Lorenzo Langstroth : Invention of the movable comb hive

Early forms of honey collecting entailed the destruction of the entire colony when the honey was harvested. The wild hive was crudely broken into, using smoke to suppress the bees, the honeycombs were torn out and smashed up — along with the eggs, larvae and honey they contained.

The liquid honey from the destroyed brood nest was strained through a sieve or basket. This was destructive and unhygienic, but for hunter-gatherer societies this did not matter, since the honey was generally consumed immediately and there were always more wild colonies to exploit.

But in settled societies the destruction of the bee colony meant the loss of a valuable resource; this drawback made beekeeping both inefficient and something of a “stop and start” activity. There could be no continuity of production and no possibility of selective breeding, since each bee colony was destroyed at harvest time, along with its precious queen.

During the medieval period abbeys and monasteries were centers of beekeeping, since beeswax was highly prized for candles and fermented honey was used to make alcoholic mead in areas of Europe where vines would not grow.

The 18th and 19th centuries saw successive stages of a revolution in beekeeping, which allowed the bees themselves to be preserved when taking the harvest.

Intermediate stages in the transition from the old beekeeping to the new were recorded for example by Thomas Wildman in 1768/1770, who described advances over the destructive old skep-based beekeeping so that the bees no longer had to be killed to harvest the honey.

Wildman for example fixed a parallel array of wooden bars across the top of a straw hive or skep (with a separate straw top to be fixed on later) “so that there are in all seven bars of deal” [in a 10-inch-diameter (250 mm) hive] “to which the bees fix their combs”.

He also described using such hives in a multi-storey configuration, foreshadowing the modern use of supers: he described adding (at a proper time) successive straw hives below, and eventually removing the ones above when free of brood and filled with honey, so that the bees could be separately preserved at the harvest for a following season.

Wildman also described a further development, using hives with “sliding frames” for the bees to build their comb, foreshadowing more modern uses of movable-comb hives.

Wildman’s book acknowledged the advances in knowledge of bees previously made by Swammerdam, Maraldi, and de Réaumur—he included a lengthy translation of Réaumur’s account of the natural history of bees—and he also described the initiatives of others in designing hives for the preservation of bee-life when taking the harvest, citing in particular reports from Brittany dating from the 1750s, due to Comte de la Bourdonnaye.

However, the forerunners of the modern hives with movable frames that are mainly used today are considered the traditional basket top bar (movable comb) hives of Greece, known as “Greek beehives”, which also allowed the beekeeper to avoid killing the bees.

The oldest testimony on their use dates back to 1669 although it is probable that their use is more than 3000 years old.

The 19th century saw this revolution in beekeeping practice completed through the perfection of the movable comb hive by the American Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth.

Lorenzo Langstroth

Langstroth was the first person to make practical use of Huber’s earlier discovery that there was a specific spatial measurement between the wax combs, later called the bee space, which bees do not block with wax, but keep as a free passage.

Having determined this bee space (between 5 and 8 mm, or 1/4 to 3/8″), Langstroth then designed a series of wooden frames within a rectangular hive box, carefully maintaining the correct space between successive frames, and found that the bees would build parallel honeycombs in the box without bonding them to each other or to the hive walls.

Langstroth’s Hive

This enables the beekeeper to slide any frame out of the hive for inspection, without harming the bees or the comb, protecting the eggs, larvae and pupae contained within the cells. It also meant that combs containing honey could be gently removed and the honey extracted without destroying the comb.

The emptied honey combs could then be returned to the bees intact for refilling. Langstroth’s book, The Hive and Honey-bee, published in 1853, described his rediscovery of the bee space and the development of his patent movable comb hive.

The invention and development of the movable-comb-hive fostered the growth of commercial honey production on a large scale in both Europe and the US .

Table of Contents

About Langstroth’s Hive

The major capabilities of Langstroth’s hive had been the 2 divided compartments. The decrease compartment functioned for feeding the bees and swarm manage. The higher one had detachable frames for clean harvesting of the honey (Lach).

In bankruptcy seven of his book, Langstroth lists many different motives why his hive works higher than preceding hives for beekeeping. Basically, his hive offers manage over all the critical factors of beekeeping with minimum damage to the bees.

It consists of detachable frames, which permit the beekeeper to eliminate drone combs, move brood from one hive to every other and multiply colonies. This additionally permits the beekeeper to re-queen whichever hive can also additionally want a brand new queen.

His hive promotes manufacturing of comb. The hive additionally makes acting beekeeping operations a lot easier. Langstroth made his hive with the intention in thoughts that a hive have to now no longer damage, anger, or get withinside the manner of the bees.

He additionally made his hive to defend in opposition to weather, moths, and water damage. With the movable combs, a beekeeper can eliminate inflamed combs in case moths, mice, or different animals infest the hive or bee illnesses infect the combs.

The beekeeper can extrade the doorway length so one can similarly defend the bees for the duration of the winter. The hive may be adjusted for colony sizes in case of swarming or a developing hive.

There are some particular components of the hive that provoke roper airflow throughout. For example, Langstroth applied a everlasting backside board this is slanted in the direction of the hole of the hive so one can nicely ventilate the hive.

Also, this manner, the lowest board may be cleared of lifeless bees, and the beekeeper is capable of feed the bees if necessary.

Swarming is a huge issue of beekeeping. There are many one-of-a-kind motives why bees might also additionally swarm, however for example, bees will produce a brand new queen and wreck off from their preceding hive;

Langstroth’s hive makes it clean to re-hive swarms, and alter for swarms or defend towards swarms relying at the beekeeper’s preference.

Another function of this hive is it’s miles secure to transport, this means that a beekeeper should alternate the area of his or her hive primarily based totally at the bees quantity of manufacturing. If a hive isn’t always acting to the likings of the beekeeper, she or he should effortlessly relocate it.

Langstroth’s hive makes it clean to manipulate bees and transfer handlers due to the truth that it could be correctly transported and due to its simplistic design.

All components of Langstroth’s hive may be taken out to be wiped clean repaired if necessary. It is easy to assemble and restore this hive.

Langstroth desired his hive to be neat and appealing and be reasonably-priced to buy and maintain. The principal advantage of Langstroth’s hive is that the beekeeper can effortlessly harvest honey in huge quantities with out harming bees (Langstroth).

As formerly mentioned, Langstroth’s “bee area” additionally allows boom bee’s manufacturing of honey. Bee area refers back to the right quantity of area, 5/sixteen of an inch, among the detachable comb systems in Langstroth’s hive.

This area is important due to the fact if the gap among surfaces withinside the hive is simply too small the bees will seal it off with propolis, which makes the combs a good deal tougher to move.

If the gap is simply too huge, the bees will construct comb, once more stopping clean elimination of the brush systems.

If the bees have the bee area of 5/sixteen of an inch they may depart it unfastened as a move slowly area, so the beekeeper can effortlessly eliminate the hive’s comb systems (Lach).

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