This question is perhaps the ultimate act of beekeeping heresy. The 'Bee-Space' was 'invented' around 1850 by Langstroth, Dzierzon, and Baron August von Berlepsch, although it's usually Langstroth who's credited with the invention as a result of mentioning this spacing (although not claiming it) within his 1852 Patent.
Did the Bee-Space exist before 1850 ? Well, actually no. But that's not to say that the bees hadn't been creating such a spacing between their combs for several million years before then, it's just that the Bee-Space per se didn't exist until someone observed, measured and thus defined it.
In exactly the same way, 'Gravity' didn't exist before Isaac Newton. Sure, apples used to fall to the ground well before humans had ever existed, but they didn't fall to the ground as a result of Gravity before 'The Law of Gravity' (as an idea/concept) had been invented around 1680.
There are two kinds of bee-space: that which only humans create - between a frame top bar and whatever is above it, and between the frame sides and the side-walls of a beehive. The space below the frame bottom-bar is of less importance, unless that bottom bar is directly above another frame.
The other kind of bee-space is that which the bees themselves create, between adjacent combs and between a comb and other structures - so the spacing of removable frames in particular then becomes important, so that the bees are able to maintain a desirable spacing between framed combs, just as if they had chosen that comb spacing themselves from the outset.
Ever since 1850, beekeepers have been indoctrinated into believing that the Bee-Space is an essential component of a well-managed beehive. But is it ? It would appear that the answer is a resounding "YES" for certain styles of beehive, and an equally resounding "NO" for others.
For Langstroth and Langstroth-style beehives (such as the British National), any failure to respect the Bee-Space will result in 'misbehaviour' by the bees. But not so in other styles of framed-comb hive. This became clear to me this morning whilst pulling a few graphics from de Layens' "Elevage Des Abeilles (12th Ed.)" for another thread.
Take a look at this graphic (DON'T CLICK ON IT - unless you like adverts):
Where are the Bee-Spaces ? Over an inch of space exists at the sides of the frame, and similar spacing above and below. The only Bee-Spaces in that hive will be those created by the bees themselves between the combs which, as already stated, partly results from appropriate frame spacing by humans - but the precise spacing between those combs will always be bee-determined.
Here's another one (DON'T CLICK ON THIS ONE EITHER ...):
Polish PoW 'Sentry Box' Beehive
It's exactly the same story again: an inch or more of space at the sides of the frames, perhaps the same above (?) - difficult to tell from that picture - and a whacking great void below those enormous frames - there's not a single man-made Bee-Space in sight !
So - why have I started a thread about this - is this observation of any real importance ? Well, perhaps it is - because - what is considered to be arguably the most important and fundamental design consideration in modern beehive design turns out on further examination not to be essential at all - it would appear that it only has relevance for specific hive designs, albeit those which have become the most popular.
But what exactly does a man-made (as opposed to the inter-comb bee-determined) Bee-Space actually do ? Quite simply it thwarts the bees from doing what they would choose to do 'naturally', that is, what they would do if that spacing wasn't present. So, does this imply that such human trickery adversely affects the bees in any significant way ? Well, it's impossible to say for sure - as there appears to be no evidence for this - but it has occurred to me that thwarting an organism from exercising it's natural behaviour is little different from how slaves used to be shackled during transportation to the colonies, and insodoing thwarted from escaping. I can't believe that honeybees are as seriously affected by bee-spaced frames as that however, as some 'Natural Beekeepers' are suggesting, for if they were, then they'd simply abscond. But nevertheless I'm left wondering if their lives would be improved - if only a little perhaps - by adopting a style of frame, and by implication a design of hive, where 'The Bee-Space' has been shown to be completely unnecessary.
Food for thought ?