Inside an Observation Hive

A glass-fronted indoor hive (this one is located at Gilbey’s Gallery in Keswick Ridge, New Brunswick, Canada) allows even the most nervous visitor to get up-close-and personal with an active colony of honey bees.

observation hive

Click on any of the photographs at right to see a larger version. Top to bottom, they show:

  • The front of the observation hive, doors open;
  • Busy nurse bees tending the brood; and
  • The queen bee and workers.

In the top photo, notice the vertical arrangement of frames. This is a working hive, and capped honey is clearly visible in corners of the top frame. The bees have access to the outdoors via a tube through the outside wall of the house, but not to the indoors.

In the second photograph, you can see the white larvae in the uncapped cells as well as the wax-capped brood.

The third photograph shows how the queen’s distinctive long abdomen makes her out from the much-smaller worker bees, her daughters. Yellow pollen fills one cluster of honeycomb cells in this picture, while some other cells are shining with stored nectar.

Cabinet doors are normally kept closed over the glass, to create the comfortable darkness of a normal brood chamber and make the hive look like any other handsome piece of furniture.

Unless a visitor is told the secret, he’d never know that he was sharing a livingroom with tens of thousands of honeybees!

A much smaller observation hive — just two frames, with plexiglas on both sides — makes a wonderful public education tool for giving talks on beekeeping to schools or community groups. Even people who say they “don’t like bugs” seem to be fascinated by the compact community of live bees.

Photographs of Earl Gilbey’s observation hive were taken by DeVerne Jones, Toronto, ON.