Beekeeping – Part two: A Home for Your Bees

Livestock and beekeeping


Thousands of farmers around the world earn extra money by keeping bees. Beekeeping can be profitable for you too. You can sell the honey and wax that bees make to earn extra money. And bees pollinate crops. This means that if you keep bees on or close to your farm you will probably increase crop yields.

Beekeeping is easy to do. You don’t need expensive equipment or a lot of land to keep bees. They don’t need much care, will work hard for you, and can be kept almost anywhere.

One of the first things you’ll have to do if you decide to keep bees is to get or make a hive. A hive is the bees’ home. It is the place where they take care of their young, build their wax comb, and store honey. A hive also protects bees from the rain, cold, wind, and pests.

There are many different types of hives to choose from. Some hives are simple to build, while others require more equipment and experience to make. You will want to choose a bee hive that makes it easy for bees to produce a lot of honey. At the same time it should be a structure that makes it easy for you to harvest the honey.

Today we’re going to talk about two simple types of hives. You should be able to make these simple hives with materials at hand.

The fixed-comb hive

The easiest and cheapest hive to build is called a fixed-comb hive. It is called a fixed-comb hive because the wax comb that the bees build is attached to the side of the hive. These hives are long and round — they look like a hollow tree trunk – in fact you can use a hollow tree trunk if you want. They are often made out of wood, clay, or woven twigs. These materials are usually easy to find – you could use hollow logs, bamboo stems, a clay pot, or even grass to weave a basket hive.

The hive should be about twice the length of your arm. Make several small holes in the centre of the log the size of the end of your thumb so the bees can get in and out. Make removable covers for each end of the hive. The bees will build their honey combs inside the hive near the ends. You need to be able to take off the covers and harvest some honey while at the same time disturbing the nest as little as possible.

The bees will build their nest inside the container, just as they would in a hole in a tree or other opening found in nature.

You won’t need any special equipment to build this type of hive. And, since it is made from locally available materials it might only take a few hours to build and it will help keep your costs low.

The moveable-comb hive

The second simple type of beehive is the moveable-comb hive. It is a little more difficult to make, but most of the building materials will still be easy to find. One example of this kind of hive is called the Kenya top-bar hive. This hive is a long box with a rectangular bottom and sloping walls. The open top is

covered with a lid. The box contains a series of movable bars. The bees attach their wax combs so that they hang underneath the bars.

This type of hive has some advantages over the fixed-comb hive that we talked about earlier. The bars and combs can be removed so you can work with the bees and collect the honey easily. Also, you can get as much honey as possible without disturbing the bees or destroying the wax comb. The combs can be emptied and then put back into the hive for the bees to fill with honey again.

It is important to place the bars carefully. The spaces between the frames need to be the same size as in a bee’s natural nest. The natural comb spacing is the distance between the comb on one frame to the comb on the frame hanging beside it. This spacing depends on the species of bee. The best way to find out how much space to leave is to measure the spacing between combs in a wild nest of the same bees. Or you could ask a beekeeper for help.

You can keep your hive close to your home. Put the hive in an area protected from the sun and wind. Put your hive near flowering plants so your bees can get nectar to make honey. Bees will also need a water source nearby.

Beekeeping can be done by anyone – men, women – and older children can help too. Bees can bring you extra money, and help make your other crops more productive through increased pollination. Keeping bees can improve your life!


  • This script was researched and written by Erik Nielsen for DCFRN. It was reviewed by Dr. Medhat Nasr, Apiculturist, Ontario Beekeepers’ Association, Bayfield, Ontario, Canada.
  • The production of this script was made possible with the generous support of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Ottawa, Canada.

Information sources

  • “Bees need a home”, World neighbors in action, Vol. 5, No. 4E, pages 4-6. World Neighbors, 5116 North Portland Ave., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 73112, U.S.A.
  • “Sweet harvest: beekeeping by smallholders,” ILEIA newsletter, Vol. 9, No. 1, March 1993, pages 26-27. Centre for Low-External Input and Sustainable Agriculture, Kastanjelaan 5, P.O. Box 64, NL-3830 AB Leusden, The Netherlands.
  • “To bee or not to bee”, AT source, Volume 18, No. 1, March 1990, page 14. Agromisa, P.O. Box 41, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands.
  • “AT Brief: No. 7: Beekeeping”, Appropriate technology, Vol. 20, No. 4, March 1994, page 18. Intermediate Technology Publications, 103-15 Southampton Row, London, WC1B 4HH, U.K.
  • International Bee Research Association, 18 North Road, Cardiff, CF1 3DY, U.K.