Most Frequently Asked Questions:
1. I want to help. What can I do?
2. Why put an observation hive in a classroom?
3. Are observation hives safe? What about allergies?
4. How much do observation hives cost?
5. How much time does it take to maintain a hive?
6. How are hives maintained during short school vacations?
7. How are hives maintained during long summer vacations?
8. How should parents be informed?
9. How many bees are in one observation hive?
10. Can we get honey from the hive?
11. Where do the bees go to forage for food?
12. What are the most exciting things about an observation hive?
13. How did your nonprofit get started?
Great! Start by helping bees. Go plant some organic seeds and don’t put any gardening chemicals on them! Educate others about bees (especially politicians these days!).
If you want to support Classroom Hives, tell others about us (especially beekeepers and teachers). Share our website and follow us on Twitter @classroomhives. Also, donations are always appreciated, directly via PayPal or indirectly via AmazonSmile. Thanks for supporting us and honey bees!
If you really want to go the distance and set up an observation hive in a classroom, then here are the suggested steps:
1) Read the FAQs on this page.
2) Read the DIY instructions on our Observation Hive Building & Maintenance tab.
3) Read the guide on our Getting Started tab.
4) Explore the rest of our site.
5) Contact us if you exhausted #1-4 and you still have questions. If you need a site consultation or significant help, please budget for a consultation fee to cover our travel time and expenses. We are a small nonprofit and run entirely by volunteers, so your patience and generosity is most appreciated!
An observation hive is a unique exhibit to see every day because it shows an entire population of animals in its true environment. It shows a superorganism, the European Honey Bee (Apis melifera), carrying out all of its daily operations: food and water gathering, cleaning, thermoregulation, communication, and reproduction.
As a secure and self-contained habitat, our observation hive design is never opened with students in the classroom and no bees can escape from it. When the hive is broken down, bees are kept locked in their individual units. Schools already have extensive safety and first aid protocols in place for food and insect allergies. Therefore, students with known bee venom allergies are always identified, but additional first aid measures have historically not been necessary. Please read the Bee Safe section for additional safety information.
The price of installing an observation hive can vary a great deal depending on the setting and labor costs. If in a public location, like a school or a museum, there will be additional costs to insure the safety of the exhibit. If knowledgeable volunteers cannot be found, you will also need to hire a carpenter and beekeeper. We outlined the range of possible costs: PDF or Excel
The observation hive needs a quick daily check lasting a minute or two. This task could even be performed by students as part of learning about honey bees. There should also be a designated person who will consistently monitor the hive. Given the busy nature of teaching, it might be easier for educators to outsource this responsibility to a local beekeeper, parent, or interested school staff member. (Local beekeeping associations are easy to look up on the web and are a great resource.) Occasional spring maintenance tasks, such as adding extra supers or moving the hive to a summer location, will take several hours.
During brief school vacations, the hive can stay in the school as long as there is ample sugar water for the bees.
Take the hive on a vacation! The hive should be moved to someone’s house that is willing to host it for the summer. This is an easy move, and provides an interesting exhibit for the host family. Connect with your local beekeeping association if needed (they are a great resource for bee questions, too).
Parents should be informed about the presence of the observation hive before the school year starts. Historically, teachers send a letter addressing the hive’s educational purpose, safety features, and positive track record to students and their guardians.
The average observation hive contains approximately 4,000 bees with 1,000 of them foraging in a typical day.
Theoretically you could, but an observation hive is a small colony and rarely has surplus honey. It is best to leave honey with the bees so that they will have food to survive the winter.
Bees usually stay within a radius of approximately 4 miles from their hive (50 square miles) in search of nectar, pollen, and water. However, they can travel up to 7 miles.
Students enjoy watching the queen bee lay eggs, as well as the worker bees communicate by doing the “waggle dance”, fly in and out of the hive, and taking care of the bee larvae. There is so much to see and enjoy!
It was many years in the making! Read about our history here.