Smith Beehive
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Introduction to the Smith Beehive

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Modern beehives such as the Smith Beehive are designed with honeybees in mind. It tries to mitigate some serious threats to honeybee colonies such as colony collapse disorder. This is a common occurrence globally that results in the death of bees. Beekeepers try as much as possible to mitigate any predisposing factors that can result in colony collapse. And this can explain why most beekeepers prefer modern beehives, instead of older designs that do not provide a favorable home for honeybees.

History of Smith Beehives

As the name suggests, Smith beehives derive the name from a reputed Scottish beekeeper whose name was Willie Smith. He is regarded as Scotland’s first commercial beekeeper. Other authoritative sources regard Willie Smith as Scotland’s greatest beekeeper.

The advent of the Smith beehives is linked to Willie Smith’s desire for an inexpensive and small beehive that could meet his needs and successfully raise native bees. Furthermore, such a hive could still offer the benefits of an American Langstroth hive. This was the motive behind the advent of the Smith beehive. There was no such hive at the time and thus Smith set out to design one in 1928.

Willie Smith designed a beehive using the British standard frame. However, he used a very short lug and top bee space. This resulted in the simple hive, made up of brood boxes and supers finished using 4 boards. It is worth mentioning the fact that Willie Smith made most of his beehives. More so, he came up with other hive accessories such as a comb cutter/scraper.

Interestingly, Willie Smith owned and managed more than 250 honeybee colonies. All these he managed on his own and apiculture was his main source of sustenance.

Willie Smith passed on in 1969 and Gorge Hood took over his colonies. The latter hails from East Lothian. Smith definitely made a huge impact in the beekeeping industry. He remains a legend and will be remembered for his efforts in making beekeeping easier and more rewarding.

Climatic Advantage of Smith Beehives

It is important to note that the Smith beehive was specially designed by a resident of Scotland. That nevertheless does not mean the hive will not be suitable for other locations. Scotland is ideally cool and wet, and is hugely affected by the North Atlantic drift, the warm sea current from the Caribbean that keeps Scotland’s coast ice-free during winter, unlike the West. This results in drier weather, more sun during summer and colder winter months.

During summer, beehives are cooled and conversely heated during winter by the bees themselves. The honeybees thus use a lot of their energy to keep the temperature within desirable levels. Regions such as the United States, favor large beehives since prevailing temperatures are relatively moderate. Unfortunately, parts such as the U.K. experience more severe winter months. Therefore, the British beehive tends to be a bit smaller. This design allows the bees to use less heat during winter.

Scotland, for instance, experiences severe winter months which can lead to the bees freezing when temperatures are very low. Furthermore, the bees use up a lot of energy to maintain warmth even on moderately sized hives. The Smith beehive, therefore, makes the task of warming the hive much easier during the winter due to its compact size. Ultimately, the beekeeper obtains healthier and well-rested honeybees at the onset of spring.

Small-sized beehives such as the Smith hive also benefit Scottish beekeepers. It allows the beekeepers in Scotland to keep the bees close to the nectar and pollen, by moving the beehives directly to the sources of nectar and pollen. This substantially minimizes the distances honeybees need to move when foraging.

The bottom line is that Smith beehives minimize the strain on the honeybees when temperatures are extremely low. The hives are also the least straining to Scottish beekeepers. since they are easy to move from one area to another. The Smith beehive is much smaller than any other hive and is very portable.

Commercial Advantage of Smith Beehives

Commercial beekeepers place an important role and are part of a much bigger system. Major industries served by beekeepers include agriculture, the retail sector, the consumer market, and the food industry.

Most of the hives used by commercial beekeepers feature drawers, precisely measured and fitted to allow the honeybees to build honeycombs within each of the drawers. Langstroth hives have these specially designed drawers and are perhaps the most popular type of beehive. Other commercial beehives such as the British National, Dadant and Smith hives, mimic the Langstroth, hence they have Langstroth-style drawers. However, each hive design is different to meet the varying needs of beekeepers.

The Smith beehive is common among beekeepers throughout Scotland. It is single-walled and similar, often appearing as a shorter version of the British National beehive. The size is its defining feature.

Top space is one of the signature features of the Smith beehive. It plays an important role in eliminating any possibility of crushing or killing bees during routine inspection or honey harvesting. Consequently, it makes it so much easier for the beekeeper to check on the bees. Harvesting honey also becomes so much easier.

