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Beginner Hive Set-up Question

1851 Views 9 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  GroosBrews
Hey all,

I am going to start beekeeping this year and was thinking of going with 2 deep super brood boxes and one medium honey super to begin with based on a book I read

Does that sound ok? Do I need two brood boxes plus the medium honey super?
Or should I just go with one brood box and the honey super? Any advantage to having two brood boxes instead of one? Our plan is to expand by adding one hive per year until we get around 6 or 8..

Chris Hiles
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Welcome to beekeeping

to start your first year of bees - what you will need is 2 deeps and 3 supers

to start .... take your bottem board and one deep and a lit

dump in your bees and place you queen cage in the center frames - 4-5th

you will find that only nine frames will fit - thats fine -
after 3 days go out and check to see that the queen is out if she is
carefully slide the frames over to make 10 fit again
and close the lit

after feeding sugar 1:1 for about 3-4 weeks check again to see that they have drawn out comb in 8-10 frames
if so add the second deep and frames
and keep feeding until they have drawn out that box
then add the supers - one at a time as they fill them

dont add every box you have early on a new package of bees other wise they will most likely fail to do much of anything

hope this helps
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Dont know your climate, but here in Maine, two deeps would do it for brood. (Or three mediums, as I use). Last year, after filling three med. brood boxes, the girls in a 1st year hive went on to fill almost two more medium honey supers.

I'd err on the side of confidence and the hope of a good flow and keep at least two or three medium supers with frames and foundation on hand, They won't go to waste and, if you're lucky, you may need them to hive a swarm during the season.

here's an option for the queen.Keep in mind there's no "right" way, just many different ways of doing the same thing. I just lay the queen cage on top of the top bars and use a spacer or shim to to keep the inner cover from resting on the queen cage. It's easy to see if the queen got out and no worries about dropping the queen cage down between frames (which I've done) and then have to reach down in there to retrieve it. When the queen is out remove the shim and you all set.
Last year my wifes package filled 2 deep brood boxes, & 2 medium honey supers.
I'd say if you're going to run deeps for the brood boxes, get two, & 3 honey supers a someone else mentioned.

Just in case, they have a great year.
The second advantage of the two deeps is you can get a second bottom board, cover and queen, move one deep brood super over and you have two hives. It would be best if the frames were as identical as possible but bees are quite resilient. I second the extra super suggestion. You will need them a few days to weeks before you can get them ready to go on the hive.
I ran deeps and shallows for decades, but I eventually converted it all to eight frame mediums. It would have been much easier to buy them in the first place.

Uniform frame size.
"Whatever style (hive) may be adopted, let it by all means be one with movable frames, and have but one sized frame in the apiary."--A.B. Mason, Mysteries of Bee-keeping explained
The frame is the basic element of a modern bee hive. Even if you have various sized boxes (as far as the number of frames they hold) if the frames are all the same depth you can put them in any of your boxes.

Having a uniform frame size has simplified my life. If all your frames are the same size you have a lot of advantages.

You can put anything currently in the hive anywhere else it's needed.

For instance:

You can put brood up a box to "bait" the bees up. This is useful without an excluder (I don't use excluders) but it's especially useful if you really want to use an excluder. A couple of frames of brood above the excluder (leaving the queen and the rest of the brood below) really motivates the bees to cross the excluder and start working the next box above it.
You can put honey combs in for food wherever you need it. I like this for making sure nucs don't starve without the robbing that feeding often starts, or bulking up the stores of a light hive in the fall.
You can unclog a brood nest by moving pollen or honey up a box or even a few frames of brood up a box to make room in the brood nest to prevent swarming. If you don't have all the same size, where will you put these frames?
You can run an unlimited brood nest with no excluder and if there is brood anywhere you can move it anywhere else. You're not stuck with a bunch of brood in a medium that you can't move down to your deep brood chamber. The advantage of the unlimited brood nest is the queen isn't limited to one or two brood boxes, but can be laying in three or four. Probably not four deeps, but probably in four mediums.
I cut all my deeps down to mediums.

Typically I hear the question, "do they winter as well?" and I say they winter better in my experience as they have better communication between the frames because of the gap between the boxes. Steve of Brushy Mt. used to say there was some research to this effect, but I'm unsure where to find it.


