Petro Prokopovych was a Ukrainian commercial beekeeper who dedicated much of his adult life to studying honey bees. He played a significant role in commercializing beekeeping and invented the first frame hive in 1814. It was a considerable improvement to the Huber hive.
Prokopovych was a pioneer of expansive beekeeping, owning an impressive 6,600 colonies. His large-scale apiary was a profitable business, and he retired with considerable wealth.
Also read: Shaping the beekeeping world: meet some of the trailblazing scientists and beekeepers who made an impact.
|June 29, 1775
|Place of Birth
|Military, Commercial Beekeeper, Inventor
|Notable Beekeeping Achievements
|Founder of rational commercial beekeeping, invented the frame hive and queen excluder.
Petro Prokopovych was born in 1775 in the small Ukrainian town of Mytchenky. He had a religious upbringing, raised within a clerical family of Ukrainian Cossack priests.
From the age of 11, Petro studied at the Eastern Orthodox Gymnasia until his graduation at 19 years. He then enlisted in the czarist army, although his real passion was teaching. Prokopovych served in the military until 1799 when he resigned as an officer.
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Petro Prokopovych – career achievements
After leaving the army, Petro moved to his brother’s apiary and began enjoying his retirement. It was only a small bee garden, but he quickly discovered a love for honey bees.
Prokopovych began studying the biology of bee colonies. He loved watching bees build their hives and decided to work on a way to inspect hives and harvest honey without disturbing the bees.
1. The frame hive
Petro worked tirelessly on his apiary and, by 1808, had already amassed 580 hives. In 1814, he introduced the world to the world’s first moveable frame hive. This invention was a huge step forward for beekeeping, laying the foundations for more profitable commercial beekeeping.
The Prokopovych hive was later refined further by Lorenzo L. Langstroth in 1852.
2. The queen excluder
Another significant invention by Petro Prokopovych was the queen excluder. This barrier was placed within the hive, which allowed worker bees into the upper sections of the hive but kept the queen on the brood frames. This confined the brood to one area, resulting in cleaner frames of honey.
You can learn more about the queen bee’s role in the hive here.
3. School of Beekeeping
Petro Prokopovych founded the School of Beekeeping in 1828 with help from the Moscow Society of Agriculture. It was located in Baturyn for two years before relocating to Palchiky, where it remained for 53 years. The school took in students from all over Europe, providing them with practical beekeeping knowledge.
In 1828, an estimated 700 students graduated from Prokopovych’s Institute. At the time, he had around two thousand hives in operation.
Petro Prokopovych was a practical beekeeper and prolific inventor, much like Mr Moses Quinby. However, he was also an avid writer, publishing over sixty articles in magazines, newspapers, and other media. Petro shared much of his findings and successes so other beekeepers could learn.
5. Foulbrood treatment
Prokopovych is credited with inventing the shaking method of dealing with European foulbrood. This drug-free technique is still used by some beekeepers today.
Petro Prokopovych was awarded the “Order of Saint Vladimir.” He also received the 4th class Order of St. Volodymyr, gold and silver medals.
Did you know?
Amos Ives Root highly praised Prokopovych’s inventions, particularly his hive design. Root stated, “His frame has much in common with a modern section frame with openings for passage of bees, the walls of his beehive were joint in the lock. He applied methods, which far outstripped his time”.
Petro also convinced the Russian czar to build their railroad track around his Beekeeping Institute as it was of such importance.
Prokopovych died in 1850, two years before Langstroth received a patent for his hive. He was buried in Palchyky, leaving behind one son, Velikdan Petrovitj.
In 1975, a monument was built in Baturin to commemorate Prokopovych.
In 2015, Ukraine minted a 2 Hryvni coin to commemorate the 240th Anniversary of Prokopovych’s birth.