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Open Source Beehives

We are all too familiar with the Colony Collapse Disorder afflicting our precious bees. So much needs to be done to educate the mass (and beekeepers) about what bees truly need. The Open Source Beehives project is another powerful initiative marrying traditional designs with high tech equipment to promote healthier beekeeping practices. They have designed two downloadable beehives that can easily be printed and carved on wood sheets.

They are currently crowdfunding their research and making their designs available to all. Do you want to help us make a buzz about it?

Photo © Craig Mackintosh


  1. A hive made out of plywood will quickly delaminate in the weather.

    Unless these people have some scientific expertise assisting them by defining the data to be gathered, this is naive nonsense. An artist – Annemie Maes, a filmmaker – Tristan Copley Smith, a grant submitter/fund raiser – Aaron Makaruk, and a tech guy – Jonathan Minchin aren’t going to solve the problem. Why aren’t they building on or working with NASA – and Hivetool –

    “Any extremes in temperature, humidity, or pesticide detection …” Define temperature and humidity extremes. Pesticides are only part of the chemical problem – many, many beekeepers themselves use chemicals in the hive. And chemicals are only part of the problem. How do you assess the impact of lost habitat? Queen breeding and weak genetics? Stress caused by transportation for pollination services. Feeding sugar syrup and high fructose corn syrup? And on and on. These aren’t measurable electronically.

    It’s an interesting idea for data collection but I sure wouldn’t put any money into the project based on the information that they’ve provided and the fact that there appears to be no scientist involvement.

    1. Hey DeepGreenGreenie – I’m one of the Open Source Beehives team, please let me address some concerns:

      1: We are using CARB2 certified plywood. This is non-toxic, using no VOC chemicals and no off gassing.

      2. Applying Linseed / Danish Oil naturally helps the wood to resist weathering – we have done pretty extensive tests, with good results.

      3. Annemie Maes has been working with bees for over ten years, and developing sensors with bees for over 3 years. She is also an artist – I don’t think this in any way takes away from her beekeeping expertise…

      4. Scientists will become involved with the project as and when they see value in what we’re doing. We predict this will happen once our sensors are in place, creating insights into the bee decline issue.

      5. “Extreme” instances of temp / humidity can be suited to the environment. This is not a complicated process.

      6. As for genetics and habitat loss – we’re not claiming to address every impacting factor – only the concerns in the power of citizens to address. However, we advocate these other causes.

      We’re sorry you don’t think our project is worthy of your investment. There are plenty of others supporting our effort, and the door is open to everyone to use our designs, use our data, and do what they can to alleviate bee decline.

      Thanks for your input.

      1. If you weren’t using a high tech manufacturing process which is beyond the reach of most people unless you are planning to sell product, then you wouldn’t need to use plywood at all. It may be CARB2 certified but the whole process uses lots of energy and other inputs and is thus unsustainable.

        The box is pretty and it probably is critical to your getting the dollars you are after but it’s not critical. The important part is the sensor.

        I’m interested in knowing exactly what information the sensors are currently capable of gathering beyond temperature and humidity. Are they recording the types and quantities of chemicals in the honey, the pollen, the wax, the hive boards? Brood temp? This certainly would be useful information on a scale basis although it would seem that Arnia already has a working model and funding. Not sure why you are re-inventing the wheel.

        If your sensors are currently capable of capturing chemical information, then why are scientists interested? The sensors don’t have to be in place. They just have to be demonstrated to work.

        Re: extremes in temperature, humidity, we don’t really know what the extremes are for bees so how do we know that there might be a problem?

        1. “If you weren’t using a high tech manufacturing process which is beyond the reach of most people unless you are planning to sell product, then you wouldn’t need to use plywood at all.”

          I’m afraid that you’re wrong here. CNC technology is becoming more abundant and accessible every day. Makerspaces and FabLabs allow public access to such tools either for free or at very low cost. There are now CNC machines you can make yourself for $3K. A few years ago the cheapest was $10K. As for selling the hives, the are downloadable (for free) on an open license, so anyone is free sell the hives – we don’t ask for anything in return.

          We’re also working on ways you can cut the designs without a CNC machine. One idea is to print out a series of A4 sheets, assemble them on the wood, and cut along the lines with a jigsaw. You also don’t need to use plywood. You can glue hardwoods together (with non-toxic glue) and use this.

          As for sensors, we’ve clearly stated that we’re using the crowd funding resources to develop the sensors, so of course I can’t give you full specs right now. If you believe that sensors our there are the best, most helpful humanity is capable of, we can agree to disagree. I can assure you that we’re very knowledgeable in the world of sensor technologies, and have some innovative ideas we’d like to apply.

          So, you see, when you use your imagination and do the research, you can overcome these issues. It’s unfortunate that there are so many people like you, with valuable insights, posting negative posts in forums like this, rather than emailing us with advice and being constructive.

          If you’re sceptical that we’re in this for the money, believe me, this is not the case. I have GIVEN money for the privilege of being part of this project, and I don’t see getting it back any time soon.

          Next time, why not check our forum and post comments there? That way they can have some sort of positive impact:

          1. CNC technology is great in the right situations but in the case of building Kenyan and Tanzanian topbar hives, it is overkill and very expensive when a table saw, drill and some clamps do the job perfectly well. And if one chooses, hand tools will work as well. I don’t see the point of complicating the process of hive building especially since it forces you to build with inferior materials. The only plywood that I have seen that has any degree of weatherability is marine grade and I’d hate to think what chemicals are used in its manufacture.

            People have been making hives without CNC technology except possibly companies like Mann Lake. It’s not a particularly complicated process which means that there’s not much to improve on.

            If you think that you can improve on what’s already being done re: sensors, go for it. It’s certainly an emerging idea with merit in terms of collecting mass data. You’ll have to reach out to the commercial Langstroth beeks though because that’s where the hives are concentrated, at least in North America, particularly the US. I won’t presume to speak for them but I’m betting that you won’t get much cred with your hives. View this as criticism if you want but there’s a reality here to be dealt with.

            Forums are two way streets. Not everything will be a pat on the back. FWIW, I’ve had a look at your forum. Interesting. ;)

  2. You can make beehives out of almost anything. How many people have access to a printer capable of printing on sheets of plywood? As someone who is just starting to get into beekeeping, I’m sorry, but I just don’t think this is particularly helpful!

  3. Hi, I like the initiative. But I don’t think the design is a viable one.
    First, the hive design should be simple and robust.
    Second, when you leave the hive in open environment with constant rain and sun. These plywood won’t even last for a year.
    Third, nature will take its own course. Use of sensors and hitech makes it more complicated.
    Inspite of some drawbacks its a good initiate for urban starters as they might learn it using your kit.

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