Bee Free Urban Bee Hive

Bee Free Urban Bee Hive

2 Weeks ago, here in Madrid,  friends from our neighborhood sent me a link for an urban beehive project call. Sponsored by the Media Lab associated with the Prado Museum in Madrid the initiative is organized between Beekeepers, scientists, and grafic designers. Its also sponsored by a big time bank and seams to have some legit backing. So, I followed the link and informed myself and though I only had 24 hours to prepare a project proposal I figured It was worth the shot.

As the initiative is based off of a select fews desire to introduce bees into the urban environment of Madrid, the project focuses on using the low profile presence of bees in the urban environment as an indicator of the natural environment millions of people call home. Among other things in the project description, I found it very interesting that Madrid has the highest percentage of trees per square kilometer when compared to all other European cities. Even more so, the majority of indigenous trees including sycamores and poplars are fantastic sources of propolis.

Lastly,  keeping in mind the limited space of the urban environment the project asked that local resources be used. Hives will potentially be kept as they are in other cities and urban spaces on roof tops, public parks and as part of restaurant facilities.

As the initiative has already taken place in other European and US cities I filtered through previous projects and found them all quite futuristic. Space hives, 20 feet off the ground, printable hives and even one fabricated out of plastic. All are to be mounted with computer monitoring devices which take into account air quality, temperatures and hive weight and are then presented in chart formats shifting over time. Strange but interesting at the least.

Partnered with science and art, the project simultaneously aims to educate the general public on the necessity of bee populations for pollination purposes. Bad information is the worst type of education and in Madrid where bees and wasps are thought to be the same by the majority of the population,  a positive light on our much needed pollinating friend is the first step to success. 

In the 24 hours I had to enter a description and design of an urban hive I decided to present an adaption of the Top bar hives we recently constructed in Africa. Half the length and constructed out of shipping pallet wood with the option of adding a honey super once the brood has fully developed, the Bee Free urban hive focuses on the presence of propolis within the hive to assure a heightened immune system of the colony. By joining strips of pallet wood at the 4 corners of the trapezoidal hive, bees are likely to smooth out the gaps between their joining with the sticky substance they collect from nearby trees. More propolis= better defense system= healthier more disease resilient bees.

Just when I was beginning to move on to new projects, I received an email last week saying that my project was selected.

As you can see from the attached hive plan my carpentry drawings skills are a bit shaky, but as the platform begins tomorrow I figured pen and paper would do the trick. But as its a collaborative project, and teams are made in the creation of the prototypes, until I meet a graphic designer/carpenter I think it will do.

The convention begins tomorrow, Wednesday morning with a 15 minute presentation of each of the 6 projects selected and will be recorded and streamed live…

Along with describing this new design Im planning on publicizing a bit of our work in Ethiopia.

As we the platform, seminars and construction workshops continues through the weekend and should provide for plenty of great new experiences.

Wish me luck!

Continue reading

Beautiful Beehives

Beautiful Beehives

   In Ambakuna Ethiopia, tucked between the flowering Eucalyptus, Acacia, mangos and avocado trees,the 70 beekeepers we trained in February and their newly established transitional top bar hives are showing promise. 


Liz Mcgovern, Corey Van Hove and the WEEMA Team recently visited with a few of our newly trained beekeepers and were impressed with what they they saw. Beekeepers seam to be picking up on the new technologies quickly and through the reproduction of hives on their own accord  are showing faith in the transitional top bar bee hive´s potential.  

Mehran bees



 Though we  won´t know the full capacity of the top bars honey production until the August and September honey harvest time, with our on the ground beekeeping staff and international team of support we will be sure to maximize their output. Bee Free Apiaries, WEEMA and our Ambakuna community beekeepers are all excited for the programs continued success. 

Anito Alemu

Anito Alemu

The guy largely responsible for the continued success of our Beekeeper Education Program in Ethiopia is Anito Alemu, better known by his community and the Bee Free Apiaries team as Tameskin. Aside from investing the time money and energy of our project into the 2 week long training programs, bee hives and beekeeping materials, we continue to invest in the follow through of the project through the hiring of Tameskin as our on the ground beekeeper support point man. 


Tameskin proudly stands next to his ready for placement swarm catcher hive.


Trained as a skilled laborer and carpenter Tameskin not only assisted us in the fabrication of the hives but also in the translation of our entire curriculum into the local language of Tembarenya. He never expected to build modernized hives and teach beekeeping skills to his fellow fellow community members but he did so well we asked him to spend the next 2 months following up with all trainees in order to assist them in the transferring and establishment of their new hives. Though his beekeeping experience up until our program was limited to assisting his established beekeeping father in times of the honey harvest where he held the light, started the smoker and helped move the heavy baskets, after already performing more than 50 hive transfers since our departure within his community, Tameskin is quickly building up his experience.  


Tameskin translates as the first of our hive transfers take place back in February.

The continued success of our program would not be possible without an on the ground community leader and program support staff member. By training Tameskin in the skills of modern beekeeping, hive construction,  bee management and transferring techniques the sustainability and growth of our program is positively moving forward.