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What do you think of the Urban Beehive within the Microbial Home system? Would you keep bees at home?

There are some questions regarding the function of the Beehive within the domestic ecosystem, probably because it is merely seen as a way to produce honey. Besides the honey (which is ofcourse an important part of the beekeeping, especially the antibiotic values that are being discovered in honey) it is also designed as a contibution to the solution of stopping the steep decline in bee colonies that, since 2006, threatens global production of food, since almost one third of food production is somehow/somewhere depending on pollination. In February 2011 the Dutch Rabobank (originally a cooperative farmer bank) published a report on the importance of the honey bee. You can find it here.

 

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We have a number of specific comments for Phillips on this concept.

We are a 1200-member group of beekeepers in NYC (http://nycbeekeeping.org), so we have considerable subject-matter expertise, which seems to be needed to turn the artwork presented into a practical and useful source of honey, pollen and wax.

Feel free to-email appropriate contact info to james.fischer@gmail.com.

 

i think that people are increasingly interested in the plight of the honeybee. this ready-made beehive would be an excellent product for people seeking to keep bees.

where can i get one?

I am a beekeeper and have both traditional langstroth and kenyan top bar hives.

I am very interested in your design and would like to take a closer look at the dimentions and other specs with an eye on managability and practicality. For example, how will hive beetle traps or varroa mite applications be applied.

Another thing that is of interest would be the volume of the hive.

In a fixed sized hive it is important that it be large enough to allow for expansion or your bees will swarm.

I am very encouraged to see so much interest in the honey bee, and your efforts in designing a hive are proof of that.

Back yard beekeepers are the future of bee survival.

As an industrial designer and a beekeeper w 50 hives; I applaud the idea but I am not sure that the design will function? 

 

As a beekeeper the biggest barrier to beekeeping once you are over getting stung is to successfully overwinter your bees.  If they die every winter this defeats the purpose; you are a bee haver and not a beekeeper.  The next decision is why do you keep bees; for the honey or to learn about and help the bees?  This may not seem like a big distinction but it will affect your management decisions.  For instance, do I take honey and risk them starving or do I leave the honey?

I have a lot of questions on this hive; how to keep it clean how to do manipulation when needed how to keep it from being an oven or a freeze, how to take honey, how to feed if needed?  What matters is what's in the beehive not the beehive itself.

 

Currently the design appears as a great discussion piece addressing the 'feel good' portion of people who want to 'help the bees'.  What would be even more important would be a hive that increased your bees chances of survival, acted as an instructional tool and incorporated a discussion of what we really can do to help the bees?  IMO, this means feral queen genes and treatment free bees  Come join us 'backwards beekeepers' and pursue the real solution to help the bees.

 

David F in Seattle

I could not agree more!



DAVID FEINBERG said:

As an industrial designer and a beekeeper w 50 hives; I applaud the idea but I am not sure that the design will function? 

 

As a beekeeper the biggest barrier to beekeeping once you are over getting stung is to successfully overwinter your bees.  If they die every winter this defeats the purpose; you are a bee haver and not a beekeeper.  The next decision is why do you keep bees; for the honey or to learn about and help the bees?  This may not seem like a big distinction but it will affect your management decisions.  For instance, do I take honey and risk them starving or do I leave the honey?

I have a lot of questions on this hive; how to keep it clean how to do manipulation when needed how to keep it from being an oven or a freeze, how to take honey, how to feed if needed?  What matters is what's in the beehive not the beehive itself.

 

Currently the design appears as a great discussion piece addressing the 'feel good' portion of people who want to 'help the bees'.  What would be even more important would be a hive that increased your bees chances of survival, acted as an instructional tool and incorporated a discussion of what we really can do to help the bees?  IMO, this means feral queen genes and treatment free bees  Come join us 'backwards beekeepers' and pursue the real solution to help the bees.

 

David F in Seattle

I would have to agree with the several issues people raised.

Varroa mites are parasitic mites that chew a hole in the bees exoskeleton and drink the bees "blood." They harbor diseases that are transferred to the bee. Chemical controls can be used that are applied onto the hive. Non-chemical controls cause the bee to groom off the mite. Things like crease patties and hops. Once the bee grooms of the varroa mite, the mite falls to the ground. With a closed bottom board the varroa mite will just crawl back up. Both of these can not be added to your hive design. Harbo and Harris Journal of Apicultural Research 43(3): 114–117 (2004)

Hive beetles are another pest of the bee. The adult is not really the issue, the lavae is. The larvae eat the honey, brood (baby bees) and wax. There is no way to apply treatments onto the hive.

These issues are common in display hives. Most display hives can only live a year or two and need to be replaced

Please explain how one opens the hive to inspect them - I believe this is usually a basic requirement of most beekeeping ordinances.  It appears from the drawing that one would have to open it INSIDE the home, which will not work. 

I keep bees in a non traditional hive - a top bar hive - and am very interested in ways to transfer the hive to apartment living.  I don't harvest honey, I keep bees for local pollination.  

Therefore I don't have to do as much with my bees as others do (to maximize honey production), but you will need to provide a way:

 

To feed them if necessary (sugar syrup) - probably easily provided with some kind of attachment

To inspect for pests - this looks difficult

To apply medicines if needed

Smoking - not sure how the little smoke hole is supposed to work; does not appear to be compatible with a traditional smoker - you'd fill the house with smoke, set off fire alarm, sprinkler, etc.

