Category Archives: sustainable beehives

GUERRILLA BEEHIVE [digital fabrication]

The story behind the concept
The project ‘Guerilla Beehives’can have an exemplary meaning for the audience if it comes to the public perception sustainability. It is a collaboration between the arts, design and science.
This is the end of the anthropocene. We imagine an ecosystem where all actors collaborate to keep up the resilience of the system. As artists, gardeners, makers and thinkers, we collaborate with animals, plants, insects and bacteria. Continue reading


Wednesday 12/06/2013 I’ve started a new colony in the Warré hive. It was a precarious undertaking. Due to bad spring weather, nature is a month late. I controlled all the hives on swarm cells, but in none of the 5 hives the bees had the tendency to swarm yet, no new queens in the pipeline! Thus I had to make an artificial swarm which can create its own queen.
First I adapted 2 capped honeyframes from the size of a Kempische hive to the size of a Warré hive – I had to make the frames a lot smaller. As I had to cut into the honey cells, this became quickly a very dirty setup. Continue reading


During the past three years, Okno has been exploring the potential of sensor-equipped beehives. Making use of innovatory technologies, we are studying bees as biomarkers providing information about the ecosystem they are part of. The collected data are stored in online databases, mapping the urban landscape and raising awareness of this shared living environment, and are used for the creation of ecological works of art. Earlier this month, Annemie Maes from Okno was organising a bee monitoring workshop at Valldaura Self Sufficient Lab in Barcelona. Continue reading


April 10/11/12 2012 part#1 of the Bee Monitoring sessions was organized at Valldaura. The first part of the project focuses on the monitoring of beehives through sensors while exploring different materials and appliances of the beehive itself. The idea is to consider the bees themselves, and their behavior and reactions, as sensors of the environment that inform us on the quality of air, water, the diversity of plants … sensors of nature and a healthy environment. The current interns prepared for the wokshop by building a natural structure with the local materials. This structure will be used to give shadow to the area where the first beehive will be placed. It will be extremely important during the hot, dry summer days. Annemie Maes, from OKNO, a Belgian non-profit organization, conducted the workshop where the interns were introduced to the basics of apiculture, beekeeping, and the nature of bees in general.

FabLab Academy students have been working for weeks, building an open structures beehive. They constructed three items, one to be located on the rooftop of Iaac, one for Valldaura, and one for Okno. The beehives will be filled with sensors (temperature, humidity, Co2, dust). The sensors will track changes inside the beehive and allow us to study how environmental factors affect the beehive and bees’ behavior, as well as how that data can be used as an environmental sensor itself.
The first open source Warré beehive was assembled by the interns, guided by Annemie Maes, and placed in the area that had been prepared for it the previous days.

Part#2 (2 en 3 mei 2013) van de workshop series. De eerste dag zijn we de zwarte bijen gaan halen (Apis mellifera mellifera) in Lleida, 2 uur rijden van BCN, binnenland Catalunya. De bijen kwamen mee in een verluchte kartonnen doos, en ze zaten al op topbars van Warre-maat: 5 frames en 1 koningin.
Toegekomen op de Valldaura-site prepareren we de transfer van de travelbox naar de warré hive. John (zijn eerste job als newbee beekeeper) heeft net de sensors afgewerkt. 2 T° en 1 humidity inside, T° en humidity outside. Hij zal de data elke nacht via een laserconnectie doorsturen naar het Valldaura huis, vermits de site geen wireless heeft. De data worden nu tijdelijk gesaved op een SD card die op de smart arduino met bee-shield gemonteerd is. De sensors en smart arduino worden gepowerd door een zonnepaneel dat naast de hive staat. Hier maakt John de connectie met het panel. Connectie van sensors en arduino werkt, data komen binnen en worden opgeslagen.
Ai! Een onvoorzien feit! Omdat we de originele plannen van de Warré hive hebben aangepast naar de grid van OpenStructure, zijn de binnenmaten van de hive een klein beetje veranderd. De diepte is 1cm korter geworden, en dit geeft uiteraard problemen, want ipv. dat de nieuwe bijen op topbars geleverd zijn, zitten ze op full frame Warré frames. Dwz: 1 cm te hoog! What to do now? De box sluit uiteraard niet meer, en de verschillende lagen boxen kunnen niet meer gestapeld worden.
Er zit maar 1 ding op: alle bijen afschudden van de frames in de onderste box van de Warré, de 2de box wordt hierbij gebruikt als trechter. Nu maar hopen dat we de koningin niet kwijtraken in deze transactie! Het is blijkbaar gelukt: de meeste bijen zitten in de hive, en de bijen die buiten achterbleven lopen zelf naar binnen, een teken dat de koningin binnen zit. De hive wordt vastgezet met spanriemen als voorzorg tegen curieuze everzwijnen. Onder de hive hangt de plastic box met arduino en andere technologie. De outsite tmp en hu sensors zijn beschermd tegen vocht. Transfer gelukt.

