An interesting article on the history and evolution of beehive covers. ~ sassafrasbeefarm
I have found it interesting to look at the types of different beehive covers or tops that have been used over the years. I began my search with the first beehive that was patented in the United States but had a problem because the patent office burned in 1836 and many of the early written patents were destroyed. My records show that there were 1,131 beehives patented up to 2009. Some of these hives were the same hive with improvements to keep the patent in effect. The very first beehive patented was developed by J. Sweet, April 11, 1810, in Bethlehem, MA, but that record was destroyed in the fire. I found patent X 5,872 was granted to Ebenezer Beard in 1830 and most of the written part was recovered from the fire and had a flat attached cover. Sixty eight patented beehives later, in 1853, Lorenzo L. Langstroth was granted a patent for a hive. Reverend Langstroth had actually developed five different models of beehives and most of his hives had flat tops. However his fifth hive was a glass hive within a hive and the outer top could be tipped forward. So it might be classified as a telescoping cover because it covered an inside hive. During the 23 years in between the Ebenezer Beard hive and the Lorenzo L. Langstroth hive there were 44 flat topped hives that had covers that were hinged, attached or simply rested on the beehive. There were four beehives that had covers sloping in one direction and two telescoping covers. Eleven hives had unusual shaped covers with projections and seven hives had pitched or gable tops. When you stop and think about it, it isn’t really that unusual, as the trend in the early times was to convert a piece of furniture into a beehive and have drawers or a side panel that could be opened. The lumber in the 1850s was available in wider widths so you could get a single piece that would cover the entire hive. However you would encounter the problem of warping or cupping, allowing the top to have gaps between the bottom side of the cover and the super below. The gaps could be viewed as being good or bad. The gap would provide upper ventilation and an upper entrance to the hive. However, if you wanted to move the hive there was just another place for the bees to escape from the hive. Thus to eliminate the warping, the boards could be cut in narrower strips, the grain reversed and cross pieces used to hold the boards together. This style of cover is very much like the today’s migratory cover. A problem arose, what do you do with a flat top once it is removed? You can’t just lay it on the ground in the same orientation as it would smash bees. Your best choice would be to prop it up against something else. Once a bee is smashed, the alarm pheromone is released and the other bees are now on alert. If you reverse the top and lay it on the ground, you can’t use it to stack equipment on it because it may violate bee space and squash bees.
continued… Read the full article with lots more pictures here: The Evolution of Beehive Covers — BEEKeeping: Your First Three Years