Making an observation hive

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BeeKeyPlayer

From Rainham, Medway (North Kent) UK
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Location
Rainham, Medway (North Kent) UK
Hive Type
National
Number of Hives
24 plus 12 owned by others
I am hoping to build a permanent observation hive. I have a 6'x4' shed in the garden which I can use solely for housing the hive. I've painted the interior white and fitted a 4' LED light.

I can't find (free) DIY plans on the web. I have Frank Linton's book which describes options but has little info on DIY construction. So I'm thinking along these lines:
  • four Standard National deep frames stacked in a single column (with the lugs chopped down a bit!)
  • bee space 8mm between top and bottom of frames, ends of frames and inner sides of hive, and the top bars of frames and glass sides
  • 35mm space between floor and bottom frame
  • safety / toughened glass (not acrylic) on both sides, held in a strong but narrow frame to allow maximum visibility
  • framed glass sides that lift off for access to inside the hive (rather than hinged)
  • 50mm PIR panels to insulate (and darken) the hive
  • entrance / exit of flexible clear pipe ~25mm bore
  • one or two mesh covered openings for ventilation; for the bees to ventilate the hive through a 1 metre pipe might be a bit of a drag!
  • options for contact feeder as an extension of floor beyond one of the sides, or above the top.
I'm not confident that a single column of frames will allow clustering sufficient for the bees to survive over winter - even though the same number of frames might be fine in a nuc.

I don't think there's much about observation hives here - apart from some horror stories about sealed temporary observation hives.

Any comments, suggestions, sources etc gratefully received.
 
Your problem will be that the size will not enough to accommodate them on a permanent basis - they will rapidly run out of space in the season and swarm or you are going to be faced with continually reducing the colony size and splitting ... and what are you going to do with the surplus bees and frames of brood ? Also - what do you do when it comes to winter ? Not ideal for overwintering - they will not be able to cluster properly and their stores will not be enough to see them through.

Sadly, the one person on here who we know had a permanent observation hive (in his house with an entrance through the wall - he preferred watching bees to watchng TV) was Dishmop ... who, sadly, died a few years ago ...

https://beekeepingforum.co.uk/threads/just-what-you-dont-want.30376/
https://beekeepingforum.co.uk/threads/it-happened.28843/

There's more if you care to look through Dishmops posts ... he was very ill towards the end so some are a bit random.

Bottom line is .... not the most practical hive except for short term observations and perhaps curiosity and study.

The easier ones to cope with are the ones that are based on a Nuc where you can pull a frame up into a glass sided compartment to allow people to see the bees at work ... but I don't think this is what you want ?
 
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I used to run an observation hive at my last house. It was made especially for me by a woodworker uncle in nicely finished light oak. It consisted of only 3 deep frames with appropriate bees-spacing. It hinged around a central pivot which also provided the entrance/exit (wastepipe through the wall) and allowed it to be turned to look at each side. The glass panels were double glazed and covered with removable oak sheets lined with thin polystyrene. There were two small mesh panels ( one removable to allow feeding). As it was in my living room it stayed warm enough!
Despite the small size the bees did well in it, though I don't remember them swarming.
This was around 25yrs ago & pre-varroa!
 
Your problem will be that the size will not enough to accommodate them on a permanent basis - they will rapidly run out of space in the season and swarm or you are going to be faced with continually reducing the colony size and splitting ... and what are you going to do with the surplus bees and frames of brood ? Also - what do you do when it comes to winter ? Not ideal for overwintering - they will not be able to cluster properly and their stores will not be enough to see them through.

Sadly, the one person on here who we know had a permanent observation hive (in his house with an entrance through the wall - he preferred watching bees to watchng TV) was Dishmop ... who, sadly, died a few years ago ...

https://beekeepingforum.co.uk/threads/just-what-you-dont-want.30376/
https://beekeepingforum.co.uk/threads/it-happened.28843/
I enjoyed that old thread!

Yes, everyone mentions space and swarming problems - but I didn't think it would be a problem to take frames of brood to other hives, hopefully without spreading anything nasty. Not ideal for over-wintering as you say... not an ideal way to keep bees at all, but I would very much like to observe them, for a while at least.
 
