The A, B, C’s of Bees: Langstroth Hive


The Reverend Lorenzo L. Langstroth is credited with inventing the modern-day beehive, the Langstroth hive.  But what makes it so special?

2 key ideas:  movable frames and bee space


One of the first man-made hives used for keeping bees consisted of grasses that were twisted into ropes then coiled into bigger and bigger circles.  Sticks were placed at the top for the bees to build their combs. These basket-weave hives, called skeps, are still used in some parts of the world today.


Three skeps in a row. Photo courtesy of alh1.

Originally, when it was time to harvest honey, the skep was placed over smoking sulfur which killed the bees.  But this wasn’t very bee friendly.  So, later on, an empty skep was placed over the full skep while someone pounded on the hive.  The bees would flee the noise and move to the empty skep.

A layered hive

The next innovation came when the Englishman, Thomas Wildman, developed a new system for keeping bees.  He used flat-topped skeps with 5 boards nailed across the top.  Once the bees had filled the skep with honeycomb, he placed another skep underneath.  He kept doing this until the bees had worked their way down through 4 skeps.  He then collected the honeycomb (filled with honey) from the top skep.  This system mimicked beehives in the wild:  honey storage up top and progressive building down to the bottom.  These type of hives became known as bar hives.

The Langstroth hive

Reverend Langstroth started beekeeping when he was 40 years old.  He was dissatisfied with the honey collection process and inability to reuse equipment.  To solve these issues, he developed a box with runners upon which frames for honeycomb were hung. The frames could be easily removed and/or replaced, making honey collection easier.

Photo from U.Bee.C.

A modern day Langstroth hive. Photo from U.Bee.C.

But the key to his hive was the “bee space.”  Langstroth allowed 1/2 in of space in between the frames – a space just wide enough for bees to crawl around on the honeycombs.   (Later studies showed that 3/8 of inch is actually the ideal space.  Bees tend to build bridging combs between the frames when the space is larger.)

Today, 3/4 of all hive designs are based upon the Langstroth hive, including the Flow™Hive.


Blogging my way from A to Z as part of the 2015 April A to Z Challenge!  My theme for this year:  Honeybees


The A, B, C’s of Bees: Langstroth Hive — 2 Comments

  1. Pingback: The A, B, C's of Bees: Flow Hive - Five Maples Farm

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