Sunday, June 20, 2010

Observation Bee Hives

Much of what beekeepers have learned about the honey bee came from direct observation of the bees in the hive. Inspections inside the hive are important, but they should be performed infrequently, during daylight hours, and under acceptable weather conditions. To allow for further study of honey bees in their hive, observation hives are constructed. These are usually hives with walls of glass or plastic. Many observation hives are housed indoors and connected to the outside by a tube for the bees to use to enter and exit the hive. Observation hives allow people to watch the bees’ activity without disturbing the hive as much as occurs when opening the hive for inspection. Just the act of smoking a bee hive has an effect on the bees resulting from interrupting and masking hive odors and pheromones used for communications. Peace Bee Farm maintains observation hives at the Children’s Museum of Memphis. These are hives modified with windows added to allow people to look inside and see the frames and bees. Today’s photo shows museum visitors viewing the bees from inside the museum. The hives are located outside a large window at a height for easy viewing by children. The children can safely look inside the hives only inches away as well as observe the bees flying in and out of the hive entrances. Visit the Children’s Museum’s web site at

Observation bee hives offer the beekeeper certain challenges. Most indoor hives are smaller in size than regular outdoor hives. Observation hives often contain fewer frames, and the frames are close to glass windows. In the winter, it is difficult for the bees to warm the hive. In the summer, the hive may over-heat, especially if the glass is exposed to the sun. Glass placed in observation hives for windows must be fitted flush with the inside of the hive body to maintain a proper three-eights inch “bee space.” Small hive beetles frequently attack small bee hives like observation hives.

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