Introduction

A honey super is a part of a commercial or other managed (such as by a hobbyist) beehive that is used to collect honey.

The most common variety is the “Illinois” or “medium” super with a depth of 6​58 inches, in the length and width dimensions of a Langstroth hive.

A honey super consists of a box in which 8–10 frames are hung. Western honeybees collect nectar and store the processed nectar in honeycomb, which they build on the frames.

When the honeycomb is full, the bees will reduce the moisture content of the honey to 17-18% moisture content before capping the comb with beeswax.

Beekeepers will take the full honey supers and extract the honey. Periods when there is an abundant nectar source available and bees are quickly bringing back the nectar, are called a honey flow. During a honey flow, beekeepers may put several honey supers onto a hive so the bees have enough storage space.

Honey supers are removed in the fall when the honey is extracted, and before the hive is winterized, but enough honey is left for the bees to consume during winter.

Boxes

The use of a variable number of boxes in the Langstroth lend this hive design a tremendous ability to expand. It is simple and easy to add another box on top of the existing ones, thus adding considerable volume to your bee’s living quarters.

Due to the size of the boxes and the ease with which new ones can be added, the Langstroth offers the highest honey yield of the three main types of beehives.

Although the Langstroth is something of a standard, you still have many options when it comes to box size, across two dimensions.

Depth

The Langstroth boxes used in a single hive use the same length and width. A traditional box is 16″ wide by 19 7/8″ long.

However, boxes of different depths can be mixed in the same hive, with the following standard sizes available:

  • Deep: 9 5/8″
  • Medium: 6 5/8″
  • Shallow: 5 7/8″

For example, a deep box has the dimensions 16″ x 19 7/8″ x 9 5/8″.

Frame Count and Depth

Beekeepers also have the choice of either 8 or 10 frame boxes. These will be used consistently throughout a single hive, meaning a hive itself – across all boxes – is either an 8 or a 10 frame hive. However, it is not particularly unusual for beekeepers to have a mixture of both 8 and 10 frame beehives, although the “operational efficiency” of this is questionable.

So, why would one choose a box with only 8 frames, when 10 frames boxes can be used? A fully-laden 10 frame deep box can weigh around 80 lbs! That’s a lot of heavy-duty lifting. This one reason why many prefer 8 frame hives – it’s easier on the back!

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