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.