wooden bee house on grass field

Shallow vs Medium Super

In beekeeping there are a lot of different terms that can get confusing for those just starting out.  For example, the boxes in the beehive have different names such as hive bodies, brood box, and super.  

What is a Super?

In a beehive, the supers are the hive boxes that are placed above the brood boxes.  These are the boxes bees use to store surplus honey.  That’s why they are also commonly called honey supers. 

It also gets it’s name from the word superstructure, which means a structure built on top of something else. During a nectar flow, a queen excluder is placed so the queen cannot enter the supers.  This ensures that only honey will be stored in the supers. 

What is the Difference Between a Medium Super and a Shallow Super?

Beehive boxes come in 3 different sizes, and not all supers are the same size. The 3 different box sizes are deep, medium, and shallow.  Each box has a different depth.  

  • Deep (9-⅝ in) 
  • Medium (6-⅝ in)
  • Shallow (5-¾ in)

Typically, deep boxes are only used for brood boxes, and medium and shallow boxes are used for supers. The reason why deep boxes are almost always used for brood is that the extra space gives the queen more space, which means that she can lay eggs more efficiently. 

However, deep boxes are too large and heavy to be used as a super.  Full of honey, a deep box would weigh over 80 lbs, which would be too heavy to carry. 

That’s why shallow and medium boxes are preferred for supers.  When full of honey, they weigh less than a deep box, and therefore, are easier to carry and move around. 

The difference between medium and shallow supers is the depth of the box and the weight of the box when full of honey.  Medium boxes are taller than shallow boxes, and therefore are able to hold more honey.  That also makes them a bit heavier than shallow supers. 

Shallow Super Dimensions

The standard dimensions of a 10 frame shallow honey super are: 

  • Length: 19 7/8″
  • Width: 16 1/4″
  • Height: 5 3/4″

The standard dimensions of an 8 frame shallow honey super are: 

  • Length: 19 7/8″
  • Width: 13 3/4″
  • Height: 5 3/4″

When full of honey a shallow super weighs 30 – 40 lbs. 

Medium Super Dimensions

The standard dimensions of a 10 frame medium honey super are: 

  • Length: 19 7/8″
  • Width: 16 1/4″
  • Height: 6 5/8″ 

The standard dimensions of an 8 frame medium honey super are: 

  • Length: 19 7/8″
  • Width: 13 3/4″
  • Height: 6 5/8″

When full of honey, a medium super weighs about 60 lbs. 

Shallow vs Medium Super

When thinking about using a shallow vs medium super, know that the bees don’t really care what size you use. As long as the box is at the top, they will store honey there.  

That’s because bees store their resources based on the location inside the hive.  Pollen gets stored at the bottom, brood in the middle, and honey at the top. 

So, if you are decided on shallow vs medium super, you can choose based on your own preference. 

The advantage of a shallow super is that they are lighter and easier to maneuver.  Their small size makes them easy to place on a hive and easy to remove and harvest honey from. You’ll probably need 4 shallow supers on your hive.  

While medium boxes can technically be used as brood boxes as well, most beekeepers prefer using medium supers. The main benefit of using a medium super is that it holds more honey.  You’ll also use less boxes.  Typically, 2-3 medium supers are used on a hive. 

When to Add a Super to a Beehive

Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer to this.  It really depends on the natural population growth of the colony and the nectar flow in your area.

Adding a super too soon can cause issues with temperature regulation within the hive.  If you add them too late, the bees will have no choice but to start storing honey in brood cells. Eventually the queen will have no space to lay eggs. 

Usually, supers should be added to a hive by late spring. A sign that your hive is ready for supering is that the bees have covered 7 out of 10 frames in the top box. At this point, the colony should be ready for a super. 


A super is the box that bees store surplus honey in.  When deciding on shallow vs medium super, the difference is the weight of the box and the amount of honey it holds.  While shallow supers weigh less, medium supers hold more honey.