How to Start Beekeeping: Medium or Deep Boxes?

As a beginner beekeeper, there is so much to learn prior to keeping bees. Starting to keep bees requires a lot of  upfront decision making, some are easy to change later than others. Choosing to use all medium boxes or a combination of deep, medium or shallow boxes is decisions that is harder to change later.

If you use a combination of box sizes, it is difficult to undo that decision and change to using only medium boxes. 

On our own hives, we opted to use all medium boxes from the beginning. Fortunately, if you ask experienced beekeepers, many would seriously consider using all medium boxes if starting over. Most beekeepers didn't use medium boxes because they weren't available or they were taught otherwise from a beekeeping friend. Traditionally, only deep boxes and shallow boxes were available, which is why many experience beekeepers use deep boxes.


Using all Medium Boxes

Advantages

  • Simpler purchasing, only one type of equipment to buy
  • All foundation, frame and box works together
  • Each full box will weight about 60 lbs at the most
  • Winter bee clusters have more gaps between boxes for mobility
  • Do not have to wire in beeswax foundation
  • If selling bees, there is a high demand for medium nucleus hives

Disadvantages

  • More pieces of equipment to buy when starting
  • More frames to handle during brood inspections
  • More frames and boxes to assemble and paint
  • Difficult to find nucleus hives with medium frames
  • Increased spaces for wax moths and small hive beetles to hide

A variety of bee hive setups. Left side: A combination of deep and medium boxes. Center: A standard cypress medium and deep box. Top right: 10-frame medium boxes and 5 frame medium boxes. Bottom right: Great grandfather working deep and shallow boxes.


Using a Combination of Deep, Medium and/or Shallow Boxes

Advantages

  • Easier to find compatible nucleus hives when starting a hive
  • Many experienced beekeepers are familiar with the equipment
  • Less equipment to buy, cheaper in beginning
  • Queen can lay eggs more efficiently on deep frames
  • Less equipment to examine during hive inspections

Disadvantages

  • Deep boxes can be 75+lbs when full
  • Frames and foundation are not compatible with each other
  • Non standardized equipment becomes difficult in the long term
  • Shallow boxes and medium boxes are very similar looking, causing confusion if using both
  • More difficult to keep bees without foundation in deep boxes

Do you recommend using all medium boxes or a combination? Comment below and let us know what you think.