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Types of Beehive

There is a lot of choice for a new beekeeper when it comes to picking a beehive, and new ones designs are always appearing on the market. So, which is the right one to buy?

For UK beekeepers, RBKA recommends starting with a BS national beehive, since this hive type is most suited to the needs of British bees and our climate. However, providing you practice good beekeeping, you should be successful no matter which hive type you choose.

On this page we take a look at some of the most common hive types you may come across.

BS National hive

Two cedar national hives on a double hive stand

British Standard (BS) National

The most common beehive type you will come across in the UK. A good choice for new beekeepers due to the high availability of compatible parts, and thus lower cost. As already mentioned above, this hive type is the most suitable for British bees and our climate.

National hives can be purchased made from cedar, polystyrene (poly hives) and other types of wood, e.g. pine.

The best national hives are made from cedar, however these are also the most expensive. Cedar hives do not need to be treated as the wood contains natural oils which protect them from the elements.

National hives made from other softwoods e.g. pine needs to be treated with a bee-friendly wood preservative e.g. linseed oil to weatherproof it before use.

Poly hives are popular for their superior insulating properties, and some beekeepers swap their wooden hive roof for a poly roof over winter to exploit this over the coldest months. Disadvantages of poly hives include the fact they cannot be sterilized with a flame, they can be prone to condensation and some beekeepers don't find them aesthetically pleasing.


The most common hive worldwide is the Langstroth, although it is less popular in the UK. This hive is of a similar vertical modular design to the national but differs in the size of the frames and component boxes.

langstroth hive

Langstroth hive (E H Thorne Ltd)

wbc hive

WBC hive (E H Thorne Ltd)

WBC hive 

This is a somewhat old-fashioned hive design which is most well-known as the "classic" beehive in paintings and on cards. It is a double-walled hive with exterior stacked pyramid sections called "lifts" surrounding separate loose boxes, in which the colony lives. This design works well for insulating the bees, however it is complicated to assemble, is very difficult to transport when it is full of bees and is generally considered less practical compared to other hive types.

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