Making a hive into a home

Yesterday I was weeding the garden, minding my own business, when I overheard the most extraordinary conversation. I didn’t catch the whole thing, but it started like this:

“Honey, I’ve been thinking. Maybe it’s time we split from the family and found ourselves a new home. It’s getting so crowded in here, I can’t even relax. What do you think?”

“I agree,” said Queenie, backing into a cell. “The pantry is full and the nursery is overflowing. I’m running out of places to put my eggs!” She wiggled her abdomen, then paused. “But where would we go?”

He buzzed briefly before answering. “Well, there’s a cute Victorian down the street if you don’t mind pink. And that row house across the tracks—the one with all the curtains?—looks friendly enough. Why don’t I take some of the kids and scout around for some new digs?”

“Great idea!,” she said, searching for another cell. “You can start with that cute Tudor down on Elm. The balcony is to die for!”

After hearing a conversation like that, I just had to take a look for myself. You won’t believe what I found.

A Victorian style beehive, pink and white.

This Victorian hive will make a romantic home for a lucky colony. © Janice Jakielski.

One of the scouts is already peeking through the basement windows. The lower story would be great for kids. © Janice Jakielski.

Notice the detail above the windows and the shutters on the lower level. © Janice Jakielski.

The bees are making good use of the front steps. © Janice Jakielski.

Row home for bees.

The awnings are a nice touch on this row home. © Janice Jakielski.

Tudor-style bee hive.

Balcony, flower boxes, what more could you ask for in a Tudor style home? The red door is very welcoming. © Janice Jakielski.

The bees are nearly breaking the door down to see the interior of the Tudor hive. © Janice Jakielski.

The creator of these amazing bee homes, Janice Jakielski, is a ceramics professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She and her husband tend six colonies of very lucky bees in Sutton, Massachusetts. She says:

This is our third year keeping bees and while it’s an ongoing learning experience we are completely addicted. I’ve always been in love with anything miniature and indulge this love by turning my hives into scaled down houses.  I look at a lot of dollhouse designs and tutorials for inspiration. So far we have a Tudor, a Netherlands inspired row home, and the latest completed is the pink Victorian.  I’m aware that the bees don’t care what their hives look like, but I admit to getting a kick out of seeing them hanging out on the balconies or walking up and down the staircase.

For more about Janice, her work, and her honey bees be sure to check out this blog post from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. In addition, you can visit her apiary website, Please don’t miss the photos of her self-serve honey store. I told her I would like to drive the 3000 miles just for the opportunity to visit her little “shop on a post.” It’s the cutest thing ever.

Self-serve honey shop on a post. © Janice Jakielski.

Honey Bee Suite


  • Thank you Rusty for the lovely post! I love your bee conversation- glad that I’m not the only one eavesdropping on the ladies. 😉 -Janice

    • This is fantastic. I, a wood next to me, when I was trapping feral cats to TNR, a group of bees decided to completely MOVE into my cat cage! I have others so allowed them to have it. But, I am known for MAKING dollhouses, especially Victorian! The cage is so crowded – I was going to bring another one out there, but this dollhouse idea is absolutely incredible!

  • Hi Rusty,

    Can I change the subject? I live in Dallas Oregon, 15 miles west of Salem off highway 22. I started beekeeping (1 hive) last summer, I bought a nuc, fed a lot of sugar water, battled wasps, and provided a pollen patty after the winter solstice and they made it thru the winter, but there were a lot of dead bees on the floor when I inspected. The weather this year is 180 deg out from last year. Last year was extremely warm – there were bees all over the place, and this year extremely cold and wet and there doesn’t appear to be as many out and about. Being it’s below average cold and still raining I am feeding sugar water now. There’s no way I have to worry about swarming as half the frames are empty but they’re growing. In your opinion, with the weather we’re having this year, when would you expect a hive to really start booming. I think I may be a little impatient but wanted to hear what you think.


    • Steve,

      It may surprise you that I’ve been to Dallas, Oregon many times. Long story.

      Anyway, it sounds like you saw the dead bees on the floor after winter? That sounds right because bees die every day. Not surprising to see them piled up in spring.

      Yes, this has been a long, cold, wet spring. I’ve often had swarms by this time, but the colonies are lagging due to all the rainy weather. But it is gradually getting warmer, so I expect that colony buildup will soon increase. Probably by the end of May, yours will be going good. I wouldn’t worry yet. Just don’t let them starve between now and then.

  • I just LOVE these! Totally something i would do, too! They are all so unique & adorable! You are very gifted.

  • The thing to consider is that most of us reverse the boxes in spring and fall. This can mess up your design. It will take extra work to pull the frames to a non decorated box while you go through the reversing. Just a thought….

    • Kathy,

      I think “most of us” no longer reverse brood boxes, but even if you do, it would only take extra couple of minutes per hive to transfer the frames. It’s not like she’s doing thousands.

  • I love this post! My husband has been talking about redesigning our hives, as he is super talented when it comes to designing and building with wood. Love the detail in these sweet little homes! Thank you for sharing:)

  • I absolutely LOVE these. I have to say that I’m so jealous of anyone who can take a paintbrush and make their hands do what their mind sees. I just can’t do it.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.