CHAMPAIGN, lll. In 1851, Lorenzo Langstroth, a Congregational minister and young ladies' school principal based in Philadelphia, revolutionized the practice of beekeeping. He had observed that honey bees will fill a large space in their hives with honeycomb and seal small cracks with propolis, a resinous "bee glue" made from tree sap and other sticky substances, but will leave any gap that is about 3/8 of an inch wide just big enough for a bee to pass through. Langstroth was the first to incorporate this "bee space" into the design of his box-frame hive.
Building on other innovations of his day the use of frames or slats to support the weight of honeycombs in the hive, for example Langstroth devised the first "moveable frame hive," in which each comb-filled frame had a 3/8-inch space around it. This allowed beekeepers to extract the honey frame by frame without killing their most productive bees or destroying their combs, as other methods had done. His design made better use of the space inside the hive and increased the yield of a typical hive from about 20 pounds to more than 100 pounds per year. His hive is still in use today.
A symposium at the Entomology Society of America meeting in San Diego on Sunday (Dec. 12) commemorates this and other honey bee-related achievements and challenges 200 years after Langstroth's birth (on Christmas Day, 1810).
"Bee Space The Final Frontier: the Bicentennial Celebration of Lorenzo Langstroth and Diverse Discoveries in Honey Bee Biology," will include presentations by entomologists with expertise in honey bee biology, reproduction, genomics, hygiene and history.
"Our hope is that this symposium will spur a lot of creative thinking within the scientific community to look at ways of improving apiculture," said Gene Kritsky, an entomologist at the
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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign