HIVE: What is a “Sun Beehive”?

25 December 2014
The Short Answer (TSA)

The Sun Hive was designed by Guenther Mancke, a German sculptor. The form and shape of the hive is based on a natural wild beehive. For any who are familiar with skeps, a sun beehive is something like a skep hanging upside down.

The Sun Hive (“Haengekorb”) is made out of rye straw and has nine, arch-shaped drawers with movable frames. The bees are free to build their combs naturally. These two-feet deep drawers can accommodate large combs.

A skep is an almost ancient form of beehive.  The beeskep is made of rye straw woven into a sort of a cord, something like a rope, and, then, coiled to form a basket of a special type – a basket that was designed and used as a beehive by early beekeepers.


Early Bee Skep

The sun hive uses a basic skep shell, but in a very different way than it was traditionally used. The skep seems to hang upside down so that it looks something like a deep woven basket. The bees enter and leave the sun hive through an opening in the bottom.

But, unlike a traditional skep, the basket is equipped with drawers that slide “down and in” or “up and out” of the hive from the top.  Each arch-shaped drawer holds a frame in which the bees will build a brood comb or honeycomb.

The design has no queen excluder and allows the queen to lay her eggs where she wants. This freedom is believed to be easier on the colony.   There are a number of modern beekeepers who say that their queens, when given the freedom, create separate brood and honey combs naturally. The burden of checking each comb to see whether it is a brood or honeycomb is so slight that it requires little added effort when harvesting honey.

Again, the sun hive is designed to promote a healthy colony through the re-creation of a “comfortable” and ”natural” environment.  Looking at a hanging sun hive, one can recognize the profile and shape of the natural, wild hive so common in nature, art and literature.

In artistic terms, creator Guenther Mancke also sees the sun hive as a shape created to resemble the natural beehive. He sees the outer shell as something like the living surface of the united colony within. The colony, as a group, chooses and builds its combs to accommodates the individual group’s wants and needs. The final result is an internal arrangement of combs expressing the unique and evolving identity of the individual colony.


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HIVE: What is a “Single Story Hive”?

18 December 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)

When a hive is specially called a “single story” hive it is often composed of a signal box or super. In other words, it looks like just like a standard commercial beehive, Langstroth or B.S. hive, but reduced in height to only on box or super.

But in the most general sense, there are two types of single story hives. One is the familiar Long-Box Hive that is quite large and often described as shaped like a trunk. The oblong box is open on top and drawers with frames can be fitted to slide down from above for honey and brood combs. If bars are placed across the top of a long box, it becomes a Top-Bar hive.

But, again, the name “single story” is usually reserved for a type of hive that is extremely compact and accommodates a smaller colony size than the larger hives. The purpose has a lot to do with climate. As you travel farther north, hives sizes tend to get smaller. This has to do with the “wintering.”

Honeybees do not hibernate, but cannot survive freezing temperatures. During the winter, bees stay in the hive and vibrate or buzz to generate heat. Part of the purpose of their honey and pollen gathering during the summer months is to provide stores which they live on during the winter months.

Of course, the first thought is often, why not just keep bees indoors in a heated room? This seems, at first, like a perfect solution. But the bees will “winter” (stay in the hive and vibrate to generate heat) during the winter months regardless of whether they are in warmth or cold. Part of this may be instinctive, but there is no food for bees outside the hive in the winter – whether the hive is outdoors or in a warm room, the bees have no reason to leave.

In other words, a really warm habitat during the winter months will actually disturb the bee colony extremely. So, if a beekeeper wants to keep their bees indoors during the winter – and there are advantages to sheltering hives during the winter months — the temperature in the enclosure must still be kept cool.

Cold, fresh air must be admitted into the room so that the hive’s ventilation works at it normally would during the winter months. The wintering bees will follow the same routine in the hive whether or not they are “inside or outside.” So, the indoor environment, in terms of temperature may be more moderate than outdoors, but must still be wintery for the comfort of bees.

But extreme winters can be dangerous to bees. While large hives accommodate large and quite productive colonies in the summer months, empty areas left within a large hive during winter can result in freezing temperatures inside the hive . . . and bee deaths. A smaller hive tends to be densely populated. And a dense hive population ensures a warm hive in winter.

Hive designs tend to get smaller in northern climates. The Smith hive of Scotland, for example, is a good deal shorter (with fewer supers) than the British Standard hive popular among commercial beekeepers to the south Part of the reason for this smaller design is to allow the hives to be easily moved to different locations to take advantage of seasonal habitats. But part of the reason for the size is probably that bees in the colder parts of Scotland, winter better in a more compact hive.

You’ll find a good deal of attention and discussion about “single story” hives in the northern areas of Europe as well as Canada and Alaska in North America. Certainly, if you living in one of these areas and planning to begin beekeeping for the first time, some research and advice from local beekeepers may be extremely helpful before you actually choose your hive.

Honeybee colonies can do pretty well almost anywhere and are remarkably able to survive severe winters. But, in the extreme north, the bees often need help from the beekeeper in the form of a properly designed hive and a suitable preparation for wintering.


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HIVE: What is a “Rose Bee Hive”?

11 December 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)

            In general appearance, the Rose Bee Hive looks similar to a Langstroth or British Standard Beehive. The Rose is a “tall” structure with brood boxes and supers stacked one upon another unlike the, generally, long horizontal “tub-like” design of the Top-Bar hive. The Langstroth and B. S. Beehive allow the bees to build their combs in frames fitted into drawers that can be removed and inspected. The Top Bar hive uses only bars across the top of the “tub” to support the combs built by the bees.

