As with any hobby or career, choosing the right equipment is vital. What works for one beekeeper might not be what works for you, which is why research and understanding your options is important.
In beekeeping, there are two main types of hives: 8-frame and 10-frame beehives. Which you choose is up to multiple factors and preferences. With that in mind, let’s explore the key differences between 8-frame and 10-frame beehives.
What types of frames are available?
In the US, the most common bee equipment is the 10-frame deep box. More recently, however, 8-frame boxes are becoming more popular.
It’s important to note that these are not mix-and-match options. The equipment is not mutually compatible so you must decide whether you’re choosing 8-frames or 10-frames and buy equipment to suit. The beehive dimensions will correspond accordingly with the number of frames.
Hives are usually composed of three sections:
- The bottom section has the hive stand (if using), the bottom board, and the entrance reducer.
- The middle section is the brood box and supers.
- Finally, the top section has the inner and telescoping covers.
In the brood box and supers, the bees raise their brood and store pollen, nectar, and honey. They store this honey on the frames in the box where they build honeycomb. Whether they have eight frames or ten frames to do this work on depends on the type of hive you choose.
Although more frames generally means more room for bees and honey, experienced beekeepers don’t automatically choose the larger frame number. Here’s why…
The Weight of 8-Frame Hives vs 10-frame Hives
Honey and bees weigh a lot so an eight-frame hive will weigh less than a 10-frame hive. When choosing the right frame size for your needs, consider that you’ll be lifting multiple boxes from a height, which necessitates considering weight. A 10-frame box will weigh anywhere from eight to sixteen more pounds than an 8-frame box.
The approximate weight for an 8-frame box can range from 32 lbs for a shallow box, 40 lbs for a medium box, and 64 lbs for a deep box. On the other hand, the approximate weight for a 10-frame box can range from 40 lbs for a shallow box, 50 lbs for a medium box, and 80 lbs for a deep box.
If you’re using deep boxes and can lift the extra 16 lbs, that’s your judgment call. Each type of frame has advantages and disadvantages.
The Price of 8-Frame Hives vs 10-Frame Hives
8-frame boxes are generally cheaper than 10-frame boxes. The price difference can add up over time.
The Hive Body Size of 8-Frame Hives vs 10-Frame Hives
8-frame boxes have a narrow hive body which is generally more natural to bees as they often build upwards and not side to side. They often nest in hollowed-out trees and an 8-frame is similar to the nest they’d build in the wild.
The Winter Conditions of 8-Frame Hives vs 10-Frame Hives
Another 8-frame hive advantage is that they’re optimal for winter survival since bee colonies cluster for warmth in winter. The cluster usually takes up the space of 8-frames and this lack of extra horizontal space means bees can focus their energy moving upwards as a group.
Faster Filling Boxes: 8-Frame Hives vs 10-Frame Hives
A disadvantage of the 8-frame box is that with two fewer frames, your boxes fill up faster, meaning you have the additional expense of buying more supers and grames as they fill up.
Tipping Hazard: 8-Frame Hives vs 10-Frame Hives
8-frame beehives generally have more boxes than 10-frame beehives, stacked vertically, so an 8-frame hive poses an increased tipping risk in windy or rainy weather.
Equipment Differences: 8-Frame Hives vs 10-Frame Hives
Since 8-frame beehives are only recently gaining popularity, you may have a harder time finding equipment than if you had a 10-frame hive. Pollen traps and top feeders may be more difficult to find in the smaller 8-frame variety than 10-frame.
So, here’s a snapshot of the advantages and disadvantages of each.
The Advantages of 10-Frame Beehives
- The total height of 10-frame boxes is lower than 8-frame boxes since 10-frames are wider and can store more honey with less height
- Bees have more room, two frames more, to make honey and brood in each box
- More beekeepers use 10-frame boxes and are familiar with managing bees in 10-frames than 8-frame beehives so knowledge can be shared
- With the whole hive in mind, you’ll have fewer boxes to purchase
- When inspecting the frames, you’ll have fewer frames to inspect in the hive
- Most hive accessories are made for 10-frame boxes
The Disadvantages of 10-Frame Beehives
- 10-frame medium boxes of honey weigh up to 15+ lbs more than a full 8-frame beehive box
- Honeybees often choose to move up instead of moving outside to create the honey on the two outside frames
- The average beekeeper cannot move a full 10-frame deep box by themselves
- Lifting boxes that are too heavy can cause injuries to your knees and back
The Advantages of 8-Frame Beehives
- An 8-frame hive weighs less which reduces the weight needing to be shifted at one time
- You can fit more 8-frame hives in a smaller area of land
- You can reduce the risk of injury with less heavy hives
- With 8-frame hives, the bees tend to use up more frames per box before moving up
- The honey inside the hive is more compact and more accessible to the winter bee clusters
The Disadvantages of 8-Frame Beehives
- The hive stack can get dangerously high and pose a tipping risk in adverse weather
- You need to purchase more boxes than if you bought a 10-frame hive
- Not every supplier has 8-frame hive equipment
- Specialized equipment such as pollen traps and top feeders can be more difficult to find to fit 8-frame boxes than 10-frame boxes
- You have more boxes to handle and move during honey removal
- You have more boxes to inspect
The Bottom Line on 8-Frame Hives vs 10-Frame Hives
Although your hive size and frame size will depend on preference, you’ll have to decide which of these factors is important for you. If you prefer a standard frame that’s most popular in the beekeeping community, go with the 10-frame; if you anticipate weight to be an issue, then the 8-frame may be a better option. Ask around for opinions of beekeepers who use both!
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