HIIVE - better for bees
HIIVE in the wild
HIIVE in the wild
Version 2.0 features
Structure, functionalities and materials
Design process - from ideation to prototyping
HIIVE Prototype 1.0 - first field test
What it does
HIIVE is a better bee home that enables beekeepers to keep their bees in a natural way, by supporting the natural behavior of the Apis Mellifera. It is made of sustainable materials and with its low energy sensors it offers an all new beekeeping experience.
It all started with a thesis in the Industrial Design studies. At first we just wanted to design a more ergonomic beehive. During the first design studies we accompanied several beekeepers during their work. The first time we saw the treatment against the Varroa Mite (biggest enemy of honeybee), it was a shocking experience. The chemical treatment had a direct effect on the bees‘ behaviour. We found that there is a more serious problem to be solved than the ergonomics in beekeeping. Therefore we spoke to scientists for advice and they repeatedly pointed out the problem with the wrong microclimate in conventional bee-boxes.
How it works
HIIVE replicates the microclimate of a tree-cave, which is the natural habitat of Apis Mellifera. Research has shown that honey bees in tree-caves live healthier and deal, thanks to various circumstances, with parasites in a natural way. With HIIVE we have developed the first “tree-cave”, which is producible at industrial scale. HIIVE offers a tree-cave like geometry without cold bridges, the geometry makes it easy for the winter bees to hold the temperature during winter. The frame is made of recycled plastic and a textile cover to protect against sun and rain. HIIVE is insulated with natural thermo hemp wool and an additional vapor barrier film for perfect moisture control. The right humidity level is also important to symbionts of the honey bee, the Bookscorpion. Thanks to the insulation the animals have to use less energy to heat up or cool down the house, this “leisure time” has positive effects on the behavior of the animals and promotes grooming.
It took about one year of research and design studies with beekeepers to understand the demands of both: animals and humans. Finally biologists pointed out that the microclimate is the biggest issue. After countless sketches and further material research the build of the first version of HIIVE, insulated with natural hemp wool, started in 2019. For the prototyping phase we used mainly 3D printing, for all structural components and laser cutting for the wood parts. We have tested the first prototype with a bee colony and it worked well for the microclimate but also had a lot of room for improvement in other areas. The handling wasn’t really satisfying and it turned out that the volume needed to be adjusted. With this redesign we developed a much better two chamber system with one honey chamber and one brood chamber, which are now both easily extractable. This makes it possible to harvest honey in a respectful manner. We also managed to reduce the amount of plastic by more than 85% in the second version, e.g. by using a textile cover. From the beginning it was very important to create a design which can be produced on an industrial scale (e.g. injection moulding), so we are able to produce at cost as low as possible to make the product available to as many people as possible.
How it is different
Conventional bee-boxes were designed more than 150 years ago in order to make it easier to extract honey from a bee colony. Unfortunately, these boxes neglect the demands that honey bees actually make on a home. They prefer a round shape and good insulation, which in nature they find in tree caves. In conventional boxes honey bees need to spend a lot of energy on keeping the desired temperature during the seasons. There is also no living space for symbionts as they prefer the same microclimate. If then parasites enter a conventional hive, bees are quickly in trouble and beekeepers need to treat them with chemicals. HIIVE in contrast was designed with an human/animal centered approach. It brings beekeeping back to nature and ensures a safe survival of the bees. It is the perfect combination of a natural and healthy home for bees, while still being ergonomic and easy to use by beekeepers.
At the moment we are conducting a field test with 10 prototypes of the latest version. The plan is to bring HIIVE to series production after all tests are made. The next step for HIIVE is also the development of the campanion app, which will create an all new way of keeping bees. With smart sensors we have the possibility to create not only health tracking of each colony, but also a swarm alarm combined with a swarm net. In this way beekeepers get notified when exactly to expect a swarm so they can keep bees in a very natural way without regulating their swarm behaviour.
In 2020 I got into the Future City Incubator programme by Berlin Innovation Agency with HIIVE. Early 2021 we won the Q-Summit „Social Pitch Battle“. Now we receive the „EXIST Gründerstipendium" grant through Beuth University in order to work full time on bringing HIIVE to reality.