Document and Entity Information - shares
3 Months Ended
Mar. 31, 2016
May. 06, 2016
Document And Entity Information [Abstract]    
Document Type 10-Q  
Document period end date Mar. 31, 2016  
Amendment flag false  
Document Period Focus Q1  
Document Fiscal Year Focus 2016  
Current fiscal year end date --12-31  
Entity central index key 0001123494  
Entity current reporting status Yes  
Entity filer category Accelerated Filer  
Entity registrant name HARVARD BIOSCIENCE INC  
Entity voluntary filers No  
Entity well known seasoned issuer No  
Entity common stock shares outstanding   34,069,549
Trading Symbol HBIO