Honeybees play a crucial role in pollinating crops, but colonies are in trouble. Earlier this year, the Bee Informed Partnership reported a 23.1 percent loss of US managed honeybee colonies in the 2014/15 winter season. Though that's down from the previous year, the total annual loss rose to a staggering 42.1 percent. The BEEcosystem observation hive has been designed to help combat falling bee numbers by encouraging people to take up beekeeping and get educated about bees.
Designed by urban agricultural design startup GreenTowers, the BEEcosystem is aimed at helping to make beekeeping more accessible to everyone and encouraging conversation about their importance, as well as that of other pollinators. It is a hive that can be installed either indoors or outside and has a viewing window so that people can see into the working hive.
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The hive ships with honeybees already "installed" inside, simplifying what is required from the end user. Users simply need to mount the BEEcosystem on a wall using the wall bracket provided and open it up to the outdoors to let the bees begin exploring their new surroundings.
Some indoor hives need a hole to be drilled through an exterior wall in order to gives the bees outside access. The BEEcosystem has a tubing system, however, that gives its bees outside access via a nearby window. Spring-loaded hinges ensure that the hive is sealed off automatically in the event that tubing comes away, ensuring the honeybees remain inside.
The BEEcosystem has been designed to be modular so that additional hives can be added as the colony grows. Its hexagonal shape means the it can be expanded in any direction, with side vents used to block openings if they are not in use or that slide out to provide access between hive modules.
Among the other features of the BEEcosystem is a cleaning drawer that allows for the clearing of debris from the bottom of the hive while keeping the bees safely contained and a red-tinted viewing cover allows users to still look at the bees at night when they need to be shielded from artificial lighting to maintain their day-night cycles. There is also a top feeder for the hive that allows the bees to be fed during times when few flowers are in bloom.
GreenTowers says that basic beekeeping skills are needed for the BEEcosystem, but that it helps to make things more simple and that learning the skills us fun and "very doable." The BEEcosystem is also reported to be small enough for non-traditional beekeeping spaces, but large enough to produce a small raw cut-comb honey harvest of around 1 lb (0.5 kg) each year.
A Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign is underway for the BEEcosystem. At the time of writing, it's possible for individuals who pledge from US$450 to receive on of the hives, assuming all goes to plan with the campaign and roll-out. Shipping is expected from December this year.Sources: BEEcosystem, Kickstarter