Co.Design

And Why Shouldn't You Have A Swank Gadget For Keeping Bees At Home?

Honeybees are on the decline. Urban beekeeping could help.

Five years ago, honeybee colonies started dying off. No one knows why. Some theories point to the impact of pesticide use or the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus, which is transmitted by a Varooa mite. Whatever the cause, it’s bad news for bees and the crops they pollinate. Oddly enough, bees are doing better in cities than in the countryside--which may shed light on the cause of their disappearance--and some urban dwellers have begun keeping bees to help stem their decline. Seizing on the trend, Philips recently unveiled an at-home hive, allowing anyone--anyone, that is, who isn’t deathly allergic to bee stings--the ability to harvest fresh honey from their window.

The concept is part of the Dutch electronic company’s Microbial Home design, an eco-system concept unveiled at this year’s Dutch design week. (Click here for an earlier post on the kitchen component, which is powered in part by human poop.) Pressed against an opening in a window, the Urban Beehive splits the difference between inside and out, with a flowerpot and entry passage outside and a tinted-glass shell, filled with honeycomb frames, inside. Honey can be harvested by releasing smoke into the hive and opening the top cover.

Beekeeping is still illegal in many cities. New Yorkers are in luck; the city legalized the practice last year, and beekeeping classes are available here.

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33 Comments

  • Amatrbkeepr

    I am an amateur bee keeper and have enjoyed reading the discussion going on at this site.  Will be looking forward to new input.

  • Nick Savage

    This definitely beats what my dad used to do in our backyard, smoking his bees out and getting us all stung! I think it's really interesting and don't understand why people think this is poor design. By the way, I found this on the website I'm working for Pinspire.de. We just wanted to make sure the repost is okay as we're a small Berlin based startup. If you want a link contact me at nick@pinspire.de. Cheers!

  • Brendan

    I wish people who comment here would elaborate reasons why they think this is poor design, without resorting to being cynical and using air quotes. I understand that form without function in something that is intended to have function is well, useless; however, just because it's new, doesn't mean it can't work.

    And no, saying that you're a beekeeper—and therefore know better—isn't a reason; that's like saying that you're right, just because.

  • Laughing

    An April fools if ever I saw one.

    Typical example of some university student designing something which looks pretty but with no knowledge of the subject and of course it will never work as intended.

  • pamo

    Another example of  "~design~" that's thoughtless, and is only supposed
    to look nice:
    " Hey! let's make it look like a big drop of honey! And let's make one nice hole for those bugs somewhere here and we're done!"
    Form but no function. Period.
    I'll put it in my "Designer Wannabies" box.

  • Daniel Morgan

    At first I thought this required a hole in your glass window, which might have been a neat idea. Instead, it's set design for Meet the Parents 3. You know that time when the bees sting everyone and the Ben Stiller dies. 

  • Johnthebeeman

    Surely this cannot be SERIOUS is it someones idea of a joke.as a beekeeper of a number of years i can see this would be totally impractical & totally unworkable. to say nothing of the stress it would cause to the bees.

  • RowBearTow

    This is bullshit. It's like the ant-farm version of beekeeping. What idiot would smoke their bees and open the hive from INSIDE their house? Moronic. A colony of bees wouldn't survive more than a season in this contraption. Fail. 

  • Lucia C.

    As a beekeeper I try to interfere as least as possible with bees' natural way of living. This thing is an aberration, I would never think about using it

  • WAYNE FENWICK

    The Killer bee strains from Africa that have been moving up from South America should really appreciate the warm place to live

  • PABeeman

     
    , please get real.  No one has given any kind of reason?  You apparently fail to read for comprehension.  Here, let me help you out:

    "Bee space is 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch. The bees will leave any gaps of this size open. The bees will build comb in any space larger than this, and they will seal any gaps smaller than this with propolis. So... the pretty glass bubble will quickly be covered in a mess of comb, and the access panel would soon be glued shut by the bees with propolis."

