Field Notes, Foodshed

Natural Bee Hives

For the benefit of the bees, we sell only natural bee hives.

Standard commercial bee hives are made for the convenience of the human who harvests honey, not the insect that produces it.

While we know the joy of eating honey and the good crunch of comb, what we really want from bees is to coexist with them, enjoying the chance to observe their fascinating lives.

Natural hives allow us to peek in on the hive during its busy day but not disturb the insects as they work.

We also like natural hives because they don’t have plastic in them and aren’t made with chemicals that might harm the nest’s occupants.

Most importantly, natural hives allow the bees to create comb the way that they would in the wild, with smaller cells that help protect against mites and other predators.

Among the natural bee hives we like is the Warre hive, named for the French monk who popularized it in the late 19th century, calling it “the people’s hive.”

Warre designed the hive so that one could add an empty box to its bottom each spring and harvest the honey from a box on the top each autumn.

The Warre is a “top bar” hive which means that the bees can build their combs from horizontal wooden bars that run along the hive’s top, making it lighter and easier for a human to examine the comb periodically without unduly bothering the insects.

The Kenyan, or horizontal top bar, hive is thought to be the oldest and most commonly used type of man-made hives in the world. Long and handsome, these hives come with their own stand, so that they sit about waist height for a man, allowing for easier access.

We are glad to sell Warre and top bar hives both online and in our Healdsburg store. At our HomeFarm property, we have those and even more hives for the bees.

The Golden Hive is so-named because its proportions align with the Golden Mean. Designed to minimize interaction between humans and bees, the Golden Hive benefits apiary health by reducing insect stress.

Woven from rye grasses, the biomorphic Sun Hive was developed by a German sculptor and is really something that is best made in with a group. (We host local apiarist Michael Thiele to a sun hive workshop April 29-30.)

Tall and with a full belly, the Sun Hive has its portal at the bottom, allowing the bees to come and go freely. Once made, it is mudded with manure to provide insulation.

The Log Hive is as it sounds — a fallen tree trunk that has been hollowed out to accommodate a hive. Many wild bees nest in trees and the Log Hives fashioned by humans work for the bees while providing us with a nice glimpse of the insects’ intricate life.

Helping honey bees to thrive by providing appropriate places for them to nest is one small thing that we can do to support this endangered population. Planting nectar-rich flora for pollinators is another.

Want to learn more? We have more info on natural bee hives, planting a bee-friendly garden, natural beekeeping, and supporting pollinators throughout our site.

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