What is Norway’s “Vulcan Beehive”?

16 April 2015

The Short Answer (TSA)

This “Vulcan Beehive, like the “Elevator B” hive, isn’t exactly a “new” hive.  Instead, it is an architectural façade for a fairly average beehive.  Or, rather, an average Norwegian beehive.  So, why are they buzzing about it in Norway?

The “Vulcan” is one of a small group of architectural projects that integrate an otherwise typical beehive into a novel structure designed to attract attention. What kind of attention? Well, attention to bees and beekeeping – generally. These structures have been located in the heart of cities and, in the case of the “Vulcan,” in the city of Oslo, Norway on the rooftop of Dansens Hus, a theatre for the performing arts, specifically, dance shows featuring innovative choreography.

Honeybee populations are declining worldwide particularly in North America and Europe. Honeybees do more than make honey; they pollinate an amazing number of crops. So, sudden, substantial declines in populations could seriously affect agricultural production.

All sorts of solutions are being tried. One is the urban beehive. These hives are designed not just for amateur beekeepers, but also for the urban dwelling amateur. These hives must be compact and reasonably attractive to the extent that they don’t blemish the appearance of more compact urban landscaping.

Snohetta’s Vulcans, two brightly colored columns, are decorated with a “honeycomb” inspired laser cut hexagonal pattern and laminated onto the facade’s veneer. Each of the birch-veneered hexagonal columns house a beehive.  The facades and enclosing the hives were built to a height and width suited to the beekeepers.  The columns were placed; and are prominently displayed, on the rooftop of Dansens Hus for a special reason. This building is tall enough to prominently display the hives, but not so tall as to create a distance that makes the hives difficult to see.


The twin Vulcan columns, also, are located closest to the Dansens Hus food court.  The designers noted that, although the connection is less than obvious, the proximity emphasizes the relationship between the promotion of healthy bee populations and our food supply.

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What is the “Elevator B Hive”?

02 April 2015

The Short Answer (TSA)

The “Elevator B” hive isn’t exactly a “new” hive for the urban beekeeper. In fact, the “Elevator B” is an architectural façade for a fairly average beehive. So, what’s all the buzz about?

The “Elevator B” is one of a small group of architectural projects that integrate an otherwise typical beehive into a novel structure designed to attract attention. What kind of attention? Well, attention to bees and beekeeping – generally. These structures have been located in the heart of cities and, in the case of the Elevator B, near some silos (grain elevators).

Honeybee populations are declining worldwide particularly in North America and Europe. Honeybees do more than make honey; they pollinate an amazing number of crops. So, the sudden, substantial declines in bee populations could seriously affect agricultural production.

All sort of solutions to the basic problem of declining populations are being tried. One is the urban beehive. These hives are designed not just for amateur beekeepers, but also for amateur urban dwellers. These hives must be compact and reasonably attractive to the extent that they don’t blemish the appearance of more compact urban landscaping.

The enclosure of beehives in inspired architectural facades and then locating these in major metropolitan areas is yet another relatively new idea. These attractive, eye-catching structures are intended to encourage more urban beekeeping by keeping attractively-housed hives publicly visible. But this type of hive is also intended to encourage both public and large private concerns, like as governments and large corporations, to consider adding working hives to their own architectural complexes.

The Elevator B won the Architizer A+ Award in the Student Design/Build Project category in competition with a group composed of worldwide submissions. But the story begins with the planned renovation of vacant building. Inside the vacant building was a lone, quite active, beehive. With the sponsorship of Iridized Metals Corporation the bees were removed from their old home and the University of Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning’s Ecological Practices Research Group organized a competition to select a winning design for the honeybee colony’s new home.


The winner was a tower, 22 feet tall, with steel plates arranged in the shape of the signature honeybee hexagon. The hive is located inside and toward the top of the tower. A mobile elevator lowers to a cab with the hive to allow access to the colony. But even without the cab lowered, visitors can observe the bees from below. The beehive is a so-called “observation hive” with a laminated glass panel in the bottom, which provides an unobstructed view of the bees at work in their new home.


View From Below

But why a tower? The structure was intentionally patterned after a silo. And where is the structure located? In a place called Silo City – a waterfront location near a cluster of grain elevators. The area is undergoing renovations with Elevator B as the first iconic symbol of revival.

Five master’s degree students at the University if Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning, Courtney Creenan, Kyle Mastalinski, Daniel Nead, Scott Selin and Lisa Stern, conceived, designed and erected the structure in 2012. Faculty members Joyce Hwang, Christopher Romano and Martha Bohm were the project’s faculty advisors. Planning Dean Robert Shibley expressed pride in the Buffalo area, itself.   Buffalo, NY, the University’s home, worked beautifully as a “design laboratory” to generate a “globally relevant design.”


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Elevator B

Buffalo bee dwelling wins international architecture award

Hive City

‘Elevator B’ is a Gleaming Skyscraper Home for Bees!


What is the “Bubee Beehive”?

19 March 2015

The Short Answer (TSA)

Last year, Steve Steere decided that one of the best ways to reverse declining bee populations in the United States was to boost urban and amateur beekeeping. And the best way to do that was to produce a simple, functional beehive that’s easy for the first-time beekeeper to use. He’s founded Bubees of Malibu, California to produce and sell beehives as attractive as they were ideal for the first-time beekeeper.

An attractive look also helps because, unlike the commercial beekeeper, urbanites and even residential, rural residents don’t have a remote place to locate a hive or two. Their hives will have to go right in the middle of their yard or, for apartment dwellers, on a small deck or balcony.

Lesson? If you’re an urban or amateur beekeeper, everyone will see your hives prominently displayed on your property. How a hive looks can be a real issue. And, if you make hives attractive enough . . . . Well, if beehives were to become fashionable components of popular modern landscaping designs, even more residentials would take up beekeeping!

Steere, as an Art Center College of Design graduate and professional commercial artist, took the aesthetic part of the challenge in stride. On the inside, his wooden hives are sanded, but not painted. On the outside, a shopper can choose from a rainbow of colors including aqua, gray, pumpkin, salmon, mustard or green.

These hives’ colors are produced with a nontoxic milk paint. And Steere salvaged almost all the wood used to construct his stock of hives. He says he has enough salvage left to build another hundred hives. But his respect for conservation doesn’t end with just the construction of his hives. Rather than buying a queen and workers from a commercial supplier, he recommends that the new owner of a Bubee hive give a swarm of wild bees a chance to find and adopt the hive.

To add a bit of background, Bubee’s hives are of the type called “top bar.” This may be the most popular type of hive used by amateur beekeepers, today. The body of the top bar hive consists of a long horizontal box.

Bubee’s top bar body provides a 36-by-18-inch living space is equipped with 24 bars, which are placed across the open top of the box. Then, a hinged lid is lowered to cover and shelter the bars and the bees’ living space — inside of the box. The bees naturally build brood and honeycombs extending downward from the bars. At the end of the season, bars with attached honeycombs can be removed and the honey harvested.

Not the least important feature, in terms of entertainment, is a viewing window that allows the owner to watch the bees at work. The bees don’t mind, and the viewer gets an opportunity that nature never offers – a chance to view the private life of bees in the hive.

View Window

View Window

The attractive Bubee beehive sells for $300.00 providing not just an ideal hive for the first-time urban beekeeper, but an attractive addition to a yard or deck.

See: Bubee of Malibu, California


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See also:

Five High-Design Urban Beehives

Bubee’s Beehive: Modern Architecture for the Urban Bee

Made in Malibu: BuBees Beehive

Dartington Beehive


What is “Dunford’s Urban Beehive”?

5 March 2015

The Short Answer (TSA)

There are already a number of hives called “urban beehives.”  One of the latest is a new design by Rowan Dunford, a graduate of New Zealand’s Auckland University of Technology.

The “urban beehive” concept has little to do with the basic hive used by traditional beekeepers.  Rather, the urban types are the members of a special class of “amateur” hives.  Though the newest “type” of them all, the number and variety of new ideas for urban hives seems to be exploding.

