We only use and sell deep boxes. This is a management preference. All beekeepers do things a bit differently and this is our favorite way. We think our way is more efficient because we don’t have to store several sizes of boxes and frames. (And we’ve had 25 years plus 4 generations of experimentation. Trust us!)
USING THE SAME SIZE BOXES AND FRAMES
Running all deep boxes also makes equipment interchangeable. It is useful to be able to interchange frames from box to box when splitting hives, if the queen lays eggs into the top boxes, and when sorting individual frames to extract honey. It is also nice when splitting a hive, as a super can double as a hive body box by attaching a bottom board.
When using only deep boxes, you don’t need a queen excluder. If the queen lays eggs in the upper boxes, you can just move the frame(s) down into a lower box, or leave them there. The eggs will hatch out and bees will refill cells with honey. We like to let the queen decide where she wants to go in the hive.
Not having a queen excluder is advantageous because, as they say, “A queen excluder is a honey excluder.” Queen excluders slow down the hive and can dramatically reduce honey production. (But they can be useful in some methods of splitting hives and queen rearing.) When running a hive with deep box on the bottom with medium or shallow supers on top, you will need a queen excluder.
USING DEEP BOXES (INSTEAD OF MEDIUMS OR SHALLOWS)
The preferred size of box and frame for beekeepers *and bees* is the deep Langstroth box. Mr. Langstroth worked out the optimal size of brood nest, honey, and pollen for the average sized colony and used this optimization to create his deep, 10-frame box. The Langstroth “deep” box is still most commonly used by commercial beekeepers.
Three deep boxes are the same volume as 5 medium boxes. The 3 deep boxes will hold 30 deep frames. The 5 medium boxes will require 50 medium frames.
Using all deep boxes means fewer frames to handle, for the bees and the beekeeper. This means more continuous space for the queen to lay her eggs, and less burr comb to build. It requires more energy for bees to move from frame to frame than within continuous frame space.
The advantage to medium or shallow boxes is that they weigh less, especially when full of honey. This is the only advantage. If weight is an issue, but you want to try deep boxes, consider not lifting the whole deep super full of honey at once. Instead, inspect individual frames in the bee yard and take the full frames of honey back to extract.
Some beekeepers bring the entire super home to extract without looking inside much. Then they take the box back and inspect frames in the honey room. We think it is better to inspect individual frames at the hive. I guess we’d rather be outside. And it also means fewer bees in the honey room.
Thanks for reading!