What Hive to Use
§ 88. A good hive gives the apiarist complete control of the combs. It must give
sufficient room for the breeding apartment as well as for surplus honey, and
must admit of close scrutiny and easy manipulation.
The Langstroth Hive
§ 89. Though movable-frame hives were in use in Europe, in rude form, as early
as 1795, they were not at all practical until our own distinguished and honored
Langstroth, in 1852, presented the world with one that has, with his system of
management, completely revolutionized beekeeping everywhere, making it a
With the movable-frame hive, all the combs can be taken out and replaced, or
exchanged with other hives at will, without the least detriment to the bees. The
combs having a surplus of honey can be emptied with the extractor (161), without
injury, and returned to the hive to be refilled – thus saving labor for the bees
in making new combs, and honey for their keeper.
The queen can be found, examined, and, when necessary, can be replaced by one
more prolific, or one in some other way more desirable; and artificial colonies
can be made by dividing at will, as we shall see hereafter (111). If a colony be
weak, it can be strengthened by giving it a frame or two of brood from some
other hive or it may be fed by supplying it with combs of honey from wealthy
colonies. In fact the movable frame enables the beekeeper to perform any
operation he may see fit to do and control the condition of his bees and their
Since the invention of the movable-frame hive, many hives of different styles
have been devised, but the principal feature of this hive has been retained in
nearly every instance, to wit: a hive containing frames which are spaced from
the body of the hive, about 3/8 of an inch, on ends, bottom and top. This space
prevents the bees from gluing the frames to the body of the hive with propolis
(48), and makes them removable at all times, provided the comb has been built
straight in them. This straight building of comb was formerly secured by a
triangular edge on the under side of the frame top-bar, from which the bees hang
their combs. It is now almost invariably secured by the aid of strips or full
sheets of comb foundation (135).
§ 90. The modern movable-frame hive is composed of the following parts;
bottom-board or floor; brood chamber or body, containing a certain number of
frames; supers or storage room, in which other frames or honey sections are
used; cover or roof.
§ 91. Hives are made dovetailed or lock-cornered as in Figs. 52 and 54, or
halved as in Fig. 53.
The lock-corner hive, though more tightly fitting when first built, will last
less time than the other, owing to its many joints exposed to the weather. Both
hives are nailed from both sides, and unlikely to warp if well painted.
§ 92. The plain hanging frame is used mostly, and is the easiest handled in the
brood-chamber (Fig. 55). But some people use the Hoffman self-spacing frame
(Fig. 56), which is a little better liked by beginners because they cannot make
the mistake of putting too many or too few frames in each hive. The combs of the
bees are spaced from 1 3/8 to 1 ½ inches from center to center (44) within the
brood-chamber (Fig. 53), and closer or farther spacing will result either in too
narrow and imperfect combs, or in two combs being built on the same support,
making undesirable irregularities (Fig. 57).
Many frames are now made with two grooves on the underside of the top-bar, one
of which is for receiving the comb foundation (141), the other a wedge to fasten
it (Fig. 58).
The all-important requirement in the use of movable-frame hives is to have the
combs built straight in them, and this is secured by that device.
§ 93. Most apiarists use hives containing ten brood-frames of Langstroth size,
or measuring 9 1/8 inches x 17 5/8 outside. Some apiarists, however, use smaller
hives containing only eight frames. The writer is much in favor of the large
hives (Fig. 116), and uses a still deeper frame – 11 ½ x 18 ½ inches – as
success cannot be expected permanently unless the hives are sufficiently
spacious to accommodate the most prolific queens at the time of the breeding,
previous to the honey crop. Not only must the hive brood-chamber contain cells
enough for all the eggs that the queen may be able to lay in 21 days (which is
the period required for the worker-bees to hatch), but it must also have space
enough to hold, in addition, enough honey (49) and pollen (55) for their needs.
A very important recommendation must be made here. Whatever hive you decide to
use, have but one size, one style, not only in number of frames but in all parts
where interchange may become necessary. You must be able to exchange, not only
frames of combs containing brood or honey, from one hive to another, but supers
(Fig. 53) or upper stories, sections (148), bottom boards or covers (Fig. 53).
Most of the success of an apiarist is due to his being able to exchange one part
of a hive for the same part of another hive, without hesitancy and without
delay. So, get well informed as to the style of hive and fixtures best suited to
your location and use no other, until you see fit to change your entire system.
The writer has paid dearly for the experience which prompts this advice.