Ok, so you've decided to get started in beekeeping, but you didn't realize there were so many decisions and choices to be made! Choices include nucs vs. package bees, 8 frame vs 10 frame boxes, breed of your queen, what type of feeder to use, and the list goes on.
While these decisions can be nerve-racking to the new beekeeper, the good news is this: usually there's no wrong answer! Many of these choices come down to personal preference and what works for you, in your apiary. So don't sweat it! Do a little research, make your decision and roll with it. This article specifically addresses the question of 8 frame vs 10 frame hive sizes, to give you a few pros and cons as you make your decision.
Over the past decade or so, 8 frame hives have increased in popularity in the US. Here are a list of pros and cons to the 8 frame system.
Pros for 8 frame
- Lighter weight, significantly easier to handle. Deep boxes full of honey normally weight about 20 lbs less than 10 frame, and mediums are about 10 lbs less.
- Bees naturally prefer to move upwards, rather than outwards, so a narrower hive is conducive to this tendency.
- Narrower hives allow for a "chimney effect" in the wintertime, meaning it is easier for humidity to escape through the top of the hive (with proper ventilation). Less humidity in the hive means a stronger likelihood of successful overwintering.
Cons for 8 frame
- While most suppliers do offer a pretty complete lineup of 8 frame hive components, it can be a little harder to find, particularly more specialty items or accessories. When a company is making an exciting new beehive accessory or gadget (especially a non-wood item), there's a good chance they won't offer an 8 frame size, due to the lower demand. Also, many farm and hardware stores are now stocking some beekeeping supplies, which can be handy for emergency needs if you need a box or hive on short notice to catch a swarm or make a split. These places typically don't stock 8 frame equipment.
- Another consideration is potential compatibility with other beekeepers equipment. While many beekeepers use 8 frame hives, the vast majority are 10 frame. So if you possibly might have a need to loan/borrow equipment back and forth with a mentor or other beekeeper, there's a better chance of compatibility if you have 10 frame stuff.
Regarding 10 frame pros and cons, well, you can pretty much reverse all the 8 frame points I just made, and there you have it. Probably the biggest reason to choose 10 frame is that it's by far the most common system/size in the US. I would estimate that upwards of 80% of beekeepers use primarily 10 frame equipment. Ten frame equipment is the most readily available, and as mentioned above, all the exciting new inventions, gadgets, and accessories are always made for 10 frame size, but often not for 8 frame.
If you take away anything from these ramblings, I hope it is this--decide on one size or the other and stick with it! Take it from someone who's been there before, it is a real pain to have both 8 frame and 10 frame hives. You definitely want to have one size and one size only if at all possible!