Other Advantages of the Smith Beehive

The minimalistic design of the Smith beehive makes it an excellent choice for beekeepers that plan to move their bees around. It easily fits into the back of an SWB Land Rover Defender or similar modes of transportation.

Some of the advantages of the Smith beehive include:

  • Weight – this beehive is so much lighter making it possible for the beekeepers to move the hive easily from one point to another. It can therefore befit those that face harsh weather conditions that force them to keep changing locations.
  • A top space – the death of honey bees can be devastating to any beekeeper, thus Willie Smith came up with a beehive that completely eliminated this. The bee space is available above the frame and on top of the box, instead of below. Therefore, enough room is provided for the bees to move freely which protects them from being crushed or killed.
  • Temperature regulation – the Smith beehive helps keep colony temperature within the required levels thus minimizing the strain on the honeybees.
  • Small size – the small size of the Smith beehive offers great benefits. You can place it closer to the forage or flower sources thus eliminating the need for bees to cover long distances when searching for nectar and pollen. The hive is portable. Additionally, smaller hives make it much easier for honeybees to keep the hive warm during cold seasons such as winter.


Traditional vs Modern Hives

There are two types of hives: the traditional hive and the modern hive. Traditional hives boast the simplest design and can be merely an enclosure without special interior modifications. These hives are normally made of clay or tiles. Traditional hives exploited the honeybees, mainly focusing on honey production for consumption with the least care for bee’s welfare.

Types of Traditional Hives

Traditional hives were quite simple in design. It consisted of a basket placed with its open end downwards. It is then sealed using mud or clay. These hives were common throughout Europe. The hives had a design similar to what we currently see in modern hives. However, such hives have been banned in other parts of the world such as the US.

Another popular traditional hive is the use of hollowed-out tree trunks. This is common in some parts of Africa and might not be ideal for commercial beekeepers given its low productivity.

Modern Hives

One of the most common, widely used and movable modern hives are the Smith Beehive and the British National beehive. The hive is lightweight to allow beekeepers to move it around with ease. The Smith beehive also has a top space that prevents congestion of wax, thus minimizing the death of bees.

Modern hives generally consist of:

  • Hive stand – this supports the upper hive components and provides a landing board for honey bees. It also helps protect the bottom board from rotting and keeps off cold winds.
  • Bottom board – this is the floor of the hive that allows a single entry point for honeybees to enter and leave the hive. The entrance should have a wider setting when warm and a reduced size during the colder months. A single entrance to the hive also makes it easier for honey bees to defend the colony from threats.
  • Brood chamber – this is situated at the bottom of the hive box. It contains the cells made by the worker bees and these act as incubators for the egg, larvae, and pupae development. Other cells within the brood chamber also hold pollen, nectar and honey that feed developing larvae. This is the area where the queen bee lays her eggs.
  • Honey supers – these lay within the upper box and are the honey stores. Supers are shorter than brood chambers. These are removed during honey harvesting and honey is extracted. Additionally, some of the supers are preserved for the bees to consume during winter.
  • Frames/Foundation – the frame with the wax or plastic sheets, accompanied by the honeycomb impression acts as a base for honey bees to build honeycombs. These combs host the bee larvae and also provide storage for honey and pollen. The honeycombs and removed and spun during honey harvesting, to extract stored honey in the combs.
  • Inner cover – it serves a number of purposes asides from separating the overly hot or cold outer cover from the hive’s interior. It can be used as a feeding area for honeybees.
  • Outer cover – this mainly acts as the protective sheet of the bee house. It keeps the honeybee colony safe from the elements such as rain and wind.

Benefits of Modern Beehives

The modern beehive is portable since it is light and can therefore be moved from one area to another with ease depending on the interest of the beekeeper.

Modern beehives have excellent designs that safeguard honeybees from getting crushed or killed during a routine inspection or honey harvesting. Thus this leads to more bees which directly contributes to more production of honey.

The modern bee hives can be easily inspected daily by removing the brood frame and inspecting the hive thoroughly. Inspection of the hive is important since it helps the farmer identify the presence or absence of pests and diseases.

The swarming of bees can be easily controlled by providing adequate brood space and preventing overcrowding. Modern hives provide all of that.

The hives are quite sturdy and durable since they are made of high-quality wood such as soft wood like pine and cedar.

A Bit About Bees

Bees are closely related to ants and wasps. These flying insects are best known for honey production and pollination services. One of the well-known species of honeybees is the western honeybee. It is the top domesticated honeybee-producing honey.

