How to Build an Observation Bee Hive




Introduction: How to Build an Observation Bee Hive

This post will show you how to build an observation bee hive using two old windows and some wood from your local hardware store!

Step 1: Finding the Windows

You'll need to long windows that are close to the length of a standard beehive frame, which 480 mm in length.

Measure the height and width of the window, you'll use these measurements for the outside from of the hive.

Step 2: Marking the Outside Frame

Next, measure and mark the height of the outer frame using 70×45 mm timber.

Cut to the length the needed length for the two sides.

Step 3: Measuring the Frames

For this observation hive we are using frame sized frames.

Measure and mark out the groves need to out the frames.

Make sure the space between the frame is no more then 6–9 mm, this is called "Bee Space"

Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth figured out that a gap size of between 6–9 mm would stop bees would neither build comb nor cement closed with propolis any larger and they would.

Step 4: Routering the Frame Holds

Router out the frame holders at a depth of 10mm or a size that will allow your frames to fit.

Step 5: Measuring the Ends

Next, layout the two side pieces on the work bench.

Using frames, space out the sides as need and measure and mark the length of wood needed for the top and bottom frame.

For the extra support of the window and hinge, add an extra frame width on one of the top and bottom frames.

This is also a good time to check the if the windows will fit the frame.

Step 6: Top and Bottom

Next mark the drill point on the tops and bottoms.

Drill pilot holes for the screw before screw the frame together.

Step 7: Test and Measure

Test fit the window to the frame.

Measure and mark an extra side frame.

Cut and test fit the extra side frame.

Step 8: Frame and Piano Hinge

Screw the extra frame into the frame on the top and bottom.

Measure and mark the piano hinge on the side of the frame.

Step 9: Routering the Hinge

Router out the hinge area by 2 mm to allow the window to sit right up against the frame.

Screw the piano hinge into the frame.

Step 10: Screwing the Window

Prop up the window to the same level as the frame and drill pilot holes into the side of the window.

Next, screw the window to the piano hinge.

Step 11: Test the Frame Space

This is a good point to check that the bee hive frames fit into the hive.

Step 12: Mark and Drill the Entrance

Mark and Drill the Entrance holes for the hive.

Next drill two air holes on the top and bottom frames.

Step 13: Attaching the Back Window

Screw mesh to the inside of the top and bottom frame for air flow. This will stop the bees using it as an entrance.

Place the second window on the back of the frame.

Screw in place.

Step 14: Support Beams

As we are place this on the side wall of a shed, attach two support beams to the shed.

Step 15: Mark and Measure the Legs

Mark and measure the two legs need to support the hive.

We attached ours to an old beehive supper for added height.

Step 16: Mark an Opening

Mark and cut an opening that will hold the pipes for the entrance.

Place the hive up right on the stand and screw into the legs.

Step 17: Measure and Cut the Entrance Pipes

Measure and cut the entrance pipes, make sure to leave enough length on the outside for the door mount.

Step 18: The Outdoor Entrance

Using a piece of that is about 20mm thick, nail on a strip of wood for the landing board.

Drill two holes side by side for the entrance.

Push the pipes through the hole and mount to the outside of the shed.

Step 19: Transferring the Bees

All that's left to do is transfer the bees into the hive!

Step 20: Footage From the Observation Hive

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    Question 2 years ago on Step 15

    is it ok to make the entrance PVC pipe 10 feet long and 2'' Diameter in the observation Hive


    3 years ago

    This is fantastic! Thanks for sharing

    John deCaux
    John deCaux

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you!


    3 years ago

    This is an amazing way to incorporate science into the classroom! We built an observation bee hive, such as this one, for our classroom, and the students and visiting adults just loved watching the bees every day. I recommend getting a marked queen for the hive, so that she is easier for the children to find. After just a short while, your students will be adept at pointing out the queen and the drones, and letting you know that all of the rest of the bees are workers!

    At a time when bee populations are at a tragic rapid decline--for much of our food supply depends on them, after all--what better way to introduce children to the intrigue, mystery, and absolute fascination of bees, beekeeping, pollination, and the making of honey! Right before their eyes!

    I've included some photos of our observation hive. In addition, we incorporated a nine-week unit study about bees and honey. Also, included are photos of the students' lapbook project, sample worksheets, and lesson plans.

    Thanks to John deCaux for the instructions provided.


    Question 4 years ago

    Hi, I'm new to beekeeping, and I have a hive that I caught last year
    from a swam. I had a look today and there are all these dead bees that
    appear to be trapped in the queen excluder. I've replaced it with a
    stainless steel excluder with wires, is this a problem with plastic or
    do I have fat bees? Or is there another problem with this hive? Im In northern Victoria Australia, Ive not seen any hive beetle or anything else abnormal apart from them not producing any honey.

    Screen Shot 2018-11-18 at 3.39.58 pm.png

    Answer 4 years ago

    Those dead bees are drones. Though not as long as a queen, they are fatter, so struggle to get through the queen excluder. I often find a few dead drones on the tops of my excluders when I have separated brood boxes with an excluder and drones hatch from the frames in the upper box. In their attempts to get out of the hive to fly and/or mate, they get stuck in the excluder and eventually die. As their bodies dessicate and disintegrate, the worker bees will remove them from the hive. It's not a symptom of disease or anything, it's just a result of having drones hatching above an excluder, where the hive has no top entrance.
    A reason for separating brood boxes with an excluder could be to confine the queen to make it easier to find her when one comes to make splits. Another reason for having drones hatch above an excluder is one method of swarm control: namely checker boarding, i.e. removing frames from brood boxes and replacing them with empty comb, placing the original brood frames in the honey supers above the excluder. As the brood hatches above the excluder, there will inevitably be some drones get trapped above.
    Do you notice drones flying out the top of the hive when you take off the roof?
    These are drones in this picture, because of the large eyes which encompass most of their head - very large compared to a worker or a queen's eyes.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Thanks, Ive replace the plastic excluder with a metal one and i have much more bees in the top super. They are also now not so cranky when I open the hive


    Reply 4 years ago

    Very good. Yes, excluders can sometimes not just discourage queens, but workers also. I know of some beekeepers who term them 'honey excluders', because you get some hives which will store honey in the broodnest rather than the supers, causing all sorts of problems with swarming, etc.
    I know that when you open a hive with a load of drones trapped in the supers, there is a lot of buzzing (droning!) as they take flight. Can give the appearance of the hive being really angry, but it's not necessarily always the case, just harmless drones!
    Good luck with your apiaristic endeavours!


    4 years ago

    You seem very knowledgeable in beekeeping but those holes for the bees to come and go from look awfully small for an 8 frame hive to me. I used to have a 6 frame OBH with an inch wide tube and at peak season it barely supported the traffic.


    4 years ago

    That is so cool! Healthy happy bees!

    Kink Jarfold
    Kink Jarfold

    4 years ago on Step 20

    The closest I ever got to anything remotely like this was the ant farm my dad build for me when I was a kid. I enjoyed this. Nicely done. KJ