Close Quarters With Honey Bees | Seventh Generation
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Close Quarters With Honey Bees

Author: SarahT

“By the way, we have about 8,000 honey bees in our living room.”

As conversation-starters go, this is one of our better ones. And it’s true – we do have about 8,000 honey bees in our living room – give or take 1,000. Thankfully they are all very safely contained, with a clear path directly to the out-of-doors.

We started keeping bees in spring 2011. Our interest was partially driven by the plight of the honeybees, and partially by our own curiosity. However, we also wanted to help foster our little homesteady ecosystem. Thanks to my husband’s organic green thumb, we have a number of blueberry, currant, and raspberry bushes around the property, as well as apple trees, plum trees, peach trees, grape vines, hazelnut bushes, asparagus, cherry trees, and a big garden as well. Although the honeybees do not pollinate all of these different species, they do hit some of them – and it’s nice to know that we’re also helping out native wildflowers.

Our bees are and always have been raised treatment-free. They are a more persnickety variety, but this breed is apparently more resistant to varroa mites – one of the many things thought to be contributing to colony collapse – and generally hardier. As much as possible, our hope is to help keep an organic, more natural balance on our property.

Back to the bees in our living room. During the winter, my husband decided to build an observation hive to hang in our living room. This is a glass-walled hive that gives a clear view to 3 frames of bees. I was leery of the idea, but it has proven to be an amazing experience. It has frequently been our go-to evening entertainment. The kids have been deeply intrigued, and love to spend time looking for the queen, seeing what has changed, and telling our guests all about our observation hive.

During their time in our living room, we have watched:

  • the bees make a new queen
  • the  new queen kill off the 2 dozen or so other potential queens
  • the colony population triple
  • Queenie (our pet name for the queen) lay eggs
  • the drone (male bee) population die out and new ones take their places
  • new bees eat their way out of their brood cells
  • bees making honey
  • bees feeding larvae
  • and so much more!

The observation hive has been an invaluable tool teaching us how to better care for our bees, and has given our young kids a unique education that they can share with friends and family.

The hive hanging on our wall. It has a cover when we are not looking at the bees.

It swings open, so you can see both sides.

Close up of bees.


Debi King picture
Debi King
How Fantastic is that! What a resource, never thought of bringing I e into the house, us it attached to a full hive outside or do you run it as a permanently mini hive? Debi
MrsSandy2000 picture
i saw a show on bees being used for the treatment of MS with unbelievable great results. you know anything about this , especially what kind of species bees were use? it was on unsolved mysteries. i'm going to try and find out meanwhile . i love the idea of having them in the house the way you did it. great idea!!!
SarahT picture
Hey everyone - thanks for the great comments. There is a copper pipe down at the bottom of the hive that goes through the wall to the outside. Looking at the pictures, it's buried in the wood around the bottom pivot point. No chance they could get up in the wall - their exit is a solid copper pipe, all the way through the wall, with no escape points. The "plans" as currently drawn are a few rough sketches. I mentioned the interest in plans to my husband, and he'll try and work on a better set if he has time - we have kiddos that keep us quite busy! And an update on the hive: 2 days ago, the bees decided the hive was too crowded and they absconded. Different than a swarm - the entire hive left, except for a few confused bees who were out foraging when the rest of the hive left. They reformed in a tree next to the house, and then (luckily) reformed again about 10 feet off the ground. We were able to capture them and install them in a new, outdoor hive. We'll see how they do through the winter - they are a very small hive at this point. In the mean time, we'll try to find a nice piece of artwork to replace the hive cover. Sarah
oldblinddog picture
1. How do they get outside, again? 2. Is there a chance they could get up into your wall (which is a dangerous thing to happen to a house structurally as the honey weighs so much it can cause the wall to collapse)? Great educational experience for your kids---and I thought ant farms were cool. Thanks.
Jenniferammerman picture
I, too would love the plan. WE are getting bees and am interested in your variety choice. Any thoughts on good resources for such choices? I have never heard anyone talk about choosing the right variety. We are in SW Florida, so our bees will love citrus. Thanks for your inspiration!!
ekoorbs picture
This is very cool! I have wanted to keep bees but unfortunately they are not yet allowed in my community. I would love to know more about your set -up as well.
charlesbreinig picture
I assume the horizonal copper pipe also acts as a bee escape. The only thing missing is a shut off valve, so you can take the hive outside from time to time, if you needed to maybe, clean the glass. I'd love to get a copy of his plans, I've want to do something like this for a while. Can you fax to 215-646-4116?
rvblank03 picture
Thanks for the great story and the GREAT idea! I, like Jennifer, would like to know how they get outside. This looks like a project for my husband. :)
wvwoman picture
This is really fascinating! And I echo jen_reese: where's their "clear path directly to the out of doors"? picture
Thanks for sharing your bee story. Where is their door to the outside? Thanks! Jennifer