Beehive innovation: Flat pack hives and sensors to monitor bee behaviour

My day job is as a journalist for a product development magazine called Develop3D. It's a happy day when my work and my beekeeping hobby collide. Today was one of those days. 

Below is a blog post I wrote for Develop3D today, but it's just as relevant for a design and engineering audience as for a beekeeping one. 

As DEVELOP3D’s resident beekeeper, anything beekeeping related piques my interest. It was certainly piqued recently when I stumbled across the work of the Open Source Beehives project.

Essentially these guys, which consist of a team of ecologists, makers, engineers, and open source advocates based in Denver, Barcelona and Brussels, are reacting to the drop in bee numbers - or what’s otherwise known as the Colony Collapse Disorder.

I won’t bang on about how vital bees are but will just say that if they disappear, so will we.

The solution that the Open Source Beehives project has come up with is one that involves all citizens in monitoring bee health. However, first the team had to design and develop the hive, which was done using a computer aided design programme called Rhino, a plank of plywood and a CNC router.

In fact, they have designed two hives, which are adapted from the well established top bar and Warre hives. The team claim that these hives, which were designed in consultation with beekeepers and other bee experts, are ‘biodynamic’ in that they create a low-stress environment aimed to help bees thrive.

On Sketchfab you can view the 3D models of the resulting Colorado Top Bar and the Barcelona Warré.

The design files for these wooden, flatpack hives can be downloaded and sent to a CNC router, which will cut out the hive on a single 4x8 inch sheet. Thirty to forty minutes later, the hive can be easily constructed by slotting the parts together, without a screw or a tube of glue in sight.

However, the crux of the project is to fit each hive with an open source sensory kit. Developed at Fab Lab Barcelona, these sensors will monitor humidity, temperature, bee numbers and even the colony’s mood as change in mood can indicate imminent swarming.The data will be streamed online and can be accessed by the beekeeper via a computer or smartphone. However, the sensory kit will also send data to an open global database called the Smart Citizen platform. Here bee data can be seen by anyone who is interested and the hope is that all this information will give some indication as to why bees are disappearing.

In order to help in funding the development of this bee monitoring sensor package based on the Smart Citizen Kit,  Open Source Beehives has just launched a crowd funding campaign (pretty apt for a crowdsourced project) on indiegogo.

“Imagine a global network of hives, all feeding an open database of insights into honey bee health,” says Jonathan Minchin, one of the project team.

“We’ve built the start of this network. Now it’s up to the global community to help us move the project forward. If things take off, we could be generating valuable crowd sourced date to influence policy change, and practicing true grass roots democracy. It’s really quite exciting.”

I’m excited (but then I would be as the crazy bee lady). The funding rewards for this $20,000 campaign are numerous from $1 to show your support to $450 to receive an engraved beehive .

I sincerely hope that in 29 days the project reaches its funding goal because I for one would like to receive my reward of the download kit so that I can make my own hive. Now I just need to find someone with a CNC router… Any volunteers? 


  1. Intriguing, I think the most useful part will be the sensors rather than the hive designs, as there isn't much evidence that hive design is behind CCD. The National hives commonly used in the UK are not very different from those in the US, yet we have no CCD here.

    Having said that, I really like the idea of being able to slot the parts together, no need for endless banging of nails!

  2. I've also found this really interesting; I'm hugely interested in digitising hives, and found the project after googling for raspberry pi hive monitors. I'd love to be technology savvy enough to build some kind of system to monitor a hive.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts