Sun Hives: pollination and health before honey


Old-school bOING bOING pal Jim Leftwich says:

The Sun Hive is a hanging honeybee hive designed by Günther Mancke and which is growing in popularity in the UK and elsewhere. It was designed around the needs of pollinating bees and colony health and preferences, and not around prioritizing honey production. As such, it's thought to be much better for sustaining bee populations. It's also quite beautiful.

There's also a Sun Hive book, that you can read or download (4.5Mb), and which gives the background on natural beekeeping and instructions on how to construct one.


  1. You know how fancy yogurt containers or cereal boxes say things like “we plant 5000 trees a year”? I think it would be great for Whole Foods-style honeys to start saying “we help populate 5000 new unmolested bee hives in the wild each year.”

    The long-term health of wild bee populations seems like something that should be important for most everyone.

    1. Could say that for just about every ecological system that human activity has impacted. 

      Planting trees is just the easiest.. it’s cheap, would be happening anyways, and generates great press.

    2.  I don’t know, SamSam.  It’s kind of like releasing herds of pigs and goats into the pacific islands was, you know?  Where I live, the native pollinators are already facing competitive pressure from honeybees, and as Africanization moves north the honeybees jump category from “imported domestic livestock” to “dangerous invasive foreign pest”.

      I like bees & honey (I’ll eat the comb from wild hives – mmmmmmm lots of flavor when there’s no super) but I like the native pollinators even more.

      1. Ito, I’m not sure how bees have managed to become the threatened darlings of the insect world. Even the names that we give them here in the U.S. should make it clear to people that they aren’t native. Whether they are european honeybees or africanized, they are invasive species that compete with the native pollinators. 

        The threat that CCD poses is not to the bees themselves but to our agricultural system that relies on them. Encouraging people to have hives in their back yard isn’t going to come close to covering the agricultural demand. 

        1. I don’t get it either.  Colony collapse disorder has been an ongoing problem for at  least 50 years (that I know of – wikipedia says even longer) and the recent increase in CCD has been pretty clearly linked to pesticide overuse (which has also been an ongoing problem since before WWII) but these periodic outbursts of bee hysteria we’ve been seeing lately puzzle me.

          I prefer to consider overpopulation and man-made pollution to be the root problems to be addressed, and so-called “global warming” and pollinator problems as merely symptoms.  But if bees can make people want to take constructive action to limit population growth and/or reduce pollution, maybe that’s a good thing.

  2. I’ve considered putting hives in my yard but I really don’t have time for dealing with harvesting honey. I don’t even like honey. I don’t want any honey, never mind lots of it. It would be solely for the benefit of the bees (and maybe my garden). This might be a solution to that.

  3. There was a piece on the bbc with these hives a while ago. The woman demonstrated the hives insisted that the presenter wouldn’t need to wear the standard issue bee keeping protective kit as “The bees know we are their friends”

    Cue the presenter exclaiming “OW one stung me in the eye”

    1.  Weird but true fact:  being stung directly on your eyeball is much better than being stung nearly anywhere else on your face.  Being stung on your lip or right next to your eye, though, is very unpleasant!

  4. This hive is pure charlatanry, and those who promote it need to check their compass.

    The claims that it puts “pollination and health before honey” are only that – They author’s claims, and unsubstantiated or even explored in any way.

    The hive is too small to support a healthy colony.    Think chinese foot binding.

    It’s just gimmick for authenticity seekers wishing to buy their way into eco paradise with the latest gadget.

    This whole “Bees are happier in my hive” is a cheap parlor trick.    

    The bees in this hive aren’t happier –    But being crammed into a small hive, they never actually have a chance to grow into a full sized colony, and thus never develop defensiveness – Which is a natural behavior in a mature, healthy colony.

    … A beekeeper, who is disappointed with how dumb people get when confronted with anyone claiming they are promoting bee health.

    1. I think this is valuable advice. What actually makes for a healthy colony architecturally? Do human-harvested colonies struggle to any great detriment? If they did, and it damaged colonies, we probably wouldn’t be seeing beekeepers (resisting the urge to use ‘apiasts’ here) using those designs. Healthy bees produce more honey produce greater profits for the keepers. I think it is an interesting idea to support bees by increasing their presence, I am just unsure that this is a logical, research-driven solution.

      I was going to stop my rant there, but: bees continue to have widespread coexistence with man because we rely on their pollination and honey creation. If we didn’t take from them, they would not see us building them homes or laying fields of flowering plants from which they can collect honey. We need to sustain our relationship with this species for very pragmatic reasons: pollination and honey production. The hive design should reflect our needs from bees.

  5. If you want to help native pollinators, all you need is a block of wood and a drill, and you can make excellent homes for the bees that actually live around you, rather than honeybees, which as, Ito Kagehisa points out above, are an introduced (and in many areas, invasive) species.  I’ve created a Flickr group where people can share their creations:

    I’d highly recommend the book The Forgotten Pollinators, by Stephen Buchmann and Gary Paul Nabhan as and introduction to native bees (and other pollinators.)

    1.  We have bumble bees living under our front doorstep.  Fascinating to watch them fly in to holes that are only just big enough.

      1.  I used to have a huge hive under my barn stairs, that I was living with in harmony.   Other people found them disturbing, because they’d cloud all around you and the floor buzzed alarmingly when you went up the stairs, but I never got stung in the two years they lived there.

          Unfortunately one winter a rat found the hive, moved in and ate the whole thing.  I was much less enthused about sharing quarters with a rat, so my cat and I convinced it to move out.

        One thing I’ll warn you about is that they can fly in the holes of Crocs as you go past a bee-hole, and then you have to stand very very still, despite the tickling, until they figure out how to get back out.  So best to go out the back door if wearing ventilated shoes.

    2. I would love some basic bee home designs, ones that don’t involve ‘sythe-harvested rye straw’ and hours of weaving.

      1.  yeas, bumblebees are tricky to attract to boxes (I’ve tried and failed for years!) But solitary nesting species, such as leafcutter bees, readily take to homes.

    3. Can you describe the design a little further, or provide a link? From the pictures I can’t tell if it’s just individual holes (tubes) that go all the way through, of if it’s small holes going into an larger enclosed space (I’m assuming the former, knowing that bumble bees are quite solitary).

      Also, which “native” pollinators are these for? On the web you don’t know what countries the rest of us are in ;). Do you know if these would be helpful in New England?

      1. (Discuss or BB prevents you from editing after you’ve left the page, grrrr….)

        Edit to the above: I’ve found the information from the forum posting on your Flickr page, thanks:

        (I haven’t found a good map for where the different species exist, though.)

  6. Around here (North Island NZ) feral bees are pretty much dying out as colonies don’t survive long with varroa mite – only the managed ones live apparently.

    This system would be illegal here as every piece of brood comb must be inspected annually for American Foul Brood disease. If found the whole hive gets burned.

  7. It’s time to turn our focus to Bee Biodiversity and away from managed European honey bees – in the arts, agriculture and biosphere conservation.  Solitary Dream Homes (For Bees) and other Resonating Bodies (blog) art and community projects offer some alternatives!

    Resonating Bodies is also on Facebook.

    Here’s why: European honey bees (Apis mellifera) are the bee species imported around the world which are managed as a nearly monocultural pollination vector. Apis m. substitute for farming practices which need to incorporate wild pollinators (native bees) and other better
    farming and land management practices which accommodate them.  A huge topic!

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