In the old days, before the invention of the Langstroth hive, people used two methods to extract honey. The first one involved the trees containing the hives being cut down, and then the honey and wax were dug out; in the process, the entire colonies of the bees would be destroyed. The second method used artificial caps which would be placed on tops of the hives for the bees to use it as their storage for honey. When the harvest time would come, the caps would be taken off and the honey would be obtained by squeezing the wax.
The Langstroth hive was invented by Reverend L. L. Langstroth In 1852. At that time his hives were made with planks and frames after he closely studied and monitored the bees. His techniques started the modern era of beekeeping. This hive included a hive stand, slatted rack, bottom board, food chamber, brood chamber, outer cover, inner cover and shallow honey super. If you buy these to make the hive yourself, you must paint the outer surface of the hive to protect it from varied weather conditions, but make sure not to paint the frames, the hive bodies, the cover or the feeder.
The Langstroth design is also called the ‘movable frame hive’ – a box containing rectangular wooden frames that hold the combs. There are usually nine or ten frames per ‘super’ – a topless and bottomless box in which the frames hang. Under the honey super, a queen excluder prevents the queen from entering that super from the brood body below to lay eggs and make a mess in the honey combs. Most people prefer their honey without the eggs larva and debris that accompany a laying queen in the super.
Keeping in mind that the queen lays her eggs anywhere and anytime, the worker bees put the honey in a nearby cell. So in an unsupervised Langstroth hive, the brood cells and the honey cells would be side by side or in groups; they would be scattered randomly throughout the combs. As the beekeeper, you do not want the eggs to mix with the honey. The first one or two boxes are usually deeper than the supers and are called brood boxes. They are usually reserved for the brood combs. Above that, the rest of the supers in the Langstroth hive are for the honey.
Langstroth’s hive became popular due to the way it preserved the environment and the bees. Also in this system, the hive can be reduced or extended (based on the population and success of the hive) just by adding another box. You can buy a Langstroth hive ready made from the market or construct it – the choice is yours. Most hives in the world are based on this design, though the measurements vary. The Langstroth hive is particularly popular in the US.
If you are living in the UK, the national, a variation of the Langstroth hive will be more popular there.
The Elements of the Langstroth Hive
When you unwrap your hive, there are certain components that you should find. They are the
- hive stand
- slatted rack
- queen excluder
- bottom board
- honey super
- brood box
- inner cover
In order to improve weather resistance, you may need to apply some coats of paint to the outer surface of the beehive. Though certain parts of the hive, e.g. the inner surfaces, should not be painted to avoid harming the bees and tainting the honey. These parts are the frames, the feeder, the boxes, the queen excluder and the cover. The hives are kept outside in rough weather so give it a few good coats of paint. There are many kinds of paint you can choose like the outdoor grades. Remember to paint the outside only.
You need to take care whenever you want to move the hive to another position by making sure that the entire hive is securely strapped in. The boxes are only placed on top of one another so they can easily slide off if handled roughly. Therefore, it is necessary to strap them tightly together to ensure that the hive does not fall apart or let the bees escape mid-journey. The bees themselves gather propolis a type of resin that they use to disinfect and secure the structure, but it is best not to take a chance. You may then relocate in your vehicle.