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How to fit deep frames into medium boxes

The question of the day seems to be “How can I fit deep frames into medium boxes?” This problem occurs most frequently when a beekeeper with all medium equipment buys a nuc containing deep frames. Often the quick and dirty solution is to stack two medium boxes together so the frames hang down into the second box. But this only makes the problem worse because the bees can now add even more depth to those frames by adding more comb.

So what to do? Usually I cut the comb out of the deep frame by running a knife along all the attached edges. Then I shorten the comb by trimming the bottom until it will fit into a medium frame. Working carefully, I wind a piece of cotton string around and around the frame and comb to make a sort of sling that holds the comb in the frame. Once you put the frame in your box, the bees will get right to work attaching the comb to the top of the frame.

String, rubber bands, or cotton strips

You can do the same thing with rubber bands or, if the comb is fresh and bendy, you can use strips of cotton fabric cut about an inch wide. This will give a little more support and is easier to work with. Fabric strips also work well if you are tying the comb onto a top bar without side bars and a bottom bar. The fabric strips are less likely to cut through the delicate comb than are strings or rubber bands.

Once the bees have attached the combs and everything is back to normal, they will chew through the supports and carry them outside the hive. You can remove them if you want, but it is not necessary.

What? Kill the brood?

Now, what if you don’t want to sacrifice the brood from the bottom of the deep frame? Instead of cutting away the bottom of the comb, just cut the entire comb in half lengthwise and tie each half into a separate frame. To do this, you need to start at the top of both frames, and your string or other support will be wound around just the top bar and the comb.

Do not attempt to put the bottom piece in the bottom of a frame. You are much more likely to get a straight comb if the pieces hang from the top. Also remember that cells tilt upward, so don’t turn any pieces upside down. The top must be at the top.

Cutting the frame

Another alternative, and one I have used, is to just shorten the frame so that it fits in a medium box. Take the deep frame, measure it against a medium frame and, using a hand saw or other cutting tool, cut the side bars and the bottom of the comb. You are left with a three-sided frame, but at least it fits.

These methods may seem like a lot of work, but it is much easier to fix the problem than to constantly mess with frames that don’t fit. Yes, you lose a little brood but it will quickly be replaced. The main thing is to know where your queen is before you cut. For my own peace of mind, I find it helpful to put her in a queen cage if I’m going to do a lot of cutting and tying.

There may be other ways of fitting big frames into small boxes, but these are the ones that have worked for me. If any of you have a better way, please let us know.

Honey Bee Suite


  • 3″ shim box. Use it when you need to, take it off once you are able to move the queen into medium frames and can retire the deep ones.

    Personally I think you always need one deep box on standby basis as deeps seem to be the medium of bee exchange. So if you don’t want to invest in a deep box, then a shim gives you best of both worlds and you can use it as sugar feeding tray above in the fall, stapling the queen excluder to it.

  • I’ve only ever purchased deeps equipment, however I inherited two new medium supers from a friendly beekeeper last fall. I just used a 1×4, cut down to 3″ tall as a “shim” to allow me to put my deep frames in.

  • Rusty, I started out running all mediums and installing a deep nuc was a puzzle. I settled on installing the deep frames in two medium boxes with medium frames in all of the empty spaces. There was some burr comb built on the underside space on the deep frames, but not too much. After a few years of this it was too much hassle and we invested in some deep boxes. Now we run a deep with two mediums for the brood boxes.

  • Aram, could you please elaborate a bit.

    I’m new to this and have exactly this problem.

    At the moment my deep frames are spanning across two medium boxes. Would it be good to migrate them into 2 boxes of medium frames?

    Thank you very much


  • I used all medium equipment until this year when I decided to run a deep on each hive as the brood chamber. To accommodate deep frames in my medium boxes I just use a shim the size necessary to make a medium into a deep. The bees glue the shim to the medium and voila! It’s a deep. Works great!

  • Alexander,

    Just take a 1×4, and rip it lengthwise to have a .75 X 3″ actual measurement board. Now cut two 18 3/8 pieces and two 16 1/4 pieces. Two staples or screws (predrilled) in each corner, and you have a shim for your medium box.

    Deep frames in two mediums is kid of natural drone cell nightmare, but even there you could make a plywood insert (17.25X14.5) standing on 2.5″ tall pieces of 2×4 along the front and back edges. Sideview should remind your of a stretched out letter n. Insert it inside the bottom medium. Kind of makes a false floor above the bottom board and below the deep frames. With the false board leaving a front gap of about 1 inch, the bees will land on the bottom board, enter the hive, climb the 2.5 solid piece up and reach their frames. Between the solid piece and the front wall of the medium box, there should be about an inch of traveling space. They might do “bee thing” to it, but I highly doubt it. I tired to do the false floor with cardboard, they chewed through it, so use something solid.

