Considerations before you buy or build your observation hive


An observation hive built by Frank Linton.
Photo by Douglas Schauss. Used with permission. Originally published on, June 25, 2013.

Whether you buy your observation hive or build it yourself, you should keep in mind the following points:

  1. Location: Select one that is both good for you and good for the bees,
  2. Safety: You must set things up so that both the bees and the people they share the space with are safe,
  3. Light: You will need a bright light to see the bees’ activities clearly,
  4. Working site: You will need a place to work the hive,
  5. Weight: You must be able to move the hive easily to the place where you will work it,
  6. Closures: You will need to seal the hive entrances before you move it,
  7. Backup hive: Most sources note that an observation hive should have a normal hive as backup,
  8. Standard size frames: These are a must for operating and maintaining the hive. And movable frames are required by law in most jurisdictions.
  9. Parasites, pests, and predators: Make plans for how you will prevent these, and how you will treat them,
  10. Swarms happen: You will need to be prepared to preempt them, and when necessary, to capture them,
  11. Feeding: Be prepared to feed the colony as needed, the amount of feed they need will vary greatly over the course of a year,
  12. Cleaning: Bees coat the interior of their hives with propolis, including the viewing panes, you will have to clean these occasionally,
  13. Overwintering: In most observation hives the bees cannot cluster, you must keep the colony at 65°F or warmer,
  14. Summering: Several blog posters mention melting the comb in their observation hive by leaving it in the sun; don’t do that,
  15. Beekeeping: Keeping bees is a skill; you don’t have to do a lot, but you have to know a lot, if you are not already a beekeeper, practice beekeeping with a standard hive for a year or two before trying to operate an observation hive,
  16. Bee space: Be sure it is right; when there is more than one layer of bees between the glass and the comb you will see very little.



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