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I'm thinking of getting into beekeeping. I don't know whether this question belongs on pets, because they're animals; garden & landscape, because they have to do with raising a food product involving plants; or maybe somewhere else completely, but I think pets is most appropriate, so I'll start here.

Most of the Langstroth hives (the kind I'm interested in) seem to be four sided boxes with not top of bottom and are smooth on those edges. I plant to build My own and want to know if there is a reason that no one routes a rabbit on the inside of the bottom of each box and one on the outside of the top of each box? Coupled with a round over on the outer edge of the top of the box, it seems like it would really help the stability of the boxes by locking them together, as well as helping keep rain out of the seam.

It could be pretty shallow, just a small lip that catches. The boxes I see in videos just appear to sit on top of each other with no latches or anything. I'd worry about a strong wind or animal knocking them over.

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    Sustainable living might be a good site for this question. – Spidercat Dec 29 '15 at 21:28
  • I'm not really familiar with beekeeping terminology. What do you mean by "routing a rabbit" at the bottom of the boxes? – Spidercat Dec 29 '15 at 21:30
  • @Spidercat: That's woodworking terminology. (It should be "rabbet"; a groove cut in a board or a groove or step cut into the board's edge, not "rabbit" the animal.) Nd I think the answer is that attaching alignment guides to the either inside or outside of the boxes performs the same function with less need for precision in either construction or assembly. – keshlam Dec 30 '15 at 4:49
  • @keshlam. Thanks. I don't think I've ever seen rabbet spelled out and was just going off of phonetics. – Dalton Dec 30 '15 at 15:45
  • @Dalton: It's a common error. – keshlam Dec 30 '15 at 15:46
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Langstroth bee hives are designed to be modular so you can expand the hive when need, and also so you can pull them apart if needed to remove honey or do other things such as adding food for your bees. Since bees add propolis bee glue, or bee caulk to any joints or gaps in the hive to help seal it, you don't need to worry about the rain getting in through those gaps. If you are worried about the exterior of the hive getting rained on, lay a large piece of plywood on the top of the hive so that it forms an overhanging roof that prevents rain from hitting the hive.

If you were to cut a rabbet joint into the top or bottom of a hive module where it fits into other parts of the hive and then the bees added propolis to that joint, it would become almost impossible to separate those hive modules without destroying the hive. If you do any woodworking you know that a joint and glue bond forms one of the strongest joints possible, which is good when making furniture but not so good when you need to open the hive.

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  • Mark, I was just worried about the end grain on the finger joints being exposed. I bought my first deep hive body and put a coat of primer and three coats of paint on it, but eventually it will start wearing off and I worry that the more end grain and the more joints exposed to exterior weather, the more place rain can penetrate and rot it. I have a telescoping lid that has metal on it, but rain can blow sideways. I was also just talking about rabbeting a edge on the outside. The inside would still be flat with the two faces joining. Thanks for the answer. I may select it. – Dalton Apr 11 '16 at 12:42
  • One thing to be cautious about when painting a hive is to allow the paint to dry for a few weeks to minimize volitiles from the paint. Also, avoid painting surfaces where the bee come into contact (the inside) [beverlybees.com/how-to-paint-a-beehive/]. – Mark Ripley Apr 14 '16 at 8:51
  • Although painting a wooden hive to improve longevity is not a bad idea, the nature of wooden hives means that after years of use the bees will eventually need to be moved to a new replacement hive. One alternative is to buy plastic hive bodies [motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/…, which won't rot, but be aware that some plastics become brittle when exposed to the ultraviolet in sunlight. – Mark Ripley Apr 14 '16 at 8:51
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The reason for not having a lip, beyond simply not needing a lip, is to help avoid accidental bee deaths when placing one box on top of another. By sliding one box into place on top of the other, any bees which are in the way are simply pushed so move out of the way; were you to place one box on top of the other any bees on the edge may be crushed.

As mentioned in existing answers, the propolis will form a sufficient seal to avoid needing any lip (the bees will take care of this shortly after the box is added).

If your stack is high and you're concerned about stability in high winds, or if transporting the hive, you can strap the boxes together (e.g. using a ratchet strap around the hives and base block); however most keepers say this is not typically required under normal conditions.

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