plans for an observation hive
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  1. #1
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    Jul 2015
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    Default please review our plans for an observation hive

    We are working on some plans to build an observation hive.
    It will be in our living room, year round, with an access tube to get outside.
    We would appreciate any input if you feel there is anything we need to modify before we build this.

    We plan on three boxes, each housing three deep frames.

    plan1.jpg

    The end walls will be 3/4" wood, and the side walls will be plexiglass.

    plan2.jpg

    Each end wall will have a ventilation hole covered with mesh. We are thinking of 1" diameter for each hole. Does this sound like too much or too little ventilation. Being only 1" we could cover with a cork if needed to close up.

    plan3.jpg

    A bottom board, 2" tall, with a hole with tube to go outside.
    The bottom board will also have a section of wood on one end that can be removed to insert OAV as needed.

    plan4.jpg

    Dimensions of the boxes. 9 5/8" high, 4 1/2" between the glass (inside dimension), 19 7/8" outside along the length.

    plan7.jpg

    End piece is 3/4" thick piece of wood, with 3/8" rabbet. Inside dimension between two end pieces would be 18 3/8".

    Will also make an inner cover and top cover.
    Feed hive through a division board feeder in top box as needed. There will be a hole with cork in the top cover to give access to filling the feeder.
    We will close off the tube inside and out when we need to take the hive outside for maintenance.
    Does this sound too heavy - three boxes high, housing 9 frames max.
    Hive will have foundationless frames.
    We have other hives outside for swapping out resources as needed.
    We might put latches on the sides to latch the boxes together in case of bumps.

    Is there anything we haven't thought of? Any potential issues with this design?
    Thanks for your input.
    Last edited by razoo; 12-31-2016 at 09:21 PM.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
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    College Park, MD
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    Default Re: please review our plans for an observation hive

    These plans look pretty good, but I would make a few changes. First of all, the hive is going to be way too heavy to lift. Taking it outside for inspection will be a nightmare.
    The ventilation is also a problem. The access tube will be enough for ventilation. Putting holes on every box will over ventilate the hive, especially since it is indoors. This will cause the bees to swarm.
    The bottom board is too high. You have 2 inches of space below the frames; the bees will build comb in there.

    -ProfessorB

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    ACT, Australia
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    Default Re: please review our plans for an observation hive

    I had something very similar many years ago when my children were young; every kid should have an observation hive IMO :-)
    If access to the outside for maintenance is via fairly even/level floors you can ameloriate any weight issues by putting castors under the bottom board.
    This would also allow you run the access tube through the floor and reduce the height of the bottom board as otherwise you'll get brace comb in there as ProfessorB has warned.
    I'd reduce or even remove ventilation into the room or at least make it closable. Our heating, cooling etc cycles are out of sync with theirs so they need some insulation from our world and when they're busily trying to dehydrate nectar you'll want a bit of insulation from their world.
    The access tube can and should be their primary ventilation source. I think I used 50mm (2 inch) silicon tubing for this. If I was doing it again I'd pour some pond-sealant or textured paint down the tube carefully to give the bees some traction on one side whilst still retaining some visibility.

    Visibility is the big downside of an observation multiple frames wide unfortunately; the bees prefer it but it limits your ability to observe what is going on and.. isn't that the point of an observation hive?

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Lottsburg, Virginia USA
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    1,745

    Default Re: please review our plans for an observation hive

    I have ventilation holes along the bottom and also on the top of my OH they are covered with1/8" hardware cloth. The ones the bees don't like they propolise closed. I also remove the propolis from the top ones when I need to treat with 50% formic acid by soaking cotton balls with formic squeezing out excess and placing them in the top vent holes, also opening up the bottom holes at this time you can see the mite drop. Another thing to think about is to provide a means of feeding syrup.

  6. #5
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    Jul 2015
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    Baltimore, Maryland
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    Default Re: please review our plans for an observation hive

    It sounds like you all agree that I am planning on too much ventilation, especially since air into the OH would be from inside our house, which is not the same as the outside temps.

