A Look Into Honey Bee Hive Design

Oct 2012
As I researched the honey bee hive, I perhaps found out a bit too much information, for as legend has it, when the bees die out, men will quickly follow. And we all know what has been happening to the bees! How many wake up calls do we need?
honey bee hives

Honey bee colonies in their natural state lived in wild natural cavities {like tree trunks}. When they would swarm, it was usually a means of reproduction. When people started to keep bees, much of the swarm would die in the process. As the shape of the man made hives changed, so did the beekeepers success.

Symbolism of the bee has been important to civilization throughout the ages. Remains have been found in amber over 100 million years old. Honey has been known as a regenerative substance revered since ancient man, pollination starting its reputation as regenerative and restorative.

In Lithuania, where I found a great tradition of beekeeping, the insect represents the friendship symbol. Bees and their honey were considered a ‘gift’ and could not be bought or sold. Respectfully, a dead bee would be buried immediately.

Historically, when the queen left the hive to relocate, families in this area of the world would pack up and follow until the swarm settled down and established a new hive. Families that happened to meet again after the exodus, we’re bound together in a special relationship.

Turn of the century French and American honey bee skeps

One of the first shapes was a skep, which was basically an upturned basket. They were inefficient, and the honey had to be retrieved from the bottom. These turn of the century French and American skeps are examples.

Many transformations took place to provide optimal honey harvesting. In 1851, the Langstroth frame was introduced, that had the clever design of making removable frames and leaving 3/8″ between the frames. Apparently, the bees will not build a comb in that 3/8″ space, allowing the frames to be removed without breaking the construction of the combs.
golden honey in jars

Most of the frames used today are based on Langstroth’s design, turning beekeeping into a viable business. What ever the shape, I hope we will be able to find a solution to the toxicity that is killing the bees, so we can all be around to enjoy the fruits of their labor!