Lighter boxes.
"Friends don't let friends lift deeps" Jim Fischer of Fischer's BeeQuick
The hardest thing for me about beekeeping is lifting. Boxes full of honey are heavy. Deep boxes full of honey are VERY heavy. There may be some disagreement as to the exact weights of a full box of honey, and there are other factors involved but in my experience this is a pretty good synopsis of sizes of boxes and typical uses for them:

Standard 10 Frame boxes

Name(s) Depth Weight full of honey Uses

Jumbo, Dadant Deep 11 5/8" 100 - 110 pounds Brood
Deep, Langstroth Deep 9 5/8" 80 - 90 pounds Brood & Ext
Western Bee Supply 7 5/8" 70 - 80 pounds Brood & Ext
Medium, Illinois, 3/4 6 5/8" 60 - 70 pounds Brood & Ext & Cmb
Shallow 5 ¾" or 5 11/16" 50 - 60 pounds Cmb
Extra Shallow, ½ 4 ¾" or 4 11/16" 40 - 50 pounds Cmb
8 frame boxes:

Jumbo, Dadant Deep 11 5/8" 80-88 lbs
Deep 9 5/8" 64-72 lbs
Western Bee Supply 7 5/8" 56-64 lbs
Medium, Illinois 6 5/8" 48-56 lbs
Shallow 5 3/4" or 5 11/16" 40-48 lbs
Extra Shallow 4 ¾" or 4 11/16" 32-40 lbs
If you want a grasp of these and don't have a hive yet, go to the hardware store and stack up two fifty pound boxes of nails or, at the feed store, two fifty pound bags of feed. This is approximately the weight of a full deep. Now take one off and lift one box. This is approximately the weight of a full eight frame medium.

I find I can lift about fifty pounds pretty well, but more is usually a strain that leaves me hurting the next few days. The most versatile size frame is a medium and a box of them that weighs about 50 pounds is an eight frame.

So, first I converted all my deeps into mediums. It was a huge improvement over the occasional deep full of honey I had to lift. I still got tired of lifting 60 pound boxes, so I cut the ten frame mediums down to eight frame mediums. I'm really liking them. They are a comfortable weight to lift all day long and not be in pain for the next week. Any lighter and I might be tempted to try to lift two. Any heavier and I'm wishing it was a shade lighter.

I'm wondering how many aging beekeepers have been forced to give up bees because they hurt themselves lifting deeps and it hasn't occurred to them there are other choices?

Richard Taylor in The Joys of Beekeeping says:

" man's back is unbreakable and even beekeepers grow older. When full, a mere shallow super is heavy, weighing forty pounds or more. Deep supers, when filled, are ponderous beyond practical limit."
I often get asked what the down side of using all eight frame mediums is. There is only one I know of.

8 frame medium vs 10 frame deep = 1.78 times more initial investment for boxes. ($64 for four eight frame mediums plus frames vs $36 for two deeps plus frames)

$512 vs $288 for eight boxes vs four boxes

Plus lids and bottoms ($20)

$532 vs $308 = 1.73 times more or $224

100 hives * $224 = $22,400 which should just about cover your back surgery.

Typically I hear the question, "do they winter as well?" and I say they winter better in my experience as the cluster fits the box better and they don't leave behind frames of honey on the outside as much as they do in the ten frame hives.
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I'm in my second year of beekeeping. I went with 8-frames, two deeps brood boxes and two medium supers per hive, using Pierco plastic frames. Last year was wet and not very bee-friendly. Of my three hives:

One never got to super, but it packed the deeps well for winter.
One hive I supered one box, and the hive packed it full.
One hive I supered two boxes and the bees filled only half of the second super.

So I ended up with three brand-new medium supers that never got touched and about 45 pounds of honey. If I'd know how crappy the summer was going to be, I might have skipped the supers completely. Maybe. It was pretty swell eating my own honey last fall!

On the "I wish I'd realized that" column, if you buy nucs and not packages, you'll get four or five frames with your nucs, so that's fewer frames you need to buy. (On the plus side I have enough deep frames to start another hive this year if I get lucky.)

Welcome and good luck to you!
You've gotten some excellent suggestions, so I'll add just one more thought.

Remember: The honey flow is fickle. You just never know. If you add too many supers during a flow, you'll simply not get them all filled, and you'll wonder why you went to the work and expense.

On the other hand, if you add too few supers, yes they'll all be filled out, but you'll miss getting MORE honey. Much better to remove 2 packed supers and 1 or 2 partial, than just 2 packed supers. You never know, those 1 or 2 partially packed could have been packed too, if the flow was good. I long for a year when once again I pull 5 packed supers off a colony.
Thank you everyone for all the helpful suggestions! What a friendly and helpful place this is!
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