Few hobbies benefit the planet as does beekeeping. Backyard beekeepers make a direct contribution to their environments and local communities. New beekeepers can quickly become overwhelmed by the many options and even more opinions out there about all aspects of beekeeping. One of the very frequent decisions we at The Bee Store help navigate is the type of equipment to buy. This article will lay out some of the pros and cons about whether to buy 8 frames or 10 frame beehives and should a beekeeper use deep hive bodies or mediums.
When discussing the types of setups, it’s important to consider location. Most of our customers are located in the mid-Atlantic region, thus our recommendations are solely about managing bees in our area. If you live in the Northeast or Southwest, your “standard” setups will likely differ. Also, when choosing the right setup for your beehives, this beekeeper firmly believes that efficiency, in the long run, is always better. Finally, the brand of woodenware makes little difference; the major suppliers – Mann Lake, Dadant, Betterbee, etc – are all very similar in quality when it comes to standard “commercial grade” hive bodies. For many years, accessories for 8-frame beehives were not as accessible as 10-frame beehives, but today, a wide variety of 8-frame equipment is readily available.
Should I Get 8 Frame or 10 Frame Bee Hives?
We like to break out the discussion into a few factors – weight, comb production, and population.
The difference between 8 and 10 frame hive is, of course, 2 frames in width totaling roughly 2 ½ inches. 10 Frame hive bodies are 16 3/8” while 8 frame hive bodies are 13 7/8”. While the width is very minor, that can equate to an easy 15 to 20 pounds of extra weight. On average, a full, 8-frame medium honey super weighs around 60 pounds compared to a full 10-frame super that can weigh around 75 lbs.
Since not everyone who chooses to keep bees is able to lift 75 lb boxes, the clear advantage in the weight category goes to 8 Frame bee hives.
Weight Category – 8 Frame = 1 vs. 10 Frame = 0
A colony of honeybees requires a honeycomb to survive. Producing honeycomb takes a lot of energy and a well-balanced colony. To help the bees’ efficiency in building their home, it’s best to keep your bees crowded. Obviously, an 8-frame hive body is smaller than a 10-frame hive body, so the bees occupy a larger portion of the hive body’s total volume. With 2 fewer frames to build comb on, the bees will clearly build out an 8-frame hive body faster than a 10-frame. What this eventually means for the new beekeeper is that honey supers can go on sooner with an 8-frame than a 10-frame beehive.
Keep in mind that bees aren’t working faster in an 8-frame hive body, but rather they have fewer homes to build than in a 10-frame. The advantage here is to the 8-Frame beehive, but keep in mind, that you will need to buy more hive bodies sooner than you would with 10-frame beehives.
Comb Production – 8 Frame = 1 vs. 10 Frame = 0
A simple truth in beekeeping is that more bees are better. In fact, one of the trickier aspects of beekeeping is maintaining a balance between a crowded hive and an overcrowded hive. The former is healthy, the latter can lead to unintended swarming. Crowded hives generally indicate a healthy, well-balanced (meaning all stages of brood and bees of all ages), a colony that can easily keep unwanted pests such as Small Hive Beetles and Wax Moths at bay. There is, however, more to a population than simply keeping a crowded hive, as “crowded” is directly related to the volume of the hive.
Consider one of the three requirements to survive winter – A strong population, a healthy and mite-free colony, and plenty of resources. A 10-Frame deep hive body can hold conservatively 4000 more bees than an 8-frame deep hive body. Going into winter, I’d like to shore my odds up with those added bees!
For me it’s a toss-up in the population category, so we’ll call it a tie.
Population – TIE
Looking at the practical side of things, the 8-Frame bee hive has the advantage over the 10-Frame beehive when it comes to reduced weight and the speed at which the bees can build out their comb. However, this beekeeper values the greater population that 10-Frame beehives allow. In the end, it doesn’t matter much, so take the time to evaluate what is important to you.