L.L Langstroth and Miami’s Legacy in Beekeeping

By: Shannon Reilly

Miami has excelled in a discipline often overlooked but crucially important to agriculture, ecology, and sustainability. That is apiculture, or beekeeping. The fruit of bee’s labor is the fruit that we eat, as well as vegetables and flowers that we all depend on. L.L. Langstroth, known to many as the “Father of Modern Beekeeping”, revolutionized hives in the 1850s. His cottage can be found on the edge of western campus with a humble sign but fascinating history. He began a tradition of apiculture that continued more than 150 years and resonates with Miami’s own beekeeping club. In honor of Miami’s Institute for the Environment and Sustainability, we should recognize an individual and continued work that Miami has contributed to beekeeping, and its importance to the health and study of the environment.

Justin Fain, the Vice President of Miami’s Apiculture Society, spoke on the accomplishments of Langstroth and how he came to change the design of beehives to this day. As Fain explains, Langstroth studied the behavior of bees and their construction of combs and noticed that if hives were just the right dimensions (with a 3/8-inch gap between them), bees would build their combs in parallel sheets. This allowed the combs to then easily be replaced when harvesting honey without disturbing the hives.

What came to be called the “Langstroth Hive” became the standard for most beekeepers. This practice allows for continued extraction and healthy bees. Miami’s Apiculture Society recognizes that “nothing we can do today in terms of monitoring and large-scale beekeeping would be possible without his breakthrough.” Because of Miami’s own Langstroth, honey extraction has been made more sustainable, bees safer and beekeeping sweeter.

Langstroth’s attention to bees has continued importance as changing conditions cause new challenges. Bees play a critical ecological role as pollinators but are also being affected by climate change and agricultural practices. They are threatened by decreasing biodiversity, habitat availability and increased used of pesticides. To ecologists, bees serve as an indicator species that highlight when pollution is harming an ecosystem. This makes their study and preservation even more important. The Apiary Society’s Justin Fain stated, “I see our role as beekeepers as one of supporting bees against the many problems we have caused for them.” Miami’s long history of beekeeping continues as students aim to save a species so necessary and adored.

Students interested in apiculture should reach out to Miami’s Apiculture Society by finding them on The Hub or emailing beemail@miamioh.edu in order to be part of the legacy and learn more about the intelligent, impressive creatures. Redesigning beehives is just one impact Miami has had on sustainability, and another accomplishment in its history to be celebrated. In looking back on the 50 years of work by Miami’s Institute for the Environment and Sustainability, we can see that it is a commitment to a long culture of wonder and research of the natural world that has existed in Oxford.

Photo by Shannon Reilly

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