    If the only ventilation is through a two inch access tube would the bees be able to keep their hive well ventilated and get in sufficient fresh air? The access tube in our case would be about 12 inches long.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: please review our plans for an observation hive

    I prefer one deep for several reasons. It is difficult to inspect an observation hive other than taking it outdoors and I want to minimize that. So I want to see everything that goes on so I can tell when wax moths are starting to take over or it's very unpopulated. I also want to be able to find the queen EVERY TIME I look at the colony so I can get good at finding queens. Also everyone who looks at an observation hive wants to see the queen and wants to see brood. So I make them only one frame deep. I have no real use for an indoor hive where I can't see everything.

    I need a hive I can pick up and carry outside by myself so I can inspect it. That means anything more than four deep frames or five medium frames is just too much. Three deep frames is fine and anything smaller is too small to survive the winter. Four medium frames is fine.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  8. #7

    Default Re: please review our plans for an observation hive

    A German has build this one:



    Insulated windows all the way round, all four sides. One window is split in three parts that can be removed to get access to the hive. It got a mesh bottom board and insulation panels covering the windows.

    Fixed comb in observation hives is great, because the combs are attached to the walls and the observer actually can see what is going on within a cell. With frames, well, you see frames from the sides.

    These are pictures from my own observation hives.

    Drawing a queen cup:


    Bee with chewing gum: (Note how the bees uses a mandible as a spatula.)


    Close view of trophallaxis:






    Bees storing nectar.















  9. #8
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    Jul 2014
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    Default Re: please review our plans for an observation hive

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    I prefer one deep for several reasons. It is difficult to inspect an observation hive other than taking it outdoors and I want to minimize that. So I want to see everything that goes on so I can tell when wax moths are starting to take over or it's very unpopulated. I also want to be able to find the queen EVERY TIME I look at the colony so I can get good at finding queens. Also everyone who looks at an observation hive wants to see the queen and wants to see brood. So I make them only one frame deep. I have no real use for an indoor hive where I can't see everything.

    I need a hive I can pick up and carry outside by myself so I can inspect it. That means anything more than four deep frames or five medium frames is just too much. Three deep frames is fine and anything smaller is too small to survive the winter. Four medium frames is fine.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesobservationhives.htm
    I totally agree. If you are showing off your hive and the Queen is not viewable, what's the point.
    www.facebook.com/hives2honey Oxalic Vaporizers, supplement and more!!!!!! Check me out.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: please review our plans for an observation hive

    Thanks for all the feedback. Back to the drawing board!
    We are concerned about how the hive would cope if there are only threev frames total?
    How do suggest we manage the hive with only three frames? Does one swap out frames with the outside hives more frequently?

  11. #10
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    Default Re: please review our plans for an observation hive

    >We are concerned about how the hive would cope if there are only threev frames total?

    They boom and bust, but that's the nature of such a small hive.

    >How do suggest we manage the hive with only three frames? Does one swap out frames with the outside hives more frequently?

    Yes. You need a support hive (or more than one) so you can steal some brood when they get too strong and give them a frame of brood and bees when they are too weak or steal some honey and pollen for them when they are too week or steal some honey when they are out of room. It requires a bit more babying, but I think it's worth it.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  12. #11
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    Default Re: please review our plans for an observation hive

    Nice stuff on here, and on your page Mr. Bush.
    Stuck in Texas. Learning Permaculture in drought, flood and strange weather. The bees are still alive.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: please review our plans for an observation hive

    Thanks for all the input. Son spent the whole day starting to build his OH.

    We have one more question for you. What diameter should we use for the access tube? At this stage this tube is the only ventilation planned. It will be about 12 inches long for the OH and out the window.
    Is a 1 1/2 inch diameter tube too big?

  14. #13
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    Default Re: please review our plans for an observation hive

    >We have one more question for you. What diameter should we use for the access tube? At this stage this tube is the only ventilation planned. It will be about 12 inches long for the OH and out the window.
    Is a 1 1/2 inch diameter tube too big?

    I haven't done 1 1/2" but I'm sure it will work. I've usually done 1 1/4" but I think 3/4" would work fine and require smaller holes and be more defensible.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  15. #14
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    Default Re: please review our plans for an observation hive

    I had an ob hive once with about 3 feet of clear silicon tube that needed to go up.about 2 feet to the entrance.
    I started with 1" tube and found the bees kept getting into traffic jams in the vertical section.
    I increased the size of the tube to two inches and roughened up part of the wall and they coped much better.
    The location they were in got a lot of sun through a glass window with outsude temps up around 40 degrees C and the hive was big (reaching 4x 4-frame glass sided boxes at its peak) so it was pretty extreme..