The urban beehive is designed for an urban-dwelling resident without the room for even a traditional amateur beehive.  Of course, these hives must be compact to accommodate the short space of an urban environment.  But, beyond providing some honey to the owner, it is hoped that the popularity of urban hives will encourage more beekeeping and  increase the populations of honey-producing bees throughout the world.

But back to Rowan Dunford’s “Urban Hive.”  The inner core of components are little different than the proven components of a standard commercial hive.  So, the buyer is assured a hive that works well for the bees as well as the beekeeper.

But, unlike the boxes (supers) of a traditional hive, the roof of each of Dunford’s boxes is plastic.  Not only do the plastic roofs protect the insect occupants from the elements, but these same tops can be removed and allow another box to be stacked on top.

So, “Dunford’s Urban” can change in size.  The individual “boxes” that compose this hive are, internally, similar to the boxes of a standard “top bar” hive.  But, the average urban-dweller doesn’t have the room to stack as many boxes as high as would a rural beekeeper.  So, the urban beekeeper can start with two boxes.  If a season’s experience is good, the owner can expand the size of their hive by adding more (modular) boxes – one on top of another.

Each box contains a number of “top bars” from which the bees will construct hanging combs.  The frames are spaced and sized carefully to encourage bees to build individual combs on each of the individual bars.

See: Rowan Dunford’s Urban Beehive at Yanko Design


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What is a “To-Bee Hive”?

19 February 2015

The Short Answer (TSA)

The “To-Bee” hive is another in a growing collection of hives not designed for commercial beekeepers. Instead this hive is designed to give amateur beekeepers an opportunity to keep a bee colony in an urban or densely populated suburban area.

The To-Bee hive’s designer, Bar Lavi, a student of Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and the Design, has created a new design for convenient urban beekeeping that is both innovative with at least some traditional influences.

The “bookshelf” design has two parts. First, there is the tube or large, tall structure on the left side. This “tube” is the hive, proper, where the bees build brood and honey combs.

Second, is the flat shelf extending to the right. More than a shelf, it conceals a hollow tube or pipe which allows the bees to come and go. Bar Lavi, likens the entrance/exit tube to the honeybee version of an “escape pod” to be used by the bees when they need to leave the hustle and bustle of the hive.


“Escape Pod” Entrance and Exit

The large tube, or hive, has a window allowing the owner to observe activity within the hive. So, the To-Bee is also an observation hive. I’ve read no comments about the traditional quality of, at least, the tubular part of this hive. I couldn’t help noticing the resemblance of this tubular part to the ancient clay hive.

Collection of Clay Hives

Collection of Clay Hives

Clay hives were baked clay tubes that were, and still are, used in some parts of the Middle East and southern Europe. But clay hives are notoriously inefficient when it comes to harvesting honey. That part of the To-Bee hive, the larger tubular structure, which houses the combs, has solved the honey harvesting problem. The hive is fitted with a second, modular, inner wall that allow easy removal of combs for examination or honey harvesting.

A Modular Removeable Inner Wall Allows Easy Comb Removal

A Modular, Remove-able Inner Wall Allows Easy Comb Removal

Only recently, have we understood that, with all the other factors that affect bee health, habitat is among the most important. Not only do human populations and structures cover much more of what was once our natural environment. Our mowing and manicuring of even open rural areas may give a “pleasingly neat” look to our roadside scenery, but it also destroys the wildflowers and grasses that most bees depend on to survive.

The To-Bee hive is another in a growing number of hives designed especially for the urban dweller. There is a strong likelihood that amateur urban beekeepers will become a potent force in preserving our honeybee populations by creating a much more bee-friendly environment in areas, our cities, where these insects were once unwelcome.

But the latest generation of urban hives doesn’t just give honeybees a “place to live.” There is a growing trend toward beauty together with functionality. Urban dwellers are finding that their new insect guests are more than just entertaining to watch. Making a home for a honeybee colony introduces a “decorating” opportunity – a chance to make our “personal landscape” a bit more attractive and expressive.


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HIVE: What is an “Observation Hive”?