I used to run an observation hive at my last house. It was made especially for me by a woodworker uncle in nicely finished light oak. It consisted of only 3 deep frames with appropriate bees-spacing. It hinged around a central pivot which also provided the entrance/exit (wastepipe through the wall) and allowed it to be turned to look at each side. The glass panels were double glazed and covered with removable oak sheets lined with thin polystyrene. There were two small mesh panels ( one removable to allow feeding). As it was in my living room it stayed warm enough!
Despite the small size the bees did well in it, though I don't remember them swarming.
This was around 25yrs ago & pre-varroa!
Good to hear. I want to give it a go. I guess there wouldn't be any point in double glazing because I plan to cover with insulation.
 
Good to hear. I want to give it a go. I guess there wouldn't be any point in double glazing because I plan to cover with insulation.
There's no harm ... you can learn a lot from bee watching - as long as you are prepared to fiddle with them and perhaps stop well before the end of the season and perhaps take them through winter in Nuc ?
 
If I recall, Dishmop used to keep them in the observation hive over winter. To avoid swarming, he would constantly take brooded frames out of the OH and swap them with empty frames from the colony he kept in the garden
 
If I recall, Dishmop used to keep them in the observation hive over winter. To avoid swarming, he would constantly take brooded frames out of the OH and swap them with empty frames from the colony he kept in the garden
He did some years ... I talked to him about it quite a lot - they survived but it was on his lounge wall and quite warm, he kept frames of capped honey to feed them over winter. Not sure you would have the same success overwintering them in a garden shed though ...
 
He did some years ... I talked to him about it quite a lot - they survived but it was on his lounge wall and quite warm, he kept frames of capped honey to feed them over winter. Not sure you would have the same success overwintering them in a garden shed though ...
:iagree:
 
I remember the conversations about bee poo on his Bentley too 😃
That and the camper van he built .... he made a very convincing case for having the Bentley as a daily driver ! Sorely missed. HIs daughter took on his business, |I believe, making replica 1940's packaging and selling it to the wartime re-enacters.
 
I've a perm 4 frame display/obb hive in the study, requires managing but fine all year. Had it made in oak to my spec (not cheap) will drop some pics on here. It'll have a perm welcome soon 24/7 via my website.
 
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I've a perm 4 frame display/obb hive in the study, requires managing but fine all year. Had it made in oak to my spec (not cheap) will drop some pics on here. It'll have a perm welcome soon 24/7 via my website.
Thanks for the photo of your hive. Looks splendid. I'm more or less clear now about how I'm going to build mine. As it will be in the shed, it won't look like furniture. I'm not sure yet how to do the glass sides. They have to be in strong frames so that they don't get damaged if a bit of force is needed to break propolis seals - I guess. Your sides, top and bottom seem to be about 85mm wide? Also, what feeder arrangement have you got?

Sorry, because I don't plan to make a habit of making these, I need to try to get it right first time. Thanks for your help.
 
I've a perm 4 frame display/obb hive in the study, requires managing but fine all year. Had it made in oak to my spec (not cheap) will drop some pics on here. It'll have a perm welcome soon 24/7 via my website.
How do the bees leave the hive? Their interpretation of the waggle dance must get confused if you rotate the case!
 
Thanks for the photo of your hive. Looks splendid. I'm more or less clear now about how I'm going to build mine. As it will be in the shed, it won't look like furniture. I'm not sure yet how to do the glass sides. They have to be in strong frames so that they don't get damaged if a bit of force is needed to break propolis seals - I guess. Your sides, top and bottom seem to be about 85mm wide? Also, what feeder arrangement have you got?

Sorry, because I don't plan to make a habit of making these, I need to try to get it right first time. Thanks for your help.
Thanks, standard frames (nothing special) feeder is a simple jar on top of the unit (when required). Glass is armoured and frame is built like a tank, the whole thing is bolted to the wall.

One thing to note, you may have issues around temps if this is kept in an unheated shed.
 
How do the bees leave the hive? Their interpretation of the waggle dance must get confused if you rotate the case!
Pipe through the wall (top near wall bracket) the unit swings on the bracket from viewing both sides and the unseen side has a hinged door rather than allen bolts.

The unit does not rotate.
 
How do the bees leave the hive? Their interpretation of the waggle dance must get confused if you rotate the case!
The unit does not rotate.
wouldn't matter if it did - the dance indicates the direction in relation to the position of the sun (and they can make make corrections to allow for movement of the sun across the sky)), spinning the hive about won't change that
 

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