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.