    I still prefer the shim. I use it as a quilt box in the winter

  • Hi Rusty, I have been reading your site for a year and love it. I just got my first 2 nucs 20 days ago. Wish I had seen this post as I wanted to run all mediums and were getting deep nucs. My dumb bright idea was to put a divider down one deep box and put the deep nucs in the same box side by side, then straddle this over 2 medium boxes. My thinking was to get them off deeps asap why make a 4 frame nuc fill out more deep frames? Thought this was great till the beekeeper who sold me the nucs said the bees won’t build down. So upset but I quickly divided a medium and placed it on the deep that straddled the bottom mediums. 20 days later and she was right. All their work was above, none below. I rush ordered another deep and split them today into 2 separate hives….all this instead of a 3″ rim!!?! Learning on Long Island…

  • Hi Rusty,

    This is regarding the cutting of natural comb and securing it into a foundation-less frame (as in the removal of a feral colony). I have heard and seen, the use of rubber bands before. A friend of mine said I should use #5 bands but I can’t find them anywhere, nor do I even know what the 5 stands for. I’ve looked at office supply stores, at Amazon and Ebay, and no where am I seeing a #5. Am I missing something here? Does the 5 stand for the length? I read your comment on cloth strips but there is so much comb here I am not wanting to tackle that job.

    TYIA !

    • Barbara,

      I have no clue what the 5 stands for, but I don’t like rubber bands anyway. The combs are different lengths in different places, so one size of rubber band doesn’t sound very useful. I usually use string, yard, twine or something similar where I can adjust the length.

  • I’ve just moved dozens of deep frames (we call them Tre’s or 3/3rds) into all shallow (deuces or 2/3rds) equipment. The trick is to interlace them between shallows. I use foundationless so the bees are very interested in closing the gap with fresh comb. Because they are busy closing the gaps between the brood frames, they are uninterested in drawing below the deeps, or any brace comb.

    (this hive is sideways on end, so rotate it in your minds eye)
    Two Deuces
    |—-|—-| (2 meds)
    |—-|– | (1 deep)
    |—-|—-| (2 meds)
    |—-|– | (1 deep)
    |—-|—-| (2 meds)
    |—-|– | (1 deep)
    |—-|—-| (2 meds)
    |—-|– | (1 deep)
    |—-|—-| (2 meds)

    One Tre

  • Thank you for this Rusty! I’m having this exact problem. And the guy I got the deep nuc from looked at me like I was a serial killer when I suggested I cut the frame or the comb down to fit in my medium frames/boxes. He said I should just stack two mediums and put the deep frames in. Well he’s the ‘mentor’ with 3 years or experience to my 3 months of experience. But I felt like the comb they will pull out under the deep frames would cause me lot of problems. It’s only been 3 days and I have a queen clip whisking its way to me from Amazon right now and when it arrives i’m going to do this very thing. Thank you for validating my thoughts on this!

  • I am getting 2 nucs this spring my supplier will make 5 frame mediums for me (at the same price as 5 frame deeps). The mediums are 2/3 the size of deeps so I assume I will end up getting 1/3 fewer bees/brood. Is it worth the effort to convert deeps to mediums for the extra bees/brood, or will there be no signification difference in colony growth within a few weeks (late May nucs in western NY).

  • Here in Greece, it’s just the opposite problem! The majority has Langs and the question is how to move comb from Langstroth frames to Dadants. Or just put the short frames in and let them draw comb from the bottom of the frame?

    • Ekwesh,

      I would just put the short frames in and let them add on to them. I’ve done that with medium frames in a deep box. They have no problem figuring out what to do next.

  • I have a similar problem – last year my nuc came with wooden frames and I have only used plastic (a whole different discussion). This year I would like to remove the wooden frames because they are not in the best of shape, they are slightly bigger, and I end up with a lot of extra comb in places I don’t want it. Any suggestions? Thank you

    • Cathy,

      Put these frames in the end positions. As they become empty of bees, just pull them out and replace. The cluster tends to stay in the center, so the outer frames are empty at certain times of year.

  • I’m currently running all 8 frame mediums in my setup near Olympia, WA. I just found out that the company from which I’m planning on getting a nuc this spring uses plastic foundation, so I won’t be able to cut the comb lengthwise without seriously damaging the comb and brood. That was my first choice since I’m familiar with the technique.

    I like the idea of using a shim in transitioning the deep frames to a medium box, too. I have some drawn out comb in medium frames from last year that’s in good condition so I think they’ll be able to begin raising brood on it quickly. Is the process of removing the deep frames (and ultimately the shim) similar to what you described to Cathy above? For example:

    1- Insert a shim under the medium box, then install the deep nuc frames with drawn medium frames in between them.
    2- Allow the bees to fill in the medium frames with brood.
    3- Once there is a good amount of brood being raised on the mediums, begin transitioning the deep frames toward the outside edges of the hive.
    4- Remove a deep frame after it has been on the end for a while and/or has minimal brood. Replace with a drawn medium frame.
    5- When the last deep frame is removed, remove the shim at the same time.

    I appreciate your posts and all the people who offer ideas and suggestions in the comments. I’m learning a lot!

    • Tristan,

      Yes, but remember that during this process the bees will lengthen the mediums to match the length of the deeps. When you transition to a medium box, you will have to removed the extensions they’ve added.

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