5 February 2015

The Short Answer (TSA)

An observation hive is any beehive built with a window or windows to allow keepers or guests to view the bees at work inside the hive. Surprisingly, housed in an appropriately built observation hive, the bees don’t seem to mind the viewers much at all.

An appropriately built hive is any hive built to normal specifications with one difference.  The observation hive has a glass wall to allow the bees to be viewed.

The only observation hive that would be “inappropriate” would be one that avoided the use of glass in favor of open gaps of various sizes. Open air gaps are “most unappealing” to the honeybee residents. The bees will either seal a gap or leave the hive at their earliest opportunity.

The main challenge with the observation hive is describing one. It’s not that these hives are so strange looking or exotic that they defy description. Rather, almost any style of hive can be turned into an observation hive. So, the list of possible designs seems endless.

A few of these hives are specially designed for observation. I’ve taken to calling them aquarium-style observation hives because the silhouette of the standard hive is flattened on the sides, but widened on the glass-covered front. This gives the viewer the widest view and causes most all of the bees’ activities in the hive to be clearly visible to the “front and center” viewer – like watching fish in an aquarium.

Other hives, like the Valhalla beehive are designed like a standard long-box hive but with a window in the side. This design is less intended for the keeper’s entertainment than to observe the hive’s activity for colony health issues.

Just to throw in another of the many, many variations, one hive has been described as “the observation hive extraordinaire” and a “monstrosity.” While traveling in the Netherlands, Carl Uhlman, snapped a photo of the “extraordinary monster.” (photo link)

But either way, Mike Southern was inspired to build a hive of a derivative design. (photo link)  Admittedly, observation hives of this size aren’t for everyone. You need some room to accommodate these giant versions of the observation hive.  And if you have hives of these sizes, you might want to think about changing the name of your “bee yard” to “bee ranch.”

Read more about the story of the giant hives  at: Honey Bee Suite

And, then, Pete’s Bees brings us an octagonal (8-sided) observation hive. The maker promises further refinements to this basic design. And, he also answers the “no-nonsense” critics who have questioned the practical purpose of his hive’s ornately designed roof.

In so many words, Pete explains that a beekeeper cannot live by harvesting and eating honey alone. He finds his roof design a pleasure to look at and a conversation piece.

And again, there are many, many more styles of observation hives.


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HIVE: What is a “Warre Bee Hive”?

Warre Beehive from Bee4Ever

22 January 2015

The Short Answer (TSA)

Abbe Emil Warre designed what has come to be known as the Warre beehive. Aiming at the most inexpensive hive possible (Warre called it the “People’s Hive”), his design was inspired by a natural and much more ancient beehive design: the hollowed-out log.

The Warre hive is one of those rather rare top-bar hives with a vertical rather than horizontal design. So, Warre’s top-bar beehive profile stands tall instead of long – a characteristic it shares with the Perone’s top-bar vertical design.

With its vertical profile of stacked boxes, the Warre’s profile looks little different than of a Langstroth-style hive. But almost everything about the Warre is a bit different.

The Warre is a top-bar style hive although its use of frames and guides allow it maintain an efficient bee space. This prevents eventually destructive comb attachments by the building bees. The hive is “under-supered” – new boxes are added to the bottom of the hive stack instead of the top.

The top is a “quilt” box when contains cloth enclosing saw dust. This allows air to pass through the box, but not moisture. Warre introduced the quilt box to deal with an issue common to the Langstroth and similar hive designs. In winter, moisture accumulation inside the hive boxes and promote the growth and spread of certain diseases.

Although the Warre hive fell into relative obscurity after the inventor’s death in 1951, Warre was a bit ahead of his time. He built his hive to match the bees natural habits and believed that the more the bees were left alone, the better – for the bees and the honey. With that philosophy, his hive designed was destined to return to popularity – at least as a popular hive with amateurs beekeepers concerned about more natural approaches to beekeeping.

Experienced users give the Warre hive a special distinction – one that is popular with, at least, modern amateur beekeepers: The Warre is the most “hands-off” or “leave it alone” hive they’ve ever used.


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