A Study in Box Hive Construction and Function [Archive] - Beesource Beekeeping Forums

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naturebee
07-08-2015, 07:40 PM
Hello Friends,

I was sent pictures of two box hives which were discovered in a barn in the Catskill Mountains New York.
The person wanted to know what they were and how they were used.
This was a fascinating find because the design was unlike what I have seen in typical box hives.

I have copyright on these photos because I will be using them in an upcoming article.

All aspects in its construction were cleverly designed with purpose.
Whoever built these hives had a knowledge of beekeeping and was quite an engineer.

After detailed analysis I have determined how the hives were used, and all aspects of its function.
I will post questions to you here as a sort of challenging research project, so you can
reverse engineer to figure out for yourself how it functioned.

Although box hives have been used in the United States since the introduction of honeybees in the 17th century.
They have been used in the Catskill Mountains and Appalachia as recent as the 1930's
Due to the condition and materials used, I date them between 1900 and mid 1930's

The top part of these hives is open, it originally had hinged doors on them.

Image I
On the Photo you see the 3 V notched entrances typical of Box hive and Gum construction,
with two not so typical small upper entrances a few inches up from the 3 V entrance.

From the slant of the roof, this appears to be the side of the box,,,,
Why do you believe the entrances were placed on the side of the box and not what would be expected to be the front?

How do you believe the honey was harvested from these boxes?

19788


Image II

Here you see the open space that originally had a door on it.
What do you believe the 6 holes which are plugged with dowels leading to the space above were used for?
To add to confusion, the other hive only had 2 of these holes.

19789

Image III

Here is a view looking up from the bottom.
Box hives typically do not have bottoms, being sat directly on a flat rock or wood, Why is that?
What were the cross sticks used for?

19790

burns375
07-08-2015, 08:41 PM
I wouldn't say clever and engineer but however built them new how to swing a hammer.

I think the plug holes on top are entrances and/or ventilation. The cross supports are used in japanese hives and warre hives for bracing comb. The bottom is open for easy access and inspection like a skep. Yes they harvested honey.

frustrateddrone
07-08-2015, 08:44 PM
http://outdoorplace.org/beekeeping/history1.htm

I am guessing the sticks were for comb bracing.

BeekeepingIsGood
07-08-2015, 09:12 PM
I have a document from the '30's that covers the history of beekeeping in a nearby county up to that point. I feel like it would be cheating for me to tell you why the holes are there at the top of the hive, but I do appreciate seeing these photos as my document is only text. Thanks for sharing them.

enjambres
07-08-2015, 09:55 PM
Could the pegged-closed holes have been ventilation ports?

Enj.

BeekeepingIsGood
07-08-2015, 10:09 PM
Could the pegged-closed holes have been ventilation ports?


Keep in mind the original poster mentioned this compartment was closed off and that those pegs look to be of a rather large diameter.

Harley Craig
07-08-2015, 10:56 PM
Bees will move through them and store honey up top just like bees will occupy multiple spaces in walls etc on cut outs

Stephenpbird
07-09-2015, 01:43 AM
Why do you believe the entrances were placed on the side of the box and not what would be expected to be the front?

The hive is worked from the front, so to avoid the flight path, the entrance is on the side.



How do you believe the honey was harvested from these boxes?

Comb cut out from the "open space" super



What do you believe the 6 holes which are plugged with dowels leading to the space above were used for?

To control access and provide an entrance to the built in honey super



Box hives typically do not have bottoms, being sat directly on a flat rock or wood, Why is that?

So you can inspect and work them, rather like a skep.


What were the cross sticks used for?
Spales, used for comb support.

naturebee
07-09-2015, 05:42 AM
I have a document from the '30's that covers the history of beekeeping in a nearby county up to that point. I feel like it would be cheating for me to tell you why the holes are there at the top of the hive, but I do appreciate seeing these photos as my document is only text. Thanks for sharing them.

Please respond off list. I would like to see your history of beekeeping document, can you send off list? _Joe

Michael Bush
07-09-2015, 05:54 AM
If anyone wants a good understanding of the management of box hives, "Mysteries of Beekeeping Explained" by Moses Quinby is a good place to start.
http://smile.amazon.com/Mysteries-Beekeeping-Explained-M-Quinby/dp/1435744691/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1436442441&sr=8-2&keywords=mysteries+of+beekeeping+explained

A later edition that includes Lyman C. Root as author and an even later one is by A.B. Mason and they talk more about Quinby's later frame hives when he was forced by law to abandon the box hives, so if you want to read about box hives, get the one with just Quinby listed as author which is the 1853 edition.

naturebee
07-09-2015, 04:09 PM
Lets do this one at a time.
I will move to another item each day.
Feel free to disagree, this is just my theory,,,

1) How was the honey harvested?

