beekeeping equipment

Observation hive extraordinaire

Inspiration for Mike’s observation hive.

Do you remember this observation hive? This photo, and several others, was sent to me by Carl Uhlman who had seen the hive when traveling in the Netherlands. Many people fell in love with this monstrosity, and the photos keep reappearing on Pinterest and various other sites.

However, I don’t think anyone was more inspired than Mike Southern. He was so enthralled with this hive that he built one for an education project he was working on. This morning, Mike sent me a link to his Flickr account so I could take a look.

I was bowled over—the size, the workmanship, the design—everything is awesome. You’ve got to see Mike’s photos. Don’t miss them!

What I want to know is how do I get one? It would look great over my dining room table.



  • WOW!!!
    There use to be an observation hive long ago at the Science Museum in Raleigh NC. The bees came and went to it through a plexiglass tube right through the wall. It was very interesting for the children (and adults) to watch.

      • I am currently working on a business plan to offer hives of this design with bees, management and an educational input in the area within a 30 mile radius of my home (Just north of Lowestoft, Suffolk in the UK).

        I would be very happy for my design to be used further afield – any suggestions as to the best way to share plans on-line, with the facility to collect a modest payment in return?


        • Hello Mike,

          I have some friends who have had great success selling things over the Internet using Pay Pal to settle payment.

          • Thanks Sharon, I like that idea, I guess it avoids the cost of setting up payment facilities of my own.
            I am becoming increasingly aware that I need my own website as well!

            I’ve been thinking today about making the hives flat packed all joints and rebates cut but without the glass, whether shipping to the U.S. from the UK would be prohibitively expensive?

            Thanks for the input 🙂

  • I like Carl’s design so much that I am going to try to come up with some drawings on how to build one. This would look awesome in a storefront or office!

    Thanks for sharing both Mike’s and Carl’s pictures!


    • Hi Michael,

      I never did get any plans together and don’t see myself having time to do so in the foreseeable future – sorry busy on other projects now.

      Good luck with your hive, 2 things I plan to modify on my hive is fit a movable floor to keep the hive volume small with a new colony enabling me to lower it as the colony grows and also remove the entrance tubes and fit a single timber shallow tray entrance with perspex or glass top the same dimensions as one of my standard National hives.

      • I like the idea of movable floor. Not sure I understand what you are saying regarding the modified entrance. Do the tubes not work out well? I like the visuals they provide. I was thinking about making the nuc chamber standard langstroth size so I could drop a 5 frame nuc in there to get the whole thing started.

        • Hi Michael,

          The tubes are okay although an entrance tray similar in dimensions to a standard hive would I think have several advantages. Air flow into the hive can be controlled more flexibly allowing for a larger volume of air to pass through in warm weather. Equally importantly is the bees ability to guard their entrance, I have observed that with a lot of traffic in and out of the tubes guard bees find it difficult to stop wasps and monitor incomers, with a wider entrance tray reduced down at the outside I think defence would be more effective giving an area for guard bees to rest out of the traffic and reducing the bottle neck. I lost my colony in the large observation hive to wasps this autumn and have been giving a lot of thought as to whether hive design might have been a contributing factor.

          The concept certainly lends itself to using whatever size nucleus frames are your standard and I’m sure Langstroth would work just as well.


          • Ahh yes your thoughts on entrance are sound. Fortunately we do not have any type of wasp here which would take over a hive. I am building our observation hive to fit into an existing window frame so I can work it from outside the store. I think we could flatten the plastic hose down to 3/8″ which is my normal entrance size which will make it easier on the bees to guard as well as allow folks inside the store to watch the bees coming and going.

  • Hi Mike

    I would like to order a flat pack observation hive for my new gallery. The Hive. If you are still out there I’d love to hear from you.

    Cheers Jo

  • Hi Joanne,

    I’m afraid the idea of making and selling these observation hives never took off, I have recently relocated and re-populated the original hive and it is doing well. The funding for the first project came to an end and we had several years without bees in the hive.

    You are very welcome to use my photographs to work with your own joiner to copy the design.

    I wish you success with your new gallery.

    Best wishes
    Mike Southern

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