Evolution of hive designs

Langstroth’s design for movable comb hives was seized upon by apiarists and inventors on both sides of the Atlantic and a wide range of moveable comb hives were designed and perfected in England, France, Germany and the United States.

Classic designs evolved in each country: Dadant hives and Langstroth hives are still dominant in the US; in France the De-Layens trough-hive became popular and in the UK a British National hive became standard as late as the 1930s although in Scotland the smaller Smith hive is still popular.

In some Scandinavian countries and in Russia the traditional trough hive persisted until late in the 20th century and is still kept in some areas.

However, the Langstroth and Dadant designs remain ubiquitous in the US and also in many parts of Europe, though Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France and Italy all have their own national hive designs.

Regional variations of hive evolved to reflect the climate, floral productivity and the reproductive characteristics of the various subspecies of native honey bee in each bio-region.

Bees at the hive entrance

The differences in hive dimensions are insignificant in comparison to the common factors in all these hives: they are all square or rectangular; they all use movable wooden frames; they all consist of a floor, brood-box, honey super, crown-board and roof.

Hives have traditionally been constructed of cedar, pine, or cypress wood, but in recent years hives made from injection molded dense polystyrene have become increasingly important.

Hives also use queen excluders between the brood-box and honey supers to keep the queen from laying eggs in cells next to those containing honey intended for consumption. Also, with the advent in the 20th century of mite pests, hive floors are often replaced for part of (or the whole) year with a wire mesh and removable tray.

Honey-laden honeycomb in a wooden frame

In 2015 the Flow Hive system was invented in Australia by Cedar Anderson and his father Stuart Anderson, allowing honey to be extracted without expensive centrifuge equipment.

Pioneers of practical and commercial beekeeping

The 19th century produced an explosion of innovators and inventors who perfected the design and production of beehives, systems of management and husbandry, stock improvement by selective breeding, honey extraction and marketing. Preeminent among these innovators were:

Petro Prokopovych used frames with channels in the side of the woodwork; these were packed side by side in boxes that were stacked one on top of the other. The bees traveled from frame to frame and box to box via the channels. The channels were similar to the cut outs in the sides of modern wooden sections (1814).

Jan Dzierżon was the father of modern apiology and apiculture. All modern beehives are descendants of his design.

François Huber made significant discoveries regarding the bee life-cycle and communication between bees. Despite being blind, Huber brought to light a large amount of information regarding the queen bee’s mating habits and her communication with the rest of the hive. His work was published as New Observations on the Natural History of Bees.

L. L. Langstroth revered as the “father of American apiculture”; no other individual has influenced modern beekeeping practice more than Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth. His classic book The Hive and Honey-bee was published in 1853.

Moses Quinby often termed “the father of commercial beekeeping in the United States”, author of Mysteries of Bee-Keeping Explained. He invented the Bee smoker in 1873.

Amos Root author of the A B C of Bee Culture, which has been continuously revised and remains in print. Root pioneered the manufacture of hives and the distribution of bee-packages in the United States.

A. J. Cook author of The Bee-Keepers’ Guide; or Manual of the Apiary, 1876.

Dr. C.C. Miller was one of the first entrepreneurs to actually make a living from apiculture. By 1878 he made beekeeping his sole business activity. His book, Fifty Years Among the Bees, remains a classic and his influence on bee management persists to this day.

Honey Extractor

Franz Hruschka was an Italian military officer who made one crucial invention that catalyzed the commercial honey industry. In 1865 he invented a simple machine for extracting honey from the comb by means of centrifugal force. His original idea was simply to support combs in a metal framework and then spin them around within a container to collect honey as it was thrown out by centrifugal force. This meant that honeycombs could be returned to a hive undamaged but empty, saving the bees a vast amount of work, time, and materials. This single invention greatly improved the efficiency of honey harvesting and catalysed the modern honey industry.

Walter T. Kelley was an American pioneer of modern beekeeping in the early and mid-20th century. He greatly improved upon beekeeping equipment and clothing and went on to manufacture these items as well as other equipment. His company sold via catalog worldwide and his book, How to Keep Bees & Sell Honey, an introductory book of apiculture and marketing, allowed for a boom in beekeeping following World War II.

In the U.K. practical beekeeping was led in the early 20th century by a few men, pre-eminently Brother Adam and his Buckfast bee and R.O.B. Manley, author of many titles, including Honey Production in the British Isles and inventor of the Manley frame, still universally popular in the U.K. Other notable British pioneers include William Herrod-Hempsall and Gale.

Dr. Ahmed Zaky Abushady (1892–1955), was an Egyptian poet, medical doctor, bacteriologist and bee scientist who was active in England and in Egypt in the early part of the twentieth century. In 1919, Abushady patented a removable, standardized aluminum honeycomb. In 1919 he also founded The Apis Club in Benson, Oxfordshire, and its periodical Bee World, which was to be edited by Annie D. Betts and later by Dr. Eva Crane. The Apis Club was transitioned to the International Bee Research Association (IBRA). Its archives are held in the National Library of Wales. In Egypt in the 1930s, Abushady established The Bee Kingdom League and its organ, The Bee Kingdom.

In India, R. N. Mattoo was the pioneer worker in starting beekeeping with Indian honeybee, (Apis cerana indica) in the early 1930s. Beekeeping with European honeybee, (Apis mellifera) was started by Dr. A. S. Atwal and his team members, O. P. Sharma and N. P. Goyal in Punjab in the early 1960s. It remained confined to Punjab and Himachal Pradesh up to the late 1970s. Later on in 1982, Dr. R. C. Sihag, working at Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar (Haryana), introduced and established this honeybee in Haryana and standardized its management practices for semi-arid-subtropical climates. On the basis of these practices, beekeeping with this honeybee could be extended to the rest of the country. Now beekeeping with Apis mellifera predominates in India.

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