Why I Use 8 Frame Beehives
Rick writes “Is there a reason you use 8 frame boxes?”
Yes, there is. To see why, imagine a bee walking along the pages of a book. While the bee can easily walk along the surface of any single page, it’s a challenge to move between pages. To do so the bee must walk to the edge of the page it’s on, travel along the outside of the book, then back down into the page it wants. Frames in a beehive are like the pages in a book – they’re sheets running parallel to each other. Like the pages in a book, it’s easy for bees to travel on the surface of an individual frame but more challenging to move between frames.
In beekeeping terms, the geometry of a beehive is such that bees can easily move parallel to the frames (up/down, front/back) but have a difficult time moving perpendicular (side to side) between them.
A Narrower Beehive
Since moving perpendicular to the frames is difficult, the more frames there are, the harder it is for the bees to move between them. By removing two frames, the resources in an 8 frame hive are 20% easier to access. In 10 frame hives, it’s not uncommon for the bees to ignore the outermost frames, or worse, not be able to access the honey stores within them. This last point is especially true in the winter when the bees are clustering together to stay warm.
An overwintering cluster can move parallel to the frames (up/down, front/back) but has an even harder time moving between frames (side to side) – in fact, moving perpendicular to the frames requires the cluster to break apart, lose all of its heat, and regroup. During cold winter months, breaking the cluster isn’t an option – the result is that the bees can’t access honey stored on the outside frames. This reluctance to move laterally explains why many beekeepers have reported starvation despite there being a frame or two of honey (always the outside frames) mear inches from the cluster of bees.
Increase Winter Survival Rates With 8 Frame Beehives
So why 8 frames? Simply put, the overwintering cluster of bees is roughly 8 frames in diameter. By sizing the hive to the wintering cluster, we’ve largely eliminated the need for them to move perpendicular within the hive. In an 8 frame hive, the cluster can concentrate on keeping warm and simply move up as a group to access honey stored above them.
Two Reasons To Use 8 Frame Beehives
All of the previous information can be summed up in the following two statements:
- An overwintering cluster of bees can’t move perpendicular to the frames without breaking up and losing their heat. Narrower hives eliminate the need for the cluster to move perpendicular to the frames.
- Honey stored above the cluster is easier to access than honey stored beside the cluster. Narrower hives store honey above the cluster where bees can access it.