply would need to be roughed up with heavy grit sandpaper on the inside of the box to help them along.
Hope this helps.
There is much talk about the size of the box but none of the important information like internal measurements. As there is many different thickness of timber the 1 constant is the internal measurement. Does anybody know what the internal measurements should be ???
Hi Grant good point! I faced the Same question when I first started. Depending on your location you can use different internal measurements. If you live in Nsw most people opt for a larger internal measurement. 160/240 by 90mm high for each layer of box. My boxes are 110/190 by 140mm high. There isn’t a strict rule to follow perse but 7 litres or more for Nsw and 5 for Queensland will work. I have seen hives less then 2 litres work in Queensland for carbonaria. Hockingsi prefer a larger hive and if they have the space they will keep building. Northern hives can be 65 litres easy. I hope to upload some plans for a hive soon. Have a look on instructables website as I made a video of making a hive there. Kind regards Nick
Bees build differently depending on the boxes internal dimensions. Rectangular boxes wiil have pollen in font, brood in the middle and honey at the rear of the box.
Narrow boxes such as Nicks 110 wide are not likely to slump in hot weather, however there’s not much room for the bees to work.
Square boxes are interesting. The brood area is round and well developed. The pollen and honey is discretely deposited in the corners. Brood of carbonaria will get to a diameter of about 15cm in a strong colony. Some people are using 15cm x 15cm square boxes.
As Nick said, keep an idea about volume. I think something like 5L works well for carbonaria.
Interesting Nick you find only 5 litres for SE Qld, while 7 litres for NSW. BUT he is right at least for NQLD for hockingsi. My hive are about 230mm x 160mm x 110mm now, 3 layers – that’s 11 litres – so again deeper than most BUT they fill it, and needs emptying every 6 months, so they do fill it.
Graham L Sanders
thanks 4 that Nicholas, my current brood boxes that I made up r 175 X 230 and 100 high and the honey super is 75 high and that’s the internals I’m using 50 mm Cyprus so by the looks of it we are both pretty close.
That sounds like it will work fine grant. 50mm is a great choice for a wall thickness. Your bees will be very happy.
hi Nicholas, I couldn’t find that video , do u have a link please ??
Hey mate I think that video is on the home page. Have a look here. http://www.instructables.com/id/Native-bee-hive/
Does anyone know the best dimensions for a bee box in Melbourne?
Currently Melbourne doesn’t have a design because stingless bees have trouble living there. You could keep an exotic species of honey bee though. Some are quite calm and pleasure to work with.
Having many years of experience with Wester Red Cedar you need to be aware that it is quite poisonous to insects. I don’t have any information on how detrimental it could be to native bees but if I were making a bee hive it wouldn’t be in Red Cedar.
You are right Mat. In fact most of the timbers that are very good in weather have some form of natural insecticide in them. When I first started putting bees into western red cedar I ran some tests to see what they would do and if it killed any bees. So far I have not seen a bad side to it in the couple of years I have been using it. Maybe in time?