Scientific Classification of Bees

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Arthropoda
Class Insecta
Order Hymenopoda
(Unranked) Unicalcarida
Suborder Apocrita
Superfamily Apoidea
Clade Antophilia

Interestingly, bees can be found everywhere in the world, with the exception of Antarctica. It basically survives and thrives anywhere you can find pollinated flowering plants.

The helictidae are the most common bees, also called the sweet bees. These bees are extremely small and are often mistaken for wasps or flies. Besides the very tiny bee, you will also find stingless bee species that are popular among beekeepers. The tiny bees can be less than 2 millimeters (0.08) in length. Nonetheless, bigger bees such as the megachilie luto can attain a size of 37-38 millimeters, and are regarded as the largest species of bees.

Nectar and pollen are the main food for bees. Nectar is the main energy source and pollen provides protein and essential nutrients. Pollen is primarily the bee larvae’s food.

Most bees are regarded as eusocial, that is, they live in organized groups referred to as colonies, with a colony comprising a queen and the bees.

Honey Bees

Honeybees are one of a kind, predominantly recognized for their building of perennial nests using wax, big colonies, surplus honey production and accumulation of honey.

There are about 8 known surviving species of honeybees. These have approximately 43 subspecies. Historically, there are about 7-11 species of bees recognized and the honeybee forms a small fraction of the bee species.

The western honeybee is perhaps the most popular species, having been domesticated primarily for honey and pollination. The other popular strain is the Eastern honey bee found in South Asia. Many other types of honeybees are kept for pollination purposes.

Habitat for Bees

It is believed that honeybees’ original habitats were heavily forested regions. Yet, honeybees thrive in well-domesticated environs, as long as there are plenty of flowering plants.

The honeybees are quite unique when compared to other subspecies of bees. They instinctively store a lot of honey and thus require favorable conditions that foster their activity. The Smith beehive is well-designed to cater for honeybee requirements. It is one of the hives that provides the desired condition for honey production and storage. The Smith beehive can be positioned close to the flowers so that the bees can easily access the nectar and pollen. This also helps conserve energy that would have been used for moving through large distances. Instead, this can be channelled to other productive tasks within the colony.

The Smith beehive’s design is minimalistic or compact, making the task of bees during the winter season much easier. This leads to a much healthier and more energetic honey thus leading to the production of quality honey.


Going by what we have discussed thus far, the Smith beehive is evidentially a recommended choice for any beekeeper, more so, for anyone with a plan to join the field. Apiculture is the main source of income to many beekeepers globally and many designs of beehives allow beekeepers to succeed. The Smith beehive is an ideal choice since it is portable making transportation a breeze. It is one of the best choices for commercial beekeeping.

What are your thoughts on this article? Leave a comment below and let us know.

About Michael Simmonds

Michael Simmonds is an American beekeeper with more than two decades of experience in beekeeping. His journey with bees began in his youth, sparking a lifelong passion that led him to start his own apiary at the tender age of 15. Throughout the years, Simmonds has refined his beekeeping skills and has accumulated a wealth of knowledge concerning honeybee biology and behavior. Simmonds' early exposure to beekeeping ignited a fascination with these pollinators, influencing his decision to establish BeeKeepClub in 2016. The website was created with the aim to serve as the ultimate resource for beginners interested in beekeeping. Under Simmonds' guidance, BeeKeepClub provides comprehensive information to novices, including the basics of beekeeping, the different types of bees and hives, the selection of hive locations, and the necessary beekeeping equipment. In addition, the site offers detailed reviews of beekeeping tools to help enthusiasts make informed decisions and get the best value for their investment​​. His contributions to the beekeeping community through BeeKeepClub are substantial, offering both educational content and practical advice. The website covers a wide array of topics, from starting an apiary to harvesting honey, all reflecting Simmonds' extensive experience and passion for the field. Simmonds’ approach is hands-on and educational, focusing on the importance of understanding bees and the environment in which they thrive. His work not only guides beginners through their beekeeping journey but also reflects a commitment to the well-being of bees. Michael Simmonds has dedicated a significant part of his life to bees and beekeeping, and through BeeKeepClub, he has made this knowledge accessible to a broader audience. His work undoubtedly embodies a blend of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness in the realm of beekeeping.
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2 years ago

Good to know about Smiths bee box. It would have been more clear if some phots of inside position were shown. Perticulerly about top. As during inspection I always find many bees in top cover which makes me worried how to put it back without killing bees. If we replace it with bees many get crushed. So what I do is give another empty top. And keep this top full of bees near entrance so they fly back.

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