9 Frame Supers

Capped honey comb

Whether you use a heated uncapping knife, a simple bread knife, or an electric knife, you can make the task of uncapping easier, and increase the honey capacity of each super, at the same time. All you need to do is remove one frame from each super. If you have a 10-frame super, evenly space 9 frames in it and you'll accomplish both.

Yes. It's very counter-intuitive. How can you put more honey in 9 frames than in 10? Well, it's going to take a bit of explaining, but it's not really that difficult to understand. Actually, it's kind of cool.

Start with the concept of "bee space." Basically, bees want a space of about 3/8" to move around. If a space is too small, they propolize it shut. And if a space is too big, they fill it with comb. And that's "bee space" in a nutshell.

A standard 10-frame body has enough space inside to fit 10 frames with 3/8" of space between them, plus another 3/8" of space on either end. That's a total of 11 spaces, each of which is 3/8" wide. That totals 4-1/8" of empty space in the super.

But what if you remove a frame and evenly space the remaining 9? Well, that means that now there are 10 spaces instead of 11. But the bees won't leave them wider. The bees will draw out the comb further to close those wider spaces to just 3/8" each. So now with only 10 spaces of 3/8" the empty space is reduced to only 3-3/4". This means that there is now an additional 3/8" of space, that used to be empty bee-space, but that can now be filled with additional honey in the same super. And that's how you get more honey in the same super with fewer frames.

As an added benefit, the comb now protrudes above the frame on both sides, which makes it much easier to shave off those caps. The only trick to making this work is to be certain that the frames are evenly spaced. You can buy gauges for such things, but really, just eyeballing them should be fine.