  16. #15
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    Richmond, VA UNITED STATES
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    Default Re: please review our plans for an observation hive

    Those are amazing pictures. I've always struggled getting good pics off of my hive. i always seem to have a glare. It has double pane safety glass, which may be part of my problem. Do you use any particular setup for taking such great pictures?

  17. #16
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    Default Re: plans for an observation hive

    Just a couple items from my experience over the past 15 years or so with observation hives.

    1. The bees will tend to propolize everything but the bottom of the hive You may want to screen the bottom of your observation hive, and then make a cover for that screen. In the summer, it may be hard for them to dry out the honey if the hive is too sealed. It's also great to have the screen open in the spring so you can hear the piping of virgins in swarm cells. The buzzing sound also lets you know if they are active. You do want a tray underneath if you leave it open as all kinds of debris drops through.
    2. You will need to be able to feed them, and possibly give them a pollen substitute. Btuild in an option for a feeder somehow. One way is to drill a 1" hole opposite the entrance tube and get a 1" Electrical conduit plug. It's got metal teeth on it. Then, build a feeder, probably mason jar with holes, and a way to make it bee tight so you can just push a piece of pvc in the 1" hole. Measure the outside diameter of PVC, plugs, etc so you have parts that fit snugly. 1" is just an example. It could be 7/8". Just try out the dimensions.
    3. During the spring and summer some rainy days, the tube will have condensation and can wet the inside of the tube. That's the benefit of a larger tube with smaller fittings on the end. The tube can get wet, and bee wings can get caught, and you can get an impossible jam of bees. That is VERY hard to clean out. Just so you know, I could make my hive airtight, and I reversed my shop vac one time and blew them out of the tube to the outside and everything was fine. Now, I ventilate the tube by drilling a bunch of small holes. This also gives them traction as the inside of clear PVC and rubber can be too slick for them to walk out if there is an incline.
    4. I wish I installed a strip of led lights in mine inside, behind the glass. It would make it easier to see things. I get a glare when I light from the same side I'm on.
    5. I put cabinet doors on mine. It doesn't make a big deal, but you can see things. This year, I annoyed a hive beetle by shining a bright light and making him move until a bee caught him.
    6. I basically have a 6 frame, 3 deep, 3 medium, and I can carry it when it's full, but it's heavy. When I design the next one, I'll build a supering option with a queen excluder, as they just fill it up too quickly in the spring. The honey is the heaviest, so if you can set up the excluder, possibly a box that can hold several frames up top, that's going to give you honey, help with management, and you're more likely to see the queen and watch the brood development.

    Rob.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: plans for an observation hive


  19. #18
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    Default Re: plans for an observation hive

    Quote Originally Posted by RobWok View Post
    Just a couple items from my experience over the past 15 years or so with observation hives.

    4. I wish I installed a strip of led lights in mine inside, behind the glass. It would make it easier to see things. I get a glare when I light from the same side I'm on.
    .
    6. When I design the next one, I'll build a supering option with a queen excluder,

    Rob.
    RobWok:

    I am doing the preliminary investigation into an observation hive and the two items above intrigue me. Could you elaborate on the lighting and its placement? Also the supering.
    Thanks

  20. #19
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    Default Re: plans for an observation hive

    I just finished building mine and trying to install the girls, but thunderstorm is dampening my efforts.

    I will post pictures and a link to a YouTube video, because I think it's the most versatile, awesome o.h. on the planet!
    www.facebook.com/hives2honey Oxalic Vaporizers, supplement and more!!!!!! Check me out.

  21. #20
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    Gardner, MA, USA
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    Default Re: please review our plans for an observation hive

    Quote Originally Posted by johno View Post
    I have ventilation holes along the bottom and also on the top of my OH they are covered with1/8" hardware cloth. The ones the bees don't like they propolise closed. I also remove the propolis from the top ones when I need to treat with 50% formic acid by soaking cotton balls with formic squeezing out excess and placing them in the top vent holes, also opening up the bottom holes at this time you can see the mite drop. Another thing to think about is to provide a means of feeding syrup.
    I have a hive built off Bonterra plans. I recently purchased some formic acid to treat for mites. Do you have to put the cotton balls on the top of the hive or will placing them in a side vent work the same. How do you figure out how much and how often to treat, my hive is 4 deeps.

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