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John's Beekeeping Notebook

A Taste of American Beekeeping History - Page 5

Observation Bee Hives

Ukrainian observation hive, 1840.Bees have fascinated people for centuries.Honey bees have fascinated people for centuries, and people have built many types of hives to observe them.

The woodcut at right shows a woman observing bees through a window in an elaborate observation hive.

The scene at left shows a Ukrainian observation hive from about 1840.

Nutt's hive opened in four parts.The Nutt hive was manufactured for sale in the mid 1800's. Thomas Nutt built an elaborate observation hive in the 1830's. The center section of his hive housed the brood nest, and the bees stored honey on either side. The hive also had a hollow wooden floor with drawers for feeding the bees.

Langstroth's galls-walled hive.Several of Langstroth's hives from the 1850's and 1860's had glass walls installed for observation.  The Langstroth hive at right is fitted with many glass jars and bells for the bees to fill with honey.   The bees would need to be very crowded before filling those jars!

This hive would be a nice summer study!Forcing bees to build comb inside glass jars is a common theme for observation hives.A glass hive from an 1851 book.

The glass bell on the left has a wood frame inside for the bees to attach their comb. Without a wood frame, the bees will readily attach comb to the glass.  

Bees will build comb in jars if they are crowded.Bees will build comb in glass jars on top of standard hives, too, if the bees are crowded. The hive at right is a fancy skep with three jars on top.  The jars are normally covered.

The bees' natural comb-building, without frames, is very interesting. I highly recommend that curious beekeepers build an un-framed hive at least once for the learning experience.  This hive on the left is a natural comb hive from the late 1800's.

Glass-walled Langstroth hive.Neighbour's multi-comb hive.Alfred Neighbour built many observation hives in the 1870's, including the hive at left.    The hive at right is a simple adaptation using standard frames and comb sections.

Neighbour's zoologial garden observation hives


 Neighbour also established an observation beehive building at a zoological garden for the public to view bees.

A well-designed wall-mounted hive from 1905. The wall-mounted hive at right has a well-designed entrance.  It pivots against the wall when not being viewed.  This drawing is from a book published 1905. 


I hope these pictures give you some ideas!

Reference sources: Mysteries of Bee-keeping Explained, Quinby, 1866, Langstroth on the Honey-Bee, 1860 & 1884, Gleanings in Bee Culture magazine, 1890, ABC of Bee Culture, 1895, 1913, 1929 & 1945, American Bee Journal, 1900, The Observation Hive, Showler, 1978, and Ukrainian Beekeeping, 1998.

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John's Beekeeping Notebook  http://www.outdoorplace.org/beekeeping/   Content from John's Beekeeping Notebook may be used for any non-commercial purpose except internet duplication, providing the source is acknowledged.  Created by John Caldeira, Dallas, Texas, USA    john@outdoorplace.org