Sources of observation hives


A drawing of an observation hive from the 1700s designed by Francis Huber. It consists of 12 wooden leaves, hinged together. It is shown opened like a fan.
Francis Huber's leaf observation hive from the late 1700s,
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1910.

Almost every honey bee supply company offers an observation hive of one sort or another. The “best” observation hive is the one that best suits your circumstances. Listed below are a few of the more popular ones; there are many others, as well as sites that offer plans for building an observation hive yourself.


Draper Hive

Draper offers a variety of hives built of various woods on the principles of fine construction and finish. They use safety glass; which is easier to clean than Plexiglas. These hives are a good choice for public locations. Their unique rotating design makes it easy to see both sides of the hive, even when the hive is mounted against a wall. Moving these hives, when full, is a two-person job. 


Ulster Observation Hive

From the Brushy Mountain Bee Farm, and others, this hive is a clever combination of a nucleus hive with a frame display window. Normally the colony would live in the nuc box but at display time, at a weekly farmers’ market, say, or on a school visit, the frame with the queen and brood can be placed in the display window; and the queen-bearing frame replaced with a feeder.


Dadant’s Observation Hive

A small hive for temporary use.


Kelley’s Observation Hive

A small hive for short-term use. Has a 1-frame extension.


Maisemore Apiaries

A UK source of observation hives.


Angus Bolton

Another UK source, Angus Bolton offers a modification of the Ulster observation hive design.

Can you recommend another source? Let us know!


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