Bee Space – Top or Bottom?

In my previous article I mentioned the terms Top Bee Space and Bottom Bee Space, so let me explain what bee space means. I’ll begin with a little about how these terms came about. This only a very short explanation which hopefully will make it clearer.



NEVER mix Top and Bottom Bee Spaces in the same hive, the bees will have a field day and make your life much more stressful! You have been warned!


Movable Frame Hives.

Rev. Dr Johann Dzierzon discovered that bees in the wild build combs a fixed distance apart which allows them just enough space for the bees to pass between them. Then in 1851 Rev. Langstroth found that the gap the bees left was 6 – 8mm between the comb edge and the cavity wall where the combs were built, this he called the ‘Bee Space’. Langstroth realised because the combs were built from the top down they could be built in frames, which made it possible to remove a single comb for inspections. The result of these discoveries is that all modern hives of whatever design make use of the bee space.

The Bee Space.

In the Brood box bees leave 2 bee spaces between the combs, while in the honey supers they only leave one, to achieve this frames are spaced differently in each box. There is also a horizontal bee space between the top bars (frames) in one box and the bottom bars (frames) of the one above. The size of the gap is important because if it is too large the bees will fill it with brace comb, if the gap is smaller then they will fill the gaps with Propolis. For this reason it is very important that the frames and boxes fit together correctly as this makes life much easier for you when working in the hive.

Top or Bottom hive designs.

Hives are either described as top bee space or bottom bee space.

Top Bee SpaceIn a Top space hive the space between the boxes is ABOVE the top bars of the lower box i.e. the bottom bars of the frames are level with the bottom edge of the box. See pic above.



Bottom Bee Space

In a Bottom space hive the top bars of the frames are flush with the top of the box and the bee space is below bottom bars of the frames.


I hope this has made sense, please leave any questions or comments then please leave them below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

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