Open Source Beehives: sensor-enhanced hive design

Tristan from OpenPixel sez, "You might have heard that bees are dropping like flies. When we realised the implications of this (which everyone should look into, because it's serious) we borrowed some ideas from the WikiHouse project and applied them to bees - ie. low cost, distributed, open source manufacturing."

Our aim is to inspire a new generation of backyard beekeepers, improve our understanding of honey bee health, and promote bee colony recovery. We're sharing all our knowledge, designs and data open source style.

We're looking for collaborators - please join out community and help spread the word about the project!

Open Source Beehives: Sensor Enhanced Hive designs for Bees (Thanks, Tristan!)

Notable Replies

  1. IMB says:

    Ah, gotcha.

  2. KA1OS says:

    I agree with perry_ellis' assessment of this project. A bit meh. And one can modify any existing hive body design to accommodate sensors. In fact, there are many academic labs that have done this type of work. I would strongly encourage people with an interest in hive monitoring to work with an academic or state agricultural research center for suggestions about the areas where you could provide the strongest contributions.

    I seriously hope these folks have real experience or knowledgeable mentors ready to step in. From what I see of their discussion board they seem to be reinventing the wheel a lot.

    This is not a hobby in which one 'dabbles'. If you can't maintain your hives properly and respond to problems you can spread diseases and pests to your neighbor's colonies. I am a beekeeper and have kept 3-5 hives going strongly for about four years now. I'm also a member of my local beekeeping club, subscribe to a couple bee magazines and keep in close contact with several experienced mentors. Prior to establishing my first colony I read deeply and took a 4 month long, introduction course on beekeeping. We were taught how to maintain healthy bees and how to use minimal impact, integrate-pest management methods to keep the colonies healthy. Expect to open and work on your hive at least every weekend in the spring and summer, every couple weeks in fall and periodically in the winter. You'll have to understand how to 'read' your colony as you go through the frames and assess the colony strength, queen productivity, likelihood of swarming and food reserves. Possibly every day you will spend time worrying about the state of your colonies and what you should be doing next to correct problems. You will have to explain to your neighbors that the swarming ‘tornado’ of bees that sounded like a dozen weed whackers and that just coalesced 10 meters up in their tree is actually quite harmless and that it’s actually illegal to spray insecticides on honeybees. Then you’ll climb up a ladder in your bee suit, cut or shake the swarm into a box and get them into a new, empty hive ASAP. If you're smart you'll give your neighbor five pounds of honey next season.

    Some comments about the designs presented by the project:

    • Plywood? Not good: In any area not sealed or well protected from water it's got a shortened lifetime compared to solid wood. Here's the thing: Why use a CNC when a table or circular saw will do? Just get strips of whole wood, rip them to width and then cut the ends to length.
    • Hive coatings: Their site discusses exterior coatings to preserve the wood. Fine, but paint works too. Most paints are not toxic or harmful to bees and besides, it's used only on the outside of the hive.
    • Eight-bar hive: Fine. Probably OK for much of Europe and easier to lift when frames are full of honey. In areas with serious winters a 10-frame box with medium-height frames sometimes works just as well.
    • Bee space: Good. I'm glad they seem to recognize the importance of maintaining the correct distance between frames to prevent misplaced comb creation.
    • Frameless combs: This is a matter of taste. I'm not as thrilled with these because I harvest honey by spinning the uncapped frames. That's a bit easier to do than crushing and squeezing the comb, which is what you'd have to do with frameless or unsupported combs. On hot days unsupported comb can get a bit sloppy when moving around. Then again, comb honey is pretty nice too and more popular in Europe than the US. The downside of harvesting honey by crushing combs is that the bees have to expend more energy to make new wax. So, there's a balance there...
    • Mesh bottom on the bottom boards: Good. It helps somewhat with mite control and is a common, integrated pest management technique. This not sufficient by itself but that's why it's called 'integrated' pest management...
    • Top bar hives: Agree with perry_ellis. These are often associated with cultish "it's more like nature" stuff. Short on research but long on anecdotes. These also tend to be harder to manage. Try 'em if you like, particularly if you have physical problems that prevent you from lifting hive bodies full of honey. But otherwise, stay clear unless you've got a few years of experience working bees.

    I would add that there are many supply houses that sell excellent, precut, ready-to-assemble hive bodies and materials that ship as flat packs. The nice thing is that these parts are standardized. Frames, bodies, bottom boards and lids just 'work' if you stick with tested, standard parts.There are also plenty of plans online, published by university agriculture colleges and beekeeping sites that are as good as or better than the plans described in the video.

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