BBKA Forum

British Beekeepers Association Official Forum 

  • What's the next best beehive wood after Western Red Cedar?

  • Bee Hive building & a place to share howto's on equipment
Bee Hive building & a place to share howto's on equipment
 #1716  by WalnutTreeBees
 20 Jan 2019, 11:43

I'm looking to build a few hives and am interested in cheaper alternatives to Cedar.

I'm wondering if anyone has long term experience of the durability of Siberian and/or English Larch, or Douglas Fir?

Or perhaps there is another wood to consider? I would like to build something to last a good few years if possible (otherwise I might as well just buy Cedar!)

Any thoughts?
 #1717  by Patrick
 20 Jan 2019, 12:49

Sounds fun. What type of hives are you thinking of building and what type of beekeeping are you anticipating doing - will the finished hives be fixed or are you likely to want to move them occasionally?

The reason I ask is that if you are used to cedar, some alternative materials are prodigiously heavy by comparison once made up.
 #1719  by Chrisbarlow
 20 Jan 2019, 13:34
I can only say stay away from ply, having made some up when I first started beekeeping, you have to throw an enourmous amount of paint at the them to stop them from delaminating. flat pack western red cedar is far easier in comparison.

Good luck with your quest though.
 #1720  by Jim Norfolk
 20 Jan 2019, 15:03
Ply is fine for boxes inside WBCs and I have used it for years. It is also OK if painted for summer lifts but does not overwinter well unlesss expensive marine ply is used. I have made lifts of ordinary pine but as Patrick suggests it is much heavier than cedar as are the other woods mentioned. Densities western red cedar 0.38, larch 0.55, douglas fir 0.53 g/cm3. Add in the durability of cedar than that explains why people are prepared to pay more for it.
 #1724  by AdamD
 20 Jan 2019, 19:08
As Jim states, the inside of WBC's are fine in plywood.

Being a cheapskate, I have nucs of various plywoods, DIY-shed pine shelving and I used a bit of a wardrobe which made an 'emergency' brood box. And tannalised decking with a bit of kitchen worktop makes an acceptable hive roof although it will not last too many years. All this is fine for a bit of fun, however my preference really is for cedar - it may cost more but if you consider the cost of woodstain; the environmental impact of it and the time to apply and re-apply every few years, then cedar is much better for standard hive parts.

There is no reason why cedar should not last donkeys years without preservative treatment. Having said that, if you have a WBC, it really has to be white and I have one (eBay purchase) with marine ply lifts and roof which will definitely not blow over in a gale as it weighs a hernia and a half. And I have one with lightweight lifts of an unknown wood (not cedar me thinks) which is many years old, bought at the Norfolk auction and in nearly perfect condition.
 #1752  by WalnutTreeBees
 24 Jan 2019, 18:21
Thanks for your replies - it sounds like cedar is the way to go really, although I would like to try some larch at the same time, just to see how it fairs, much easier to get hold of larch at a good price. Ply would be too expensive in the thicknesses that I would like to use.

I will be building nationals but with some modifications such as thicker side walls for improved insulation and ease of construction. Weight is not such an issue for me (in my twenties) and I would like to run 10 frames per box (38mm centres) which will help to cancel out additional wood weight. Hives will not change location but will be inspected regularly throughout the season. Although I would like to build a Warre with 2" walls to run as a very low intervention experiment hive alongside my nationals.

I will hold out for some cedar then I think.
 #1761  by DianeBees
 26 Jan 2019, 12:46
I know someone who works at a woodyard and he had quite a few people coming in to ask about cedar wood. Mostly Polish lads who were quite happy to tell him they were making bee boxes. I assume the value of making it in cedar comes from the decrease in other work required to make cheaper wood last longer.