Part#3. We make a second warré-hive in the fablab BCN for the Valldaura apiary. We will create an artificial swarm, a split from the first colony. Sunday 30/6, a beautiful sunny day, we open the first warré hive, which is setup now with 3 boxes. The last box was added (nadiring or adding from beyond) 1 week ago. The colony developed very well over the first 2 boxes, the last box was not build out yet. It is remarkable that capped and fresh honey, pollen and open and closed brood are all mixed, on all frames. In a regular hive (kempische, langstroth, dadant, …) the different elements are well divided per frame, in concentric circles. Here, in the warré, the cells are literally mixed: honey and larves, pollen and queen cells. Yes, there are a lot of queen cells in the hive.
I take some full honey frames as a basis for the new hive/colony. Than I add a frame with pollen, there are also several queen -cells on that frame. As 4th and last frame we add a frame with closed and open brood. I cannot detect the queen immediately in this bunch of black bees, but no worries: or she stayed in the parent hive, or she is tranferred to the new hive. In both hive there are enough fresh & closed queen cells, so that a new queen won’t take to long to start laying and continue the maintenance of the colony.
At last, I shake off as many young bees as possible into the new hive, and we hope that the regular hive-life will go on as soon as possible. Best would be to control in ± 3 weeks (when the larves of all the presently closed brood cells will be born). If there will be new open and closed cells, we can be sure that the queen is at work!


I first visited the fablab february 2013 and met John and Jon. We discussed the ‘opensource beehive’ design and the sensors to be implemented in and out the beehive. We were looking into different possibilities for the finalisation of the OpenStructures beehive. New ideas for visualization of the data came up. One of them is to work with the OpenStructures grid design that is embedded (2cm) in the outer side of the hive and to fill it with a fosforescent resin (maybe pvc with plant pigment). The t° sensors inside of the hive can be connected to a led-light, and the light of this led can be distributed through the fosforescent design, thus the t° sensor-data will be visualized by the strenght of the light in the hive’s design-grid.


Another idea is to design a transparant hive made out of translucent solar panels. As the bees are used to work with polarized light, we can develop a hive that is dark for the bees and translucent for humans, so that the life in the hive can be observed without constraints, and at the same time the solarpanels can power all the ICT necessary to monitor the hive in a non intrusive way.

blue hive


specificities of a warré beehive
All info on sustainable beekeeping following the Warré method: beekeeping for all . More info can be found here: warre biobees.
Plans for building a Warré hive can be downloaded here : warre beehive plans. The site is a sort of manual if you want to keep bees with the Warré method, it provides a lot of information on specific tools, plans for hives and even a life, and techniques for using the Warré hives. Also there you can download the e-book: Beekeeping for All by Abbé Émile Warré, written in 1948.
We will adapt the Warré beehive to the open structures design-philosophy. We will install 2 hives the coming season 2013 in Valldaura and in Barcelona. Beginning of april we should be able to install the first prototypes at Valldaura (the green fablab) and on the rooftop of the barcelona fablab, and populate them with honeybees!
Warré/OpenStructures beehive design: do we need modifications with respect to the original plans? Which materials will we use? Is there a material more exiting than wood, but still functional with the fablab tools and the Warré beekeeping method? If we use the first-phase hives only this spring/summer season, they don’t need to be too thick (no winter in Barcelona) but they should be rainwater- sun- and wind-resistant. Insulation against hot spanish sun is interesting too. It’s usefull to include at least 1 window (with shutter) in the design, to monitor the bees easily without opening the hive.

© drawing fablab barcelona

open structures philosophy
How can we adapt the design of the warré hive to the Open Structures philosophy? The OS (OpenStructures) project explores the possibility of a modular construction model where everyone designs for everyone on the basis of one shared geometrical grid. It initiates a kind of collaborative Meccano to which everybody can contribute parts, components and structures. Open structures is based upon a networked economy, interconnected by participants. Sharing, exchange, homegrown and DIY are important concepts that provoke new dialogues, emerging between producers and consumers, and that will result in new modes of artistic practices.
We have to take the products’ ecosystem into account: the balance between the hardware and the software, applying a shared design vocabulary based upon common rules and agreements. Designing becomes a collaboration.

Probably we will have to adjust the sizes a bit. We can check out several approaches, I will control if they are suitable in respect to sustainable beekeeping. The pluspoint of working with the Warré hive (and topbars) for now, is that this method is easy to learn others (at Valldaura) about beekeeping, to execute a basic monitoring and to insert some sensors over the season. The future organic beehives (for the Intelligent Beehive project) are not meant to use for real beekeeping – these hives are more a support for honeybee colonies to settle for pollination, while we monitor the colony’s development in relation to its surroundings. bee-monitoring-project


Mapping the foraging areas at Valldaura:
Calendula officinalis, Malva, brassicaceae, Quercus ilex, Arbutus unedo, erica, blackberries, Hedera helix, Ruscus aculeatum, Lobularia maritima, Sambucus nigra, wild mint, cherries, apples, strawberry tree, Rubia peregrina, Ruta graveolens, Asphodelus fistolosus, Diplotaxis erucoides, almond, apricot, Plantago lanceolata and Plantago major, wild lavender, Viburnum (tinus), Foeniculum vulgare, Populus nigra (good for propolis), Celtis australis (edible), Chelidonium majus (stinkende gauwe – medicinal), Fragaria vesca, Urtica (netel), Bursa pastoris, Hypericum perforatum, Thymus, Rosmarinus, Asparagus acutifolius, Melissa, Santolina chamaecyparissus (cotton lavender), …

Cerdanyola PlantesFlora CatalanaPermaculture Plants


About the Valldaura workshops:


In a few days the OpenSource Beehives workshop will be hold in Valldaura. Meanwhile, Jonathan Minchin, John Rees and Ferran Masip, three students of the FabLab Academy, have been working for weeks on the actual physical beehives and the sensors that will be inside them. It’s been a process of research to find and create the best prototype, modeling, printing and milling the parts for the final assembly; while circuits where printed, soldered, and lots of programming and testing was happening. There will be – at least – three final beehives, one to be placed in Valldaura, one to be placed on the rooftop of Iaac, and another to be shipped to Belgium, at OKNO. Continue reading