Recognizing that there are real dangers with bees does not mean they will inevitably occur. We have a long history of safely keeping observation hives in classrooms. With careful management and adherence to our recommended safety procedures and instructions, everyone can enjoy this wonderful exhibit.
An observation hive is a small colony of bees enclosed in boxes with thick glass or plastic on opposite sides, and a passage tube to the outdoors. Traditional Langstroth hives can house upwards of 80,000 bees on more than 50 wax frames, whereas an observation hive will only house 3,000-5,000 bees on 2-5 frames (and ~20-30% of those will be out foraging up to 4 miles away when the weather is good). Within the classroom, the bees are always contained in the frame boxes, arranged so that individual frames can be seen from both sides and all the activities in the hive can be witnessed. One can also watch male drone bees exit through the tube to the outdoors to go find and mate with another colony’s new queen. Female worker bees will also exit, but only to find food, clear out dead bees, and to go to the bathroom. Resources they forage for include: water, nectar to make honey for carbohydrates to eat, pollen for protein to eat, and plant resins to make hive-weatherproofing propolis.
The classroom observation hive is always anchored securely to a firm structure, either to the building itself or a heavy piece of furniture which is not easily moved. It is also attached to a stabilizing vertical frame. All windows separating the host room and outdoors are screened. Drawn shades and a fan are used to help bees keep the hive cool in the warmer months. Dense and protective pieces of foam can also be placed over the observation widows to keep the bees in darkness and help them regulate their temperature better in the cooler months.
When the hive is managed, only the beekeeper and assistants are present in the room. It is also done in the evening when students are not present.
In our system each frame is contained in one box, screwed together with other boxes. When a box needs to be removed, it is first unscrewed from the adjacent box. Then metal or plastic separators are slipped in between— one attached to the box above and one to the box below. Once this is done, the two boxes can be separated as individual units while the bees remain trapped inside. If changes need to be made within the boxes themselves, such as changing a frame or cleaning the glass, then that individual box can be separated and taken away from the host room to a safe place outdoors, where the beekeeper can manage it like an ordinary hive.
Installing or removing an entire hive from a location and connecting or disconnecting the tube to the outdoors are discussed in great detail in the instructions and serve the same purpose: to keep the bees contained inside the boxes. Very occasionally a few bees get out and will invariably fly to a source of light; the beekeeper’s skill in inserting dividers and the amount of sticky resin propolis bees make can be a challenge and require patience and practice. As secondary precautions, the classroom doors should be closed and the lights turned off so that the bees will fly to the windows and can be either released outdoors or easily killed. Alternatively, a mosquito net could be draped over the area of the hive to catch an escaped bee.
Please read our Bee Structured and Bee Bold tabs for additional safety protocols and ideas that we recommend specifically for observation hives in schools. If you need clarification or have further questions, please Contact Us. (We sincerely thank you for your patience in waiting for a response- our volunteer staff is small and made of busy (grand)parents/teachers/farmers/beekeepers/entrepreneurs. We wear too many hats sometimes…)
The information provided in this Instruction Manual is provided solely for the user’s benefit, so users should read the Instruction Manual fully and carefully before building an observation hive and follow the instructions provided in their entirety, as failure to follow the instructions provided could result in injury to you or damage to your property. Children should always have adult supervision when interacting with an observation hive.
This Instruction Manual is provided “AS IS,” without representations or warranties of any kind. Every effort has been made to make sure that that the information provided in this Instruction Manual is accurate and up to date, and Classroom Hives Inc. is not liable for any damages, direct or indirect, arising from the user’s use or misuse of this Instruction Manual or the information provided therein.”