Century-old beekeeping equipment

Image courtesy of: The Photography of Coley Ogg circa. 1919, Beekeeping Demonstration at Berea College, Kentucky.

This picture is from 100 years ago. It was late winter, 1919. An agriculture agent came to this Kentucky Appalachian farm to teach modern beekeeping. He was teaching a form of ‘modern beekeeping’ that we can easily recognize.  Not much has changed in the basic bee yard.

The wooden ‘crates’ around the hives are for winter protection – those aren’t used much anymore. But the frame held  by the student is exactly the same shape and size as the frame used by most beekeepers today. We might have trucks and forklifts and ventilated white suits, but the heart of our beekeeping – frames, boxes, beekeepers – are the same.

I sometimes wonder why we are using century-old equipment, but the answers are fairly clear: it works and we’re stuck. If you buy a hive, it will probably be the same size and shape as great-granddad’s. And if you ever need to sell your bees, it’s much easier to sell the stuff everyone else is using. There might be a third reason – we sometimes enjoy the comfortable familiarity of the old hive equipment. Here’s a frame from a 1902 American beekeeping journal. It looks exactly like some of the frames that are in my own hives right now.

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
This entry was posted in Beekeeping, History, Hives and Combs and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Century-old beekeeping equipment

  1. Erik says:

    I always feel the same about toilets and cable TV wiring every time I replace a toilet seal or screw/unscrew a cable TV connection. We could certainly come up with a better design, but we are bound to the old houses and existing wiring and “this is what we’ve always done.”

    With beekeeping, though, I’m not sure what a better design would look like. Perhaps you could more optimize the frame size or box for queen laying preference or lifting requirements, but otherwise you might well end up with a very similar frame. If it ain’t broke.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mijoka says:

      There is a better far more efficient design , Seen the prototype , been in the work for a long time , it should hit the market within a couples years , it will be interesting , if anyone think that the so called self serving hive is a great invention then that one will e the mars adventure , sorry can’t say much more than that , Hope to be around at the next apiary international Show and if I am no longer around , you will know it is in this blog that you first heard of a weird beehive that will turn the industry upside down.


  2. Thank you for this post I love the old time images and the proof that beekeeping can be much simpler.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mijoka says:

      One can make it as difficult as they want , investment and level of sophistication is directed by the amount of beehives you maintain , if you have a couples beehive like I do “well bit more” then it’s ok , I process my Honey by gravity , take a couples days , then I press the comb and return them the next day close to the beehives to clean up , a luxury commercial beekeeper cannot afford it does require some serious investment on their part , from harvesting to packaging in order to comply with all food regulations . One of the reason they are so much at the disadvantage against beekeeper from China to name one , they pay their labor a bowl of rice garnished with some roasted larvae for the holidays ,
      Speaking taste and flavor , there is absolutely no difference between my process of extraction and spining extractor in stainless steel .
      The only one I am aware
      which used to give some flavor was the wooden type , but I seriously doubt anyone still has any in Europe or north America Been almost 60 years since I have tasted Honey coming from a wooden extractor and to be totally fair I do not know if it was romance or true flavor , until someone built one ….I will never know . However Butter made in wooden spinner “barratte” has a total different flavor than the one processed in stainless steel , they also “mature” the cream , somehow in the translation in English it became sour which is incorrect .


  3. Reblogged this on Grove Greenman and commented:

    Historically, in 1919 rationing as a consequence of the Great War (WWII) was still in effect, there was money to be made with honey which was not rationed. Spanish Flu was on its second pass through the world population with a greater than 90% mortality rate. With mortality rate comes to an easing of resources and labor shortages. Farmers saw an opportunity for easy money, and beekeeping according to the Encyclopedia Britannica in the United States was easy.


  4. Pingback: Century-old beekeeping equipment | How To Start Bee Farming

  5. The top image is an Ogg photo
    Please add proper credits, thanks

    Image courtesy of: The Photography of Coley Ogg
    circa. 1919, Beekeeping Demonstration at Berea College, Kentucky.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ron Miksha says:

      Thank you very much! The photo, of course, is well past it’s copyright protection. But now that I have the correct attribution, I am happy to note that. Thanks again.


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