Developed by Rev Lorenzo Langstroth in the mid 1800’s, this hive design revolutionized modern beekeeping. It became the industry standard and is still the most used hive style today. The Langstroth hive dimensions allowed for an efficient use of the area inside the hive by the bees and better management by the beekeeper. From frame construction to large buildings built to house equipment, measurements of a Lang hive are considered in all areas of beekeeping.
Standard Langstroth Measurements
One of the key features of the Langstroth beehives is the expandability. By adding additional boxes, the beekeeper can increase the interior colony space very easily.
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The arrangement of bee boxes is often called: hive configuration. In most regions, several boxes are needed for use solely by the bee colony. Here, they will raise brood and store food for the Winter season.
The top most boxes of a hive are generally considered “honey supers”. These boxes will be removed at some time for the beekeeper’s share of the honey crop.
How many bee boxes are part of your standard hive configuration? Well, that depends in part on where you live.
A beekeeper in Florida may only need 1 or 2 boxes for the bee family. While beekeepers in upstate Maine certainly need several boxes just for bees to use and store their Winter food.
The dimensions inside and outside the hive are important. When commercial beekeepers are designing buildings to house equipment or even full hives, they must take the size of the hives into consideration.
Likewise, if you want to build a trailer to take a few hives to a special nectar flow, you need to know how big they are.
For beekeepers who desire to build their own beekeeping equipment, inside measurements are important. This ensures that purchased frames fit properly and are interchangeable with other hives.
Basic Hive Dimensions of a Standard 10 Frame Lang
Starting a new hive is an exciting time full of hope. Most new colonies begin with a purchased package of bees or maybe a captured swarm. This small bee family has some growing to do – get them started with the basics only.
The basic starter Langstroth hive consists of:
- Outer Top or Hive Cover
- Inner Cover
- Hive boxes (usually a deep)
- Bottom Board
Most hobby beekeepers use a “telescoping top” or outer cover. The sides “telescope” down over the top box to keep out rain and wind.
An inner cover creates a dead air space to help insulate the hive. A large hole in the center is very useful as a small observation window or feeding access hole. It also aids in hive ventilation letting moist air escape.
Langstroth bee boxes often called “supers” are the heart of the hive. Here all bee life takes place. The outside measurements of all Langstroth hive boxes is 16” wide by 19 7/8” long. *You may notice slight variations among different references.
A small colony should not be thrown into a large hive with many boxes on top. There are not enough workers to patrol all this open space.
Beginning with a single deep or hive body is the norm. Additional bee boxes can be added as the colony needs more space for brood or honey storage.
While all maintain the standard outside width and length, there are 3 different depths (or heights) of boxes. The hive body (or deep measures) 9 5/8” high, a medium super is 6 5/8” and the shallow box measures 5 11/16” high.
Bear in mind that your local hives may have any combination of these boxes in use. The beekeeper may mix and match them as needed. However, most use 1 or 2 of the 9 5/8” hive bodies for the bees and smaller boxes for honey collection.
The bottom board of a hive comes in several styles. For years, a solid bottom was the standard and is still preferred by some beekeepers.
In addition to serving as a base for the boxes to sit on, the bottom board serves another purpose. The side boards provide an entrance to the hive and extends a couple of inches past the hive body (22″ length).
This enables the beekeeper to use standard entrance reducers when needed. When building your own beekeeping equipment, the sides of the bottom board should be the proper height – about 3/8”. Some of the solid bottom boards are reversable, giving the beekeeper a choice of an opening 3/8” high or 7/8”.
8 Frame Hives
In recent years, 8 frame Langstroth hives have grown in popularity. The outside length of an 8 frame box is still 19 7/8”. However, since this box only holds 8 frames instead of 10, the width is only 14”.
This gives a beekeeper the advantage of being able to exchange frames between both types of boxes. The smaller one just holds fewer frames.
Special Section Comb Supers
Beekeepers that produce comb sections using special containers with foundation may use a 4 ¾” deep box. The exact arrangement depends on the comb systems chosen to be filled by the bees. This is not the norm and most hobby beekeepers do not try to produce comb sections.
Self Spacing Frames Help Keep Comb Straight
Hoffman-style self-spacing frames are used inside the hive boxes. These frames usually hold sheets of foundation to encourage the bees to produce straight comb.
When pushed together, the wider shoulders near the top bars are designed to give proper spacing between combs. Having too much space between frames or between the frame and the outside of the box results in excess burr comb. It can be scraped away but if the spacing is off, the bees will build it right back.
Size of Wood Used for Hive Building
The type of wood used to make beehives does vary a bit depending on what is available in your area. Pine is the most common wood with Cypress being another good choice. Most plans and measurements are set for a board that is 3/4″ thick.
Using wood of a different thickness may throw off your inside measurements unless you make adjustments. The inside dimensions of a deep hive body should be about L-18 3/8″, W-14 3/4″ and D-9 5/8″.
Searching for Standard Beekeeping Equipment
Knowing the size of your hives is a practical skill. No the bees don’t seem to care but it can make hive inspections easier for you. Need a hive stand? It’s good to know the approximate size of the footprint for your beehive.
Of course, Langstroth hives are not the only type of hive you can use. Top bar hives, Warre hives and others are good options as well. However, the Lang hive is considered a best choice for beginners.
Like most items that can be purchased commercially, individual sizes will vary. While the idea of everything being standard and fitting together exactly is a great ideal – it is not always the fact.
There will some some slight difference in preferred measurements from one manufacturer to the next. Thankfully, the difference is usually so small that no great harm is done. Whenever possible, try to use standard equipment. It will make your life as a beekeeper easier.