20 November 2014
The Short Answer (TSA)
A Poppleton Hive is a type of long box hive designed and used by O. O. Poppleton of Florida in the first half of the 20th century. A “Long Box Hive” is a single story hive that is arranged horizontally instead of vertically like most modern commercial hives.
You can think of the long box hive as just that — a long box. The top of the box opens or has vertical drawers that may be removed from above. The drawers/frames are arranged sort of like books in a bookcase laying on it back. Each drawer contains a frame to accommodate one comb. The frames are arranged and hive designed to group brood combs toward the center and honeycombs toward either end.
This allows drawers with honeycombs (and, therefore, honey) to be removed, examined or the honey harvested with the least disturbance to the rest of the hive. The broodcombs, in which the queen lays her eggs and the young honeybees are nurtured to maturity, are “doubly undisturbed” by not only being in separate drawers, but in a relatively “distant” and distinct location from the honeycombs.
The Poppleton, like most long box hives, is a deeper hive than the modern vertically stacked commercial hive. So, sometimes, a long box uses proportionally larger frames than the standard commercial hive, but still incorporates the Langstroth dimensions into its frames and drawers to assure one, separate comb to a frame.
A particular advantage was provided by the concentration of the broodcombs in the middle of the long box. During the winter season of honeybee inactivity, the two extreme ends of these hives could be stuffed with insulation materials reducing the total area of hive. This smaller area, limited to the broodcombs, made keeping the hive warm in winter a much easier job for the inactive honeybees.
The Poppleton was particularly popular in the southeastern U.S. in the early part of the 20th century. Then, as now, weight seemed to a primary consideration and the Poppleton was designed with the “older” beekeeper in mind. While a standard commercial Langstroth hive was stacked in vertical modules that could, with combs, reach weights up to 50 pounds per module, the horizontal Poppleton required the beekeeper only to remove individual (and relatively light-weight) drawers from above.
Paradoxically, the light weight and easy access to the drawers did nothing to reduce the weight of the entire long box. As a matter of fact, the greater total volume of the long box made the “whole hive” much heavier and more difficult to move. It was primarily this weight and mobility issue that caused most all long box hives to fall from popularity.
Today, the long box is making a comeback with amateur, if not commercial, beekeepers. Although it remains to be seen whether today’s young amateurs, with the passing of years, will find the weight of the long box an issue, the concern with weight and the (now, the word is) “mature” beekeeper is no less central with light-weight components being a central design feature of both the Dartington modular hive and its manufactured sibling, the partially plastic Beehaus.
Mark Grossmann of Hazelwood, Missouri & Belleville, Illinois