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Does anyone own an observation hive? Want to do a flow one?


I’m thinking of making an indoor observation hive with some flow frames. It would have a bee escape to the outside and glass or Perspex sides. Anyone got plans or pictures of their observation hives? I’ve seen beautiful ones out of the USA on desktops and a cute portable one. I’ll post some pictures.






That’s great Valli, thank you. Are you thinking of having one?


Nah! I’m just good at finding stuff on the internet.

I want to take my hive to scouts and schools to create interest.

Or Fairs. And sell honey as well




Are these meant for long term housing or just for short term “show and tell”? It seems way to small to house the bees for any period of time without inducing swarming.


That would be cool. Plenty of people have fish to look at in their homes, I think bees would be a lot more interesting.
The flow™ frames are adaptable in length so it would be possible to put a few together and make long frames. There might be a few engineering challenges to support the weight of a longer frame. I look forward to seeing your progress.


They can be a permanent feature. We have a display hive in the Adelaide museum and volunteers from the SA Bee group carry it out and give it a clean once a year.


I am also interested in building an observation hive with a Flow frame on top. However, I am using all mediums and I am wondering if the Flow frames can be shorted to the medium size.


If you are going to build the hive, and it isn’t already operational just make a slight modification to whatever your design is to accept the slightly taller frame. You are basically just increasing the height by a few inches. It seems like it would be much easier to modify that then to try and rework the flow frame and all the engineering that went into it.


Are these hives permanently open or are there “shutters” that block the light for the period of time that it is not being observed? How do the hives respond to the light? How do these hives fair in terms of longevity, are they more prone to swarming?


You need to have a cloth cover for the hive or shutters and keep the observation hive covered when not observing. As for swarming, yes, most of the time the hive is of the size of a nuc and you need to constantly remove frames with brood and bees or you can use it as a mating nuc for example. An OH with 2 frames per row allows for more development time, but many times the queen is between the frames and you can’t observe her. Anyway, you need to be able to disconnect the hive and move it outside for frame management, so make sure you have a quick disconnect device on the entrance tube. I thought to make such a device from a wooden box made out of plywood with 2 sliders. One slider can block the entrance in the hive and the other can block the tube going to outside. Slide them both in, then disconnect the tube end from the hive entrance end. This will prevent any bees that are out foraging to enter your house while the OH is outside for maintenance.


I saw one made into a wall at Kuranda. The Open bit was inside the Shop and the outside had a perspex entrance - It could be opened inside the shop with a key. It was really cool

Not a very good Picture I wish I’d taken one when I was there

And the outside You can see the perspex outside part


Found a better image - It is not a traditional looking Hive - But still really Cool


Be wary of the ply, it can off gas from the glue and is more vulnerable to dampness than solid wood stock.


As long as you are using a good quality exterior grade or marine grade plywood you shouldn’t have much of a problem with the dampness outside of possible warping, but you have to worry about warping with solid wood in regard to moisture as well. As long as the exterior and end grain of plywood is sealed/painted you are pretty safe.

I would definitely avoid particle board or OSB(oriented strand board) as these will break down rapidly with moisture.

In terms of plywood off gassing I have never heard of this being a problem before in any of the reading/research I have done.


As far as a curtain to make the bees dark when not viewing. The museum ones seem happy but it sort of seems bee freindly to give them some privacy :smile:


I have had an observation hive in my living room for more than a decade now. I suppose now I’ll have to build one especially for the Flow frame… normally I make sure I have 1 3/4" between the glass but that won’t work with a Flow frame. I’ll have to decide if it’s worth changing the space in the brood area and I’ll have to make it take a very strange mixture of depths… I guess I’ll have the Flow frame on top and mediums below that so I can interchange my brood frames in my hive…