Crowdfunding a smart, open source beehive to monitor hive-collapse


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The other bees where probably laughing at them and joking about how they needed Ipads and hipster glasses and they where driving up the prices of their near by hives.

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Serious Face:

I grew up with bees. We had 2 hives outside—just standard hives. An Orchard…a garden and lots of flowers, lots of clover in the fields; and a nearby corn field (the neighbors corn feed for their dairy cow).

But the coolest was a plexiglass hive mounted inside the house in my Dad’s study/office. Which had a bit passage way to the hive from the outside and a little landing area mounted to the outside wall.
And ‘privacy’ slide bits to shade/cover the hive that could be removed for displaying the hive.

It seems like any and all useless vanity projects are eligible for indiscriminate fanfare in the name of “Saving the bees”

(Which aren’t actually in need of saving, BTW)

What will collapse is that cute plywood box - After a year of being rained on.

The gents behind this project seem whip-smart. Unfortunately, this project has everything to do with technology and design, and nothing to do with bees, beekeeping, or bee health.
Edit: Didn’t we already do this dance last November?


Yeah… Pretty disappointing read. Sounds like they built several prototypes before they bothered looking into what the requirements were. They are basically building a very complex top bar hive, the same kind that you can slap together with the materials from a single pallet board (maybe two if you have cheap ones without many supports). There are tons of plans online including deep dives into the “why” of each of the dimensions. For anyone who is interested in keeping bees I would highly recommend you go read up on these hives from someone who has kept 100+ of them; I really enjoyed his naturalistic bee-centric approach.

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“Crowdfund an open-source beehive” sounds like it came out of a Web 2.0 Random Headline Generator.


This seems like a pretty cool concept, however I’m concerned by a few practicalities. I am a beekeeper, though a relatively new one.

  • Beekeeping is wonderful, but very challenging. If you’re interested, join a local backyard beekeeper group near where you live. You will find your fellow beekeepers to be an invaluable resource.

  • The featured hive will rot on the top and bottom very quickly. Hives are usually roofed with metal or plastic, and supported with a durable stand. The outer walls are typically painted or stained. Exposed plywood won’t hold up. You can fix that here by adding a roof, cinder blocks on bottom, and paint on the outside.

  • The hive pictured looks really small. When bees fill up a space, they tend to swarm, leaving the hive. That’s why most hives are expandable. I don’t think this hive is large enough or expandable.

  • Bees cover the inside of the hive with propolis, which is made of tree sap. It’s very sticky and difficult to remove. They use it to seal gaps and mummify intruders, like mice. This may be a concern with their sensors, which could get coated quickly.

  • Most bee hive designs are already free of patent, and plans are freely available. You can make a top-bar hive from a single plank of wood and a saw. Plans are here: This is a great book, and highly recommended.

If you’re thinking of getting into beekeeping, join a local group. It’s a lot of fun, and highly recommended! The classes tend to be very full of happy mutants.


I’m wondering where, on the list of potential causes of CCD, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide land. And I’m wondering how much of these two molecules bees produce endogenously within the hive (I’m betting zero). As Alaeric says, the sensors are likely to get covered w/ propolis PDQ - why (if you’re worried about CO & NO2 - I’m not) would you put the sensor inside the hive?

Beekeeping has a long, cool, knowledge-rich history (see Abbé Émile Warré as a starter). Slapping on buzzwords and whatever sensor is most available doesn’t seem like a good use of time to me.

Hey, but it’s Open Source! So you can add to the design, and make it bigger and less crappy, and no-one will sue you! Or something.

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How apropos – just said to the wife this morning “time to build a backyard apiary”. (there was some news teaser about how bees are a new problem in L.A.)

This really does appear to be a couple of people who want to solve a problem but haven’t done any research into why things are the way they are right now. How they got there. What choices were made and the whys behind them.

Neat LOOKING design though. Most hives are made of solid wood although lately I have seen plastic parts becoming more commonplace.

How is this better than a Langstroth hive (at least in English-speaking countries) or a Bienenwagen (German-speaking countries)?



Both are expandable, provide excellent access to the internals of the hive, and would provide access for sensors (even though bees would just cover those up).

It looks like the issue isn’t the hive structure at all. SOMEONE NEEDS TO COME UP WITH SENSORS THAT THE BEES WILL LEAVE THE HELL ALONE. SERIOUSLY. I am a beekeeper and THAT would be a huge help.

Now, I will admit, I’ve never been to LA, but I am aware of it, both from popular culture and news and so forth. Bees? Like, too many bees, or not enough? Cos if it’s too many bees, then somewhere as exuberantly problematic as LA clearly is, then they’d better be SyFy move-sized bees with frickin lasers for eyes, or it’s not allowed to be a problem…

I agree. This project was also discussed previously here.

I’m also not sure about their preference for top bar hives, which carry a bit of pseudo-scientific woo with them. The vast majority of hives are Langstroth and they are well-proven designs. You can run frames with or without starting foundation although attached foundations tend to make it easier to manage and extract honey. Here’s an exchange between one of the project (founders?) and a beekeeper in one of the project’s discussion board here.

Asked about a deficit of Langstroth designs:
“We absolutely support your efforts, and would love to host your design when its ready. Recently we’ve decided to focus our energy on biodynamic hives like Top Bars, but the more selection we have, the better.”

To which the respondent wrote:
“The style of the hive doesn’t determine if the bees are kept biodynamically or not, rather the management practices of the beekeeper.”

Indeed. Similarly, using wax foundation indicates nothing about biodynamic practice. Given that little has changed in hive design pre- and post-CCD, I wonder how the project will make a serious contribution to investigating causes. They really should team up with actual field scientists who work in apiology and ask what support the researchers could actually use. Or at least become familiar with the scientific literature and research centers. Otherwise, it is more of a science-fair project.

Unfortunately I didn’t stick around for the actual news piece… My assumption was that we will all suffer horribly – hence my compulsion to foster their growth.

Just did a news search… Seems that LA City Council is voting tomorrow on whether to legalize backyard bee-keeping. Fortunately for the local news stations there were two events in the past couple of days that allow them to sound the alarm on how we are all going to die:
Desert residents shaken by ‘killer bee’ attack on 71-year-old woman -
2 Drivers Stung By More Than 600 Bees Following Car Crash In La Canada Flintridge « CBS Los Angeles

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People have already [patented][1] all sort of smart-beehive systems which makes it kind of legally iffy to approach the concept (though I’m not a patent lawyer). I know of a startup that attempted the same thing but for commerical beekeepers using standard langstroth hives and then almost got scared off when they discovered the patents. Then instead of doing the legal/business stuff to check if was a viable business model at all their engineers got carried away putting all sorts of Android phone wizardry into the hives instead of using their first cheap and simple solution.

[1]: “patented it”

So, giant laser-bees, then?

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Yep, I’m gonna need a bigger hive – does the smart hive scale?

Well, laser bees could cut the wood for their new hive.

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