New Sun Hive Experiment

A new experimental style of bee hive called a Sun Hive is starting to turn heads. It's designed around the idea that bees managing the hive alone is what's best for bee health.

Sun Hives are a new style of beehive coming out of Germany and are starting to turn heads in Britain. This takes a very different approach to beekeeping called “apicentric”. Meaning the focus is primarily on bees as healthy pollinators while bees as honey makers is secondary and optional.

The design is pretty simple. Picture a wicker egg pointy side down split into a top half and a bottom half. The halves are held together with a board that is also used to suspend and support the hive. The bottom half has a hole, where the bees enter and exit from, with a flange coming out to make it easier to land and take off. The top half has partial curved frames for the bees to build their comb off of and cap on the top. I can only assume that the cap is there so that the hive can be expanded later to make more room for honey or just more bees. The curved frames can be removed with the comb hanging off.

 

The design can be made fairly easily, with limited materials. Basically all you need are some reeds for weaving, some minor carpentry skills, and some strings to hang it. The open interior design allows the bees to build honey comb, lay brood, and make honey as they wish. Many feel that this makes for a healthier hive. I think one of the best new aspects of this hive when it comes to bee health is the open flanged bottom. It allows for many bees to easily use the same small (easily defended) opening much better that a box hive with a same sized hole.

 

The other advantage of the entrance placement (and this is going to be a bit morbid, but it is a fact of nature and bees) is it’s one of the first designs I’ve seen where the bees don’t have to physically drag their dead sisters out of the hive. They would naturally fall out of the hive due to gravity. This would likely have a positive effect on bee health. First, less energy used. A bee is tiny and the older ones are the biggest. Dragging anything thing around that’s as big or bigger than you are can be hard work, especially if your built to fly carrying just some pollen on your legs and a tummy full of nectar. Also it minimizes hive exposure of the dead bees. If it was a disease or a parasite that killed the bee you don’t want that hanging around inside the hive, or another bee dragging it around, or handling it in any way. So this could defiantly help hive health.

 

This design has some great features. I also see some problems with it. While the hive design itself is good, the design also necessitates a much more permanent structure to hang it on. The Sun Hive simply can’t be placed on the ground, or onto a small stand like other hive designs.

 

 

It seems very limited in how much or how well it can be expanded. I would imagine that adding space for the bees on top would make this design very top heavy very quickly. And top heavy things don’t hang well.

It’s also not very portable. While many say that moving bees around is stressful to the bees, it also allows you to take a hive to warmer climates during the winter (when a colony tends to lose 15-50% of its population if not moved) to where there is more food for the bees and more to be pollinated. Also if the goal is pollination, not everything is ready to be pollinated at the same time. This design just lacks the option to take the bees to where they can pollinate (even in the same season).

 

This design makes it hard for the beekeeper help the bees stay healthy. There are not a lot of ventilation options, basically you can insulate more but you can’t really increase air flow. The frames that the bees make their comb on are not interchangeable. If something gets into some of the comb you can’t really just switch that frame out with another one that is healthier. And if it’s one of the more center combs that needs to be taken out, you will have to remove a much larger part of the colony. It also makes it difficult to lift a frame out and inspect it.

I want to make a distinction here between types beekeepers. Broadly speaking, I feel there are 2 types of beekeepers. Bee Keepers, and Bee Havers. Those who truly keep bees, and those who just have bees. I’m not saying that either is right or wrong, it’s just an important question to ask. The question is, “Are you your bees keeper?” If you just want to have bees for the sake of having bees. If you like watching them come and go, and you just want to sit back and enjoy them doing their own thing, maybe once in a blue moon peak inside and check out how cool that is, then I think this is a great hive. It looks cool just hanging up in the air out of reach and lets the bees manage any problems that might come their way. If you want to be a bee keeper, someone who works with the bees to help the colony grow, who provides better shelter in the winter and supplies food when it’s in short supply. Then I think there are many better designs out there. But the Sun Hive is a new experiment. All of my guesses are just that, guesses. It will be fun to see how this experiment goes.

 

 

 

 

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