But the Rose hive has a subtle structural difference from the Langstroth or B. S. hive. The brood box and supers are of the same size – the same depth. This allows the beekeeper to use only one size of frame in the hive’s drawers. The interchangeability is intended to give more than the convenience of using only one size of frame. The uniform size allows each unit to be stacked in any order. This minimizes the necessary lifting because the boxes do not have to be arranged in a certain order.

Increasing stock (number of bees) is often done by dividing a hive in two and adding a queen. The Rose Bee Hive makes this easy, again, because all the boxes are the same size. So, no lifting and rearranging of the boxes are needed. A board is simply inserted between two of the vertically stacked boxes, which neatly divides the hive into two, upper and lower, hives. Then, a new queen is added.

The creator of the Rose Hive has also developed a method of beekeeping, which has grown out of the unique Rose Hive design. In the traditional hive, brood combs, in which the queen lays eggs and the young bees are raised, are strictly separated from honey combs in which the bees store their honey.

This division is done through the use of a “queen excluder” which allows worker bees to enter the area of the hive dedicated to honeycombs, but keeps the queen out — forcing her to lay her eggs in another area dedicated to brood combs. But what would happen if you left the excluder out?

Although this would allow the bees to develop brood combs anywhere in the hive, bees generally locate brood combs toward the bottom and honey combs toward the top. But some random brood combs toward the top and honey combs toward the bottom could create some real inconvenience in a standard hive.  The brood and honey comb boxes and drawers are each of a different size and dedicated to one type of comb or the other.

But not in the Rose Hive.

With the Rose hive, the uniform size of all the boxes, frames and drawers makes the problem go away. The beekeeper simply replaces brood combs and extracts honeycomb wherever each is found. This has the added advantage of allowing the bees to expand the brood naturally at will without the need for intervention from the bee keeper.

One of the best features of the Rose hive is its dimensions. Not only are all the boxes, brood and honey comb, the same size, but the general dimensions of the hive match both the Langstroth and B. S. Hives. So, if you have an on-going beekeeping concern and use standard hives, you can replace your existing hives gradually, piece by piece, by replacing your old hive boxes with the new Rose boxes.

The Rose Bee Hive was developed by Tim Rowe of Ballylickey, Bantry, Co.Cork Ireland. He provides a basic, yet thoroughly instructive, presentation at the Rose Bee Hive website:

Rose Bee Hives

“Why Change Things?” PowerPoint Presentation

Video Part 1

Video Part 2



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What is the “Urban Beehive”?

4 December 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)

            The Urban Beehive is, literally, a beehive “of the future.” That is to say, it’s not for sale and isn’t even in production. But the Phillips Design company has built a prototype. And a stunning looking item it is. I couldn’t help but be impressed by its sleek, stylish, and thoroughly un-beehive-like appearance.

Like many, at first, thought I was looking at a currently available product. But this is only a prototype – a design model that has yet to be fully tested, least of all, manufactured for sale. So, spokespersons for Phillips won’t say that this current version of the Urban Beehive can do what the final, actual product must do to fulfill its design objectives. But, if successful, this would be an amazing product.

The Urban Beehive is designed to fit neatly into a window of your home or apartment. From the outside, it holds and displays a flower pot in which you can plant living flowers. On the inside, is a beehive intended to house an actual bee colony.

The bees enter the interior beehive from the outside through a cleverly concealed entrance. The hive, itself, is wholly on the inside of the window. The hive’s shell is made of transparent glass. So, hive owners, relaxing in their homes or apartments, can watch their bees at work. The clear shell of the hive has a dark amber tint which the designers describe as permitting an orange wavelength of light into the hive. This orange light is the exact wavelength compatible with the bees’ natural sight.

Pre-prepared frames are textured for the benefit of the hive’s comb-building bees. The bees will work, on a daily basis, to gather and store honey and pollen in honey combs as well as raise the colony’s young in separate brood combs.

But what if you, the hive-owner, want to harvest some of the honey? Do you have to move the whole hive to the out-of-doors, drape yourself from head to toe in a beekeeper’s “outfit” and, then, quiet the bees with a smoker while you remove the honey combs from the hive?

Oh, no! That will be a thing of the past.

As the owner of the Urban Beehive, you leave the hive in the window. With no special precautions, you simply pull a cord, and the hive fills with smoke to calm the bees. Then, you open the hive and remove honeycomb(s).

Careful observers will note that there is a bit of an issue with the described harvesting process. If the smoke doesn’t work quite as it should, thousands of angry bees could flood into your living room — a much greater disaster than one might experience with any conventional outdoor hive.

Even if the smoke does its job, it would seem that a few bees might escape when the hive is opened during honey comb harvesting. This might create some issues. Bees are a bit moody. So, even if a few “calm” bees escape when the hive is opened — this minute’s “smoked” bee could be next minute’s angry insect.

But, these are problems to be ironed-out in development. The prototype is really more “a vision” than a concrete product.   So, I’ll put my “wet blankets” aside and join the designers in describing the goal — without belaboring the difficulties.

Spokespersons for Phillips Design suggest that the Urban Beehive will allow members of urban families a “glimpse into the fascinating world of” honeybees. And, over the decades, many amateur beekeepers have said that they experience nothing less than a fascination while watching these insects at work. The designers go so far as to describe the observation of the working bees as, not only educational, but “therapeutic.”

Of course, the Urban Beehive’s bees will work to pollinate plant life throughout urban environments. And, the keepers will be doing their part to stem the decline of honeybee populations in many areas of the world.

More about the Urban Beehive from Phillips Design

About Phillips Design


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