Beehive In A Bottle

One of the most common types of beekeeping hive is based around the Langstroth hive, first patented in the United States in 1852. While it does have some nice features like movable frames, the march of history has progressed considerably while this core of beekeeping practices has changed very little. But that really just means that beekeeping as a hobby is rife with opportunities for innovation, and [Advoko] is pioneering his own modern style of beehive.

In nature, bees like to live inside of things like hollowed-out tree trunks, so he has modeled his hive design after that by basing it around large inverted plastic bottles. Bees can enter in the opening at the bottle and build their comb inside from the top down. The bottles can be closed and moved easily without contacting the bees, and he even creates honey supers out of smaller bottles which allows honey to be harvested without disturbing the core beehive.There are a number of strategies to improve the bees’ stay in the bottles as well, such as giving them wooden skewers in the bottle to build their comb on and closing the bottles in insulation to help the hives regulate their temperature more evenly and to keep them dark.

He hopes this idea will help inspire those with an interest in the hobby who wouldn’t otherwise have the large amount of money it takes to set up even a few Langstroth-type hives. Even if you don’t live in a part of the world where the Langstroth hive is common, this system still should be possible to get up and running with a minimum of financial investment. Once you’ve started, though, take a look at some other builds which augment the hive with some monitoring technology.

Thanks to [Keith Olson] for the tip!

49 thoughts on “Beehive In A Bottle

      1. How do you control mites in one of these? Plenty of options for mites other than “toxic poisons”. Formic acid for one which occurs naturally in honey. How do you manage colonies such as equalizing in the spring to prevent swarming. Langstroth hives can be built from cheap pine lumber with modest woodworking skills. I’ve kept a dozen or so colonies for 15 years and produce 1,000 of honey annually. I use only “soft chemicals’ thymol and/or formic acid for mites. How many hives has the author kept for how many years while successfully controlling mites?

    1. I believe its petg, its put on the north side of the trees which puts it mostly in shade during day. He also covers them with insulation, the only heat would be from the bees but they rarely touch the plastic walls. The contact between the honeycomb and the walls are also minimal.

  1. I am also not a fan of using oxalic acid for the mites, but it occurs “naturally in many foods” (wiki), that is more natural than the phthalates in pet. Anyhow, I am all for wood and glass when it comes to bees and honey.

    1. And good luck controlling swarming when you have comb that you cannot access. I don’t believe he managed to do that as he claims. Maybe first year when young queens don’t want to swarm yet, but no way he’s preventing swarming in year 2 and 3.
      Oxalic acid and formic acid don’t matter because you’re not treating bees when the supers are on anyway.

  2. There is a lot of wrong information in this video. It costs nowhere near 10k to start beekeeping. With traditional methods you can fairly easily get 90% colony survival rates. Beginners tend to have a lot higher losses because they’re still learning. A 10-30% loss still wouldn’t be dramatic, as you can create many new colonies from just a single colony every season. Most beekeepers with a bit of experience have to sell colonies to simply not keep growing their apiary. It can easily grow exponentially.

    You also don’t necessarily need an extractor. Crush and strain is possible with traditional hives as well if you just let the bees draw their own comb and don’t use foundation.

    It’s almost impossible to control swarming with these bottles. You cannot access combs, easily take out queens or swarm cells. If you miss just 1 swarm cell they’re going to swarm.

  3. I am a pro beekeeper in the UK and the video has good info IMO. However, most beekeepers will hate it as they tend to be ultra-conservative. I often think up new houses for bees, polyurethane expanded foam being my fav, but always end up opting for pro built expanded polythene which as so much easier to manage than anything else I have seen or heard of. Not that expensive either – $500 would get you set up with a couple of hives, a suit and some gloves, no probs. Dunno where he gets his $10,000 figure unless semi-pro. Currently, I have 33 hives, but defo worth the investment from a business perspective.

    1. Ultra-conservative? Hell yeah! My father is a (now 70 yr old) bee keeper, but he started only 10 years ago. So he’s more of the “if it works, it works” kind.

      In Germany there’s soo many hive types. We use the Segeberger type (foamed polystyrene). It’s a very well designed system. Easy to clean, helps the bees keep warm easier in winter and cooler in summer. No problems with mold, moisture, mice or whatever.

      Your expanded polythene hives sound about the same except the material.

      But of course the mites are a problem world-wide, we use oxalic and formic acid. The bees don’t love it but it is very effective. If we don’t do it, there’d be a few hives dead every year…

      1. Ahhh …. enshuldigun bitte… i mean expanded polystyrene. Great hives. Very rarely any problems. Far suprior to western red cedar wood. BTW, we dont have problems here with Varroa any more (fingers crossed) . I stopped treating about 4 years ago. Happy bee keeping !!!

  4. If there is no method to control mites the hive will fail. Notice that I did not say treatment. I fail to see how you could do that with this system. It’s hard to beat the standard wooden hive, it has proven itself.

  5. Now the chorus of that song “Message in a Bottle” is stuck in my head.

    When I was preschool, of bunch of us kids found a Langstroth hive.
    We thought it was a clothes dresser, and tried to get the bees to leave it so we could have it. After a hour or so, and a number of stings, we gave up on that idea.

  6. It’s an interesting design and very innovative , as a bee keeper its always nice to see new ideas and creative ways of going at it, just because the Langstroth hive method works doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying to improve the overall beekeeping environment , good job Advoko.

