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!

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Help Bring Bee Free Apiaries To Ethiopia!

Help Bring Bee Free Apiaries To Ethiopia!


 The practice of beekeeping has intrinsic health benefits through providing a food source of great nutritional value, and furthermore beekeeping requires few inputs and capitalizes on a ready supply of pollen. In rural areas there is almost an unlimited source of pollen, and bees’ aid greatly in the natural cross pollination of local crops. The introduction of a BeeFree apiary  in the villages within the Kembata-Tembaro region in Southwest Ethiopia will demonstrate how beekeeping based on the principles of bee health and nutrition, will carry forward the same benefits to the communities involved.

Summary: Due to the physical demands of traditional beekeeping in Ethiopia, and women’s household responsibilities, the work is traditionally practiced by men.   The products of beekeeping are usually focused on the sale of honey for supplementary income. Introducing modern forms of beekeeping through the creation of therapeutic apiaries will allow for more women to take part in the practice as well as generate a higher yield of product.  In addition these new methodologies will improve the health of bees, and thus the flora they service. Beekeepers can then diversify their investment by using a large portion of their harvests for community health issues.  Integrating these practices into the community’s agriculture approach will have a much greater affect than merely increasing yields in bee products and crops.  If this program is managed effectively pollination will be increased, the community will have direct access to the nutritional and health benefits of honey, pollen, propolis and wax, jobs will be created for women, and the disabled, artisan work will be sourced to local wood and metal workers, and surplus honey and wax can be sold to local markets to generate a cash income for local women and their families. 

Our goals at Bee Free Apiaries encompass a holistic three phase approach.

1. Youth Engagement- Beginning with a week long education unit taking place in region’s school we engage community youth through our interactive hands on curriculum in the creation of a unique and personalized shadow puppet theater. Daily lessons and activities are  paralleled to the lessons of the stories main characters encompassing such themes as collaboration and teamwork. Our overall goal for this phase is for students to become animated and educated about the  the benefits of integrating beehives into their community.

Resources needed to implement phase one include international travel for Bee Free Teachers, in country transportation to and from project site, stipend for local assistant working 13 hours across 5 days aiding in day to day tasks including translation, 10 hours at 2 hours a day of classroom time, materials including projector, white screen, cardboard, cutters and paints. Costs estimated at 4,000 US

2. Apiary Preparation and construction of 25 Community Hives- Community land will be assessed and bee free apiary will be placed in close proximity to plants and trees providing the richest annual forage possible. The area should provide adequate shade by nearby trees and shrubs, and apiary placement will be located at safe distance from regular village livelihoods.

After initial placement of the BeeFree apiary our objectives for phase two
I.    Construction of closed roof work space for honey harvest and storage equipment  built by available local resources and placed in close proximity to apiary.

II. Working in collaboration with local artisans, our beehives, tools, and protective clothing are designed and built to fit the community’s needs. After fabrication, beehive pieces are brought to the community for assembly and then painted by community youth.

III. Depending on local population of bees, colonies will either be transferred from preexisting traditional beehives, or bought from local beekeepers association.

Resources needed to implement phase 2 include the material and labor of a closed roof work space,  25 bee hives and bee colonies, 12 sets of protective clothing and boots, 12 metal hive tools, 6 smokers, product harvesting materials, packaging containers, and 2 days of car rental including petrol costs for equipment transportation. Costs estimated at $4,000 US

3. Beekeeper Training and Beneficial Bee Product Use Education. In collaboration with local beekeeping association,  basic beekeeping principles are taught to participating community members and are provided with the tools and know-how to become healthy and happy beekeepers. Our goal in the Kembata-Tembora region of Ethiopia is to vitalize women with skills in Beekeeping as a way of addressing general health issues and rural poverty.  Health benefits of beehive products will be specifically addressed in affiliation with local health care practitioners in respect to traditional care practices.

Once community Apiary is set up and group of village members are educated, its time for nature to do its work.

Resources needed for phase three include time, transportation and lodging of local beekeeper for the duration of the week long unit, Bee Free teacher stipend for time and preparation of course curriculum, class materials of notebooks, writing utensils and beekeeper log books. Estimated cost for phase 3 $2,500 US

Estimated Total Cost for the 3 Phase Implementation Plan= $10,500

In order to make this project possible in the Kembata-Temboro region of Ethiopia we need your help in fulfilling the necessary resources. Whether it be moral or monetary, all assistance is appreciated!