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Urban beekeeping: 10 hives to produce honey at home

Urban beekeeping: 10 hives to produce honey at home

The guide includes the main complements necessary to guarantee the success of the first care with the colony of honey bees, as well as the safety of the beginning beekeeper.

Smokers to work with the combs without the bees concentrating and showing their nervousness, feeders, scrapers, uncapping brushes, uncapping combs, protective equipment, etc., can be improvised or purchased online.

The essential complement, on the acquisition of which it is necessary to contact (through the Internet or through a store or local association) with an expert, is one or more fertilized queen bees, as well as the initial colony of honey bees.

It is also possible to transport a wild colony to the hive, or to attract some wild specimens by incorporating a honeycomb with beeswax inside the hive, since the attractive smell will facilitate the possible exploration of wild swarms.

1. Horizontal hive (top-bar)

The horizontal hive has a limited capacity as its design prevents adding supers and therefore adding additional combs as the colony reproduces.

Due to the technological simplicity of its design, many experts recommend its use among new beekeepers, who can make their own hive (from forums and electronic manuals, for example) without knowledge or investment other than time and materials. Our friend Sami Grover, editor of TreeHugger, exposes the main advantages of horizontal hives (top-bar), very widespread among artisanal beekeepers, especially in Africa.

The horizontal design makes the design cheaper, does not require the use of framed combs, is easier to handle and produces more wax, because the comb is squeezed to extract the honey.

In contrast, the horizontal design produces less honey and the comb is not completely uniform, which makes it difficult to move and exchange combs according to the evolution and needs of the hive.

Also, honeycombs are more fragile, especially in environments with fluctuating temperatures, cold winters and frequent frosts.


2. Lusitana Beehive

The Lusitana is one of the most compact vertical hives, easy to find (new or used) in the Iberian Peninsula, due to its use in the north of Portugal.

The brood chamber has dimensions of 37x38x31 centimeters, and the rear has half the thickness (37x38x16 cm), making it a design suitable for rainy climates (the colony takes refuge in concentrated combs in little space) and reduced environments. , such as balconies or terraces.

Despite its small size, a full supers contains 13 kilograms, between honey and wax. Its total capacity reaches 43.5 liters and it is capable of housing a colony of 50,000 bees.

3. Layens hive


Starting in the second half of the 19th century, various beekeepers introduced technical improvements to the popularized vertical hive, coinciding with the advent of the Enlightenment.

Georges de Layens, its inventor, modified in 1874 the size of a mobile frame hive to increase the surface of the frames, or wooden structure that supports the combs.

Thanks to this modification, layens hives are capable of harboring colonies of up to 70,000 bees, the most numerous, which affects the productivity of each hive and has facilitated the expansion of their use.

Spanish honey production depends to a large extent on this type of hive, whose box contains 12 frames. It does not use honey supers, which facilitates its transport, following the flowering of the different species.


4. Dadant hive

Designed by the American Charles Dadant, the size of his paintings, only smaller than those of the Layens hive, became the de facto standard in many countries.

It has 11 frames in the brood chamber, while the adaptation of Buckfast Abbey has 12 frames. It houses up to 65,000 abrjas and its capacity is only surpassed by the Layens hives with various hives. A certain knowledge is required to be able to manipulate the brood chamber and the different supers, whose weight, especially when the bees have formed the combs, makes access to the different floors difficult.

5. Langstroth hive

The American beekeeper Lorenzo Langstroth patented this vertical hive in 1852. Its adoption multiplied the production of honey in North America and Europe,


due to the ease of manipulating your mobile frames and hikes. The movable frame makes it easy to handle and allows the hive to be divided in two and, as the colony of bees increases and the numbers increase, it is possible to increase the brood chamber and the honey storage space. By being articulated, the Langstroth hive facilitates the manipulation of supers, which can be repositioned to produce honey after emptying. Its articulated nature does not affect the protection of the colony, due to its size, somewhat more compact than the Layens and Dadant hives. Its tables are smaller and houses up to 45,000 bees, and its 42.5-liter capacity is far from the 54 of the D

adant. Despite this, many beekeepers believe that the Langstroth is the best vertical hive for its modularity and ease of handling.


