By now, you will be becoming familiar with the different hive components and will be gaining valuable experience in examining the frames and bees in the hive. This part of beekeeping we refer to as "manipulations".
There are a reasonable number of different types of hives that are available to Beekeepers in the UK. However, within your association apiary you are likely to have come across two types of hive. The first type is a nucleus hive. These special hives have a reduced number of frames, usually 5, in which a very small colony of bees are allowed to grow into a larger colony. When all the frames in the nucleus hive are full of bees, it will normally be time to move the frames into a standard hive. Or, if increase in colonies is required, then 2 or 3 frames of bees may be moved into a 2nd nucleus hive. Both hives would then be filled with empty frames to fill up the hive. Nucleus hives are often referred to as "nucs" and are used specifically for this purpose. They cannot be extended or used to accommodate a full colony and will not be your first purchase.
The second type of hive is a standard National hive. This is the most common type of hive used in England and holds 11 frames in the brood box. It is also likely that this is the type of hive used by your association members. Why is it important to know this? Quite simply it's because whatever type of hive your association members are using, you should also be planning to use the same. As you will most likely be buying your first colony of bees from your association, then you will be safe knowing the frames will fit into your hive. If you buy a hive of a different type to your association members, then you will have great difficulty in trying to accommodate the bees into your own hive.
So, influenced by your association, having now decided on the type of hive you will use in your own apiary, it is a simple question of whether you will be purchasing your first hive fully assembled or as a flat pack that you assemble yourself. Even if you only have some slight woodworking skills, then you can make significant savings going the flat pack route.
The supplier links at the top of the page will give you an idea of prices. There are many other suppliers! Whichever route you decide and whichever supplier you use, try and stick with them for future purchases. This should ensure that all of your hive components become interchangeable and fit each other accurately. Although hive dimensions are cast in stone, you can find very slight variances between suppliers.
A nucleus hive (or 'nuc' for short, wood or poly) and used to start a small colony of bees
A National hive. This is the most common type of bee hive used in England
A Maisemore Poly National hive.
A Paynes Poly National hive.