What Are Beehives Made Out Of?

We have all encountered beautifully interesting homes crafted by honeybees. Have you ever asked the question, “what are beehives made out of?” If so, you’ve come to the right place. And buckle up, there’s a lot more that goes into it than you would probably expect.

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Beehives serve a multitude of functions: manufacturing plant, security building, warehouse, and home. It’s no mystery as to why they build their houses to be so efficient and multi-faceted – they spend their lives working. Working to make honey, and this happens right in their living room. What are beehives made out of requires a deeper understanding as to what materials these workers use. Let’s dive into it.

How Do Bees Make Hives

The building process of bees is fascinating when it comes to their hives. The bees work from the top down when it comes to crafting and designing their efficient, honey-making homes. It helps if we look at the question “what are beehives made out of” to grasp how bees make hives.

  • Bee Glue
  • Beeswax
  • Honey

Bee Glue

Propolis plays a vital role in these tough, sturdy bee-made structures. So, what exactly is propolis? Propolis is essentially bee glue – it helps hold the beehive together and patch up any unwanted holes. It also helps to keep out any pesky, unwanted visitors by offering up defense. The word derives from the Greek words pro translating to “at the entrance to” and polis “community.” This makes sense as they serve as the beehive’s first line of defense.

Propolis production requires nothing more than some bee saliva, beeswax, and exudate (substance created by plants.) It also has health benefits for humans, but for bees it acts as the nails and security for their homes.

Beeswax

Bees must first build the walls of their bustling homes, and this requires a lot of manual labor on their part. Once the temperature is right, bees will chew wax until its soft, and this regurgitated wax acts as the boards and foundation for their homes. You may be wondering, is this beeswax? Yep, beeswax is 100% a real, tangible product, and not just a funny word used to tell someone something isn’t their business!  We will get into the interesting details about how beeswax is produced a littler later. What are beehives made out of? A whole lot of beeswax!

Honey

What would a bee be without honey? As soon as the flowers start to bloom, you’ll notice swarms of bees buzzing around – flying to and fro, flower to flower. But what exactly are they doing? Well, they’re working! There’s a reason people say, “busy as a bee.” Springtime is a hectic season for these yellow and black pollinators, as they work tirelessly around the clock.

The honest work in the flower patch consists of worker bees collecting nectar through their mouths which act like a built-in straw. Bees are essentially drinking up the flower. The nectar they collect is stored into a built-in sac, known as a crop. Meanwhile, as soon as the nectar gets to the bee’s pouch – it starts to mix together with special bee enzyme.

Here’s where it gets even more fascinating. After they’ve filled up on flower juice, they fly back to the hive and transfer the specialized nectar to another bee’s mouth. The liquid then dissolves and results in honey!

Beehive Interior

So, what are beehives made out of? Well, propolis, beeswax, and honey! The bees take their wax, chew it up, and use it to build their honeycombs. By chewing the wax, it makes it soft which allows it to be more manageable and molded into what the bees need it for – building their precious beehives.

These hexagonal bee creations are used for a multitude of purposes inside the beehive. Honeycombs hold larvae, pollen, nectar, and of course – honey. You can consider honeycombs the interior, the rooms, if you will, of the beehive.

Putting It Together

Bees use their hard-earned resources to construct their home to last. Their honeycombs build out the perfect frames for a reliable home and honey-production workshop. Without the work and collaboration from all the individual bees, it would not be possible to construct their beehives and make honey – as it requires a lot of energy. The construction of a beehive requires more than just material, but the hard work by the bees themselves!  

How Do Bees Create the Wax Combs in Their Hives?

So, how exactly is beeswax produced? Worker bees have 8 glands in their abdomen that act as wax-producing machines. The process of making wax is a noble one, and it requires a few days of a bee’s short life to make the necessary elements to construct the beehive. The most efficient beeswax makers are the bees that are just under 18 days old. (They are practically late-teens in bee years at 18 days old.)

These teenage worker bees will chew honey, and then their bodies convert the sugar into a waxy material which is secreted in tiny droplets. The worker bee or a nearby bee will then chew on these little wax droplets and this is what makes beeswax!

This task isn’t as easy as it may sound as it requires quite the effort and teamwork from the bees in the beehive. The hard work pays off as it is one of the most important elements to crafting a beehive, which leads us to our next point.  

What is the function of the beeswax comb in a hive?

It is a serious undertaking, requiring a lot of the bee’s energy, to create a beeswax comb. Yet, there’s a reason the bees do so. As discussed briefly earlier, honeycombs act as the storage for all of the bees’ materials. These hexagonal storage bins are vital to the survival of the bees.

Beeswax combs aren’t just for storage. These little crevices also act as a home for young bees.  The purpose of honeycombs is wide-ranging and considerable. Without the storage, bees would not be able to survive the colder months. The honey that the comb stores allow the bees to maintain energy, which is what helps them to sustain life.

Lastly, honeycombs act as the walls of the beehive. You could say that’s important. Imagine your house without walls!

Types of Hives

Believe it or not, there are plenty more beehives than the traditional ones you are used to. Some are still used/created today while others – are not so much. Let’s get into it.

