Lang dimensions, history, reason? [Archive] - Beesource Beekeeping Forums

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Tim Hall
11-01-2011, 05:51 PM
Does anyone know how/why the American Langstroth hive came to be standardized at its current dimensions? I mean apart from "bee space" and assumed comb thickness, were there any other driving factors that led to this specific format?

11-01-2011, 10:28 PM
Yep, there were factors. If you care to get an original copy of Langstroth on the Hive and the Honeybee, you can read it for yourself. Langstroth used boards with commonly available dimensions. He measured cavity size of some wild colonies. He measured comb thickness and spacing. From that he came up with the standard Langstroth box. If I had a choice in the matter, the standard size would have been a square box and about 7 inches tall instead of 9.5. Please remember that when he started he did NOT have foundation. He had to cut combs out and fit them into frames and let the bees attach the combs. Once he had some combs to work with, he could put two frames with comb with an empty frame in between and the bees would build a new comb in the space.


Michael Bush
11-02-2011, 06:32 AM
The depth, which is the width of the boards, was the standard width of boards at the time. In other words a one by ten was 9 5/8". A one by twelve was 11 5/8". A one by six was 5 3/4". The Illinois (medium) was an afterthought and the extra shallows were half of a deep minus the saw kerf.

The other dimensions, I have heard were the size of a kerosene can box. This is somewhat substantiated by "The Australasian Bee Manual"--

"There are no doubt many pioneers in the back blocks who would like to keep a few colonies of bees to raise honey for family use, but find it beyond their means to obtain hives from the manufacturers owing to the heavy cost of carriage. To such I would say that a very good hive of the Langstroth pattern may be made out of a sound kerosene-case, which is of the same dimensions inside, and takes the same number of frames as the regular Langstroth. The following instructions are taken from my Bulletin No. 18:—

“Secure a complete and sound kerosene-case, and careful-ly knock off one of the broad sides; nail on the original cover, which will now form one of the sides. If the sides of the case are not level all round, build them up level with fillets of wood. The inside depth should be 10 in. Next nail on at each end, half an inch below the inside upper edges of the case, to suspend the frames from, a fillet of wood three-eighths of an inch thick by three-quarters of an inch wide, and the length of the inside end of the case. The frames when suspended from these should be a clear three-eighths of an inch off the bottom of the hive. An entrance three-eighths of an inch wide by 6 in. long should be cut out of the lower part of one end of the case, and a small alighting-board be nailed on underneath, projecting from 2 in. to 3 in. in front. A loose bottom board can be arranged if thought desirable.

"Top or surplus honey-boxes can be made in the same way, but will not require a bottom.
The cover can be made from the side knocked off, and should have small fillets, 1 in. wide, nailed on right round the edge, to overlap the body. Cover the top with ruberoid or other waterproof material, and let it overlap the edges. A cap-ital waterproof covering can be made by first giving the wood a good coat of thick paint, and, while wet, laying on open cheese-cloth (not butter-cloth), letting it overlap the edges, and painting over it. The paint on the wood will ooze through the cloth, and the covering will last for years—no tacks are needed. Light-coloured paint is best, as with this the hive will keep cooler when exposed to the sun than if painted a dark colour.”

Adam Foster Collins
11-02-2011, 06:49 AM
Given or increasing demand for efficiency and economy, I wonder why some of the big producers haven't made a move to creating new sizes in keeping with standard lumber dimensions. Seems like it would save millions in manufacturing costs...

...or maybe that's just another way they keep their market position, as the odd sizes create a difficult hurdle for the smaller producer?


11-02-2011, 07:41 AM
I think it's more a question of an established standard. And that it would be cumbersome to use different sizes in an operation. Not to mention selling hives with bees.

The dimensions would most likely have been different if they were made up today. Changing them would still mean a bit of a hassle for a lot of people.

Tim Hall
11-02-2011, 09:02 AM
Ok, thanks guys. I was wondering if the specific depths had to do with standard dimension lumber sizes at the time. And I had also wondered if there wasn't something (like the kerosene can) that the overall dimensioned related to. Good info, Michael.

11-02-2011, 10:11 PM
And I heard the dimensions were the same as a German Wine Crate!

Jackson, MO