What types of Beehives can you get in New Zealand?

So you’re thinking of getting some Honey Bees?

Perhaps you are researching? …for what-ever reason, it is a really good question and there are many ways to get ‘apis mellifera’ or the common Honey Bee.

But first, a bit of Background in to ‘Hive Houses’;
Over centuries Beekeepers have housed the Honey Bee colonies in all sorts of ways, often the type of ‘hive-house’ is a result of necessity or whats available in the local area.

Bees have been ‘housed’ in…
…cane woven baskets, rope (skeps), they’ve been kept in caves, off cliff faces, in tree trunks, within roof lofts, wall cavities of barns and domestic dwellings. Some colonies are housed in a Bee House – built like a small house, hives have also been kept on caravans for easy moving these often used in very cold climates and/or at high altitudes.

Honey Bees are so adaptable, that’s why they are survivors.

In the 18th, 19th centuries Honey Bees have been seen as a valuable asset. Often a life-blood for families, communities, others have seen them as a luxury which only the rich can afford to keep – these ‘rich’ creating’follies’ of great architectural design for them to show off their Honey Bees.

Interesting Note:

Apimondia President - Gilles Ratia
Apimondia President – Gilles Ratia

Check out the Apimondia President ‘Gilles Ratia’ amazing has a gallery of photos of many different Beekeeping houses from his travels around the world:
The Presidents Schedule


Now over the 20th and 21st centuries we keep most of our colonies in a more modest ‘house’.


Across America, one of the most common Beehive houses are the langstroth and in the UK, the national (shown beelow) and the warre hive. European countries use both.

Daniel Talks about his Warre Hive

NB: Technically a ‘hive-house’ is generally referred to as a “Hive-Box”.

Anyway I digress, lets get back to New Zealand…

The Rule here in kiwi nirvana-land?
Any Beehive ‘house’ or ‘hive-box’ must bee an approved method to keep Bees in, the reason? …well, in New Zealand, the government sets rules by this basic standard, “that all hives must be able to bee inspected“. Meaning beeing able to visually inspect Bee-brood cells for disease and Bee health.

So which are approved?

Langstroth” hive box design is the most commonly used hive-box in New Zealand – reasonably economical with interchangeable frames – these come in two common sizes being Full Depth and 3/4 sizes. Less common but often used, are the 1/2 size box. NB: Frames used are called ‘Hoffman’.
The variation on the Langstroth is the ‘Long Hive’ or AKA the ‘Bench Hive’ – where the sizing is the same as a langstroth but it is about 3 langstroths wide so fits about 30 frames and is raised to about waist height, it looks abit like a coffin on legs.

Long Bench Hive

Below we show you the “Kiwi LIFESTYLER” newly introduced 2016 designed for modern 21st Century beekeeping, no stack so it saves your back, year-round beekeeping in one box – uses 32 Hoffman Frames used in standard Langstroth hive-boxes + 3 divider boards to help manage space. A very well-designed locally designed and built Long-Bench-Hive.



Kiwi LifeStyler lid open showing 6 hive mats
Kiwi LifeStyler lid open showing 6 hive mats
Viewing window with hinged cover
Viewing window with hinged cover
Kiwi LifeStyler with stainless steel mesh base three sections each with an inspection board
Kiwi LifeStyler with stainless steel mesh base three sections each with an inspection board



WHY this rule?

The reason this is the requirement of the NZ government, is due to the fact that the Beekeeper needs to be able to inspect each frame within the hive-box – by beeing able to easily remove the individual frame means the Beekeeper can easily check cells for disease. Disease such as the fatal ‘AFB’ – American Foul Brood. Plus check for other diseases and pests which may bee in the hive. The frame system means that generally each frame is self-contained (when maintained well) so therefore, are easy to pull-out to inspect each cell on the frame.


Interesting Point: Educate yourself and know more about apiculture law – check out this NZ website link:
Beekeeping and the Law

NB: If a hive is not regularly maintained, or is lacking-space or full-up, the colony can start to make what is commonly referred to as ‘crazy-comb’.

“Top Bar”

Hives have only just, in the last couple of 4 years, been officially approved – approved after much controversy due to the nature of the frame set-up – reason-being that government wanted proof that these ‘hive-houses’ could perform well for cell-inspection. The top-bar frame – is a straight-bar with no foundation. These Top Bar Hives come fully assembled and ready to go, just install Bees.

