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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