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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