small bee

Choosing a hive isn’t quite the same as choosing a puppy, but there are decisions to be made when starting out.

first hive (small)

We deal exclusively with Langstroth hives, these are the hives found most commonly in New Zealand. Comprising a floor, boxes (often called ‘supers’) a hive mat and a lid. The Langstroth hive can change in size throughout the year as the colony expands and contracts with the seasons.

The hive can be broken into two main areas - the brood area and the honey stores. These are usually divided by the queen excluder, a mesh layer that the queen cannot pass through but the workers can. This is necessary to keep the queen in the brood area where she can be more easily found.


It also allows us to inspect the brood area for diseases, treat for varroa mites and avoids viral and bacterial contamination of honey frames from pupal cocoons and dirty brood comb.

first hive

What’s in the hive is more important. Ideally start with a nucleus colony. This is a small but functional colony, usually consisting of three frames of brood (from eggs to hatching bees), two frames of food and ALWAYS a mated, laying queen. The reason for starting small is so that your skills can grow with your colony, you don’t want to be overwhelmed on your first solo bee experience. If you get your colony in the spring, try and look through it quietly every week. A hive grows exponentially in spring and you can find that the nuc you checked three weeks ago is now bursting at the seams and about to swarm.

When sourcing your first hive, ask around. Get recommendations from people in similar beekeeping situations as yourself. Make sure you are buying what you need and not what somebody else wants to get rid of. Be aware that selling bees to new beekeepers is a useful way of losing old manky gear or angry bees! Buy from a registered beekeeper for traceability and disease control purposes. You can ask to inspect a hive before you buy it and if you buy a diseased hive you may be able to ask for a refund or replacement within a reasonable timeframe.

When you get your first hive you will need to register yourself as a beekeeper and also your apiary location. This is a legal requirement, contact The Management Agency for details. (You can type in Once you are registered you will need to complete an annual disease return and have your hives inspected once a year by a beekeeper that holds a Disease Elimination Conformity Agreement (DECA). You may also receive a visit from an AP2 to inspect your hives if you are deemed to be in a high risk area. More information is available from AsureQuality, The AFBPMP Management Agency and APINZ.