  7. I think he might be missing a lot of points of removable frames and “contact” beekeeping. Hive inspections, easier novel mite control, brood inspection…heck, one easy way of mite control is to use drone frames. It also gives a way to count mite load. But you need to be able to remove the drone frame. (Mites seem to prefer drone brood – so you put an oversized cell frame in, the queen concentrates drones there, mites somewhat concentrate there, before the drones emerge, you freeze the frame. As part of clean out after freezing, you randomly sample cells for mites, gives you a good idea of what the mite load was before the drone frame, and puts a dent int the mite population enhancing the effectiveness of other treatments like oxalic acid vaporization).

    In fact, many hive designs that aren’t removable frames have been outlawed in many places because they are breeding grounds for mites, and do not allow effective mite control. Oxalic is a surface treatment. The multiple treatment regimen helps, but there are still capped mites no matter what. Oxalic alone may not help. Especially in the late season when you get “varroa bombs” from collapsing hives.

    There are other contactless methods of mite control with various efficacy, but most beekeepers will tell you that you need to vary the treatments. Each seems to have better effectiveness at various times of year (formic works in the early and late season as well as thymol because of temperature requirements), some are non-toxic like oxalic acid, but still not recommended for when honey supers are on (last I checked anyhow). Successful beekeepers generally use a range of tactics to control the mites, and some require opening the hive. Oxalic alone is not an effective strategy. It’s most effective when there is no capped brood. The topic is vast, and successful beekeepers study up and pick a regiment that works with their climate, and that varies treatments so one isn’t overused bringing the possibility of resistant mites. (As happened in the early days of mite control). (Often using one treatment only once per year, or less if feasible).

    It’s nice to see people trying new things, but you need to fully understand the requirements before extolling the virtues of a new design that fails to meet many of those requirements.

    1. If you keep treating the bees, they will never learn about Darwinism and ‘Natural Selection’. We are lucky where we live as it’s a small and remote island in the UK with prevailing winds that blow in from the ocean. Also, there is a valid argument that the more you fiddle about opening the hives, the more likely the bees are going to say “F**k this sh*te” and all fly away.

      I think the bottle idea is great for total beginners who just want to get experience of keeping bees. People often ask me: “If I got I hive of bees, how much time would I have to spend looking after them?”. I always reply: “As little or as much as you like. They are very independent and just need cuddling every now and again, just like cats.” Having said that, my neighbour’s cat visits me quite often and I have taken on the job of pulling ticks off it’s skin during the Summer season. And so far, it has only bitten me once.

  8. Hello Bryan,
    Excellent video on using the plastic containers for a beehive. I admire your ingenuity for the development of a beehive with as you pointed out in your video, requiring very little start-up funds. As an Engineer by trade, I also take waste products and repurpose for new use. Your design may not be as efficient as frames designed for beekeeping, but for personal use “Job well done!”

  9. Bees are the ants of the sky/flowers. Where they roam, many other species can’t compete for food and the diversity takes are HUGE dip, sometimes eradicating whole species from areas

    1. Yes, this is true. Best to try not to over-populate an area with honey bees if it can be avoided. I think the odd apiary with four or five hives every 3 miles or so wont kill off too many other species. Having said that, bee hives are great for birds. I currently have a robin living in my apiary that seems to live pretty much exclusively off my bees.

    2. What are you smoking?

      Pollinators by definition help ensure the growth of plants, and without them plants will die out. About 40% of bees specialize on plants native to their area. A lack of plant diversity is one of the reasons why bee populations are plummeting – in the race for productive acres modern farmers removed too much native woodland and border plantings such as hedgerows. Modern cities cut down just about every native plant and replaced them with non-native trees that are easy to manage, lawns that look nice, and pretty looking but often invasive non-native shrubs.

      Let’s not even get on the topic of foreign pests that destroy whole tree species that native foodchains rely on.

      Bees aren’t the only pollinators affected by all of that.

  10. Bees have had a hard time in recent years, lots killed off, and the news focuses on the poor beekeepers or the cost of honey.

    But last month there was a story about a vaccine to protect the bees. It’s going to take a long time to inject all those bees with tiny needles.

    1. “It’s going to take a long time to inject all those bees with tiny needles.”

      (Deep radio voice)
      “This sounds like a job for [theatrical pause] HACKADAY!”

    2. It’s trans-generational immune priming (TgIP). Feed the queen a vaccine and her offspring will inherit some of the immunity. Unfortunately it’s for American Foulbrood which isn’t a huge problem and in some studies it was only 30% effective. The real problem is varroa mites and the viruses they vector.

  11. My thoughts are that it is time we left honeybees alone and spent more time planting native species of plants. Where is this plastic bottle situated – how are the bees going to be warm in the winter ? They actually want to be in a log / tree high off the ground – see Tom Seeley’s research.

  12. As far as I can see. He’s taken potentially recyclable plastic bottles and rendered them pretty much unrecyclable. Organic contamination is a no-no in recycling – so unless he’s going to scrub out the insides to remove all the beeswax etc then ultimately he’s created more rubbish for landfills.

  13. As a beekeeper, I’ve got a couple observations. First, anybody who reads Hackaday can likely cobble together a Langstroth hive for free or a few bucks. Second, in the U.S. (and many other parts of the world) hives like this are not legal because they can’t be managed or inspected properly. That’s why you don’t see skep hives anymore. Finally, every new beekeeper worth his salt “builds a better hive” a few years after they start beekeeping–rarely if ever is the new hive design better.

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