Bee Space Within the Hive
Bee space within the hive may seem insignificant since we are aware of how the bees can provide for themselves in the wild. They build perfect combs and just the proper distance between each comb. If the space they have chosen becomes crowded they simply fill all cells and then prepare to swarm.
There are two reasons for providing as near the proper bee space as possible. Number one it provides easy access for the bees to all parts of the hive. Number two, it prevents the bees from building bridge or burr comb, filling in with honey where it is not wanted. So, in the end the spacing makes work for the bees and beekeeper easier.
It was in the year 1853 that Dr. Langstroth discovered that in the wild the bees placed their combs just a certain distance apart so from that he figured how a hive could be developed that would allow the frames of comb to be removed without damage to the combs or to the bees.
Bee hives of various types and sizes have been constructed. The hive most commonly used in the United States is the standard ten frame hive. There is a slight variation of hives and parts by different manufacturers. Colonies I have worked with were housed in hives from the 1920’s to today and most provided a fairly accurate bee space when used properly.
Some of the bottom boards from the early 20’s and 30’s were made slightly thicker material then we find today. That had no bearing on colony manipulation or on other parts of the hive construction.
The hive body or brood chambers of today measure, outside measurement is: 16 ¼” wide, 20” long and 9 9/16” deep. Unfortunately the ten inch lumber of today measures only 9 ¼”. There is considerable waste if made from 12 inch lumber.
The frames from the brood chamber measure as follows: the top bars are 19” long, the end bars for the frames are 9 1/8th” with the upper part of the end bar 1 3/8” wide. Such end bars provide the proper space automatically. So as the combs hang in the hive they are 1 3/8” center to center.
The frames should hang in the hive ¼ inch below the top rim of the hive. The bottom of the frames will hang just 1/8 inch above the bottom rim of the hive. Thus, when one is placed above the other there is 3/8ths inch space or perfect space for bees.
Years ago many beekeepers provided nine combs in the brood chambers. The idea being that it made it easier to remove the first frame when working with the bees. That was not necessarily so as the bees would widen the combs making the cells to deep for the queen to deposit eggs so it reduced the area for brood. The bees also built more bridge comb on the bottom of the frames so they were still difficult to remove. If colonies are being moved during the year the ten combs are stabilized and cannot shift.
Various depths of surplus honey supers are used. In any and all cases the frames should hang in the supers as in the brood chamber with space on top and bottom. Most prefer using only nine combs in the surplus honey supers.
The inner cover is an important part of the beekeeping equipment. The perfect inner cover has a rim only on one side. On top of the honey supers it should be used rim side UP. That prevents any comb from being built on the upper top bars. The inner cover can also be used in the removal of the surplus honey through a bee escape. It can also be used when introducing queens by placing the queen cage, screened down on the top bars above the brood with the inner cover rim side down.
The telescope outer cover has its advantages. Beekeepers who move their bees often or long distances find those just in the way of forming a compact load for the road.
Good bee-tight equipment is most desirable for working with bees or when moving bees to various locations. Good equipment goes along with good beekeeping.
Submitted by Glen L. Stanley