Langstroth Bee Hive

The Langstroth Bee Hive was the first of the modern 'movable frame' beehives is the most common type of hive in global use today and is used in America, Europe, Asia and Australasia. The hive was designed by Reverend L.L. Langstroth in 1851 and it was the first design to achieve the ability to quicly and easily remove frames of honeycomb from a hive without damaging the honeycomb or its contents.

This had massive implications for beekeeping as it enabled the beekeeper to perform regular inspections of the hive without destroying its structure.

First to recognise Bee Space

Reverend Langstroth was the first beekeeper and hive designer to recognise that if the gaps between two adjacent honeycombs was between 1/4" and 3/8" then the bees would build no intermediate wax comb (known as 'brace comb') between the frames and would not 'glue' the surfaces together using a substance called propolis that they produce from tree sap.

This crucial distance between surfaces in the hive was realised to be the distance required for a bee to move between the two surfaces and so the distance became known as 'Bee Space'.

The rule of maintaining Bee Space between all hive surfaces means that a bee space must exist between

  • the floor and the bottom of the brood chamber frames
  • the top of the frames and the surface above them, e.g. crown board (inner cover) or honey super
  • hive walls and frames

All modern beehives since the Langstroth use its innovative design principle of bee space.

In 1853 Langstroth published the book "The Hive and the Honey Bee" that demonstrated the design principles of beespace and its use in beekeeping with the Langstroth hive.

One of the reasons for the hives popularity across the world is its simple design and ease of maintenance. There are no recessed handles as occur with the British National hive.

The floor of the Langstroth has a 2 inch extension at the front that acts as a landing board for bees when they return to the hive as when they are laden down with nectar and pollen they are a little less dextrous than normal and their landing can be affected by the wind. As the floor is closest to the ground it is the most likely to be affected by damp and rot so choosing a suitable wood such as red cedar and treating it with a suitable non-toxic wood preserver is advisable.

Frames used in the Langstroth

The Langstroth uses short lug frames. They are not British Standard frames so cannot be used in British National or WBC hives.

Although the Brood Chamber only holds 10 frames the size of the frames is greater than that of the National or WBC and so the number of cells in the brood honeycomb is greater than that of those hives.

Hive Dimensions

Care should be taken when buying a secondhand Langstroth Hive as there are models of Langstroth avaialable in different dimensions. Therefore if you want to be able to share frames / supers / floors / roof between your existing Langstroth hives make sure that the dimensions match up. Variations occur between UK, Europe and America. There is also a 'Jumbo Langstroth' that has deeper brood frames than the regular type.

The Langstroth is top bee space which many beekeepers find an advantage as it makes placing honey supers on top of the brood / other supers an easier task as you do not have to worry so much about squashing bees.

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