Although I don’t keep bees, I’ve lately found myself being drawn into their curious world—looking into New York City’s beekeepers; investigating honeybees in history, literature, design, and in the kitchen; even incorporating the beehive into my own handmade efforts. And I recently discovered bees in biography too, in the story of Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth, a nineteenth century giant in the world of honeybees, who worked to devise a workable modern frame hive.
Today’s beekeepers usually use a version of a moveable frame hive, and these structures are built to exacting mathematical standards that reflect the need for what's called bee space. Discovered by Langstroth through a combination of observation and trial and error, bee space is the just-right amount of space that bees need to thrive happily without making things difficult for their human keepers. Too much room between frames in a hive and the bees build honeycomb in the space, while not enough room and the bees start to cement the vacant space closed with propolis. Either way, the result would be that the frames wouldn’t budge. Bee space, that perfect amount of space, keeps both bees and beekeepers content.
You’ll find various editions of editions of Langstroth’s work (one via Google Books), as well as an inventory of Langstroth’s “bee-library,” at the Library. And if you’re interested in learning more about becoming a beekeeper, there are many resources on bee culture today, including the latest issues of American Bee Journal—everything for the bee-curious!