 

Otherwise you are providing a bee habitat, not a human-managed bee hive.  Which is OK if that is your objective - better to provide ferals with someplace to live I suppose.  Although it could be argued that unmanaged hives are a breeding ground for the pests and diseases that are decimating bees. 

 

I suggest you contact Michael Bush, king of non-traditional beekeeping in my humble opinion.  https://bushfarms.com/bees.htm







Actually , unmanaged hive can be a benefit as well.  Imagine an ignored hive that survives without treatment; you now how a local survivor colony.  Colony's with high pest loads tend to die off, they are not a long term disease vector. those that survive have selected for the pressures of pests and disease.

In my opinion, a person has to live on a balance between completely natural and completely managed.

I can't afford to watch colony after colony die off at $85 or $90 per package in order to find the small percent of survivor bees.

I do my best to secure bees from cutouts and wild locations and use them for expansion.

I choose to use the natural remedies and soft chemicals as sparingly as possible in order to help the bees along.

I have gone "foundationless" in my langs and the top bar hives are as nature intended. I'm sure, with time, that varroa resistant

 bees will be developed, but until that time we will do what we must do.

Having said all this, I see the hive above as being a novelty item. It doesn't look to be very managable.



DAVID FEINBERG said:

Actually , unmanaged hive can be a benefit as well.  Imagine an ignored hive that survives without treatment; you now how a local survivor colony.  Colony's with high pest loads tend to die off, they are not a long term disease vector. those that survive have selected for the pressures of pests and disease.

Anyone can Imagine an ignored hive that survives without treatment, and given that it usually takes varroa two years to kill off a newly-hived package, it is understandable how so many novices delude themselves into thinking that they have "survivor stock".

Worse yet, novices find apparently feral colonies with old dark combs, seemingly having survived for years without intervention, never knowing that several swarms of bees in successive years had swarmed, occupied the cavity, built combs, and then died in winter, leaving a set of combs in good condition to be frozen, and thereby purged of wax moth eggs, larvae, and adults, remaining unharmed until spring, when a new swarm from a managed colony (perhaps from the same hapless beekeeper!) would move in, and expand the combs in the hive.

And if one becomes a deliberately negligent beekeeper (these people call themselves "organic" or "treatment-free"), presiding over the deaths of nearly all one's hives for several years in a row, one can occasionally stumble upon a misleading side-effect of the carnage cause by hubris and ignorance - a hive that appears to be a "survivor" when all the others have died, one can convince oneself that one truly has something worth breeding from.  Worse yet, if one is isolated enough from other hives, both feral and managed, one can "breed from the survivor", and seem to have a group of colonies that are all "varroa-resistant", but Tom Seeley of Cornell worked through this years ago with his well-known "Arnot Forest" study.

 

What happens is that only the colonies with non-virulent varroa survive, and since the varroa have no other colonies to become established in (most often as a result of robbing of a weak colony or drifting bees), one ends up breeding less virulent varroa, ones that are not so quick to kill their host colony. 

 

While what David said is true - "Colon[ies] with high pest loads tend to die off" his second part of his claim has been shown to be false over and over again "those that survive have selected for the pressures of pests and disease".  These colonies are simply "blessed" with varroa that have been unintentionally selected to not kill their hosts.

The other diseases, such as nosema ceranae will still kill these "lucky" colonies, as will progeny of the first varroa to hitchhike on a drifting bee from another colony.  But the beekeepers who claim success at "breeding from the survivors" tend to be in isolated locations, so the delusion that they have solved the problems of beekeeping can persist for years in some cases.

 

So, long story short, movable frame hives are a requirement of law for good reason in most jurisdictions, and monitoring the health of one's hives on a regular basis is a very prudent idea for any beekeeper.  There are no magic hives, there are no magic bees, there are no guaranteed worry-free bees.  There are lots of people advocating many bogus concepts claimed to assure worry-free bees, but these people are either earnest and ignorant, or cynical exploiters of the ignorant.

 

There are some minor improvements in actual scientific bee breeding where specific traits are observed and then tested for in stock selection, such as the "Varroa Sensitive Hygenic", and the less-successful Russian/Russian hybrids, but these are also not panaceas.

Here's a link to the Tom Seeley paper I mentioned:

http://www.docstoc.com/docs/35680835/Honey-bees-of-the-Arnot-Forest-a

 

The price of honey is Eternal Vigilance, and feral colonies, or colonies left to their own devices, are nothing but factories for the creation of drifting bees that infest nearby hives, and eventually are robbed out as they weaken from diseases and pests, again, re-infesting  what would otherwise be healthy well-managed colonies owned by competent beekeepers.

 

While you may not want to be "your neighbor's keeper" like it or not, you are your neighbor's beekeeper, and he yours.

My bees can be no healthier than yours if your bees are within flight range of mine.

 

James,

 

I've read Seely and am aware of the science.  This is more of a topic for Beesource than here,

 

The one question I would ask then is; what is the explanation for individual colonies that do survive w/o treatment?  There are many colonies that have lived in a tree or a wall for many years that are not re-habitated spaces but continuous colonies

 

I am really hoping someone from Phillips will chime in and give us a little design explanation.

 

David

@James

 

I think this grouping of bees, in Arnot Forest, is an anomaly, note that is why there is an article about it. Seeley wrote that he thinks it is an issue with the varroa not the bees because if the bees where more hygienic there would by a higher mite drop rate.

 

I wonder if the varroa are not infected with viruses. It would be interesting to go back to Arnot and look at the varroa now and see their viral load.

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