HIVE: What is a “Bee Gum” Hive?

18 September 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)

A bee gum hive is a section of a hollow tree used to provide a hive for commercially raised bees.

During the 19th century, in the eastern and southeastern United States, hollow sections of the black gum trees were set up in apiaries.  These “hives” were called “gums” after the black gum trees from which they came.  Occasionally, small sticks were placed over the open top of the “hive” to provide support for honeycomb construction.

Until the 20th century, this basic form of beekeeping was one of the most destructive.  The hive and colony not only had to be destroyed to harvest the honey, but it was common practice to kill the bees with burning sulfur before harvesting the honey.

Bee gum hives are still used in the United States, today, but hive maintenance and honey harvesting are done on the European model.  In Central Europe, hollowed-out tree trunks have long been used as commercial beehives.  But the European version uses removable bars, placed on top of the open trunk.  The bars are not just used serve the bees in building their combs but, also, allow removal of individual honeycombs without destruction of the colony and hive.  And, of course, smoke is used to calm the bees during the harvesting process.

The use of gums in modern honey production gives the resulting product a certain prestige.  In other words, although gum-produced honey is little different than any other type, producers advertise their honey as exclusively produced through the use of gum hives – and charge more for it.


About the Author