  • Mud
  • Clay
  • Skeps
  • Bee Gums

Mud

What are beehives made out of depends on the bee, sometimes! Mason bees are partial to mud and clay. Have you ever heard of a mason bee, and wondered where they got their name from? These bees are the masters at mud hives; they are masons! These hives also tie into clay hives as most mason bees use mud that has a high clay content to build their homes.

When choosing mud for their hives, they try and find damp mud that is easy to manipulate and mold. This way, they can build the perfect, sturdy structure. Once the mud dries, they have a reliable, protected home.

These bees often shy away from mud with sand, as once this dries it is prone to fall apart quite easily. This makes the bees vulnerable to bad weather and predators.

As far as commercial beekeeping goes, man-made mud hives are common in both Siberia and Egypt.

Clay

Clay hives are one of the oldest hives used by beekeepers, and they date back centuries. These man-made hives were typically large, clay tubes that were uncovered on both ends. Once the honey was ready to be harvested, beekeepers would smoke out the tubes. This would drive out the bees, and the keepers were able to collect the honey.

This ancient technique is still used in modern times, but it is not as common as other beekeeping methods.

Skeps

Another ancient hive is the bee skep. Bee skeps have been around for thousands of years. When you think back to traditional beekeeping, it would be surprising if you didn’t have the thought of this upside-down, basket-shaped image come to mind.

Bee skeps were traditionally made from twine or straw, woven together, and it created a thick rope. This rope was connected tightly together to form what looks like a sturdy basket. This worked well for traditional beekeeping, but it is not as common today as there are more effective methods.

A major disadvantage of using a bee skep is that it is nearly impossible for beehive inspections (used to check for disease.) They could also prove to be inhumane as some beekeepers would kill the bees in order to harvest the honey. In some places, the use of bee skeps is illegal.

All in all, bee skeps should be left in ancient times.

Bee Gums

Bee gum hives are another unique method used for commercial beekeeping. The hives are built inside hollowed-out tree trunks. In modern-day, metal bars or poles are placed on top of the “hives,” and this allows for the humane removal of honeycombs.

Traditionally, beekeepers didn’t have or use a humane way for comb-removal, and it often resulted in the bees being killed. Fortunately, regulations now prevent this inhumane treatment.

Now, honey harvested from bee gums are often thought of as prestigious. You will see many beekeepers advertising the exclusivity of where their honey comes from. The interesting part of this is that the honey is seemingly the exact same. Yet, there seems to be a certain positive distinction when advertising that honey comes from bee gum hives. (This also means it usually costs more!)

What is the Best Material for a Beehive?

Bee-friendly wood is the best material when comes to constructing a man-made beehive. There are a few wood types that appear more efficient than others. Pinewood offers reliability and affordability when it comes to building your beehive. Cedar comes with a higher price tag than pine, but it is more aesthetically pleasing, and the smell offers up a deterrent for unwanted pests messing with your beehive. Lastly, Fir is a great choice for building your beehive. Fir is strong and not easily warped, and even if it is – it will always return back to its original shape.

It is important to make sure you build your beehive with quality wood. You would not want to spend the effort and energy creating a home that falls apart. If you aren’t sure on what wood to use, ask a bee expert!

Do Bees Make Their Hives Out In The Open?

Do bees make their hives out in the open? The simple answer is some do. At one point or another, you have probably seen a beehive in a field, in a tree, or other natural environments. These are the honeybees we were talking about earlier. They don’t go out of their way to hide from humans.

However, there are some bees who prefer to nest underground. These introverted bees are what you may know as bumblebees. Bumblebees will also build nests in abandoned rodent dwellings.

What Are The Advantages Of Modern Beehive Designs?

We can attribute the modern beehive design to Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth, known as the Father of American Beekeeping. Langstroth discovered that bees leave the exact space between them when they build their combs. He took his finding and crafted a hive that had these spaces where bees could build their comb.  This is advantageous as the bees and combs can be removed easily without damaging either one.

Langstroth designed it so the queen bee could have her space at the bottom of the modern beehive. This design allowed easy and effortless inspection. These advantages are credited with making beekeeping more common in the United States. Thanks L.L. Langstroth!

The Rundown

What are beehives made out of? A lot of work and energy! You now know, beehives require a lot of time and effort from the bees that live in them. It is truly a job that envelopes their very being. This is why it’s so paramount that the bees work together. It would be impossible to create their beehives without the teamwork of the colony.

Modern beekeeping has also allowed efficient and humane methods for harvesting honey. Yet, the widely used beehive designs are inspired by the experts themselves, the bees.

It’s important that if you are interested in beekeeping, that you do your research first in what are beehives made of. While the bees have a smooth-running operation, it is often hard to replicate without a complete understanding. There is a plethora of resources online for you to turn to before attempting to build your own beehive.

Hive a nice day!

Photo of author
Written By Jake

I spend all my free time and energy needed to put my passion for beekeeping into practice! I created this page to share my expertise in beekeeping with bee lovers around the world and help them take their first professional steps with confidence! Bee Kind & Help Bees Thrive!

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