Monday, May 05, 2008

Bamboo beehive

Following on from my post about bamboo, I decided to try making this simple beehive, described in this PDF (you may need to copy and paste the URL in your browser to view it

I used a couple of segments from the base of big Moso culm.

Top bar hives are a kind of hive with bars across a box of some sort. The bars are fitted with either a strip of thin board hanging down, or a wood with a triangular section. This is so the bees can hang off it to start making their comb. With this in mind, I stuffed a bamboo twig in each segment hoping that the little hooked feet of the bees will eagerly cling to them without any special encouragement.

The front door ended up being a bit bigger than expected as the interior segments got damaged when I split the culm. So I shut up the hole a bit with some carefully fitted slats. I think it looks most welcoming - I'm hoping that I've achieved the bee equivalent of a nice carriage light.

The back door is just a ragged gaping hole, but I figure that's good for ventilation. I understand that bees have a gubbins called propolis which they use to fix up parts of their lodgings that aren't quite A1, so I expect to see lashings of propolis around that part soon.

I wired the finished 'hive' into our big tree. I chose wire instead of the rope apparently favoured by the Tanzanians because when it blows up here, everything that isn't fixed down flies about and I rather think that bees prefer things to be in Bristol fashion.

There are plenty of bees around, and I'm sure it's only a matter of time before one of them hooks it's little toes over the thoughtfully placed bamboo twigs inside. Realistically though, it seems unlikely that bees will take up residence in a roughly split piece of bamboo, wired into a tree, but if it works in Tanzania, it seems worth trying here. The bamboo 'hive' replaces the bird house we made. No birds ever went near it, but when we took it down, we found a gecko living very comfortably inside it. I wonder what will set up house in our hive...

In the meantime, I'm going to be looking out for a box suitable for a top bar hive, and will go and talk to the bee keepers in the district.


silybum said...

Did you ever get any bees into your bamboo hive¿ I am wondering becasue I am pitching a Melipona bee project to some people down in Costa Rica who grow bamboo and I thought that this would a good hive style that they would be most apt to pursue since the materials would be readily available.

silybum said...

Hi there. I am wondering if this bamboo hive worked? If so what are your comments about size, extraction and pests? Where are you located in the world? I ask because I am trying to pitch a project to some bamboo growers down in Costa Rica. I thought they would be more likely to pursue these hives since the materials are readily available.
Thanks for being experimental.

Rod said...

Hi there,

I'm in Southern Japan, where both European bees and native Asian bees live.

I'm glad you asked, because when I look at the stats for my blog, "bamboo hive" is the most regular search term that brings people here. And indeed, they deserve an answer to that question.

And the answer is, no, no bees ever went near it. The only thing that ever lived in it was spiders. I know this because I got tired of seeing the bamboo in my tree and took it down just the other day. It contained a number of sloughed off spider skins.

I must say, I'm not really surprised. The combs that both European and Asian bees make are quite large and would not fit comfortably in even the largest bamboo culm. In fact, I'd be surprised if honeybees anywhere really did make combs in bamboo hung up by humans.

I've thought about the possibility of making either a top bar hive or a pot-shaped hive from bamboo, but concluded that bamboo wouldn't be an ideal material to start with. I suppose it may be possible to make a top-bar hive out of split slats of thick basal bamboo, but it would require a lot of skill to ensure that it wasn't full of gaps.

One of the reasons that people keep bees is to encourage pollination of their food crops. Since bamboo doesn't flower regularly if at all, I guess that's not an issue for growers. I would imagine that your pitch will need to be somewhat separate from the matter of bamboo.

I wish you success with your project. I still intend to build a top-bar hive when I have time. At the moment, some big black bumblebees are busily pollinating the blueberries. Good work chaps, carry on.