Even as bee populations around the world are being threatened by colony collapse disorder, beekeeping is nevertheless enjoying a bit of a renaissance as hobbyists benefit from today's ease of sharing the skills via online sources, the popularization of urban beekeeping, as well as a crop of new technological innovations that help beekeepers better maintain their hives.
Bait Hive is one of these new beekeeping tools that make the task easier, especially when bees engage in swarming behaviour when looking for a new home. Here's how it works:
Swarming is the process when a queen bee leaves with a large group of worker bees, in the quest to create a new colony. Created by British designer Joshua Akhtar, the flat pack Bait Hive aims to ensure that when bees engage in this natural behaviour, that they don't converge in less-than-ideal places that may result in the loss of life -- apiarian or otherwise. Akhtar explains:
Swarming bees are looking for a new home. They frequently cause mischief settling in unusual public places, and are often lost or killed as a result (give 'bee swarm' a Google search). Bait Hive attracts swarms of honey bees using a scented / pheromone lure. The bait hives can be located on roofs, on a lamp-post, in your garden, on trees - pretty much anywhere out of the way.
Akhtar, who studied product and packaging design at the University of Brighton, got into urban beekeeping several years ago thanks to his father. At one point, Akhtar encountered a bit of a bee blunder that inspired the Bait Hive:
I had 20,000 honey bees escape in my university house – which gave my housemates what I would describe as, the ultimate surprise. I also at one point had to push 50,000 honey bees hidden under a blanket on a skateboard through central London.
So Akhtar figured there had to be a better way to transport a large number of bees to where one would like them to go. To that end, the Bait Hive attracts the roving queen bee with a pheromone-laced beeswax inside, and once inside, the beekeeper turns the rotating front door -- which has various-sized openings -- so that the cut openings will allow bee drones inside, but not the queen, out.
The Bait Hive is a simple foldable and portable design that can be attached to high places, increasing the chance of the swarm being attracted into it. The Bait Hive has a landing pad, yet another addition that makes it more bee-friendly. The tunnel-shaped foam entrance bio-mimics that of a tree, and the foam insulation on both ends of the unit protect it against sudden temperature changes.
There is a pop-out base that is lined with a mesh screen, to allow for increased air flow in case the bees have to be contained for a longer period of time during transport. The size of the Bait Hive can also accommodate standard-sized hive frames, if you already have some.
The Bait Hive has already gone through a series of successful tests, and even recently won the Wilko & W’innovate Award for Innovation. It's currently being crowdfunded for larger-scale production. The goal here is to save bees from any unfortunate situations, says Akhtar:
Eventually I’d like to be able to begin installing these hives in public spaces. In doing so I am hoping to catch swarms before they settle somewhere unsuitable. Once captured, they can be offered to beekeepers for collection. I’d like to be able to help eliminate a lot of the bad press honeybees get when they swarm in public spaces. Honeybees are at their most docile when swarming and don’t pose a threat. More swarm boxes means less swarms of bees ending up in places where they are dealt with inappropriately.
As bee populations face decline and an uncertain future (and we humans face a hungry future without them), every little bit of innovation and responsible stewardship helps. Visit Bait Hive on Kickstarter to see more.