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06-20-2015, 04:03 PM
Few beekeepers are aware exactly how Langstroth got his start in beekeeping.

Langstroth - How A Revolution in Beekeeping Began.

On Jan. 18, 1836, Mr. Lorenzo L. Langstroth was unanimously invited by South Church Andover, Massachusetts to assume the pastoral charge. This invitation was, with the same unanimity, confirmed by the Parish with a salary of $900.00 Mr. L. was ordained May 11, 1836.

A revolution in beekeeping began during the Summer of 1838. While visiting one of his parishioners, Langstroth noticed a large glass globe filled with beautiful comb honey on the parlor table. He was so fascinated by the beautiful sight that he went with his friend to visit his bees which were kept in an apiary in the attic chamber (it was sometimes promoted in those days to keep bees in an Attic, Garrett or Watchtower of the house). "In a moment," Langstroth remembered, "the enthusiasm of my boyish days seemed, like a pent-up fire, to burst out in full flame. Before I went home I bought two stocks of bees in common box hives, and thus my apiarian career began. Unfortunately, Langstroth does not tell us the name of that beekeeper.

What Exactly Did Langstroth See?

The use of glass globes for depriving honeybees of their honey was probably first described by Thomas Wildman (England) in 1768, and made popular by Thomas Nutt (England) who brought the collateral system of keeping bees prominently forward in his work "Humanity to bees." Published in 1832. Nutt advocated for the use of glass jars, or 'bell glass,' which were to be positioned over a hole in the top of a bee box or skep for the bees to build comb and deposit their honey. Thomas Nutt wrote the most renowned literature on bees since Edward Bevan's work in 1827, and his writings quickly spread from England to America, and thus, using glass globes to deprive honeybees of their honey became popular in America, particularly the North East during the 1830's.

After the bees had filled the globe with honey, the globe would be removed by use of a thin wire sliced between the jar and the hive to loosen the jar which was often secured in place by the bees. The honeycombed jar would then be removed to another location, placed on its side and the bees encouraged to leave by use of smoke, or perhaps placed on the kitchen windowsill with window open, and the bees allowed to fly back to their colonies at their leisure.

Beautiful descriptions of Bell Glass honeycomb can be found in the farmers manuals during the period. The honeycombs built by the bees inside these glass globes was said to produce honey as 'water white as the driven snow', and the honeycomb creation inside the glass globe described as 'peculiarly elegant'. The artisanal creations by these industrious creatures was said to produce such feeling of wonderment and beauty, that they were often displayed as a centerpiece in the home for some time before the honey was actually used. When honey was needed, the globe was simply turned upright and the desired portions of comb removed.

In 1951, 100 years after Langstroths discovery of bee space and invention of the 'bee space removable frame', The Massachusetts Federation of Beekeepers’ Associations donated a plaque to South Church in Langstroth’s memory. The plaque hangs on the north wall of the South Church sanctuary.

Inscribed on the plaque:

"Lorenzo L. Langstroth 1810 - 1895
Pastor of the South Church Andover, Massachusetts May 11, 1836 - March 30, 1839.
Erected in the centennial year of his discovery of the bee space and his invention in 1851 of the movable frame which made modern beekeeping possible.
Dedicated July 22, 1951 By The Massachusetts Federation of Beekeepers' Associations In recognition of his outstanding work in beekeeping."

Correction on the plaque: Langstroth was not the inventor of the movable frame. The movable frame was first invented by the Russian beekeeper Prokopovich around 1814. But Langstroth did invent the first 'movable frame having bee space'.


Special thanks to my friends at 'South Church' Andover, Massachusetts for the kind assistance.

Historical manual of the South church in Andover, Mass
By South Church (Andover, Mass.), George Mooar 1859


Bee World, Volume 42 1961

Morris Arboretum Bulletin, Volumes 4-10 Morris Arboretum, 1942

The Genesee Farmer, Volume 4 July 5 1834 page 217

The Farmer's Magazine - Volume 3 - 1839 Page

By Joe Waggle

06-20-2015, 04:14 PM
This is great! I have read where Langstroth used beekeeping to battle depression, and i can certainly attest to that!

Love reading the history. Thanks for posting this.

06-21-2015, 09:21 AM
Thanks Lemmje,

A member of the congregation at South Church told me that Langstroth did keep bees during his time at the church. Langstroth says he purchased two stocks of bees. Langstroth probably kept the colonies in a common box hive which is little more than a box without frames, and may have harvested honey using the bell glass method, as his mentor did.


06-22-2015, 08:21 AM
Thanks for sharing.