Why an observation hive? A window on the bees You get to see things you never see in an inspection or see so seldom that you will likely never see it. You get to see whats going on now in the bees world, such as pollen coming in, nectar coming in, making drones. Things that are seasonable will happen about the same time in your observation hive.
Kinds of observation hives Full size box with a window and foundationless or top bars
Full size with a window A full size ten frame deep with top bars in it
Brushy Mountains new hive Picture from Brushy Mt.
Observation Hive Issues Frame size the size of your brood frames So you can get and put back frames of brood Space between the glass 1 ¾ Able to feed without opening the hive Proper ventilation. Not too much or too little. One frame thick So you can always find the queen and see brood Privacy So you can keep the bees from getting stressed out or exposed to too much sun
Inside or Outside? Inside hives are easier to maintain. Bees have enough troubles regulating temperatures in an observation hive Outside observation hives in a cold climate have to be multiple frames thick Outside observation hives need a cover for the window protected from solar gain
Demonstration hives A Demonstration hive is for taking somewhere for an informative talk on bees or for attracting customers at a farmers market.
Additional Issues for demonstration hives Difficult to open Difficult to break (Plexiglas) Difficult to tip over
Free flying hives These are typically in a public place where people can see, like a nature center, or in your living room.
Additional free flying hive issues Access to haul the hive outside (you will need to work the hive from time to time) A tube to the outside for access for the bees to the outdoors A way to feed them without opening the hive Size. Small enough to haul outside If you want to overwinter, 3 deeps or 4 mediums
Exit One by fours in the window and storm window
Getting an Observation Hive You can Build one Buy one
Management Make small changes. Be prepared to coddle but only in small ways. Watch out for boom and bust. Allow enough time in the fall to be strong enough to winter. Remember, recovery from any changes is slow.
Typical management problems Too Strong Too Weak Too much ventilation Too little ventilation
Typical problems Too Strong Remove brood frames and give to another hive. Since field bees come back this is more difficult than you think to weaken a hive. If its early enough in the year you can remove the queen and let them rear a new one. Dont do if its late in the year as they may not recover.
Typical problems Too Weak Shake some bees into an empty box (no combs) with the entrance screened and leave them overnight. Then put the entrance tube up to the entrance of the nuc so they cant go anywhere but into the observation hive. Give them a frame of emerging brood with adhering bees. Give them a frame of honey and/or pollen.
Typical problems Too Much ventilation If they are having trouble hatching eggs, they may have too much ventilation and are unable to keep the brood warm enough. Solution: Plug some of the vents.
Typical problems Too little ventilation If there is condensation on the glass or a lot of bearding when it isnt that crowded, you may have too little ventilation. Solution: You can drill some holes and put #7 or #8 hardware cloth over them. Or you can cut some slits for ventilation. #7 hardware cloth over holes will allow adding pollen or syrup.
How to take a hive outside Take three pieces of cloth and three hair ties Disconnect the tube from the hive and cover the outlet and the tube, each with a piece of cloth held by a hair tie. Go outside and put a piece of cloth on the entrance of the tube so the traffic wont back up in the tube. Carry the hive outside.
How to take the hive inside Close up the hive and make sure the outlet and the inlet are closed with the cloth and hair tie. Brush off all bees on the outside. Move the hive about 20 feet and repeat until all bees are off. Carry the hive inside and reconnect. Go outside and remove the cloth blocking the entrance.
Reworking Space between the glass (should be 1 ¾) Too small, you can add something behind the hinges and as a stop to increase the size. Too large, you can add some glass on the inside of the door to reduce the space. Converting different depth frames to one size Cut new frame rest notches in the sides Or make new sides with different spacing Fill excess space with a homemade feeder Stops keep the frames between the glass Screws Push pins
Feeders Adding a feeder to a hive not designed for one
Managing a hive during reworking Put the bees in a nuc with the entrance at the exact location the tube was. Close off the outside and inside of the tube. Clean up and rework the hive at your leisure. Put the bees back in the hive (with the tube connection covered) and put it back inside.
Overwintering I have not had problems overwintering an inside, free flying observation hive if: Its strong going into the fall Can be fed syrup without taking it outside Can be fed pollen without taking it outside Is of adequate size (three deeps or four mediums)
Beginning beekeepers? Beginning beekeepers most need what can be learned from an observation hive. Seeing bee behavior. Seeing resources come into the hive. Seeing them rear brood. Are they skilled enough to run one? Probably not to run it well. Will they learn a lot anyway? Probably much more than they would EVER learn without one.
Advanced Beekeepers Advanced beekeepers have much to learn from an observation hive. See far more detail of what goes on. Clear up many misconceptions of how things work Monitor what goes on in the bees world at this particular time of the year See in an exaggerated form what effect changes have on the bees
www.bushfarms.com More information concerning observation hives, top entrances, lighter equipment, natural cell size and Varroa, horizontal hives, queen rearing, general beekeeping, and many other topics. Information on installing bees in an observation hive are in the Beginners page Many classic queen rearing books. Hubers New Observations on the Natural History of Bees
Contact bees at bushfarms dot com www.bushfarms.com