beekeeping equipment

Why buy eight-frame hive equipment?

I’ve always stayed away from eight-frame hive equipment. A few years back you could buy eight-frame brood boxes and supers, but it was hard to get specialty pieces like Cloake boards, slatted racks, and escape boards. That has changed—especially in the last year or two—but I still don’t like the idea of buying non-standard equipment.

And, yes, I do believe it is non-standard. If you buy equipment from a commercial beekeeper or a beekeeper going out of business, it will almost certainly be ten-frame. I have even been given a couple hives—which were ten-frame—and I’m glad I didn’t end up with two different sizes.

My real objection to eight-frame hives is that they are marketed as being lighter and easier to handle because they are smaller. This sounds like a really good idea, especially to someone small like me. But when you study the numbers, it doesn’t make any sense.

The new Mann Lake Ltd. catalog provides some numbers to work with. It says a ten-frame deep brood box full of honey or brood weighs 80-90 lbs. No doubt, I can’t lift that. But then it says a similarly filled deep eight-frame box weighs 65-75 lbs. Oops, I can’t lift that either.

Let’s go to mediums. A full ten-frame medium weighs 60-70 pounds. No can do. But a full eight-frame medium weighs 48-58 pounds. Still, no can do.

Okay, to be fair, I can move around a 50-pound bag of feed as long as it stays below my waist. So I might be able to slide around a 50-pound box of honey, as long as it was low to the ground and didn’t need to go up or go far. Not a good bet in any case.

My point is this: even if a box is lighter, if it weighs more than I can lift, I haven’t gained anything. Worse, I have lost compatibility with ten-frame equipment. It’s hard for me to see any benefit.

I keep an empty brood box in the apiary. When I want to move a heavy box I take out half the frames and put them in the empty box. Then I move the heavy box to where I want it and put the frames back in. It takes almost no time, it doesn’t ruin your back, and you get to work with standard equipment.

I rarely have assistance when I’m working my bees, but I’ve been able to operate just fine using this system. There is nothing inherently wrong with eight-frame equipment, and if that’s what you like, go for it. But if you are equivocating over the weight issue, take a good look at the numbers before you decide which size to buy.


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  • Having used both an eight and a ten frame hive in my first year of bee keeping, I’m not sure that I agree on this one. But I’m willing to put in an extra year’s worth of research before I organize my thoughts.

  • I’m just cracking 40, but that’s old enough to start feeling the pain of heavy lifting. I plan to avoid the heavy 10-frame brood boxes by switching to all mediums if I can, and I like the idea of hive parts that are interchangeable. All of this has me thinking of something slightly related…

    I only have two Langstroth hives in my tiny backyard and plan to get two more on the go this year, but to do so I have to move the old ones a little to make room for the new ones. The distance is only about a foot away, so I’m not too concerned with the bees becoming disoriented.

    I plan to move them to the new location during the first spring inspection by setting up new but identical hives in the new spots. When I remove a frame to be inspected, I’ll return it to exactly the same position in the hive but in the new untouched hive.

    My question is: Will the bees miss the scent of their old hive, and if so, will it freak them out? Or are they totally cool as long as the queen is still around?

    I know how important pheromones are to the colony, so I don’t want to throw them for a loop if I don’t have to.

    • Phillip,

      I don’t think I understand what you are saying. You are going to move the old hives slightly (about a foot) and then put the old frames in the new hives? You’re not going to leave the old bees in the old hives? Please clarify so I can answer your question. Sorry, I’m just confused.

  • That’s correct. I’m not going to leave the old bees in the old hives. The frames will be arranged exactly as they were in the old hives, but with all new boxes, new bottom boards, new everything.

    Will the “new hive smell” mess them up?

    • Phillip,

      The bees will stay with their queen and the new-hive smell won’t matter. As long as the new location is very close to the original location, the bees will have it all sorted out in a few hours. The bees will distribute their pheromones by fanning at the entrance until everyone finds home. There may be a bit of drift between the two hives, but not enough to matter.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I have a question that is a little off topic, yet related. I am looking at making a split from a hive this spring and typically we have fairly strong temperature fluctuations and I was hoping to use the heat from the parent hive along with natural convection to help keep the new nuc warm.

    My intent is to remove the inner cover and install something similar to an inner cover except there is wire mesh on each side to prevent the bees’ proboscis from touching. Take a standard super install a board in the middle to accommodate two potential nucs. Then I plan to take, brood, worker bees, frames with pollen/honey and place it above the “new” modified inner cover and introduce a fertilized new queen (in her cage). Install the original inner cover and place outer cover on top.

    The hope is the segregation between the original hive and the nuc is enough for the worker bees from the original hive to accept the new queen and develop into a successful colony. The mesh is to allow the warm air to rise into the nuc above, but prevent proboscis touching (which transfers queen pheromone) that would prevent the new queen from being accepted. With the cool weather and dampness we have in this part of the country in spring the hope is to cause a little less stress on the nuc and get it off to a good start.

    Any thoughts?


    • Jeff,

      I see no problem with your plan. However, the scent of the pheromone will take a little longer to dissipate because some of it will waft up along with the warm air from the hive below. To compensate, I would do two things.

      First, allow the nuc to remain queenless for about 24 hours before introducing the caged queen. This will decrease the chance of the nuc bees reacting in a negative way toward her because the foragers will return to their original hive. You will be left with just nurse bees and newly hatching bees.

      Second, I would keep your new queen caged for a good long while before releasing her–perhaps a week. This will allow the new queen’s pheromone to move completely throughout the nuc and overpower any scent coming from below.

      I’m sure it will work as long as you are patient and don’t try to rush acceptance.

      Let me know how it goes–I’d like to hear from you.

  • Thanks Rusty.

    I plan to share the pics with Phil. It is also good to know I am not wasting my time.

  • Jeff is considerably more brave with his beekeeping than me. I’ll be taking notes. But from what I understand, his plan seems sound.

  • Hi, there is a device called a Clark/Cloake board (sp) Anyway it is two screens separated by about an inch of space. The upper part has several “doors” that can be opened to the side or back. It is made to keep a queenless hive on top of a queenright hive, but it can be used, and has been, for many things, one of which you are describing. Check your catalogues, or make your own. Two screens, spaced apart with a bottom hive, and two nucs or a separate hive on top. Also good for doing a walk away split when you have no queen cell, till you have a queen cell or can introduce a separate queen. The lower hive’s queen’s pheromones will drift up to the upper hive or nucs.

    • Mark,

      You can but you will have to put something in there to take up the extra space, such as follower boards. If you violate bee space, your bees will build comb in every direction and attach the frames to each other.

      • Thanks, Rusty. The 10 frames are so much easier to get a deal on & everything is so expensive. I am going for the 8’s.