Top Bar Hive

This wonderful Top-Bar (above) was built by Graham Wheeler, he’s located in South Auckland – you can contact Graham on (09) 239 1177.

Graham Wheeler holding up TopBar hive Frame
Graham Wheeler holding up TopBar hive Frame

so.. What ways can you buy Langstroth hive-boxes and Hoffman frames?
Simply, in kitset or assembled.

DIY: Kit-set Langstroth Hive-Boxes

Frames – Assembled:
– waxed and wired ready to go
Frames – Kitset:
– assemble yourself by buying kit sets, you’ll need to buy a roll of wire and individual wax-foundation-sheets.

Handy How-to’s:
Check out Margaret’s article on how to assemble a frame
…or you can assemble 10 at once! check-out Gary’s article for a Frame Building Jig

What does ‘waxed’ mean?
This is where you can add a wax-foundation sheet, usually wire-up the frame and ’embed’ the wax sheet.

Sample of Wax Foundation sheets
Sample of Wax Foundation sheets

The type of frame used in langstroth hives are called the ‘Hoffman’. You can get Hoffman frames assembled with wax-foundation wired-in. Or you can buy kitsets, wire and wax-foundation sheets separately and assemble them yourself.

What ways can you BUY Bees here in NZed?

You can buy bee colonies in the following ways;
– As a ‘NUCLEUS’ – a small box of 4-5 frames = approximately 12,000 Bees
Note: the ‘nuc’ box is returned to the Beekeeper, you will need to buy your own boxes, hive-mat, base-board (bottom-board), tin roof, hive boxes plus frames, wax-foundation, wire, etc.

– As a ONE-BOX colony = approximately 25,000 Bees
Note: usually comes with one full-depth hive box, hive-mat, base-board, tin roof, 10x frames.

– As a FULLY-WORKING colony – 2 boxes = up to approximately 50,000 Bees usually with honey stores.
Note: usually comes with two full-depth hive boxes, hive-mat, base-board, tin roof, 20x frames.

– As a SWARM – varying amounts / sizes
…you could take a chance and catch a swarm – you can go on swarm-lists of a local club or the National Beekeeping Association or your local council swarm-catchers list. There are risks when collecting swarms both in terms of injury and also the fact that you are not sure of their health or disease presence.
kiwimana mange this risk by having a quarantine apiary, where we place the swarms, let them build-up to have brood and we check cells for disease, AFB and general health before even considering bringing them to our main apiary.

Interesting Note :
Overseas you can buy Bees by weight and they are posted to you!!

Failed Queen?
To replace failing queens, you can buy a queen – either mated or un-mated – both of which come with a few nurse Bees.

Need help with a colony with no queen? Check out these options:

  • Dallas Russ – Queen Rearer from DAL’S POLLINATION located at 3/50 Panama Rd Mt Wellington Auckland 1062 Auckland, contact by phone on 09-276 4855″
  • Or the Auckland Beekeepers Club

When should you get your Bees?

You can ORDER Bees off-season to go on a waiting-list, this means that the Beekeeper can plan their breeding program and prepare hive-ware over Winter.
Off Season for us here at kiwimana is around March 31st to August 31st.
We suggest that you go to a reputable local Beekeeper or you could try your local Bee club in the season.

…whatever way you choose to get your bees, always ask to inspect the colony before taking away so you can check it is exactly what you have paid for, you need to see the queen and new eggs and healthy white larva, ask if they are DECA certified and get their Apiary registration number.

You can call us if you want to discuss any of the above-items on (09) 810 9965 (overseas callers 0064 9 8109965) – we are happy to bee of help.

What ever you choose – we wish you the best on your Beekeeping adventure.

Margaret thanks you for taking time to read this BLOG.

…this is the kiwimana buzz…saving Bees, one hive at a time.

Media Credits

One thought on “What types of Beehives can you get in New Zealand?

  1. Avatar photo
    Ross Mclean says:

    Hi,l live on Kawau Island and move to my new property Oct/Nov surrounded by Manuka,Kanuka Bush.I’ll also be planting wild meadow flowers,Lavender,Borage etc.
    I’m very interested in the horizontal hives and I’m a beginner.
    Where do/how to start??

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