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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
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    Porto, Portugal
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    Default Building my own observation hive

    As a beginner and weekend beekeeper I can hardly resist opening up my (for now only) hive every week. I plan on doing at least one split and catching a few swarms next spring and was considering getting an observation hive. The ones I've seen sold here in Portugal are not particularly interesting so I was thinking of building my own. Here's the plan I've come up with so far:

    - Building a 6 frame single wide in 3widex2high configuration that I can set on a table
    - Put plexiglass on both sides
    - Set it on a table and hold it down with a sort of A-frame style support on both ends
    - Cover it with some kind of waterproof tarp (if I put it outside)

    I've used Google sketchup to get a rough model of what I'm considering:

    http://i.imgur.com/L5H2W.png

    Here's what I'm still debating:

    - The correct inner spacing glass-to-glass. I've check Michael Bush's website on this and is 1 3/4'' (roughly 45mm) the correct measure or is that something else?
    - The space should I leave around frames so that they won't propolize small openings or build burr comb in large ones.
    - Figuring out how to make the plexiglass easy to remove/clean. Gluing the plexiglass on all sides to metal L frame and then using some pins to hold the frame in seems like a good idea[1]
    - Setting the hive inside or outside. I have a small shack I'm considering turning into a beehouse that I could house the hive in and make dark most of the time so I wouldn't need any covering on the hive. But for ease of manipulation I think I'd prefer to just set it outside on a table and cover it somehow.
    - How to deal with ventilation/opening. Would a large hive-size opening at the bottom be enough for ventilation or would a top entrance definitely be best?
    - Where to put a feeder and of what type. I'd probably be feeding honey if anything at all. I've considered just having the bottom of the hive have a ridge on both sides so that I could just dump a thin layer of honey all over the bottom and let the bees pick it up.

    Any thoughts would be much appreciated


    [1] http://s113.photobucket.com/albums/F...t=DCP_0206.jpg

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
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    Ramsey, MN USA
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    55

    Default Re: Building my own observation hive

    I've been hoping to get an observation hive at some point. The precision required is above what I'm going to be able to accomplish on a first try, but I'm sure my third observation hive will be amazing.

    I believe that the "bee space" is considered to be 1cm (close enough to 3/8" to make no difference). That means you'd want 1cm on each side of the frames. However, apparently Michael Bush has found from experience that brood can't always emerge with this spacing. His suggestion of 1 3/4" sounds like a great place to start to me!

    As to the space around the frames, I'd stick to the bee space of 1cm.

    Using a metal frame does seem like a good idea. You could also try for hinges and a latch, or even bolts with wingnuts.

    You can keep the hive inside and run PVC pipe from the entrance to the outside, but you'll probably want some sort of double gate so you can shut the bees in the hive and keep more bees from getting in through the pipe when you take it outside for manipulation. Overall, outside is probably easiest, and you should be able to cover it with wooden boards or some dark plastic without too much trouble.

    I'd definitely use only one opening. You'll want to make sure they don't overheat, so be careful about dark covering in direct sunlight, but as long as the hive doesn't experience direct sunlight, the bees shouldn't have too much trouble regulating temperature.

    I'm not sure what to suggest regarding feeding. With such a small hive, it's probably easiest to simply give them a partial (or full) frame of honey when they need feeding. If you don't have one handy, you could simply pour honey or thick sugar syrup into an empty drawn frame for feeding. Ultimately, they'll have so little room, I suspect you'll need to remove honey more often than you feed them.

    I think it's best to consider the observation hive as expendable. You have a decent shot at keeping it alive for a few months, but it's probably not going to last a cold winter and you'll get best results if you rotate in interesting frames from other hives.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
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    Panama City, Florida, USA
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    554

    Default Re: Building my own observation hive

    This is my observation hive. It sits ourside my dining room window. It has an upper entrance, a feeder jar slot and a screened bottom. It can hold either deep or medium frames. It is two frames wide, by 2 frames high with deeps, or2 frames wide by 3 frames high with mediums. My only real issue with this hive is that the queen is frequently between the frames so she is not always visible, nor the brood, etc between the frames.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/4507886...7631787992353/

    It is based off the OB hive from the DIY section here on beesource with my modifications.

    jeb

  4. #4
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    Jun 2012
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    Porto, Portugal
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    Default Re: Building my own observation hive

    Quote Originally Posted by Deamiter View Post
    I've been hoping to get an observation hive at some point. The precision required is above what I'm going to be able to accomplish on a first try, but I'm sure my third observation hive will be amazing.