    "As to the legality, only hives with movable frames are legal for use in many jurisdictions"

    "Bees need ventilation to enable themselves to regulate the temperature - direct sunlight, like this, would inevitably fry the poor wee souls. "

    "A colony needs a food/water source"

    "A healthy colony number will, depending on breed, shrink down to 5000 during winter and up to 70,000 during the summer"

    ""releasing smoke and opening the top cover" into your apartment? Boy, that's going to be a fun day. When you release the smoke it will either 1) chase all the bees away and you'll lose the hive, or 2) make them flee into your apartment when you open the top"

    "All of that to say that a bee hive MUST be opened on a somewhat regular basis to inspect for those said diseases, pests and negative affects on the colony."

    There now, starting to get the picture?  Good.  Now go re-read all the comments and get the full gist of why this design is inappropriate and unworkable as it stands now.  Also, might I suggest you read up on beekeeping, take a class or two, and become educated on the subject before commenting.  Helps avoid foot-in-mouth disease.

  • Dandouma

    This design is completely unworkable (and possibly not legal) as a functioning bee hive. When designing a hive, it is important to understand the concept of 'bee space'. Bee space is 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch. The bees will leave any gaps of this size open. The bees will build comb in any space larger than this, and they will seal any gaps smaller than this with propolis. So... the pretty glass bubble will quickly be covered in a mess of comb, and the access panel would soon be glued shut by the bees with propolis.
    As to the legality, only hives with movable frames are legal for use in many jurisdictions. The beekeeper must have the ability to remove and inspect individual combs for a hive to be maintained in a healthy state (and due to exotic diseases and parasites introduced from other bee species a honeybee colony is completely dependent on the beekeeper for it's long-term survival).
    There is a reason the modern beehive has changed very little since it's invention in the late 1800's; there are very few practical ways to design an artificial hive, and this is not one of them.

  • Bad Boy Bee

    Just a couple of points/difficulties with design:
    1 Bees need ventilation to enable themselves to regulate the temperature - direct sunlight, like this, would inevitably fry the poor wee souls.
    2 Regular inspections are required to estimate egg production, food, disease, build up and expansion.
    3 Smoke does not calm bees.
    4 Comb should be changed at least every two years preferably annualy.
    5 A colony needs a food/water source
    6 Handling of bees should only be carried out by trained professionals
    7 Bees will build comb vertically
    8 A healthy colony number will, depending on breed, shrink down to 5000 during winter and up to 70,000 during the summer

    I may be missing something but this seem either ill conceived or a wind up.

  • Mary Canning

    Hiveman made thoughtful realistic comments however, true! I think realistically it should function as an observation hive if the bees can enjoy an ecosystem to their liberty. As for any honey harvest, I would leave that to the bees delectation.

  • Hiveman

    Ok, so reasons this looks more like an artists concept than a practical reality:
    - combs hang down not on a diagonal. If these are artificial (plastic) combs they could be made to hang like this, but the bees would build down off them, but along the diagonal. Can't change gravity and millions of years of evolutionary patterns just 'cause it looks cool.
    - The hive is small and can't be resized. A real hive varies in size with the season - during the winter it gets smaller (1-2 feet of vertical space) and mostly dormant, during the winter it needs to have 6 feet or more of vertical space to grow in. (Thus the swarming comment. The bees will be constantly on the lookout for a better home.)
    - The queen moves from the bottom up and lays eggs along the way. Beekeepers use various tricks to keep honey and larva separate and to move her back down to the bottom of the hive occasionally. This design doesn't seem to provide that.
    - "releasing smoke and opening the top cover" into your apartment? Boy, that's going to be a fun day. When you release the smoke it will either 1) chase all the bees away and you'll lose the hive, or 2) make them flee into your apartment when you open the top. Beekeepers use smoke sparingly or not at all. I use "escape boards" to get the bees out of the honey area so I can remove the honey without the bees. See above - no way to separate bees from honey in this design.

    Should I go on? It's a very pretty design, but what works better is to use actual hives. Urban beekeepers put hives on roofs, balconies, etc with no problem and harvest lots of good honey. They're hobbyists and they'd love you to join them - professionals don't do this type of beekeeping - they're looking for pollination contracts and fast turn-over. Knowledgeable people critiquing the design is not sour grapes, it's just reality based review.