Looking at this photo of the open space. Unlike the inside of the nest area, there is no comb residue, suggesting that comb was not built in this area, -the honey could not have been harvested from this space for that reason. This does not rule out the use of 'Bell Jars' which were popular in the USA from about the 1830's until about the 1860's, but the amount of surplus collected in this manner would be minimal.

Photo of open section, which originally had a door.
https://www.beesource.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=19789&d=1436403137

If you look at the following image, the outside wall having the 45 degree angle appears to be made of 1.25 inch board unlike the rest of the construction which is of 1 inch board. This wall was thicker for a reason and I'm sure burns375 ;) will agree that this is clever engineering because I believe this part had to be rugged because it was pried away to expose the comb, -and as typical with harvesting honey from box hives, -the honey was not taken from the bottom, but from a pried off board side, leaving comb in place from the cross sticks down for broodnest.

Photo of box hives:
https://www.beesource.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=19788&d=1436403132

Best Wishes,
Joe Waggle
https://www.facebook.com/Historical.Honeybee.Articles

burns375
07-09-2015, 06:16 PM
The hives are near, i would love to have one as an antique in my house. But i find re-constructing old obsolete technology to be a complete waste of time.

Little-John
07-10-2015, 01:07 AM
Judging by the use of spiles inside a box, I'd say that these boxes were modelled on the classic European skep - which would explain why they are bottomless - and that using these boxes would therefore require skep beekeeping methods.

That these boxes have flat tops, with a cavity below the top, suggests that they could be stacked. Grooves cut into the bottom only at the sides would also support this idea, to prevent drifting.

The plugs would presumably have been used to provide ventilation, as well as top entrances during the summer.

An interesting find. Are you going to try using them - could be fun ...

LJ

naturebee
07-10-2015, 05:08 AM
The hives are near, i would love to have one as an antique in my house. But i find re-constructing old obsolete technology to be a complete waste of time.

Perhaps to some, it may seem. To others, appreciating and understanding the past is an important tool to teach themselves and others how important honeybees were to human kind.

Best Wishes,
Joe
https://www.facebook.com/Historical.Honeybee.Articles

naturebee
07-10-2015, 05:27 AM
Judging by the use of spiles inside a box, I'd say that these boxes were modelled on the classic European skep - which would explain why they are bottomless - and that using these boxes would therefore require skep beekeeping methods. LJ

Very good, I agree. Lets go with the idea that the skep hive is a direct ancestor of the box hive, (technology adapted from skeps to boxes). Although the skep making technology was brought to the USA with the introduction of bees in 1622, history suggests it was probably quickly abandoned in perhaps less than 1/2 a century. Not because it didn't work, but because of the available construction materials (the abundance of lumber).


That these boxes have flat tops, with a cavity below the top, suggests that they could be stacked. Grooves cut into the bottom only at the sides would also support this idea, to prevent drifting. LJ
I have not seen evidence that suggests the roofs were flat to facilitate stacking. Since increase was made with box hives, by swarming, same as with skeps, a flat roof would enable the beekeeper to sit the hive up end to shake swarms into it. So this open bottom furthers the concept that the early box hive is an evolution of the skep.


The plugs would presumably have been used to provide ventilation, as well as top entrances during the summer. LJ

I am researching this, but I do not believe they were used as ventilation. My belief is the holes are there because they are essential for beekeeping in the north. I am waiting to hear from "BeekeepingIsGood" for his input. As a northeren beekeeper, I believe he knows its function.


An interesting find. Are you going to try using them - could be fun ... LJ

The long term goal is to compare in an apiary, the skep, box hive and modern equipment.

Best Wishes
Joe

Fyrefly
07-10-2015, 10:54 AM
Could those holes be for feeding?

Michael Bush
07-10-2015, 12:38 PM
>1) How was the honey harvested?

The typical method in that ear was to build a glass box and put it over the brood nest with holes giving access. After it was full they would do simple abandonment method to get the bees out and sell the box whole.

naturebee
07-10-2015, 07:20 PM
Could the pegged-closed holes have been ventilation ports?

Enj.

I am thinking they were for supplemental feeding in the winter, and perhaps for box glass as michael bush suggested. But I believe the side walls may also have been pried off to collect honey.

Joe
https://www.facebook.com/Historical.Honeybee.Articles

naturebee
07-10-2015, 07:22 PM
Could those holes be for feeding?

I believe they were for feeding, but I'm wating to hear from BeekeepingIsGood who may know the purpose.

Joe

Harley Craig
07-11-2015, 11:51 PM
It's called a chamber hive and the top chamber held a honey box the holes were for access to it http://ro.beekeeping.wikia.com/wiki/wiki/The_bee-keeper's_directory/Hives