An immense observation hive

Whenever someone mentions an observation hive, I remember a small and narrow glass box that I once saw in a New Jersey museum. The bees came and went through a small tube and the comb was all crushed against the glass and not all that interesting. But last week when beekeeper Carl Uhlman of Seattle sent me these pictures, I was amazed. He and his wife happened across this colossal observation hive while on vacation to an island off the northwest coast of the Netherlands. Check out his story and photos below. Thanks, Carl! Very cool.

While on a magical 13-day bike and barge vacation in the Netherlands, my wife and I stumbled across a beekeeping museum on the island of Terschelling, in or near the village of Lies.  We have had a backyard hive for over ten years so of course we were curious enough to stop and check it out.  Inside the museum we found the largest observation hive I have ever seen!

For more information on how we came to be on this remote island in The Netherlands go to the bikeandbarge.com website and look up the Friesland tour.

The beekeeping museum entrance, complete with napping beekeeper. Sadly he spoke no English and all the signage and educational material was in Dutch.
The beekeeping museum entrance, complete with napping beekeeper. Sadly he spoke no English and all the signage and educational material was in Dutch.
Large observation hive was suspended from the ceiling. For comparison, note the smaller more traditional version off to the left. The unidentified Dutch tourists help give a sense of scale. I estimate that the six plexiglass panels were each about 2 feet x 4 feet.
Large observation hive was suspended from the ceiling. For comparison, note the smaller more traditional version off to the left. The unidentified Dutch tourists help give a sense of scale. I estimate that the six plexiglass panels were each about 2 feet x 4 feet.
Close-up of the comb as viewed through the plexiglass panel. This was a very strong and active hive.
Close-up of the comb as viewed through the plexiglass panel. This was a very strong and active hive.
Slightly different angle of the large observation hive. The round area on the bottom was a screen so you could really hear and smell the hive, giving a lot of “energy” to this room. In the upper left you can kind of see the plexiglass-covered joist area where they come and go to the outside.
Slightly different angle of the large observation hive. The round area on the bottom was a screen so you could really hear and smell the hive, giving a lot of “energy” to this room. In the upper left you can kind of see the plexiglass-covered joist area where they come and go to the outside.
This picture shows the bee entrance to the large observation hive, above the window.
This picture shows the bee entrance to the large observation hive, above the window.

 

Comments

Jim Withers
Reply

Well, obviously, I want one…

Rusty
Reply

Yeah, me too.

Alan
Reply

I want one in my house! The Netherlands must be awesome.

Don John
Reply

Now how do I convince my wife that we should build one of these in our living room???

Patrick Roberts
Reply

This is interesting. I always wondered how large a hive would get if given enough space, taking into consideration the natural process of swarming.

Also, how long would this specimen have taken to reach that size?

rbuxton
Reply

Obviously one might forego the routine inspections for Varroa etc…

Nancy
Reply

Rusty – don’t the bees mind the daylight? Wonder what happens in winter. Wonder more about how they maintain this amazing display.

Wonder, indeed.

Nan

Anna
Reply

Wow, wow, wow. I WANT THAT.

Chris
Reply

Wow indeed, that was AWESOME.
*sigh* someday I hope too that I can be a napping beekeeper.

Kathy Stanford
Reply

Chris, are you a beekeeper? If not and you are interested check for local beekeeping organizations. They often have classes. I’m in TX and have had 2 hives since April 28, 2012. I took classes through the CCHBA(Collin County Hobby Beekeepers Assn.) Good luck!

Lyn
Reply

Rusty , This is AWESOME!!! Do you know where i could find out more about construction, ventilation, access for care, all the gritty details on maintenance, etc?

Lindy
Reply

Hello all of above readers, I live in the Netherlands and although I have never been to Terschelling myself I am now definitely going to see if I can make a visit in the spring. I can also try to get the information they have translated into English if anyone is interested in that. Hope this might be of use to you.

Rusty
Reply

That would be great, Lindy. I would love to know what they have to say about it, and I’m sure others are interested as well. You will have so much fun!

Robert
Reply

Things like this are why my wife does not like me on the internet. I think I have enough 5/8 plexi to make a 2 deep langstrom in my living room. Inspecting them would be a breeze. Not real sure about mite control and honey harvesting though lol. I am fairly certain she does not want bees running loose in the house.

Debbie Cook
Reply

I love this! I’m interested in getting one of these built in our city zoo……….how cool would that be?!!

frank trujillo
Reply

I want one in my bed room.

Mike Southern
Reply

I was inspired by this hive and built one for an education project I am involved with.

Have a look at my flickr set above to see how I got on.

Rusty
Reply

Mike,

OMG is that ever cool! If you leave up the pics, I will link to them from the blog. Awesome.

Mike Southern
Reply

Rusty,
Thanks for your enthusiastic response, please do include the link to my Flickr set for my observation hive.

https://flic.kr/s/aHsjEE2LDk

I plan to keep these permanently on Flickr.

As you will be able to see I have included a permanently inspectable nucleus area at the back with a debris monitoring draw and a slotted board for comb building to allow the use of ‘trickle between the combs’ type treatment. I hope that by periodically removing bars of comb and brood from the nucleus area during the early summer I will encourag new comb building in the void remaining and always keep at least a couple of combs of brood removable in that area for disease monitoring. I think if I just left them alone the brood area would eventually move out of the nucleus area completely into the main hive. I am also considering putting a super in the maintenance area above the hive this would be accessed through the hole intended for access to a syrup feeder.
We are all really excited to see how the hive progresses this year.

I am very open to any suggestions as to how I might improve the management of this hive to keep it running as a healthy long term display.

I will keep adding photos to the set as and when I can – watch this space!

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