    I believe that the "bee space" is considered to be 1cm (close enough to 3/8" to make no difference). That means you'd want 1cm on each side of the frames. However, apparently Michael Bush has found from experience that brood can't always emerge with this spacing. His suggestion of 1 3/4" sounds like a great place to start to me!
    Just so we're clear that's the interior measurement glass to glass including the frame width, right?

    Quote Originally Posted by Deamiter View Post
    You can keep the hive inside and run PVC pipe from the entrance to the outside, but you'll probably want some sort of double gate so you can shut the bees in the hive and keep more bees from getting in through the pipe when you take it outside for manipulation. Overall, outside is probably easiest, and you should be able to cover it with wooden boards or some dark plastic without too much trouble.
    I have an old building I can use so I've decided to put it inside. It will be easier to setup cameras to film it and I can just open it up right there with no issue. The only problem I see is bees getting out while I manipulate it and then not being able to navigate back in once I close it up. Maybe having a second small entrance that I can plug/unplug would be good for this purpose.

    Quote Originally Posted by Deamiter View Post
    I'd definitely use only one opening. You'll want to make sure they don't overheat, so be careful about dark covering in direct sunlight, but as long as the hive doesn't experience direct sunlight, the bees shouldn't have too much trouble regulating temperature.
    One opening on the top with PVC piping to the outside should be enough. I'll have to come up with some kind of mouse guard for the entrance but that should be easy. Is a ~2inch PVC pipe enough of an entrance? Even if it has some hardware cloth as a mouse guard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Deamiter View Post
    I'm not sure what to suggest regarding feeding. With such a small hive, it's probably easiest to simply give them a partial (or full) frame of honey when they need feeding. If you don't have one handy, you could simply pour honey or thick sugar syrup into an empty drawn frame for feeding. Ultimately, they'll have so little room, I suspect you'll need to remove honey more often than you feed them.
    I think the simple solution of having a small "pool" all along the bottom that I can poor honey/syrup into should work fine. The hive bottom is going to be ~120cm long by ~4cm wide so with a 1 cm depth I can get around half a liter of honey/syrup hopefully without the bees drowning in it. I can setup some kind of entrance to be able to use one of my bigger feeders if needed. Not needing to weatherproof it makes things simpler.

    Quote Originally Posted by Deamiter View Post
    I think it's best to consider the observation hive as expendable. You have a decent shot at keeping it alive for a few months, but it's probably not going to last a cold winter and you'll get best results if you rotate in interesting frames from other hives.
    Our winters are rarely ever cold. I just did some analytics on our weather data for another project and the three winter months (Dec,Jan,Feb) average only ~30% of the time below 45F (either night time or colder days, haven't checked). It rarely ever goes below freezing either. And since I'll be keeping the hive inside a building the worst of the cold shouldn't really get to it, although it won't have direct sun either. I figure I can use it as a nuc that I can keep a particularly detailed eye on. I wonder if an observation hive would be a good fit for queen grafting.

  5. #5
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    Jun 2012
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    Porto, Portugal
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    122

    Default Re: Building my own observation hive

    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    This is my observation hive. It sits ourside my dining room window. It has an upper entrance, a feeder jar slot and a screened bottom. It can hold either deep or medium frames. It is two frames wide, by 2 frames high with deeps, or2 frames wide by 3 frames high with mediums.
    It looks great. A couple of questions:

    - How does it open/close?
    - How do you cover it?
    - What kind of glass are you using? does it stay that clean all the time?
    - You seem to have some cross comb going to the glass, is the bee space too large? How much space is there glass-to-glass in total? How far apart are the frames set?

    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    My only real issue with this hive is that the queen is frequently between the frames so she is not always visible, nor the brood, etc between the frames.
    Yep, this is why I wanted to do a single wide. I figured I had the space anyway so might as well maximize it's learning value.

  6. #6
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    Oct 2009
    Location
    Panama City, Florida, USA
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    554

    Default Re: Building my own observation hive

    The top is hinged. You open the top and slide the glass up and out. Place the frames with bees on them in from the side with the glass out then slide the glass back in and close the top.

    This hive was built for 1 1/4" spacing which was a tad to close with frames that are drawn to deeply. So the second groove(which was initially for the cover) was used for the glass instead. This gives just a rd too much room, resulting in cross comb. The dimensions on the file were changed to allow proper bee space with 1 3/8" spacing.

    I generally load this hive with the same brood/stores as you would a 5 frame medium nuc.