6. Warré hive

Developed by the French monk Émile Warré (1867-1951), it is a hive designed for the rational management of colonies, consisting of separating the honey without affecting the brood.

It uses upper bars, which allows to keep the supers separate; with more parts, their manufacture and maintenance are more thorough. Of course, the additional pieces improve the living conditions of the colonies, which affects the production of wax and honey. The Warré hive was developed to reduce the intrusiveness of vertical hives and gives the colony the freedom to make their own combs, in addition to improving ventilation.

With these changes, Warré was responding to the decline in the honey bee population that he had observed in France since his youth. He reached the final version of the hive, described in his book L’Apiculture pour tous after experimenting with 350 designs.

The final design takes the advantages of the horizontal hive (greater freedom and comfort for the bees) and the vertical (modularity, expandability, increased production). Its use is especially indicated in cold climates, due to the thermal retention of its compartments, and it is only opened once a year: during harvest.

New designs


7. Beehaus (Omlet)

Several independent companies and designers have developed their own beehives, aimed at a beginning urban audience. The small British company Omlet markets Beehaus, a compact, horizontal hive that, because of its neat and compact plastic exterior, has been called "the Mac of the hives."

Beehaus is, according to Omlet, a plastic hive for the urban conservationist, willing to dedicate some of his spare time to take care of his colony of honey bees and, as a reward, to obtain a homegrown organic honey without leaving home.

The hive includes standard hive frames and makes it easier to handle, less disruptive to bees, making the beginner beekeeper's job easier.

It has two openings, one at each end of its rectangular and horizontal shape, and there is enough space to accommodate up to 22 frames. When the colony expands, the interior has been developed so that the beekeeper chooses to expand the colony (and thus the production of honey and wax); or divide it in two to start a second colony.

The triple insulation of the inner chamber maintains the temperature in the colony throughout the year.


8. Andrew Riiska Beehive (100xBTR)

Los Angeles design studio 100xBTR has collaborated with designer Andrew Riiska to create a hive reminiscent of traditional Japanese beekeeping.

The beehive, made of wood, has several floors and an elongated structure, with a rough and minimalist design, following the precepts of the traditional wabi-sabi (rustic simplicity) design, also present in the impermanent gardens of the Asian country.

The design emulates the honey production of wild colonies, always vertical. The Los Angeles design studio used a CNC printing and modeling machine to engrave a logo made up of several hexagonal cells on the outside.

9. Hanging Beehive (Seungjae Oh)


Designer Seungjae Oh draws inspiration from nature's designs (biomimicry) to create a beehive with biodegradable materials, the shape of which emulates the hanging swarms that some honey bees form on trees. Both the exterior appearance and the interior design take rough and natural forms, turning the hive into a design element on a balcony or terrace.

10. BeeCrib (Victoria University, New Zealand)

A group of design students from the University of Victoria in New Zealand have created BeeCrib, a small horizontal hive with legs that, hence its name (bee's cradle), is reminiscent of a traditional wooden cradle. BeeCrib that can be printed on recyclable material by a CNC machine (3D printing). Its open source design can be "printed" and assembled without glue, using on-demand furniture and object printing services like Ponoko.

BeeCrib includes a removable bottom panel for monitoring, observation window and interchangeable apertures. Future


11. Urban Beehive (Philips, conceptual design)

Philips has included in its concept house Microbial Home an urban beehive whose sleek and futuristic design evokes natural forms (biomimetics).

Urban Beehive is an urban hive in the shape of a chrysalis or wild swarm that incorporates a small space for a plant on its back.

Philips' idea is to include honey production inside an urban home, integrated with the naturalness of indoor plants.

In Microbial Home, Philips turns the interior of the house into an interrelated ecosystem, taking ideas from permaculture. It is, for now, a conceptual design.

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