Bees naturally look for a dark enclosed space with a small entrance to build a hive in; a hollow log or in the wall of a house. We can replicate this and at the same time make it easier for us to extract the honey.
In times past bees were raised in a skep, woven from willow or straw in the classic beehive shape. The problem with
this was the whole hive had to be destroyed to remove the honey
Then in 1851, the Langstroth Hive was invented, with separate timber frames hanging inside a box. This allowed the inspection and extraction of the honey without killing the bees. This is the most common type in use today worldwide.
The boxes (supers)are manufactured from untreated timber and the frames from either timber or plastic. The foundation (where the bees grow the comb) can be either beeswax sheet or plastic coated with beeswax.
The bottom box is occupied by the queen and is where she lays the brood which are cared for by the workers. The bottom box will also have food supply including honey and pollen. Once a colony is established, it is time to put on another super with a queen excluder between the boxes. This is where your honey crop will come from. The queen excluder ensures no brood will be laid in the top boxes so the honey will be clean.
The hive is placed on a base to keep it off the ground. The entrance reducer prevents unwanted wasps, mice or other bees (robbers) from entering the hive. It also can be reversed to allow transporting of the hive without losing the bees inside.
On top of the hive you have a hive lid to protect from the weather and a hive mat inside to give you beespace and prevent the lid from being sealed down with propolis.