Hive Box Dimensions – what you need to know

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How that you know how to get your own bees you also need your own hive boxes. Actually, you need have hive boxes to put your bees into once you get them. Picking the right hive box dimensions is not easy. There are a number of different systems out there. You need to pick one and stick with it. Because once you are set up with boxes, bottoms, lids, several separators and lots and lots of frames, you will not want to switch systems any time soon.

DIY or Buy?

I will go into all the parts you need and what they do in another article. Here I want to give you an overview regarding several different factors to consider when picking a hive box dimensions of your choice. There are countless plans on the internet that you can choose from if you want to do it yourself, and you can buy most of it online or even locally, too. Keep in mind that your time is valuable, and some things a dedicated factory can do way cheaper and faster than you can.

Here’s a good example. I make my own boxes, because they are fairly easy for me to make in my woodshop. For them, I find it cheaper to go the DIY route.

Frames, on the other hand, are a different matter. For starters, cutting all the slats and slots, drilling holes and adding hardware takes up a lot of time. When I buy them, I can get ready-made materials for 100 frames, or I can get them assembled and ready for use, with wires inserted. Want to know what the difference between the materials and the assembled frames is for 100 pcs.?

5€.

I cannot compete with that.

Two different Philosophies

Most common hive box dimensions differ only slightly in their measurements. It frankly does not matter which you chose, as long as you can get everything you need in those dimensions. Going for a design that is more common locally will make it easier to trade with fellow beekeepers. Picking something that is more common in general will get you better prices when ordering online.

But there is one basic design philosophy that makes a huge difference. This is what you really need to put some thought into before you stock up or build your arsenal. This is about whether you want different box sizes or have them all the same. But let me get into a bit more detail so you can understand the ramifications.

Brood and Honey

Bees use combs predominantly for two purposes – breeding new bees, and storing honey (and pollen). In beekeeping practice, you have boxes dedicated to one or the other. At least, there should not be brood in the honey box because that will make harvesting those combs impossible. How that is done in practice I will tell you in another article, but for now, suffice to say that you will have boxes for honey harvest on top and boxes where the bees can nurture the brood below.

Here is the thing: honey is heavy. A full completely sealed comb of honey can weigh somewhere between 2-3 kilograms. Multiply that by 10, the number of combs per box (in all the systems I know), and you can imagine how heavy a full honey box can be. And every time you need to check up on the colony, you have to lift everything up top out of the way – most likely to the side, or behind you, maybe even a few meters away. And you should check up on your bees about once every week during the season.

“Do you even lift, Bro?”

As I mentioned earlier, the main difference in design is whether you want all boxes to be the same size or use two different ones. The reason behind that is that some systems use smaller ones, and thus smaller combs, for the honey boxes. This way, you have less weight to carry – basically, two smaller boxes instead of a large one. That is a major benefit, considering the amount of times you will have to lift the honey boxes out of the way.

So is it a no-brainer? It sounds like one, and if I have the chance to “start fresh”, I might go for that option. And you guessed it, I am using a design that comes with only one size of box. I never really made that choice, because the beekeeper I took over from used it. The reason I did not make the switch at a later date is that I was always at the limit of my boxes, and made use of the versatility – I do not need to have two different sizes on hand for that.

That being said, if you can go for a two-size-solution you should consider it. You will need more storage space, and keep different sized combs on hand, but it might just be worth it. But you can also do fine with a one-size-system. Just make sure you know what you are signing up for.

What it comes down to

The One-Size-fits-All-Solution is more versatile, but honey boxes get heavier. The Two-Sizes-Solution gives you more lightweight honey boxes.

Keep this in mind, and if you have further questions feel free to contact me for whatever help I can give you on this. Just remember that if things go right, you might be doing this for a while, and nobody has ever gotten any younger. I know many beekeepers who have switched to a two-sized system because they could not manage the large honey boxes anymore.

You can probably tell that I have been trying to keep this as neutral as I can. The thing is, if I could go back, I might chose the two-size-solution, mainly due to weight. I have had to haul too-heavy boxes home from the beehouse, only to have to haul them back because of cement honey (we will get to that), that I am not that fond of this system anymore. But I have it, I am using it, and I am not seeing myself making the switch yet.

And since I am using one system, I do not want to “advocate” for the other, because I do not know it well enough. That is not from my own experience. So make up your own mind, and possibly talk to other beekeepers to learn what they thing. Hands-on experience is worth a lot here.

Thanks for stopping by, and remember to Be(e) Inspired

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