Forty years ago, Bill Smith, a perfectionist beekeeper, became disillusioned with the quality of beehives available to him, and realised that the only way he could provide his bees with the hives he felt they needed, was to make them himself.

It wasn’t long before word of mouth meant that his passion became his job, and Exeter Bee Supplies (later to become National Bee Supplies) was born. We’ve never forgotten the core values that Bill laid down and our craftsmen strive for perfection today, in just the same way that Bill did.
Original Exeter Bee Supplie's Hive

It's more than just a motto, when we say that
"the best value hive is the one you don’t have to replace"
it’s part of the DNA of the business to handcraft hives that are made with care, out of the best quality, slowly seasoned timber.

What Makes Us Different? 

Here at National Bee Supplies we only use Canadian Western Red Cedar for our hive components (frames excluded) which is FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) certified. Traditionally, Canadian WRC was always chosen for Beehives in the UK. Highly durable, light, thermally efficient and resistant to insect attack, this beautiful timber is also dimensionally stable when correctly seasoned.
Canadian Western Red Cedar Forest

Canadian or English Cedar?

Whilst it may be true that Canadian and English Cedar are the same species (Thuja Plicata) they have different characteristics because of the environment they are grown in. The slower grown, tighter grained Canadian Cedar is more durable and stable with minimal knots. The open grain of the English Cedar classifies it as “moderately durable”, comparatively weak from a joinery standpoint and more susceptible to warping.
English vs Canadian Cedar Grain Comparison

Grading the timber

Each piece of timber is inspected and sorted into sizes identifying any defects in the wood. The range of widths and thicknesses used in Beehive manufacture enables us to minimise waste.

Giving the Timber some stick

Wood is a natural product that responds to temperature and humidity variations by expanding and contracting. Even exterior timber will benefit from having reached the correct moisture content before manufacture (the average equilibrium moisture content for the UK is 16.1%). This is why we go to the trouble of air drying our Cedar in pre-cut 'stick' form until it is properly seasoned. Not only does this allow us our renowned quality finish on our hives it also stabilises and strengthens the wood leaving it less prone to warping, splitting and shrinkage. Excessive movement post-manufacture leads to poorly fitting joints and most importantly the loss of the “Bee space” relationship between the component parts, which is after all the whole basis of the design of the moveable comb hive.
Seasoning the timber

Attention to Detail

We pride ourselves on the quality of the craftsmanship that goes into every one of our hives. Measuring thousands of an inch with a vernier calliper might seem extravagant for woodworking purposes but the closer you can get to “perfect” the less you are affected by the woods natural movement. “Measure twice cut once” is an old woodworking adage and when you’re making thousands of components that all have to fit together across multiple batches it’s certainly one worth heeding.
Measuring the cut to precision

Giving Back to Nature

For the last 3 years we have been busy transforming 25 acres of Devon countryside into a nature haven to increase species diversity and carbon sequestration.
Each year we are planting a ‘mini-forest’, a concept first devised by Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki, that has been gaining popularity throughout the world. The Mini-Forest concept involves dense planting of a myriad of native tree and shrub species which research has shown can accelerate tree growth and increase biodiversity.

Want to know the people behind the quality? Meet our Team!