    I give it three frames of brood and one of honey. Let it build it's own queen. One it builds up to completely full of bees I move all to a 10 frame box and start over from scratch with the OB hive. Usually get 2 to 3 complete hives a season this way. An added bonus is I can tell when the honey flow starts( it's obvious when they start filling the frames). Also when pests(SHB) populations begin to increase.

    The glass is just standard glass. Tempered would be better.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Ramsey, MN USA
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    55

    Default Re: Building my own observation hive

    Yes, 1 3/4" is interior to interior including the frame width. If possible, it would be best to include some adjustable shims to allow small variation in the glass position. You'll be adding fully-drawn frames that might not be quite centered, so if you get a lot of burr comb, you could move the glass in a bit to get back to the 1cm space between comb and glass that the bees prefer.

    A 2" PVC pipe should be great, and it can even be meters long if necessary as the bees will find their way out eventually.

    I'm not sure what to do about the second small entrance. The bees will certainly fan their pheremones and call the wayward girls back in. You might just have to experiment. Assuming there is no sugar in the shed (!), you should simply be able to return after dusk and stop it up without much trouble. Another good trick is to unblock a window in the dark shed and the bees will fly toward the light. When they've collected at the window, you can open it quickly and let them all out pretty easily.

    Ultimately, they'll be replacing bees, so you don't need to worry too much about losing some, but if you bump a frame and knock off a few hundred bees, it could be half your observation hive flying around in your shed!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Columbia, Missouri, usa
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    207

    Default Re: Building my own observation hive

    My entrance pvc pipe is 1 1/4 inches id and 24 inches long.. It is plenty big enough. The hive sets in my enclosed porch and I remove the bees at least twice a year - to a 10 frame hive body in my back yard. Then I return one frame of brood and let them make their own queen.

    Since I did not want to put a hole in the side of my house, I raised the window, removed the screen, cut and placed a 2 x 4 in the bottom of the window and lowerd the sliding glass window on to it. The 2x4 has a hole in it just large enough for the pvc pipe to fit though.

    I beleive you will run into problems just pouring honey into the bottom of your hive. You will need some venalation coming up through the bottom and out the top. Make a mount for a pint jar w/ small holes in the lid. I put a # 8 screen under mine- that way I can remove the jar to refill about once a month but the bees can not get out.

    The ob hiveworks great. I have leaarned more about bees with it than all the other bees that I have. Also everyone in the neighborhood has been over here to see it.

  9. #9
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    Apr 2003
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    Greenville, TX, USA
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  10. #10
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    Jan 2011
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    Great Falls Montana
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    Default Re: Building my own observation hive

    I have been studying plans and my question is, if the bees build burr comb and attach it to the glass, how do you take the glass off without pulling frames apart or the glass breaking? Just do not let it get that bad?

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
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    new castle delaware usa
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    169

    Default Re: Building my own observation hive

    Open the door slowly, it breaks away, if not a long knife or a venetian blind blade. Good aforethought though, my friend unlocked his and just opened it ,out came the frame with the Queen and brood with bees,smacked the floor, bees everywhere in the shop. he put it back in, I showed up just after that happened, he couldn`t find his Queen in there, I was looking at all the bees in the window and there she was in the spiderwebs in the window, I caught her and put her back in , we opened the door turned lights out and stapled black cloth on the windows they flew out the door , I guess they found the tube.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Ramsey, MN USA
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    Default Re: Building my own observation hive

    Vance,

    As you said, "don't let it get that bad." Observation hives take some maintenance and part of that is cleaning burr comb and propolis off the glass necessary. If they're building a significant amount of burr comb, you probably need to adjust the spacing between comb and glass -- maybe find a thicker frame from another hive or adjust the spacing mechanically if your observation hive has a little slop built in.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Porto, Portugal
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    122

    Default Re: Building my own observation hive

    Wow, this thread is almost a year and a half old. Finally got around to building this thing:

    http://blog.corujas.net/building-an-observation-hive

    I'm really happy with how it turned out. Now I need to install it and wait for the right time to do a split into it.

  14. #14
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    Mar 2009
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    new castle delaware usa
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    Default Re: Building my own observation hive

    Pedrocr, Well how bout a pic with bees in it ,looks good. I`m wondering if bees made comb in the space separating the rows. ,,,Pete ,,,,N3SKI

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
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    Porto, Portugal
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    122

    Default Re: Building my own observation hive

    Quote Originally Posted by oldiron56 View Post
    Pedrocr, Well how bout a pic with bees in it ,looks good. I`m wondering if bees made comb in the space separating the rows. ,,,Pete ,,,,N3SKI
    Haven't put the bees in yet. I'll probably do a split into it soon. I still need to finish placing this permanently.

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