Who Was Lorenzo Langstroth? Fact File Of A Legend

Lorenzo Langstroth profile illustration

Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth was an American teacher, clergyman, and apiarist who lived in the 1800s. He was an innovative beekeeper considered the Father of American Beekeeping.

Among Langstroth’s many contributions to the beekeeping community, he invented the Langstroth hive and introduced the concept of bee space to commercial hive design.

This article is part of our series dedicated to the smartest minds who advanced beekeeping forever.

Quick Facts

NameLorenzo L Langstroth
BornDecember 25, 1810
Place of BirthPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania
DiedOctober 6, 1895
OccupationPastor, teacher, and beekeeper
Notable beekeeping contributionsInvented the Langstroth hive. Contributed to the concept of bee Space.
Lorenzo Langstroth sitting next to beehives
Langstroth sitting next to his beehives.

The early life of L.L Langstroth

Rev. Langstroth was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1810. He grew up in a large family, the fourth child of eight. Langstroth’s parents, William and Elizabeth, ensured he had a devout Christian upbringing. 

Langstroth started teaching after finishing his schooling. Later in life, he went on to study theology at Yale University.

From an early age, Langstroth started hobbyist beekeeping. He spent many hours observing hives, fascinated by the behavior of a colony. Lorenzo soon began testing his hypotheses and experimenting with his honey bees.

Profile picture of beekeeper Lorenzo Langstroth

““I never yet met with a keeper of bees, who was not a respectable, well-conducted member of society, and a moral, if not a religious man.””

— Lorenzo Langstroth, Beekeeper

Noteworthy contributions to beekeeping

Although Lorenzo Langstroth made many contributions to the beekeeping world, he is best known for his work on the concept of “bee space” and for inventing the Langstroth hive. His book, Langstroth on the Hive and the Honey-Bee: A Bee Keeper’s Manual, is still read today by modern beekeepers.

1. Development of bee space – 1851

Langstroth is credited with inventing the concept of bee space. He noticed that bees had very specific requirements for their internal hive dimensions.

  • small spaces within the hive measuring less than a ¼” would be filled with propolis by the colony.
  • spaces larger than ⅜” were filled with comb.

This revolutionary discovery had a huge impact on beehive design. Until this time, honey bees cemented together the hive’s cover and frames. Pulling them apart was time-consuming and highly inefficient. Bee space meant that hives could easily be opened, and there was much less mess to clean up.

Important: It should be noted that much of Langstroth’s work on bee space and hive design was inspired by the work of Jan Dzierzon.

2. The Langstroth hive – 1852

Lorenzo Langstroth’s most important invention was the Langstroth hive, which is still today’s most used hive. He received a U.S. patent for his movable frame design on October 5, 1852. It allowed for easier inspections that were less likely to enrage the bees. Read more about the patent specifics in his application here.

The Langstroth hive stacked multiple boxes vertically, with the brood boxes on the bottom and the honeycomb above. Allowing beekeepers easy access to honey supers meant honey production became more cost-effective, and large-scale hive operations were possible.

Before the Langstroth hive, beekeepers struggled to monitor the health and production rate of a colony. Keeping bees from swarming during honey harvest became a reality with his innovative design.

In addition to the work of Dzierzon, Langstroth also gained inspiration for his hive design from the leaf hive which was invented by François Huber.

Did you know? Other hive manufacturers widely infringed Langstroth’s hive patent, so he never earned royalties for his work.

3. Langstroth on the Hive and the Honey-Bee: A Bee Keeper’s Manual – 1853

In 1853 Langstroth published an influential guide to beekeeping. This book explains modern bee management and the concept of his patented beehive. He uses non-technical language to explain modern bee management and how to care for the colony, rather than simply extracting honey.

Read the full book online here.

Later life

Langstroth moved to Oxford, Ohio, in 1858 and spent all his time beekeeping on a 10-acre property. This idyllic location was littered with clover, apple trees, and linden trees, all much-loved foraging sources of honey bees.

Although European bees were common in the United States in the 1860s, Langstroth began keeping Italian bees in 1863. He discovered they were highly productive and began selling queens across the country using the postal service.

Langstroth moved to Dayton, Ohio, in 1887 with his daughter. He lived there until his death in 1895. His final resting place was the Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum in Dayton. His research papers are kept at the American Philosophical Society Library in Philadelphia.

Front of the restored Langstroth Cottage. Nyttend, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Popular quotes

“The man who attempts to palm upon the community, his own conceits for facts, will speedily earn for himself, the character both of a fool and an impostor.”

L.L. Langstroth

“He must be blind indeed, who will not see, at every step in the natural history of this insect, the plainest proofs of the wisdom of its Creator.”

L.L. Langstroth

“Bees remember injuries done to any of their number, for some time, and generally find an opportunity to avenge them.”

L.L. Langstroth

Interesting reading:

Summing up

Lorenzo Langstroth made a significant impact in his field, contributing greatly to the industrialization of modern beekeeping. His hive patent dates to the mid-1800s, but the majority of today’s hives still utilize the same fundamental design.

Many new styles of hive have hit the market over recent years, yet the Langstroth continues to dominate. Few alternatives compete with its features, functionality, simplicity, price, and widespread availability.

You may also enjoy reading our article on Moses Quinby. Another key player in advancing beekeeping.

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